The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
It's an obvious one, really. A book beloved by both adults and young adults alike, it has recently suprised me how few teenagers that I work with have actually read it - something I am actively striving to remedy in the library I work in. Holden Caulfield is the epitomy of disaffected youth, with his questions and his attitude and his desperate desire to be heard.
Might as well get this out of the way right at the beginning, yes? Unlike The Catcher in the Rye, the teens in my library cannot get enough of this. We literally cannot produce enough copies to keep up with their demand to read and then re-read a book that has them thinking and talking and crying and wondering. It is an extremely good book and one that will remain popular for years to come, despite the current John Green backlash that its popularity has brought the author.
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
A favourite of mine since I first read it aged nine, this is a book for all ages but one that will particularly speak to teenagers. Particularly teenage girls because Jane is as compelling a female character as you will find in any Hunger Games or dystopian Chicago. Smart, focussed yet more than a little naive, she is a pleasure to watch as she grows into an accomplished and independent woman. Also, spooky attics in creepy houses, endless moors and the intriguing Mr. Rochester combine to make this one of my all time favourite stories.
The nice thing about Jellicoe Road is that, on a fairly regular basis, you come across someone who has just discovered it for the first time and has been as utterly blown away by the story as everyone else. An exceptionally well written book, it tells a story of love, loss and family as well as one which charts the choppy waters of one girls coming of age while adding an almost, if not quite, air of the supernatural. There are many of Marchetta's books that could be billed as classics (er, see below) - but this one is my favourite and arguably her best work.
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
This was published as an adult book - much like Jane Eyre and The Catcher in the Rye - but the story is about a group of students aged between about eighteen and twenty-two who have become embroiled in murder. While there is mystery at the heart of Tartt's astonishing debut, she is really riffing on themes of privilage, friendship and influence. It is utterly unputdownable and should be read by all age groups.
How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff
One of the first young adult books that I read and still one of the best. Rosoff's vaguely dystopian tale of a summer holiday gone wrong (via WAR) and forbidden love made right is utterly mesmerising, unique in it's use of language and both magical and horrific in turns. It is a story that will stay with you for years after you read it and the recent film adaptation isn't too shabby either (Hellooooo, George Mackay!)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chobsky
This is perhaps the perfect Bildungsroman. Readers watch Charlie navigate the choppy waters of high-school, girls, friendship, love and loss with a heartbreaking mixture of naivity, hope, success and disaster. As a study on the fragility of mental health it is fascinating and moving, as a coming of age story it is pretty much perfect.
Inhabiting a timelessness that only the best fantasy can, Sabriel is pretty special. The story of one girl's battle against evil, Nix creates a completely unforgettable world filled with uniquely beautiful, if broken, magic and one delightfully acerbic cat. While Sabriel is the first in a series, it stands alone perfectly - although I can guarantee you will want to read more.
Chaos Walking - Patrick Ness
Comprising of The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men, Ness's tour de force is like nothing else out there. At heart, a coming of age story set against a backdrop of tyranny and oppression it is breathtaking, thought-provoking and completely unique.
As we've previously stated on MOI, myth and magic never threaten to overwhelm Finnikin of the Rock (Marchetta's first venture into fantasy), which is ultimately the story of those made homeless by tyrants but a people who also struggle with a guilt of their own making. It a the story of exiles and while embedded in high fantasy, it brings to mind images of refugees the world over. This is reality writ large on a fantasy stage and the result is a powerful tale for the modern world.