As I’ve been reading through The Ultimate Reading Challenge List I’ve realised how many books I’ve read in the past that are severely underrated. To honour those books, I’d like to make a list for you to check out if you’re tired of over-hyped popular YA books that can often be unsatisfying. For the sake of narrowing the list down, I’ve only selected standalone books, as these seem to often be neglected most.
In no particular order…
1) The Traitor Game // B.R. Collins
It’s upsetting how underrated this book is. Although the story starts off a little slow, it delves into the mind of a a teenage body and his active imagination. All book lovers can appreciate the value of other worlds, but the book also has a beautiful depiction of realism that illustrates issues for young people. Also by B.R. Collins and well worthy of a read: A Trick of the Dark (very creepy), Tyme’s End (very mysterious) and Game Runner (not my favourite of the author’s, but still brilliant).
2) There Will Be Lies // Nick Lane
An absolutely beautiful book. A thriller that embeds realism and
fantasy through the mind of a mostly-deaf teenage girl, as she struggles to understand why her mother is on national TV for being Wanted by the police. The author also wrote the more popular In Darkness, a challenging prize-winning novel about a boy growing up in Haiti. There Will Be Lies will touch your heart, and appeals to fans of Silence is Goldfish (Annabel Pitcher) and The Shock of the Fall (Nathan Filer).
3) Unique // Alison Allen-Gray
Nobody seems to have heard of this book, but I remember it as vividly now as when I read it years ago. It’s a novel that really sticks with you: an ethical thriller following a teenage boy who finds out he is exactly identical to an older brother he never knew he had, who died before he was born. This will appeal to fans of Malorie Blackman’s Pig Heart Boy (which you should also read – with a box of tissues!).
4) Lovely, Dark and Deep // Amy McNamara
Those of you who recognise my reading habits might guess that I’m not a typical fan of contemporary YA with a focus on romance, but this book was simply beautiful. The story follows a teenage girl trying to piece her life back together after a violent car-crash killed her boyfriend and left her alive. She eventually finds solace in the friendship of a local teenage boy, and while there is a romance, it’s more of a story about a girl trying to heal from her past. This will appeal to fans of All The Bright Places (Jennifer Niven) and virtually anything by John Green.
5) Private Peaceful // Michael Morpurgo
I loved this author while I was growing up, and while everyone seems to have heard of War Horse based on its commercial success in film and play adaptations, nobody seems to have heard of Private Peaceful which I thought was just as good (even better). Private Peaceful explores two brothers growing up against the backdrop of World War One. Truly heart-breaking and beautifully written, and well worthy of a read. Also underrated by Morpurgo and just as good as War Horse is: Alone On A Wide Wide Sea.
6) And The Mountains Echoed // Khaled Hosseini
Everybody seems to have read Hosseini’s The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns, but nobody seems to be as impressed by his third novel. While And The Mountains Echoed doesn’t share the same gut-wrenching tragedy and realism as his previous novels, the book is still equally as beautifully written, embedding the lives of many generations into a spread of human life and emotion. If you like his earlier novels, definitely give this one a shot for its magnificently written narrative (if you’re on the older side of the YA spectrum).
7) More Than This // Patrick Ness
I know the author is getting insanely popular (and rightfully so, his books are brilliant) but nobody seems to have read More Than This. Although it’s one of my least favourite of his works, it’s still a brilliant story about a boy who wakes up in his town one day, only to find that he might very well be the last person alive. Everybody has vanished and his memories are almost gone. The story in my opinion is a much better version of The Matrix, but without all the pretentious speeches.
8) Sharp North // Patrick Cave
A futuristic story where anybody can be replaceable, how awesome does that sound? And yet, everybody seems to have missed out on this story. It is a little confusing to read at times, but I remember this book very vividly years later. It’s very difficult to describe the story without giving away spoilers, so if you’re in the mood to embed yourself in something a little different, definitely give this one a go. Appeals to fans of His Dark Materials.
So what are some of your favourite standalone YA books? Do you agree with my list? I’d love to hear what you think, please let me know if you have any recommendations of your own.