Hey everyone! So there was this thing on Twitter last week about YA authors talking about finding your own story. And, one thing led to another in my brain, and I was thinking about books that have made me look at the world differently. I’m not necessarily going to be talking about book series that I obsessed over or that are some giant awesome fandom. I’m going to be talking a lot about YA books that made me realize things about life. They’re the books I probably can’t stop thinking about.
While this is obviously a little more on the personal side for me, I hope that you find something here that can/has changed your life.
Oh, and if you’re worried about these all being heavy tear-jerkers, they’re not. Some are quite light and/or funny. That doesn’t mean they can’t be life changing too.
Top Ten Books That Changed My Life
1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Let’s get the most obvious out of the way first. I can’t even pretend that Harry Potter was not the most significant series in my entire life. It was one of the earliest chapter books I can remember reading as a kid with my mom. On top of that, there were all those themes about overcoming corruption and what it means to be a friend and the dangers of prejudice (mudbloods, etc.). There is so much about life layered away in those books that I think I would be failing as a blogger if I didn’t include it.
2. Stolen: A Letter to my Captor by Lucy Christopher
This is not a widely known story, and I think that’s part of the reason it’s so life changing. Written as a letter from a girl to her kidnapper, it details everything the girl was thinking and experiencing during her captivity in the Outback of Australia. Not only is it beautifully written, but it shows us that even though people can be truly horrible and evil, they can have the capacity for goodness…no one’s entirely good or evil.
3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
I can remember reading this in the car on vacation years ago and trying not to let the five other people in the vehicle know that I was crying. It’s so powerful to watch Sam discover that she’s been living her life all wrong and that she’d missed out on all these amazing people because she was too wrapped up in herself and trying to be cool. It’s heartbreaking but soooo good.
4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
An interesting choice for this list, to be sure. But here’s why: Cath is the same shy, quiet, bookish, and occasionally lost girl that I was in college (and still can be today). She was real. And the fact that she was introverted and would ask for personal space and whatever else she needed was a revelation. Everything in romantic comedies and love stories always had everything moving so fast. When I knew that wasn’t me and that wasn’t how my life would go, I’d feel depressed. But finding Cath and discovering that relationships can move at whatever pace the couple is ok with…that was life changing.
5. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Elisa is completely and totally the reason this book is on the list. I connected with her self-conscious hopelessness from the very beginning. She’s forced into a situation where she’s completely out of her element and she’s forced to adapt, even against her will. Her personal revolution is undeniably inspiring and when you finish reading this book, you feel like you can move mountains too.
6. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Whenever I need a tear-jerker, this is my go-to movie AND book. It’s that ultimate question of what do you live for when it feels like there’s nothing left to live for? I really like the way the story’s written and its powerful messages of family and love. I don’t think I will ever recover from this book. Nor do I want to.
7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I teach this book every year, and I have to say it’s just so beautiful. It’s all about the absolute power of the written word. It shows the dangers of Nazi Germany and the systemic destruction of “other”. It shows the pain of loss and the slow growth of hope. It shows the power of the family you choose to call your own, not the one you were born into. I just…like I am so in love with this book and its message that I have seriously debated about naming a child of mine Liesl.
8. The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
There’s a reason that this is my go-to reread on my shelf. Yes, I vastly enjoy the romance and the twist on Greek mythology, but it’s more than that. Stay with me here: I grew up Catholic and I was never quite satisfied with what the afterlife was supposed to look like. Pearly gates, streets of gold, etc., or an eternity of burning. That’s it. I didn’t care for that. This book was the first book where I actually found a way of talking about life after death in a way that I could get behind. So whenever I experience loss in my life, this is the first book I go back to because it helps me feel grounded in what I believe. If that makes me some kind of heretic, then so be it.
9. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I mean seriously, could I make this list without this book either? I’ve legitimately used quotes from this book in college essays. I’m not joking. It’s cynical and doesn’t sound like any teenager I’ve ever met in its use of vocabulary or metaphors, but what Gus and Hazel are going through is all too real and shows you just how fragile life can be. And how powerful love can be, even when it feels finite. Love is infinite.
10. Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison
This book destroyed me. It’s very similar in themes to TFioS, but the tone is completely different. Beth finally starts coming into some confidence and starts to realize her worth, especially as she begins to get close to someone else. But love is always complicated and things get messy. It just helps show that sometimes we think we know someone but there’s always more to learn. And I also really love that music has been twisted into the whole story because music is also a powerful force.