5 Underrated YA Novels You Should Be Reading

The young adult (YA) genre is vastly underrated, often snubbed by sophisticated readers, and often overshadowed by classic literature in classrooms (thanks, Shakespeare). Yet, YA novels manage to capture emotions and experiences that affect not only young adult readers but readers of all ages. 


The portrayal of the human experience offers solace to readers who can find their own experience mirrored or solidified in the words of an author. Though readers can celebrate the vast availability of YA books, unfortunately sensational titles often overshadow other books that are just as well-written and relevant. Though I can add hundreds of additional titles to this list, here are five underrated young adult books worth reading.


1. Perfect by Ellen Hopkins



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Ellen Hopkins is one of the most overlooked contemporary authors. Writing both YA and adult books, Hopkins creates invigorating and deeply relatable stories in an incredibly beautiful way. In Perfect, Hopkins introduces the reader to four different characters whose first-person perspectives allow readers to intimately understand their emotional tales. Cara is a young teen struggling to survive her parents’ unrealistic expectations, which already pushed her brother towards suicide. Kendra struggles with an eating disorder and finds herself consumed with societal notions of beauty, unable to find the beauty within herself. Sean is an athlete willing to use any means necessary to succeed. Andre is an African-American teen whose interest in dancing isn’t culturally accepted. Each story is powerful and Hopkins’s poetic style offers the reader a unique and artistic read.


2. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon


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Making its way to the top-ten lists of the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today, Everything, Everything is a heart-warming love story between two teens who find an escape in one another. Maddy is a vivacious teen whose lively personality is obstructed by the walls of her home in which she is confined by illness. Allergic to the outside world (literally), Maddy is unable to enjoy the simplest parts of life that others take for granted. Though isolated and lonely, everything quickly changes when a new neighbor, Olly, moves in next door. With this story, Yoon manages to capture a coming-of-age romance with a twist while shying away from cliché teen romance.


3. Story of A Girl by Sara Zarr


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A coming-of-age tale that is oh-so relatable, Story of A Girl captures the conflicting experience of stepping away from childhood innocence and embracing sexuality. Deanna is an adolescent whose sexual exploration has cost her a relationship with her father whom, after catching her in a sexual act, refuses to acknowledge her. When her sexual escapade with the much older Tommy spreads around school, Deanna becomes a victim of slut shaming and finds that she is unable to escape the disapproving societal eye no matter where she runs. Deanna’s narrative is a powerful reminder of resilience and the endless difficulties with conforming to society’s hypocritical definition of maturity.


4. One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus


one of us is lying

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Described by Entertainment Weekly as a fusion of Pretty Little Liars and The Breakfast Club, McManus’s debut thriller entices readers to solve the unsettling murder of high school outcast Simon. Simon is among four other high school students who walks into detention. He never makes it out alive. The other four do survive. One of the survivors (or more) murdered Simon. This page-turner offers readers first-person point-of-views of each character, allowing them to enter the mindsets of murderous teens who each has a motive for committing the heinous act. This highly addictive read will undoubtedly keep readers on the edge of their seats as they try to solve this complicated mystery.


5. Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow


girl in pieces

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Hauntingly beautiful, Girl in Pieces portrays the captivating yet tragic story of 17-year-old Charlie whose home and hell is the psychiatric ward of a mental health facility. Charlie suffers from depression and internalized pain as a result of traumatic childhood experiences. Her visceral pain and isolation eventually leads to self-harm. Though she seeks treatment at the facility, her inability to pay for it lands her back on the streets. Glasgow paints a startling yet emotionally riveting portrait through Charlie’s story, meticulously addressing issues of depression and trauma, which many readers can relate to and be moved by. Glasgow’s artistry shines through her fragmented style of writing which mirrors the emotionally broken psyche of Charlie. Though difficult to read at times, this story provides a realistic and truly touching tale of human struggle and resilience.


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