Summer Reading: The Best Young Adult Books for Teens

What are some of your favorite books? Do you like to read? Which are some you plan on diving into this summer?

     Many of us could agree that we have looked at our bookshelves countless times in search of something to read, only to fall flat. To be honest, I have had that moment countless times, but I do have my fair share of books that I love. It mostly depends on how I am feeling, but usually, if you place something in front of me, I will read it no matter which genre it is. As a Young Adult, books can be escapes especially in the face of challenging or lonely times. When we were sheltering in place through the beginning stages of the pandemic, the fictional characters we read about in books gave me a parallel universe to get lost in. Thank you, Ponyboy Curtis and Holden Caulfield who thinks “Life is phony,” for keeping me sane. 


The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton 


“Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.”


     I reread this book around every five months. Believe it or not, the first time I picked this classic, I hated it. But when my mom suggested I watch the movie and then reread the book, it changed my whole perspective. It was so much more understandable and clear, and it taught some amazing lessons I use today. This book is a survival guide of sorts based on a small group of guys who are mistreated and bullied. These kids are the greasers. They could be considered the gangster type, in which they do stupid things, but they have much bigger and kinder hearts. This is opposed to their enemies, the Socs, who are the rich kids that live on the right side of the tracks. They are a preppy group, but horrible people. To be honest, Personally, I’d rock a socs style, but rather have the heart of a greaser. 


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”


    This was the book I took with me to sleepaway camp in Alabama a few years ago, and the location of where this story takes place. We visited the Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and that visit had a profound effect on me. This was the trip that kickstarted my intense hunger for learning about social justice. TKAM was another book I despised at first, but when I re-read it in seventh grade, I understood it better and it gave me a new perspective on things. The novel touches on many topics that I agree with and caters to my desire to one-day study politics and social justice. The story teaches amazing lessons despite it being a smack in the face for a lot of people, but there are some audiences who may be bothered by some scenes. Therefore,  discretion is advised. Ultimately, the reader learns how unfair life can be, and how you have to “roll with the punches” if you cannot do anything. If you are a fan of Lord of the Flies, you will love this book too. 


Lord of the Flies by William Golding


“Maybe … there is a beast … maybe it’s only us.” 


     Every once in a while you read a quote that sticks with you unlike any other. Without a doubt,  “Maybe … there is a beast … maybe it’s only us.” is one of my favorite quotes from all the books I have read over the years. The unknown is easy to be afraid of. Taking the first step is undoubtedly the scariest part of the journey. I will admit, it is scary when things are uncertain. This past year, I and many others have been faced with that “unknown”. Also, you can be afraid of the world around you, your brain is very powerful, and a lot of the time it is your own mind playing tricks on you. We made it out alive though! 


Exploring the unknown is many things, but this book, despite its time and place, focuses on a society run by children having to act as adults the best they can. But upbringing, maturity, leadership, and sophistication play a huge part. It is one of the best political and societal books you may ever read. It teaches about influence; how you adapt and become the people with who you surround yourself with. It teaches how some are power-hungry; while some are timid and shy, but there are certainly those who fall “in between.” Personalities are products of your environment, and past memories, each person and their story are very diverse. The morals taught in Lord of the Flies are sad, but the book is easy to relate to and understand, especially if you stop and take a hard look at yourself and your current environment. Are you the power-hungry one? Do you surround yourself with good people? That is a question only you can answer. 


The Body by Stephen King


     “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, did you?”


     This is another quote that has stuck with me since reading my first Stephen King, AKA “The King of Horror”, who happens to have his fair share of non-scary books. The title sounds off, I’ll admit, but it teaches about the rites of passage amongst four best friends, and coming-of-age lessons than the big bad boogie man that keeps you up at night. 


And he’s right, friends are the best at twelve, and I’ll never forget them. Having the moral support of best friends when we are transforming into teenagers is something none of us will ever forget. This book was made into the movie Stand by me, and I loved both the book and the movie equally. It teaches about friendship and how much conflict can be a blessing in disguise, just like COVID. It is also taught to live your life to the fullest and make every day amazing because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. You may lose everything in a blink of an eye and not notice it. Similar to To Kill a Mockingbird, there are some scenes that could be potentially triggering and there are some curse words and always get your parent’s permission before starting ANY Stephen King book. 


Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger


“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”


Oh, Holden Caulfield. What a character. The world is not the best, we have all had our shares of downfalls, but they come in cycles. Holden could not grasp that as hard as he tried. Holden is narcissistic, rude, ill-mannered, and a fugitive, not to mention depressed and somehow really loveable. His journey takes you through an adventure of his quest to find himself and his purpose. It teaches a really simple, yet valuable and extremely important lesson. We see the world through his eyes, and how our surroundings can influence us. But ultimately it is your choice to become the person you are despite being influenced by others. The book is extremely relatable when you get past his mega-ego, and Holden and believing we live in a “phony world,” your heart goes out to him.. At some points, he isn’t wrong and entirely inaccurate. Life IS hard. Far be it from me to agree with many of his actions and misogynistic views, but I can think to myself or people I know, none of us are perfect, we just have an easier time setting boundaries, and curbing our thoughts.


11-22-63 by Stephen King


“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.”


If you could go back to another period in time, and change the entire course of history, would you? Another non-horror novel by the King of Horror explores what it would be like to time travel to the days leading up to the assassination of JFK. The book can be compared to Newton’s law, “Every action has its equal and opposite action,” and on a bigger scale the Butterfly Effect. The Butterfly Effect is a theory based on chaos math, and best explained when something small (like the flapping of a butterfly’s wing,) can cause something huge to happen. For example, if a person goes and takes a piece of paper and lets it go to waste, somewhere there will be a shortage of paper and they have to print something important like a law or government documentation. 11-22-63 makes the reader think carefully about their actions because something will always happen because of that. The ethics and morals are very complex in this book, so if you are a fan of science fiction and history, I recommend this book to you (and anyone!)


A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving 


“Your memory is a monster; you forget—it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you—and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory, but it has you!”


This book was that book. A rollercoaster from start to finish that you can’t escape. Especially those who want to fix every tiny problem that exists no matter the difficulty.  I knew books could make you deeply feel emotion, but never to this extent. As I read the last page, I sat on my bed, put down the book, and thought to myself, “Why did I procrastinate on reading that book for so long?” And the story stuck with me. The plot, the characters, and the connection I felt. They say that’s a sign of a great book. Yes, it touches upon many religious aspects, beliefs, and traditions, but that sets the scene and develops the character. This book taught me loyalty, friendship, faith, and how much people can relate to each other no matter how different they are. Despite his cringy voice, and annoying habits, Owen Meany is a boy you’d want as your best friend.


    This is mostly an updated version of my original The five best books for Teens and Tweens but I decided to revisit it because during COVID I read many books that changed my life significantly and I don’t regret reading any of them. I was bored, with nothing to do, couldn’t see friends or loved ones, and to be honest, sitting on TikTok and Instagram started to get boring, so books turned into my friends, and as much as video games or movies are cool, the books are the ones who are gonna stick with you the longest. I don’t know why, but it always has been like that. As said, we have the dull-minded “what do I read moment” sometimes, so bookmark this page if you want a good read. If you do, tell me what you think, I would love to hear your thoughts. 


What are some of your favorite books? Do you like to read? Which are some you plan on diving into this summer?