Book recommendations

Since I talk about books so much, I thought it might be worthwhile to get a recommendations page going. Have a teen family member who likes speculative fiction? Like speculative fiction yourself? Look no further…! While I think young adult books can (should?) be read by adults as well as teens, I’ve separated these lists by perceived age categories to the best of my abilities. Your mileage may vary. My own key words/tags for the works are between parentheses to give a hint of plot/setting elements.

Young Adult:


  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (violence, rebellion, surveillance, life-or-death games)
  • Divergent, by Veronica Roth (sectioned society, sense of self, conspiracy)
  • Legend, by Marie Lu (social inequity, conspiracy, Romeo & Juliet, split POVs)
  • Emergence, by David R. Palmer (spunky girl hero, apocalypse, survival, diary-style, preteen protagonist, evolution, animal sidekick)
  • Penryn & The End of Days, by Susan Ee (angels, apocalypse, survival, family)
  • The Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer (eastern setting, cyborgs, mind control, fairytales)
  • The Gracekeepers, by Kirsty Logan (floating circus, mermaids, barely habitable world, animal companion, rituals of mourning)


  • Vampire Academy,  by Richelle Mead (boarding school, strong & sarcastic heroine, organized vampires)
  • Bloodlines, by Richelle Mead (boarding school, practical heroine, vampires, secret organization)
  • Dream Catcher, by Lisa McMann (parental neglect, experiencing others’ dreams, high school)
  • The Mortal Instruments, by Cassandra Clare (New York City, demon hunting, unwanted attraction)
  • The Lynburn Legacy, by Sarah Rees Brennan (small English town, high school, spunky girl reporter, secrets)
  • Modern Faerie Tales, by Holly Black (modern faeries, strained parental relationships, running away from home, riddles)
  • Elemental, by Brigid Kemmerer (powers, self defense, sexual assault, high school)
  • Unearthly, by Cynthia Hand (angels, family, quest, high school)
  • A Certain Slant of Light, by Laura Whitcomb (ghosts, redemption, possession, high school, old-sounding narrator)
  • The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater (kelpies, bloodthirsty horses, racing, island setting, lyrical, split POVs)
  • The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater (tight-knit friend group, quest, psychics, Welsh mythology)
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black (vampires, social media, quarantine, infection, gory, near-future)


  • Books of Bayern, by Shannon Hale (poetic, powers, sense of self, fairytale)
  • Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale (eastern setting, captivity, poetic, fairytale, diary-style, middle grade)
  • Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale (poetic, boarding school, isolation, middle grade)
  • Song of the Lioness, by Tamora Pierce (girl undercover, knights, mages, war, gender inequity, traditional fantasy, middle grade)
  • The Immortals, by Tamora Pierce (talking animals, mages, war, age difference, dragons, middle grade)
  • Protector of the Small, by Tamora Pierce (girl becoming knight, boarding school (ish), hazing, jousting, war)
  • Daughter of the Lioness, by Tamora Pierce (spies, slavery, rebellion, island setting)
  • Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman (dragons, renaissance setting, loneliness, music)
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor (chimeras, angels, war, Prague, doors between dimensions, Romeo & Juliet)
  • Eon, by Alison Goodman (eastern setting, Chinese zodiac, energy dragons, prominent transgender character, girl in disguise)
  • Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith (rebellion, traditional fantasy, renaissance, fashion, fan language, court life)
  • The Trouble With Kings, by Sherwood Smith (frequent kidnappings, passive but likable main character, amnesia, intrigue)
  • A Posse of Princesses, by Sherwood Smith (middle grade, boarding school, friendship)
  • Sasharia en Garde, by Sherwood Smith (fencing, swashbuckling, modern character in fantasy world)
  • Wildwood, by Juliet Marillier (Transylvania, faeries, fairytale, Byzantium, quests)
  • Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo (Russian tint, mages, boarding school, unreliable narrator)
  • Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo (fantasy Amsterdam in Dutch golden age, heist, found family, chronic pain, boy genius, trauma)
  • Graceling, by Kristin Cashore (powers, traditional fantasy, assassination, escape, sense of self)
  • Plain Kate, by Erin Bow (sacrifice, isolation, talking animal, platonic love, heartbreaking)
  • Serpentine, by Cindy Pon (snake demon, eastern setting, platonic love, warrior monks)
  • Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson (desert setting, chosen one, imposter syndrome, overweight main character)
  • Uprooted, by Naomi Novik (evil in the forest, belonging, magic, antisocial wizard, Polish-tinted setting)


  • Bittersweet, by Sarah Ockler (food cravings, small-town diner, slice of life, skating, high school)
  • Golden, by Jessi Kirby (soul-searching, small-town legend, secrets, high school)
  • On the Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta (boarding school, unreliable narrator, abandonment issues, mystery, lyrical)
  • Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (college, social anxiety, fanfiction, writing)
  • The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green (cancer, sarcastic main character, heartbreaking)
  • Looking for Alaska, by John Green (soul-searching, grief, boarding school)
  • An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green (funny, lighthearted, soul-searching, boy genius)



  • The Sevenwaters Trilogy, by Juliet Marillier (druidism, Ireland, lyrical, legends, Tuathe Dé Danann)
  • Heart’s Blood, by Juliet Marillier (beauty and the beast, female scribe, castle in the woods)
  • Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson (epic fantasy, rebellion, cool magic system, undercover operations)
  • Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold (epic fantasy, patron saints, older protagonists)
  • Children of the Desert, by Leona Wisoker (desert setting, older beings, quests)
  • Hero, by Moira J. Moore (funny, partnered magic, natural disasters, long series)
  • The Tamir Trilogy, by Lynn Flewelling (creepy, dark fantasy, magical disguise)
  • Dobrenica, by Sherwood Smith (modern-day, fictional country, eastern European)
  • A Fistful of Sky, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (modern-day, powers, family, overweight main character, sense of self, lyrical)
  • Lancelot: Her Story, by Carol Anne Douglas (Arthurian legend, woman in disguise, lesbian romance, platonic love, war, religious shifts, women’s stories)
  • Medair, by Andrea K Höst (magical happenstance, imperialism, time travel, alone in the world, unwanted attraction)

Science fiction:

  • Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold (older protagonist, stranded on a planet, cultural differences)
  • Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (disability, brittle bones, boy genius, warrior-like society, growing up)
  • Friday, by Robert A. Heinlein (genetically modified humans, stow-aways, discrimination, polyamory)
  • Vatta’s War, by Elizabeth Moon (female ship captain, space warfare, trading)
  • Sirantha Jax, by Ann Aguire (fugitives, space travel, survivor’s guilt, fantastic interspecies friendship)
  • The Host, by Stephenie Meyer (human parasites, two souls one body, alien invasion)
  • Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (hopeful, alien races, diverse cast, space exploration, imaginative, character driven)
  • The Martian, by Andy Weird (near future, realistic technology, agriculture, diary-style, humour, the human condition)


  • Austenland, by Shannon Hale (Jane Austen, life within a play, funny, lighthearted)
  • Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell (internet surveillance, love from a distance, sense of self, 90s, office romance)
  • Lively St. Lemeston series, by Rose Lerner (class differences, diverse cast, regency, elections, sense of place, explicit)
  • Brothers Sinister series, by Courtney Milan (victorian times, class differences/struggle, overcoming trauma, interesting “history of science”-related twist/worldbuilding, explicit)


  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce (English countryside, 70+ protagonist, looking back on life, hope, self-discovery without being a cheesy mess)
  • Sarah Tolerance series, by Madeleine E. Robins (fencing, sleuthing, somewhat alternate history, regency, practical protagonist)


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