Ah, let’s take a road trip down nostalgia lane for my very first meme. I decided to cover YA books because they will always hold a special place in my heart, as they were the first books that made me feel like less of a child as I matured. These ten below are even more important than most to me, all for very different reasons, and a lot of them are even younger than YA, but so what? Some helped me feel more confident from my transition as a girl to a young woman, some helped me be thankful for what I had in my life, and some allowed for me to transport myself to a different world and forget about my own for just a few moments. These are all high recommendations from me – if you have not read them, please pick them up ASAP!
1. The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
Total books: 7 // Review: 5 / 5 Golden Snitches
Like anyone is surprised this is my #1. I started reading these books in the second grade, which was only a few months after the first movie came out in the U.S., and I fell in love almost immediately, even going as far to switch out the book covers when they were banned in my Catholic school classroom. JK Rowling is one of the most incredible writers I’ve ever had the treat of reading (check out The Casual Vacancy or her work as Robert Galbraith), and the world she creates at Hogwarts has become so near and dear to me, that I cried the first time I saw the Diagon Alley re-creation at Universal Studios Orlando. It is one of the only book series that I will re-read with a sense of wonder and a swelling heart EVERY time I read it. Her stories are rather complex considering they’re really supposed to be children’s books, and I can always find some new tidbit of trivia that I didn’t see before. This will be, without a doubt, one of the first book series I read to my children in the distant future.
2. Literally anything by Rick Riordan
Total books: Percy Jackson – 5, Heroes of Olympus – 5, Kane Chronicles – 3
Review: 5/5 Zeus’ thunderbolts
Whether it be Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Heroes of Olympus, The Kane Chronicles, or one of his other series that I haven’t even had a chance to read yet, Rick Riordan’s love for mythology intensified my own. My mom is a sixth grade teacher who actually does a lesson on Greek mythology, and she requires her students to read The Lightning Thief; she told me by the end of the year, after a survey, 22 out of her 36 students in each class had finished at least one of Riordan’s series. Riordan makes learning about Greek mythology fun and relatable, by placing the gods, goddesses, demigods, and monsters in a modern-day world, and makes the reader insanely jealous that they don’t have one godly parent. Although the Kane Chronicles and the Percy Jackson series are relatively light, Heroes of Olympus shows a more grown up demigod population, as well as an increasing complexity in Riordan’s writing. It’s lovely to see, and one of the most entertaining book series I’ve ever read.
3. The Underland Chronicles – Suzanne Collins
Total books: 5 // Review: 5/5 Bloodballs
Before there was Katniss and Panem, there was Gregor and Regalia. After New Yorker Gregor falls through a grate in his laundry room, he finds himself in the Underland – a fantastical place in which life-sized and talking spiders, rats, roaches, mice, and more co-exist along violet-colored humans. When he arrives, however, he realizes this co-existance is tenuous at best; the Underland is at the brink of war, and according to their prophecies, Gregor is the warrior they have been waiting for. Suzanne Collins, unfortunately, is still not the best at writing series’ ends, and this is no exception, but the entire time you are in the Underland, you are flipping through pages faster than you can move and falling in love with her characters just like in The Hunger Games – but perhaps even worse. Gregor is from our world, and relatable, as are his family members that also play a central role; but even the members of the Underland are relatable, lovable, and/or respectable. I re-read this series a year ago and read all five books within two days, it is that good. This is one of my favorite series of all time, and if you’ve never picked it up, I recommend you do so right now.
4. Seven Wonders – Peter Lerangis
Total books: 5 // Review: 4/5 Select Powers
For those who are fans of Rick Riordan, here is another incredible series about children with mystical powers deriving from ancient and mythological ancestry. Jack McKinley, the main character, has a mysterious streak of gray in his hair and later develops inexplicable powers. It is then revealed that he is a member of The Select, a special group of young teenagers with incredible abilities… but with no explainable cause, and a life expectancy only reaching as far as young adulthood. In order to elongate his life, Jack goes to a research facility specializing in his condition, where he meets others like him as they go out on adventures to find the seven loculi, or power relics, that will cure them all. The catch? The dieties of an ancient and mythological land hid the loculi in the original Seven Wonders of the World, most of which are now lost to history and the past. I actually just finished this series two months ago, as the last book was published, and am still amazed to this day at how easily I was sucked in to the world of The Select. If you enjoy any type of history or mythology, this book is for you.
5. A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket
Total books: 13 // Review: 5/5 Creepy eye tattoos
So, despite the fact that my school banned Harry Potter, for whatever reason, they didn’t ban this series. The series name should be a dead giveaway, but this is by no means an easy or light book series; it follows the misadventures of newly orphaned siblings Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire as they are pushed from one house to another in an attempt to find a new home and escape the terrors of an evil uncle who only wants the fortune their parents left behind. This is an extremely watered down description of the series, but there is simply no proper way to summarize the complexity and insane and immense imagination Snicket (a pseudonym) put into these novels. A lot of these books had me hugging my parents after in a thanks that they hadn’t orphaned me, or treated me the way Uncle Olaf did, and it sparked a lot of nightmares, too. This was one of the first true YA series I started reading, so it marked a very transformative period in my life and it holds a special place in my heart. P.S. If you’ve seen the Jim Carrey film adaptation, don’t let that color your views of the books – I promise, they’re SO much better. P.S.S. Who else is PSYCHED for the Netflix version of this series?! Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf seems like an interesting but promising choice.
