Young adult books fascinate more than just the younger readers among us. While many of the novels in this category have a light-hearted feel, some of them are not afraid to tackle serious topics that will stay with you for a long time. In our selection, we would like to present you with the 100 best books for young adults. The best list for young readers, the literary young at heart, and the nostalgic – have fun!
1st place: Joanne K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” kicks off a seven-part fantasy series that takes its readers into a breathtaking wizarding world. Young Harry, however, initially ekes out an extremely thankless existence. Orphaned, the scion is doomed to grow up with his imperious next of kin, the Dursley family. When the protagonist with the lightning scar on his forehead suddenly receives a letter from the legendary magic school Hogwarts, nothing in Harry’s life is ever the same again.
Joanne K. Rowling has created a literary masterpiece with the “Harry Potter” series. The British author decorates her books with fantastic adventures, dramatic showdowns, and heartwarming stories about friendship, love, and courage. An absolute must for any reader who has even a slight penchant for fairy-tale characters in detailed dream worlds.
2nd place: J.R.R. Tolkien – The Little Hobbit
Bilbo Baggins actually shuns any form of adventure. The little hobbit enjoys his comfortable life in his idyllic homeland. However, the halfling’s world is permanently shaken when the wizard Gandalf suddenly appears on his doorstep, soon followed by a band of rude dwarves. The unequal team sets off on a dangerous journey, at the end of which a legendary dragon wants to be defeated.
“The Little Hobbit” by “The Lord of the Rings” creator J.R.R. Tolkien is rightly considered one of the most important adventure books of the 20th century. It offers its fans a successful introduction to a self-contained world populated by orcs, elves, and trolls. The book is a perfect way to escape from the daily grind and immerse yourself in the incomparable story of the legendary author.
3rd place: John Green – Fate is a rotten traitor
As soon as a person is confronted with the horror diagnosis of “cancer”, a world collapses for the person affected. While adults find it difficult to cope with such strokes of fate, the question arises as to how young people deal with this low blow in life.
John Green’s novel “Fate is a Lousy Traitor,” tells us the story of sixteen-year-old Hazel, who has been suffering from thyroid cancer for some time now. Within a support group for teenage patients, the title character meets Gus, who is also severely scarred by his cancer. The teenagers get to know and love each other – but unfortunately, fate does not always provide a happy ending.
A heartbreaking love story in a coming-of-age context that will stay with you for a long time because of its stirring makeup.
4th place: Suzanne Collins – The Tributes of Panem: Deadly Games
If you liked the first part of the “The Tribute of Panem” series, you can look forward to two more volumes of the series, which round off the fantasy trilogy of the author Suzanne Collins in a skillful way. In terms of content, the book takes us into a bleak future scenario in which our once flourishing earth resembles a desolate pile of rubble. An integral part of everyday life is the so-called Hunger Games, an annual martial event in which only one participant ever escapes with his life. When teenager Katniss learns that her younger sister is to participate in this year’s tournament, the protagonist volunteers to take part in the Hunger Games instead of her relatives.
“The Tributes of Panem” is stylistically quite different from comparable books for young people. Suzanne Collins has created a multi-layered work of art that exaggerates and critically questions many social aspects of our lives. Nevertheless, the story of Katniss is gripping and authentic, which gives the book an absolutely addictive factor.
5th place: Daniel Defoe – Robinson Crusoe
“Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe appeared on the market more than 300 years ago and thus represents not only one of the most popular novels for young people of all time, but also an important contemporary testimony from days long past. In terms of content, we follow the titular protagonist, a well-to-do merchant’s son who gives up his comfortable life to go to sea. However, after the first-person narrator is shipwrecked and stranded on a desert island, numerous adventures await our titular hero.
“Robinson Crusoe” was to have a lasting impact on the development of European literature. Although the work is not free of outdated world views and prejudices, the exceptional value of the classic novel is still undisputed.
6th place: Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man and the Sea
As simply staged as “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway is, the lessons that can be drawn from the short novel, published in 1952, are equally profound. The plot centers on an old fisherman who has long been driven by a desire to catch a giant marlin. However, bad luck seems to stick to the proverbial heels of the title character.
Although the book faced some criticism at the time of its publication, it is thanks to works such as “The Old Man and the Sea” that Ernest Hemingway has finally established himself among the ranks of the most significant authors on our globe. The reduced setting focuses on the struggle of a single man without getting lost in distracting subplots.
