The best young adult books with secret places

Tai Stith Author Of The Incredible Secrets of Hadley Hill
By Tai Stith

The Books I Picked & Why

By Your Side

By Kasie West

Book cover of By Your Side

Why this book?

This gem of a book is a perfect escape that features a rather unconventional “secret place”—a locked library! When Autumn accidentally gets locked inside a public library over the weekend, she gets the surprise of her life when she discovers she isn’t alone. Dax, a schoolmate of Autumn’s, happens to also be stuck inside. The two clash at first, but over the course of being trapped together for a weekend, their relationship shifts.

What really resonated with me was Autumn’s struggle with intense anxiety and how the author skillfully wove that through the storyline. I particularly love how the two main characters' personalities develop throughout the story. The romance is an added bonus!

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Bridge to Terabithia

By Katherine Paterson, Donna Diamond

Book cover of Bridge to Terabithia

Why this book?

The concept of a hidden space away from adults and the problems of everyday life is the enthralling concept behind Bridge to Terabithia. Deep in the woods near their homes, Jess and Leslie share their own imaginary kingdom which they call Terabithia—a place hidden away from the pressures of the world. This coming-of-age tale packs an emotional punch, no matter the age of the reader. I love the magical settings in the book and they directly influenced the way I decided to write my own book.

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The Secret Garden

By Frances Hodgson Burnett, Tasha Tudor

Book cover of The Secret Garden

Why this book?

The Secret Garden was the first seed of inspiration for my own book. At first, ill-mannered and newly-orphaned Mary Lennox is lonely and adrift among the sprawling grounds of Misselthwaite Manor, and her upbringing in India doesn’t prepare her for life in England—everything is unfamiliar and uncomfortably different. Left alone to amuse herself, Mary starts uncovering mysteries about the Manor as she meets Dickon and Colin. Mary and Dickon find a long-forgotten garden and work to restore it, making it their own secret space. As the garden is transformed, so is Mary. I appreciate how Mary's unlikable character is the crux of the storyline. The author almost seems to delight in Mary's ill-tempered, petulant mannerisms.

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Summer of '79

By Darren Sapp

Book cover of Summer of '79

Why this book?

The eerie Claymore mansion is the secret spot of mystery in this very suspenseful—yet still lighthearted and fun—novel by Darren Sapp. Thirteen-year-old Kevin and his group of friends become entwined in a summer mystery surrounding a decades-old crime. I loved this book so much because it was a perfect balance of mystery, friendship, and classic summer teenage antics before the advent of cellphones and computers.

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Tuck Everlasting

By Natalie Babbitt

Book cover of Tuck Everlasting

Why this book?

The secret space in Tuck Everlasting is a fenced-off wood owned by the wealthy Foster family. When ten-year-old Winnie meanders into the woods one day, she stumbles upon Jesse Tuck—and a secret she wasn’t supposed to know about. A lovely, short read to get lost in. I love the fantasy twist in this period piece. The mystery element combined with the natural setting was a huge influence on my own writing. Skip the movie and read the book first!

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