Michelle Ladner- My Ten Favorite Books: The Young Adult Edition

CSLCYABINDINGSWhen asked to cull together a favorite books list for CSLC, my mind immediately whirled through the hundreds of titles I love. I started perusing my bookshelves. My favorite things in the world are my books. One of my favorite things to do is to make lists. It was a no brainer. But I quickly found it’s a little like picking out favorite children or a favorite pet from hundreds that you love.

So I categorized the books into a few different lists, and the one that finished first and was most definitive in my head was my list of ten favorite Young Adult books. This is a section of the bookstore of which I have always been a fan and an advocate.

It was a hard list to narrow to ten, but I’m happy with the result. In no particular order, here’s my list of ten—the Young Adult edition.

 Stolen by Lucy Christopher


This book has haunted me since I first read it shortly after its U.S. release in 2010. The narrative is written as a letter from 16-year-old Gemma to her captor Ty about how she viewed him and her time with him after he stole her away into the desolate Australian Outback. Stolen is a powerful, complicated, and emotionally charged story that I won’t ever forget.

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 The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie


Sherman Alexie instantly emerged in college as one of my favorite authors. After my introduction to him, I went out and found everything he’d written. When I learned in 2007 he’d written a Young Adult novel inspired by his life, I went right out and bought it. This book may well be my favorite Alexie since. Junior Sprit is a brilliant, funny, and sensitive protagonist that I connected with immediately. To use the cliché, I laughed, I cried.

This is also a book that I have bought four times and lost four copies of because whoever borrowed them kept them. Wish I still had my first edition copy, but that’s about as good an endorsement as to why it’s a favorite that anyone could give. 

 Unwind by Neal Schusterman


I want to become Neal Schusterman as a writer. I know you aren’t supposed to say that—you’re supposed to find your own voice and style, and I won’t ever actually try to do it. But Unwind is breathtaking. Not only does the story deal in very relevant and heavy issues whilst in a fantasy context—my favorite kind of book—but the story is a thrill ride. It’s the best of both worlds: entertainment and substance. It stands alone nicely, but there are two additions to the series.

Jane by April Lindner 


We’ve heard Christopher Lee rereads Tolkien every Christmas. I annually reread Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and, incidentally, I own twenty-four editions of the book. So when I learned a 2010 contemporary Young Adult retelling of the book was afoot, I was skeptical. Of course, I had no choice but to buy it and take a peek.

It could’ve gone really wrong. It didn’t. April Lindner did what one must do in these “retellings”: she managed to stay true to the original while making it contemporarily relevant and distinctly her own. I commend her and have actually reread Jane four or five times since.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young 


Voice. The voice in this book is incredible, and I have since pre-ordered and/or read each book that follows in this series. This first will always have a special place in my heart and on my shelf. Saba’s journey to find her brother who was stolen right before her eyes is desperate, wrought with danger, and just what I want from this sort of adventure. The character submerged me into her world instantly with that incredible, incredible voice and kept me turning the pages to the last.

Sunshine by Robin Mckinley 


Before there was Bella Swan, there was Sunshine. Dark suspense melds with humor and romance in this girl meets vampire story that shows complication and consequences when their two worlds collide. Exceptionally written, I don’t know what to say other than Sunshine remains my very favorite teen meets vampire novel. And I love my vampires.


 Looking for Alaska by John Green


In a journey to discover The Great Perhaps, Miles Halter learns what it means to face life and loss head on. I struggled a little with this choice because I favor John Green’s A Fault in Our Stars—I think it’s his best work yet. But without the paragon that is Looking for Alaska, I would’ve never followed John Green’s writing career and seen the breadth of what he can do.

I don’t know if I found this book the same year or the year after its release in 2005, but I’ve had it for several years. It’s worn and dinged from multiple reads and lendings. It’s a simple, smartly structured story that left a mark on me and has sent me on a journey to discovering one of the most well-loved Young Adult authors currently out there.

 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card


Ender’s Game has been a part of my list and life since I was a Young Adult. Actually earlier, because my older brother owned the book before me and I stumbled upon it as a middle grade-aged reader. I love that this book is resonant after all these years. Ender is perfection, and Card was so far ahead of the current trends of “exciting-new-Young-Adult-sci-fi-fantasy-dystopian-label-label-fiction!” that people think the upcoming movie and book are a recent creation. I love that! And I feel like I’m a member of the exclusive club that found Ender first.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 


What is it about weighty issues and social awkwardness steeped in an amusing teenaged boy’s voice that keeps us coming back and falling in love over and over? Written as a series of letters to an undisclosed friend, Charlie allows the reader, and himself, to uncover the mystery of why he is the way he is. It’s funny and heart-achingly poignant. 

 Incarceron by Catherine Fisher


“Finn had been flung on his face and chained to the stone slab of the transit way,” begins Incarceron. I just kept reading for 442 pages. Nonstop. I’m reading it again, between typing sentences for this post, because I opened it to check that quote. I love this story. It’s the story of a mind-bending prison facility where people are watched by it, are born, then live and die inside. Finn, our young prisoner, and a girl who claims to live outside crack open the secrets of Incarceron. It’s a gritty intelligent fantasy adventure that I come back to again and again.


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