7th place: Patrick Süskind – Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
While most of us perceive the scent of perfume as a pleasant, quickly passing whiff, the perfect smell meant more to Jean-Baptiste Grenouille than anything else. The protagonist of Patrick Süskind’s novel even goes so far as to kill other people in order to process their scents into a unique perfume.
“Perfume” is distinguished above all by its gruesome subject matter, which portrays the abysses of the human soul in an incomparable power of language. After its publication, the 1985 novel quickly became a hotly debated object of world literature. More than 20 million copies sold show that the German author has created a modern monument for himself with his work of art.
8th place: William Golding – Lord of the Flies
The first work by British author William Golding, published in 1954, was to remain the most successful release in the author’s career. Within the story of “Lord of the Flies” we follow a group of teenagers struggling to survive after a plane crash on a deserted South Sea island. The contradictory dynamics that quickly develop between the protagonists are a great attraction of the novel. While one-half of the stranded people decide to hold on to the values and morals they have been taught in civilized society, the other part of the youth seeks reckless adventure. It doesn’t take long until a momentous conflict between the two camps emerges.
The serious subject matter contrasts well with the otherwise idyllic tropical setting. The writer’s work exemplifies that the innocence of the human soul is always linked to certain external factors. An absolute cult book with depth that you should not miss out on!
9th place: Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird
In the early 1930s, large segments of the U.S. population found themselves in extremely expendable living conditions. The Great Depression, one of the worst economic crises in history, swept across the country like a wave of poverty. But racism against African-Americans was also still pervasive. When attorney Atticus Finch is called to defend a black defendant in court, the public defender quickly faces the wrath of his arch-conservative fellow citizens. The racist hostilities quickly develop a dangerous momentum of their own.
“Whoever Disturbs the Mockingbird” was published in 1961 and does not shy away from impressively presenting the terrible consequences of social prejudice. More than 40 million copies of the book have been sold to date, which is still a source of heated controversy in its American homeland.
10th place: Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson: Thieves in Olympus
“Thieves in Olympus” represents the first representative of the “Percy Jackson” series, which in detail comprises five volumes. The novel is aimed at all readers who have a penchant for elaborate fantasy narratives in a mythical context. The 17-year-old Percy is considered in his environment as a crank who causes nothing but trouble. One day, the teenage protagonist finally learns the truth about his past: in fact, the title character is the son of the fabled god Poseidon. From then on, Percy faces the terrible wrath of Zeus, who suspects the son of the gods of having stolen his legendary thunderbolt. A thrillingly staged fantasy epic, which awakens in us the desire for the subsequent parts of the series.
11th place: Lois Lowry – Guardian of Memory
“Keeper of Memory” by Lois Lowry combines a stylish science fiction setting with the sensitively described story of the title character, Jonas. At first glance, the teenager’s home resembles a utopia come true. In the world of Jonas, there is neither war nor poverty. However, the population has been equated by the government through a futuristic drug, the drug causes that the inhabitants to not feel any significant emotions. Only the Keeper of Memory knows how the world used to be. When he shares his secret knowledge with Jonas, it has momentous consequences for the young title character.
The work of the US-American author is bursting with social sideshows and encourages us to critically question the developments on our globe.
12th place: Clive Staples Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia: The Wonder of Narnia
Before we get to the actual content of “The Wonder of Narnia,” we would first like to do some clarification work. Published in 1955, this novel is not the first spin-off of the fairy-tale, seven-volume “Narnia” series. In fact, “The King of Narnia” appeared already five years earlier. However, the individual books were not published chronologically in terms of their internal timeline, which is why the Irish author Clive Staples Lewis himself once recommended his readers to begin their journey into the breathtaking dream world with “The Wonder of Narnia”. Within the book, we learn how the fabled kingdom came to be and what adventures the earliest inhabitants of the fairyland experienced.
“The Chronicles of Narnia” is a sure bet for all readers who like thrillingly staged heroic stories in a magical setting.
13th place: The Diary of Anne Frank
The diary entries of Anne Frank are not a book for young people in the classical sense. The descriptions captured on paper are rather a touching testimony of a Jewish girl who had to hide from the terror of the National Socialists during the Second World War together with her family and other persecuted persons. In 1942, the victims were condemned to live in a secret backhouse in the Netherlands in order to escape the horrors of the German occupiers. According to this book, the teenager describes her personal emotions and experiences in an extraordinary, depressing context.
