Go-To YA Book Recommendations

As someone who is very open about her love of reading, I often find myself in a position of being asked for book recommendations. If I know someone’s reading tastes well, this is usually an easy task. There are also plenty of amazing lists out there that help for making recommendations for someone who is able to give you a specific example of their interests, like The Fault in Our Stars, dystopians, or contemporary romances. It’s those others, though, the ones that don’t consider themselves “readers,” so they are hesitant to name a book they’ve enjoyed that require a little more thought.

Over the past couple of years, I have begun keeping (and updating!) a mental list of “go-to books” that I can easily start with when making recommendations to these individuals. Here are a few of my most frequent go-to recommendations:

Bad UnicornFor the Simpsons Comics Fans Who Want a Non-graphic Novel:

Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clark

While this book isn’t for everyone, it does has been very well received when I am able to get it into the right hands. These readers are the ones that will laugh out loud and grab it from you when you explain that it is about a killer unicorn named Princess the Destroyer. I have recommended this many times and have received positive feedback from the readers. I have even heard them telling others about it. Bad Unicorn has been getting many more reads than I anticipated the first time I saw it.

gracelingFor the Dystopian Fans Who Are So Over Dystopians

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2009 Morris Award Honor Book, 2009 Teens’ Top Ten Winner, 2012 Popular Paperback for Young Adults)

I began recommending Graceling after it popped up a few times here on The Hub. While your reader has to be okay with high fantasy, I have found it to be an easy sell to someone who has worked their way through a variety of dystopian and post-apocalyptic future novels and is ready for something new. I think it is more approachable to readers coming out of the Hunger Games series than other fantasy series such as Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness. 

i hunt killers barry lyga coverFor the Readers Who Don’t Think There Is Anything of Interest to Them

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (2013 Teens’ Top Ten Nominee, 2013 Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers2015 Popular Paperback Nominee)

Son of a serial killer? Check. Father taught him the “family business” before being locked up? Check. Murder, blood, psychological thriller? Check. Check. Check.

The Nazi HuntersFor the History Lovers Who Think They Don’t Like Reading

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (2014 Nonfiction for Young Adults Winner)

Admittedly, I think the title of this book makes it sound a bit more action-packed than it is. It is, however, a great non-fiction book with approachable formatting and story-telling, appealing to those who prefer their facts in short bursts with supporting photographs.

NogginFor the Reluctant Readers Who Don’t Really Want a Book, But Need Something

Noggin by John Corey Whaley (Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee)

This book pretty much sells itself. Not only does it have an eye-catching cover, but all I have to do is read the first few lines and it’s on its way out the door:

“Listen – I was alive once and then I wasn’t. Simple as that. Now I’m alive again. The in-between part is still a little fuzzy, but I can tell you that, at some point or another, my head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado.”


Do you have any go-to recommendations that you keep in your pocket for readers without a specific goal? Share them in the comments!

– Jessica Lind, currently reading The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

2 thoughts on “Go-To YA Book Recommendations”

  1. Great article for discussion!

    For readers who “want something good” but don’t really know what they want, I almost always give them “Going Bovine,” by Libba Bray.

    Doesn’t matter if it’s a male or female patron,…

    Doesn’t matter if they love or hate vampires/werewolves/fallen angels/zombies/wizards/trend of the moment…

    Doesn’t matter if they like romance, adventure, sci-fi, dystopian, etc…

    Going Bovine is my go-to book for pretty much anyone. Beauty part is every single patron I’ve given this book to (Every. Single. Patron!) has returned to gush about how awesome this book was and how much they loved it and to beg me to please, please, please find them something just like it (or at least similar). How often does that universal sort of love happen with a book?

  2. I Hunt Killers and Nazi Hunters sound good to me. I loved, Where have you gone Bernadette, would recommend.

Comments are closed.