6. Kingdom Keepers – Ridley Pearson
Total books: Kingdom Keepers – 7, The Return – 2 so far
Review: 5/5 DHIs
We’ve all thought about it – what Disney World would be like after the fireworks show ended, the cast members went home, and the magic was allowed full reign to run rampant. In this series, Ridley Pearson creates a world in which those very dreams and nightmares are brought to life. The story follows a set of teenagers who are chosen by Disney World to become DHIs, or holographic hosts for the park. The one plot twist is that at night, they themselves transform into their holographic forms inside the park, where they see that it truly never sleeps as they fight villains galore, from the smaller cronies in Pirates of the Caribbean to the big bosses like Maleficent, Chernabog, and more, all in an attempt to save the park from the villains’ attempt to destroy its magic. The most amazing thing about this novel, perhaps, is that Ridley Pearson did so much research in the parks and was always showing his audience real secrets of the parks through his writing. It became more than a book, and that’s why I got so into it when I was younger, because it was so interactive and well thought-out, while including characters I could either relate to or already felt familiar with.
7. Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
Total: 7 books // Review: 5 / 5 Mystical, Magical Wardrobes
Okay, so I went to Catholic school for 11 years, and this was pretty much the only thing besides Little House on the Prairie they would let us read without having a conniption fit. But, wow, what a series!! Although it definitely as religious overtures, don’t let that deter you from picking up this book; it also has mystical creatures, different realms, amazing adventures and fights, and magic beyond your wildest dreams. It’s sort of like The Giver in the sense that all the stories take place in the same world, but some have different characters and all have different plots to show. It always made me mad when I was younger that it didn’t follow the Pevensie children and/or Caspian the entire way through, but the complexity of different characters and their respective affects on Narnia is something I appreciate a lot more as an adult.
8. The Inheritance Cycle – Christopher Paolini
Total: 4 books // Review: 5/5 Eldunari
This is what you read when you wanted to be cool in the fifth grade. Whoever had the newest book was your newest best friend. It took me years to finish this series because the last book came out so late that I kind of forgot that it existed, but I finished it two years ago (yeah, I know), and ended up re-reading the other three books as well because WOW. If you like Lord of the Rings, this is the perfect YA version of that. Obviously, it has no Hobbits (unfortunately), but gnomes, (good) dragons, (dark) wizards, and humans are abound. The series follows an “average” boy named Eragon, who finds a mysterious egg one day that turns out to hold a dragon inside. Now, in this world, it was once upon a time that finding a dragon egg made you special but that it also wasn’t quite a big deal. Now a days, however, the evil leader Galbatorix – which, to be honest, is one of the most badass villain names in anything, ever – has confiscated all dragon eggs / killed all the dragons in attempt to stop other creatures from binding with them and becoming Riders, which used to be an ancient group of warriors that protected the land. I won’t say anymore in fear of ruining something, but it has mysticism, talking dragons, beautiful scenery, talking dragons, magic, and TALKING DRAGONS. It’s beautifully written and probably the most complex series on this list, but so worth the time REGARDLESS of your age.
9. The Princess Diaries – Meg Cabot (But really, anything by her is fantastic)
Total books: 11 (technically) // Review: 5/5 M & M pizzas
Currently just laughing at the way this looks underneath Eragon’s cover, but I digress. This series just got a new book last summer that’s making me reread the entire series and I forgot how much I loved it. This was my first series I read that had sexual overtures in it, and it caused a bit of a sexual awakening for me, as well as caused a few arguments with my teachers when they tried to get me in trouble for reading it. (Seeing a pattern here? Forbidden fruit is the best.) The book series follows awkward teenager Mia Thermopolis after she finds out that she is the heir to the fictitious country Genovia’s throne. Now, on top of worrying about her long-time crush on her best friend’s older brother, her mother marrying one of her teachers, and her failing Algebra grade, she also has to worry about which fork is the proper one to use for salad, the right way to cross her legs, and the names of all the dignitaries she could possibly ever interact with. Despite the aid of her eccentric artistic mother, her usually distant and estranged father, her confident and unapologetic best friend, and her eyebrowless and dramatic grandmother (aka the Queen of Genovia), Mia struggles to adapt to her new lifestyle while still trying to be a normal teenager. I may not have been the princess of a small country, but this is relatable as we all struggle at this time of our lives to separate some things, and it shows that even a blessing can be a curse. Also, it has a bunch of mini books between different stories if you want some more Mia Thermopolis.
10. The Lorien Legacies – Pittacus Lore
Total books: 7 (technically) // Review: 5/5 Legacies
Most people I know have seen the movie with Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, and Teresa Palmer, but never realized it was based off of a book series – and that is the red flag people should notice about the movie. Although a good standalone, it could never stand up to the incredible narration of the books. The book series follows the Garde, a set of ten human-looking alien children sent down to Earth from their dying planet in hopes that they would eventually be able to revive it. The first book, I Am Number Four, introduces us to Number Four, A.K.A John, who tells us that the Garde are being hunted by the alien race that destroyed their planet, the Mogadorians. There’s some sort of spell thing in place that keeps them from wildly killing all of the Garde, so they have to go in order – and Numbers One, Two, and Three are dead, meaning John is next. The rest of the series introduces the rest of the Garde and delves deeply into the world of Lorien and its inhabitants, both dead and alive, while they fight the Iogadorians to not only be able to return to their only planet, but to protect the one they currently inhabit. All of the Garde, despite being aliens and having superpowers, are incredibly humanoid and relatable, and I love all of them in very different ways, because they’re all very different people. It’s an incredible idea and Pittacus Lore is an insanely talented author. The last book is coming out this summer, and I CANNOT wait.
Well, those are my top ten picks! I hope if you haven’t had the opportunity to pick up one of these series, that you go ahead and try them out now. I want to know, though – what is one of your favorite Nostalgic YA series, and why?! Always looking for recommendations!