The diary entries end just as abruptly as the sudden arrest of Anne and her fellow victims. After her deportation, the girl died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the spring of 1945.
14th place: Markus Zusak – The Book Thief
The novel “The Book Thief” saw the literary light of day in 2005 and presents us with an unusual protagonist. In fact, we live through the experiences described, which take place around the time of World War II, from the point of view of death. The latter accompanies nine-year-old Liesel wherever she goes, without her knowing about her sinister henchman.
“The Book Thief” stands out for its engaging yet nuanced narrative style. The story’s unorthodox approach brings a breath of fresh air to your bookshelf and encourages reflection on life in general.
15th place: Susan E. Hinton – The Outsiders
The Outsiders” centers on the merciless feud between two rival youth gangs. The “greasers” and the “socials” develop into absolute arch enemies over time. The battle of the gangs soon claims its first fatality. The situation then continues to escalate until the hatred of the hostile youths finally reaches its terrible climax.
The book of the US-American author Susan E. Hinton appeared on the market in 1967 and depicts the ills within American society in a captivating way. To this day, the socially critical work is considered a milestone of world literature.
16th place: Veronica Roth – The Destiny
After the world has been devastated by a devastating war, the population of Chicago has divided itself into five different classes. The members of the individual factions always pursue a certain goal, which should serve to restore the morale of mankind. The class in which the inhabitants are placed depends entirely on their individual talents. The protagonist Tris, however, surprisingly has all five talents, which is why she is henceforth classified as “indeterminate”. Soon the title heroine is on the trail of a large-scale plot that could cost her her life.
“Destiny” by Veronica Roth is the literary prelude to a three-part series of novels. The author succeeds in portraying the development of the protagonists in a coherent way, which allows the reader to empathize very well with the emotional world of the main characters.
17th place: Stephen Chbosky – So This Is My Life / Maybe Better Tomorrow
To avoid misunderstandings: “So this is my life” was also published in this country under the title “Maybe better tomorrow”, so both books are one and the same novel. The story of the US author Stephen Chbosky is told in the form of an exchange of letters. The protagonist Charlie starts his first year at high school in the early 90s and has already had to cope with a number of strokes of fate in his life. The best and only friend of the psychologically unstable teenager took his own life, and since then Charlie has spent his life as a reclusive outsider. When the teenager finally meets Sam and Patrick, a little light returns to the introvert’s dark daily life, and the threesome experiences highs and lows together.
This coming-of-age story is not intended to be a light-hearted teen tale, but rather a believable portrayal of the turmoil and high points of growing up – and it succeeds on all levels.
18th place: William Goldman – The Princess Bride
We all know and love fairy tales. “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman takes many elements of the time-honored tales and then enjoyably puts them through the mill. Accordingly, the novel is full of fairy-tale clichés, such as noble princes, a fair maiden in distress, and legendary warriors.
The work, published in 1973, is full of comedic touches that still work wonderfully today.
19th place: Jules Verne – Around the world in 80 days
The gentleman Phileas Fogg is an overcorrect personality. The well-to-do Englishman, who is characterized by his stoic calm, never does anything rash. It is, therefore, all the more astonishing that the protagonist embarks on an adventurous wager to circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days. With his faithful servant Passepartout in tow, the eccentric embarks on a fascinating journey on which he could lose not only a small fortune but also his freedom.
The first edition of Jules Verne’s masterpiece was published in 1873. The story takes its readers to many exotic locations, described in detail, and doesn’t skimp on suspense, wit, and drama.
20th place: Stephanie Meyer – Bite at Dawn
Vampires are merciless bloodsuckers who are relentless in their pursuit of ordinary mortals? Wrong Thought! If you follow the famous “Twilight” series by Stephanie Meyer, the flutterers are sometimes attractive creatures who are no strangers to feelings such as love and affection. The entertaining love story between Bella and the vampire Edward became an absolute bestseller in no time at all.
