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Day 243: The Best YA Books You’ve Never Read, or, Read THIS, not THAT!


# of pages of a short story written: 5

Everybody’s read the classics like Number the Stars and Tuck Everlasting and The Outsiders. (And if you haven’t read these, shame on you – visit your local library now!) Everybody’s heard of Harry Potter and the Twilight series. But there are a lot of wonderful YA books and series out there you may not have read or even heard of, and most of them you can enjoy just as much as a not-so-young adult.


Rasmus and The Vagabond by Astrid Lindgren (1967)  By the author of the Pippi Longstocking books, this tale is realistic instead of fantastic, but just as fun. Shy Rasmus runs away from the orphanage, meets a hobo, and has an wild, yet heartwarming adventure.

The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick (2000) Back before everybody and their moms were writing about post-apocalyptic worlds, Philbrick created this ingenious tale about a world where people are genetically improved and the new drug of choice is “mind-probing.”  I like to call it “A Clockwork Orange for children” because Philbrick has created his own slang, and it gives this book a hip, fun, frightening vibe. It’s not too much like A Clockwork Orange, though. Don’t be afraid to give this book to a child.

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer (1969) I love this book so much – where to begin? Well, you should know that it inspired the song “Charlotte Sometimes” by the Cure, and Robert Smith admits to using lines from the book in his lyrics. It’s also just a wonderful novel involving time travel, séances, and girls at a solemn British boarding school. What else could you possibly want? It’s smart and beautiful and melancholy – the perfect book for snuggling up with on a cold, rainy day.

Robert Smith of The Cure loves the book Charlotte Sometimes.

Robert Smith of The Cure loves the book Charlotte Sometimes.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White (1970) Of course you’ve read Charlotte’s Web, but have you read this one? About a swan who learns to play the trumpet and becomes a nightclub sensation, this book is absolutely charming.  Somehow, E.B. White manages to make everything sound totally plausible.

Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle (1986) We all love A Wrinkle in Time, but I think this story, about twin boys going back in time to just before the biblical flood, might be my favorite. It’s fascinating (and a little bit racy at times!) I highly recommend it.

The Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher (1967). Back before trilogies were the “thing” Christopher wrote a legitimate series about life on earth, post-alien-takeover. In this case, the aliens may or may not be intelligent machines, and they control everyone through a metal “cap” that is implanted into the head on the day of the fourteenth birthday. Although the first book, The White Mountains, is good, my favorite is the second: The City of Gold and Lead. Then, of course, you’ll have to read the last one, too: The Pool of Fire.

Half Magic by Edward Eager (1954). Although set in the 1930’s, this book is timeless. About four children who find a magic talisman that takes them on unexpected adventures, the story is quirky, clever, and a lot of fun.

Callie’s Way by Ruth Wallace-Brodeur (1990)  Apparently there is another book called Callie’s Way on Amazon about a scantily-clad bitch who’s had it with men and their selfish ways. Please don’t get that one. Get the one with a plain girl on the front with a red backpack and barrettes in her hair. That’s the one you want. My grandma bought this book for me when I was eleven. It sat on my shelf for awhile unread because it wasn’t Sweet Valley Twins or Baby-sitters Club. When I finally gave it a chance, it became one of my favorite books. Although perhaps a little dated now (none of the characters have cell phones and everyone wears topsiders), it perfectly captures the emotional landscape of being a twelve-year-old girl. Callie as a narrator is funny and observant and pitch-perfect. If I could kiss Ruth Wallace-Brodeur, I would.

You want this one.

You want this one.

NOT this one.

NOT this one.


What were your favorite books as a youngster?  Go back and read them now, and see what you think.  Are they still just as good?


About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

4 responses »

  1. YES! Congratulations to me for reading your post and discovering a hidden Cure reference!!! Going to read that book. Can’t believe I didn’t know that! CS is like my fave Cure song! enough exclamation points for now. I tried to read the Christopher Trilogy, may have to revisit. Great post, takes me back to a lost era of good reading. Thanks Eva.

  2. I’m adding these to my reading list – thanks! Most of my YA recommendations are not necessarily from my childhood since I have two sisters who currently teach middle school English. 🙂 In case you’re interested…

    – The trilogy by Veronica Roth, starting with Divergent, about a dystopian society in which you are tested to find out to which sect you belong (movie comes out in 2014, of course).
    – The series by Dave Barry (yes THE Dave Barry) and Ridley Pearson about Peter Pan before the story we all know, starting with Peter & the Starcatchers.
    – Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, about nonconformity in middle school.
    – Freak The Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, about a big, slow teenage boy, and a tiny, genius, teenage boy in leg braces who form an unlikely friendship.
    – One from my youth: Light a Single Candle by Beverly Butler about a girl who loses her sight and gets a seeing-eye dog…. and obviously falls in love too.

    I really liked Island of the Blue Dolphins growing up and tried reading it recently and could not get past the first few pages. I also liked The Pinballs and was not as engaged with that one more recently either. Roald Dahl and Judy Blume have never disappointed though… 🙂

    • Thanks, Allyson! I’ll add THESE to MY list! (Dave Barry writes children’s books –what?!) And I love Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli so I’ll have to check out Stargirl. I didn’t mention it in this post, but anything by Sharon Creech is excellent.

  3. So excited about all these books, I’ve read some with P already and am excited about checking out the others.

    My favorite YA author when I was a kid was Diana Wynne Jones- Charmed Life, Witch Week, Howls Moving Castle…I think I read everything she wrote (although of course some are better than others!)


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