11 Best YA Books for Older Kids, According to Authors
Children's book authors share the young adult books they couldn't put down when they were tweens and teens.
"The common denominator with books I loved growing up is visceral food scenes. I recall when Brian in Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen (ages 10+), gets his hands on one of the foolbirds and how he roasts it over a spit. All kids like to imagine life without adults, surviving off their own wits and know-how."
—Jenny Han, author of the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
"I wanted to be a detective after reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (ages 12+). When I visited London with my parents, I made them take me to 221 Baker Street. Disappointingly, there was only a bank there, but my love of stories obviously stuck!"
—Cassandra Clare, author of City of Bones
"Why did Black Boy, by Richard Wright (ages 14+), make me a reader? Simple. On the second page, young Richard sets the curtains on fire and burns his mother's house down. That's pretty much all it took."
—Jason Reynolds, author of Long Way Down
"The one-legged pirate captain Long John Silver from Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson (ages 12+), was one of my heroes. It was my first encounter with the fun side of evil. When my friends and I played pirate, I pretended I had a parrot on my shoulder and a peg leg like my hero. And I began searching the library for every pirate story I could find."
—R. L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps series
"Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier (ages 12+), was the first novel I read all the way through without being told to. I realized that reading, which I had studiously avoided most of my childhood, could actually be entertaining if you gave it a chance."
—David Macaulay, author of The Way Things Work
The Greatest: My Own Story
"I loved books until I was 10, when the adults in my life began to tell me what to read. Two years later, while cleaning up our garage, I stumbled upon The Greatest: My Own Story, by Muhammad Ali (ages 12+), and read all 400 pages in one night."
—Kwame Alexander, author of The Undefeated
Murder on the Orient Express
"My childhood was tumultuous, but mysteries were satisfying and grounding. I remember loving Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie (ages 12+). It was so complex and rich in detail. It also had the satisfaction of the big reveal at the end. That was more reassuring than a treacly happily ever after."
—Veronica Chambers, author of Finish the Fight!
Behold Your Queen!
"Based on the biblical story of Esther, Behold Your Queen! by Gladys Malvern (ages 14+), was full of intrigue and romance that my Sunday-school teachers could never imagine. It also introduced me to the world of historical fiction, which I gulped down."
—Sharon M. Draper, author of Out of My Mind
The Halloween Tree
"Long before Jack Skellington, there was creepy, charming, eloquent Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, guiding wide-eyed boys through all the delightfully macabre traditions of Halloween. The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury (ages 12+), intrigued me because light and dark could exist side by side."
—David Yoon, author of Frankly in Love
"Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt (ages 10+), left me breathless. My brain raced to keep up with its sophistication, pushing me to a new level of understanding."
—Soman Chainani, author of the School for Good and Evil series
"It wasn't until high school that I became a real lover of books. Each of the stories in Nine Stories, by J. D. Salinger (ages 14+), was enjoyable to read but then always left me pondering as to what was the true meaning. What was the author trying to say? No book had ever challenged me like that before."
—Louis Sachar, author of Sideways Stories From Wayside School