Places 21-100 of the best young adult books of all time:
|Place:||Roman:||Author:||Link to book:|
|21.||Eleanor & Park||Rainbow Rowell|
|22.||The boy in the striped pajamas||John Boyne|
|23.||Three steps to you||Tobias Iaconis|
|24.||The Hate U Give||Angie Thomas|
|25.||Only three words||Becky Albertalli|
|26.||Keeper of the memory||Lois Lowry|
|27.||Sophie in the castle of the wizard||Diana Wynne Jones|
|28.||One like Alaska||John Green|
|29.||The joker||Markus Zusak|
|30.||When I stay||Gayle Forman|
|31.||I give you the sun||Jandy Nelson|
|32.||Alanna – The Song of the Lioness||Tamora Pierce|
|33.||Call of the Wild||Jack London|
|34.||Margo’s Footsteps||John Green|
|35.||Evil comes on silent soles||Ray Bradbury|
|36.||The night||Elie Wiesel|
|37.||Between now and always||Sarah Dessen|
|38.||The Catcher in the Rye||J. D. Salinger|
|39.||The Chosen – In the Labyrinth||James Dashner|
|40.||As long as we lie||E. Lockhart|
|41.||Angel Night||Lauren Kate|
|42.||When you die, your whole life passes you by, they say||Lauren Oliver|
|43.||Four colors of magic||V. E. Schwab|
|44.||Will & Will||David Levithan and John Green|
|45.||Dead girls do not lie||Jay Asher|
|46.||Speak||Laurie Halse Anderson|
|47.||Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Between the Worlds||Laini Taylor|
|48.||Bloodlines – False Promises||Richelle Mead|
|49.||One for four||Ann Brashares|
|50.||A Different Peace||John Knowles|
|51.||His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass, The Magic Knife and The Amber Telescope in a slipcase||Philip Pullman|
|52.||The Presentee||Kristin Cashore|
|53.||To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before||Jenny Han|
|54.||Eragon – The Legacy of the Dragon Riders||Christopher Paolini|
|55.||Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe||Benjamin Alire Sáenz|
|56.||Super Good Days or The Strange World of Christopher Boone||Mark Haddon|
|57.||Very blue eyes||Toni Morrison|
|58.||Treasure Island||Robert Louis Stevenson|
|59.||Everything okay||Nina LaCour|
|60.||The glass bell||Sylvia Plath|
|61.||City of Bones: Chronicles of the Underworld||Cassandra Clare|
|62.||Shadow Children||Margaret Peterson Haddix|
|64.||The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian||Sherman Alexie|
|65.||Heartbeat in French||Stephanie Perkins|
|66.||Cry! Only if I am loud, things will change||Laurie Halse Anderson|
|67.||The Desert Planet||Frank Herbert|
|69.||Earthsea||Ursula K. Le Guin|
|70.||A really crazy story||Ned Vizzini|
|71.||Chronicles of the Shadowhunters||Cassandra Clare|
|72.||One of Us Is Lying||Karen M. McManus|
|73.||Fire Awakening||Rosaria Munda|
|74.||First love [after 19 futile attempts]||John Green|
|76.||In the end we die anyway||Adam Silvera|
|77.||Drawn: House of Night||P.C. Cast Kristin Cast|
|78.||Sadie: If she dies, no one will know the truth||Courtney Summers|
|79.||Finished (Unwind)||Neal Shusterman|
|80.||Animal Farm||George Orwell|
|81.||Leviathan – The Secret Mission||Scott Westerfeld|
|82.||Song of the Crows||Leigh Bardugo|
|83.||On My Sister’s Life||Jodi Picoult|
|84.||Just Listen||Sarah Dessen|
|85.||Angel of the night||Becca Fitzpatrick|
|86.||Flowers for Algernon||Daniel Keyes|
|87.||The Scorpion House||Nancy Farmer|
|90.||Fahrenheit 451||Ray Bradbury|
|91.||The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn||Mark Twain|
|92.||Dumplin’ – Go Big or Go Home||Julie Murphy|
|93.||Nick & Norah – Soundtrack of a night||David Levithan and Rachel Cohn|
|94.||Long Way Down||Jason Reynolds|
|95.||Ender’s Game||Orson Scott Card|
|96.||Frankly in Love||David Yoon|
|97.||The Last Unicorn||Peter S. Beagle|
|98.||The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian||Sherman Alexie|
|99.||Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters||Richelle Mead|
|100.||After Summer||Maggie Stepfather|