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11 young adult novels that are well worth reading at any age

If you think YA is just for teens, you’re missing out.

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YOUNG ADULT FICTION (commonly known as YA) has exploded in popularity over the past decade.

It may be aimed at teenagers on the surface, but the genre is producing some of the best fiction around, full stop – here’s some YA books people of all ages can enjoy.

1. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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Self-identified fat girl Willowdean Dickson (nicknamed Dumplin’ by her mam) enters a local teen beauty pageant, just to prove that she can. If we had to pick one word to describe this book, it’d be ‘lovely’. You’ll want to read it all in one go.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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Set in Germany during WWII, The Book Thief tells the moving story of a young girl who finds solace through stealing books and sharing them with others. A hit with adults and children alike.

3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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THUG (named after Tupac’s Thug Life acronym) has dominated the New York Times bestsellers chart since its release, and for good reason – it’s a gripping novel about a young girl drawn to activism after witnessing the police shooting of her childhood friend. A timely and hugely important read.

4. Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet

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This book takes in some huge moments in history, from WWII to 9/11 to the Cuban Missile Crisis – but focuses on the story of Clem, a working-class kid who falls for the beautiful daughter of a wealthy local landowner. An ambitious work from one of Britain’s most acclaimed children’s authors.

5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Set in the 1980s, this charming novel follows two protagonists – red-haired Eleanor and half-Korean Park – as they get to know each other through their interests in comic books and cheesy music.

6. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

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What is YA without a lovely big helping of dystopia? The first in Ness’ critically acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy introduces us to a world where all living creatures can hear each others’ thoughts in a stream of images and sounds called The Noise.

7. Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan

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Galway-based author Deirdre Sullivan’s fourth young adult novel centres on Ces, a teenage girl who dreams of being a tattoo artist – but first, she must escape her abusive home life. Heart-wrenching.

8. Looking for Alaska by John Green

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John Green is the king of YA, having penned the monster hits The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns. But many fans consider his first novel, about a teenage boy who enrolls in boarding school, to be his best.

9. The Outsiders by SE Hinton

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The Outsiders was controversial when it was first published in 1967, due to its portrayal of violence between two opposing teen gangs, the Greasers and the Socs. Fifty years later, it’s still a classic coming-of-age story.

10. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

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Beauty Queens is equal parts Lord of the Flies and the (excellent) 90s movie Drop Dead Gorgeous – thirteen teen beauty queens are stranded on an island after a plane crash, and must try to work together to survive.

11. A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

A-Swift-Pure-Cry Source: Siobhan Dowd Trust

Set in Cork in the 1980s, this story is sadly still relevant to modern Ireland – when 16-year-old Shell finds herself pregnant, she becomes the centre of a scandal that rocks first her small town, and then the whole country.

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