being a student, being me, books, Literacy, Reading

The Best Gifts Are Books – Some Ideas for the YA Lovers

I do not think I have ever hidden the fact that I love books.  Anyone who knows me (or my children) picks up on it rather quickly.  So books as gifts is only a natural extension of my love for them.  Finding the perfect book to give to someone is a bit of an obsession of mine.  So this year I thought why not share some of those books that I will be giving to others.  I am sure I am not the only one searching for that perfect book to give.

I thought I would do one large post with all of my ideas but realized that it would be much too large, so this is simply the first post.  Here are my favorite picks for the YA lover in your life.

A great new series starts with An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.  Love, action, destiny and a story that makes you want to read just one more page.  I only have one copy in my classroom, it has a huge wait list.

From Amazon:
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

This is the book every person over the age of 12 should read in America.  All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds is the book that we need to have some of the toughest conversations, but those conversations are the ones we need to have.

From Amazon:
A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

But there were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Another first book in a new series, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas kept me up way too late needing to read just one more page.  It has all the ingredients needed for a great fantasy YA.

From Amazon:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman is for the serious reader that has patience to stick with a deep book.  For those that do, they will find an incredible story that will haunt their thoughts many days after the last page was read.

From Amazon:

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.
Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.
Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence to document the journey with images.
Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.
Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.
Caden Bosch is torn.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard reminded me of many books but it was in all the good ways.  This book with its page turning action kept me reading long into the night and has kept my students reading as well.  You know it is a great book when it is never to be found in your classroom library.

From Amazon:

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood–those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard–a growing Red rebellion–even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt is also a book that is never found in our library even though I have 3 copies of it.  Every time a student finishes it they come and tell me that it is the best book.  I believe it.  Orbiting Jupiter is one to remember.

From Amazon:

The two-time Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt delivers the shattering story of Joseph, a father at thirteen, who has never seen his daughter, Jupiter. After spending time in a juvenile facility, he’s placed with a foster family on a farm in rural Maine. Here Joseph, damaged and withdrawn, meets twelve-year-old Jack, who narrates the account of the troubled, passionate teen who wants to find his baby at any cost. In this riveting novel, two boys discover the true meaning of family and the sacrifices it requires.

With the release of the final book in the Lunar Chronicles series, Marissa Meyer has secured her spot as one of my favorite authors.  Winter is a masterful conclusion to a riveting series that even self-proclaimed sci fi haters love to read.  That says a lot about the power of the series.

From Amazon:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Confession:  I have yet to read this book but just received an email from a student that had not read a book this year.  Until she read Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff  in one night.  That is enough recommendation for me.

From Amazon:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
      The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than a speck at the edge of the universe. Now with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to evacuate with a hostile warship in hot pursuit.
     But their problems are just getting started. A plague has broken out and is mutating with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a web of data to find the truth, it’s clear the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.



Dumplin by Julie Murphy filled a void I didn’t know I had in my classroom library; books that feature a self-proclaimed fat girls whose mission in life is not to become skinny.  Hallelujah.  Great book for anyone to read that needs a reminder that being ourselves is good enough and who wants a great story.

From Amazon:

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.  

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.



Walk on Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson took me by surprise, I did not think I would like this book.  But with its riveting story of Lee, a girl with a secret, trying to make it to the California gold rush I had to see if she would make it.  I was happy to see that this is part of a trilogy.

From Amazon:

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon was another book that took me by surorise and just how much I wanted to keep reading.  I just book-talked this book to my students and have not seen it since.

From Amazon:

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.



This list would not be complete without Need by Joelle Charbonneau.  This masterful page turner is sure to make even your most reluctant readers read late into the night.

From Amazon:

Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black started my reading year off right with its tale of love, murder and the inexplicable that surrounds us.

From Amazon:

Hazel and her brother, Ben, live in Fairfold, where humans and the Folk exist side by side. Tourists drive in to see the lush wonders of Faerie and, most wonderful of all, the horned boy. But visitors fail to see the danger.
Since they were children, Hazel and Ben have been telling each other stories about the boy in the glass coffin, that he is a prince and they are valiant knights, pretending their prince would be different from the other faeries, the ones who made cruel bargains, lurked in the shadows of trees, and doomed tourists. But as Hazel grows up, she puts aside those stories. Hazel knows the horned boy will never wake.
Until one day, he does….
Which books did I miss?  Which books are you buying for the YA lover in your life?
Stay tuned for the best picture books and middle grade novels to give this year!


6 thoughts on “The Best Gifts Are Books – Some Ideas for the YA Lovers”

  1. Thanks for these! My high school students are always looking for new books. I will add some of these to my classroom library.

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