This is part two of my top recommendations for folks reading in the classical young adult range. Most of these are speculative fiction (with a few classics thrown in for good measure). These books have a level of on screen violence and physical relationships that you’d see on the television or in a PG film. Not all of these are marketed as young adult. I only list the first book in a series, because it’s a good idea to make sure you like book one before picking up all of them.
Author’s name is at the top.
Book title (only the first in a series will be listed)
– Notes or description preceded by a hyphen
Another book, maybe
– Another description
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
A Fistful of Sky
– A girl from a magic family doesn’t get her magic until very late, and then it’s the power of curses.
A Stir of Bones
– Some teens make friends with a lonely ghost.
– All the local and famous witches try to out wicked each other in order to win the hand of the handsome evil wizard. Hilarity ensues.
Diana Wynne Jones
A Charmed Life
– The first book published in the Chrestomanci heptalogy, but is not the first book in chronological order. This takes place in an parallel Britain, where there’s magic. These are clever and often hilarious.
– Sirius, the dog star, has been found guilty of murder, and has been sent to earth in a mortal form (puppy!). He must prove his innocence before the real murderer can identify and kill him.
The Green Glass Sea
– Historical fiction involving the town of scientists and support folks who were working on the atom bomb
– Sword and sorcery series. Ritual heavy magic based on hypnotism, adventure, ethnocentrism, and a really nasty archbishop. We’re reading the third book in this series with our 12-year-old.
Gail Carson Levine
Two Princesses of Bamarre
The timid, clumsy sister has to go on an adventure to cure her brave sister’s illness
Cinderella story (it’s better than the movie), Ella was given a gift from a fairy at birth – she must obey any order. But headstrong Ella finds ways around orders.
Contemporary fantasy. A girl wishes to be popular, and suddenly she is. And it’s a bit much, but at the same time, she doesn’t quite want it to end.
– Contemporary fantasy. A young woman inherits her grandmother’s house. On her first morning, she finds a handsome elf hanging out in her kitchen insisting her grandmother was murdered
– Fractured fairy tale. An adventurous princess goes to explore the castle wrapped in brambles. She’s captured by someone out for treasure, makes acquaintances with an odd little man with a whole lot of magic, and encounters a plethora of princesses. There’s also something about a frog.
– Science fiction with dragons. The first book of the Dragonriders of Pern series.
– First book in a young adult specific trilogy that takes place in the Pern world, but can be read on its own
– Science fiction, space opera. Planet pirates killed her family and made her a slave. When she was freed, Sassinak joined Fleet to hunt down the pirates.
– A delightful retelling of Sleeping Beauty, with a rich interesting world
– A retelling of Beauty and the Beast written with YA audience in mind
– Another retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with significantly more challenging language, probably not written with a YA audience in mind, but it’s suitable for older or stronger readers
– Contemporary fantasy. The first book in the The Keys to the Kingdom series. Middle grade reading level, but interesting and engaging for older readers.
– Fantasy with Victorian and steampunk hints. Marketed in Britian as both YA and adult (with separate covers). Fascinating rich world, intriguing magic, and good necromancy.
Across the Wall
– Collection of short stories primarily fantastic or magical in nature. Includes one of the best Hansel and Gretel retellings I’ve run across.
Zahrah the Windseeker
– Middle grade afrofuturism. A compelling coming of age story in a world that has an interesting mix of magic and nature.