Here at Epic Reads, we are firm believers that there is absolutely no shame in admitting your love for YA books. Obviously. Frankly, we don’t understand anyone who looks down on them. Not only are they ridiculously entertaining, but the characters are full of life, the plots are imaginative and intricate, and the lessons ingrained in them are invaluable.
So for anyone who says that YA books have no value, this list is for you. For anyone who believes in the power of YA, you know what? This list is for you too. As a thank you, and as a reminder. Because everything we’ve learned over the course of reading these books has made us better, and because reading them could make your life a little better, too.
9 Life Lessons That We Learned From YA Books
1. Embrace your true self.
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN, by Ransom Riggs
One of our personal favorite things about YA is the message that this classic sends home—embrace what makes you peculiar. Told through the fantastical lens of children with superpowers, the book is completely grounded in Ransom’s ability to make us feel a little more comfortable with who we are, quirks and all. Never apologize for the things that make you different. Someday they may just help you save the world.
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.
A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
2. Never give up, never keep quiet.
THE HATE U GIVE, by Angie Thomas
It’s safe to say that this book shook our worlds. It has been one of the most powerful forces of good in the chaos year of 2017, and we’ve definitely reread it more than a couple times. Starr reminds us just how important it is to use our voice and speak up against injustice. She reminds us that things are difficult, but fighting for the best is never a lost cause. And thanks to Angie Thomas, we have this incredible book to keep coming back to.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
- Start reading THE HATE U GIVE right now!
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3. Having hope can be the strongest thing of all.
THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins
For a whole generaiton of readers, this was the book that got them into YA. The survival-turned-revolution story inspired a genre resurgance, a new wave of passion and motivation and, above all, hope. It’s a villain’s strategy at first, sparking a bit of hope to rule with, but it’s that very hope that wins out over cruelty in the end. Hope for a better life, hope for a better future, and hope for a better world. We know that we can all use some more hope now and then, and this book reminds us just how important that outlook is.
The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.
When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
4. Find others who appreciate your unique charm.
DRESS CODES FOR SMALL TOWNS, by Courtney Stevens
“Sure,” you might have thought reading #1, “I don’t have a problem being the only one who accepts me, but wouldn’t that be lonely?” And to that we say, you will find your tribe. You will find the people who value you for exactly who you are, and the bond you feel with them will not compare to anything you’d otherwise settle for. Embrace what makes you unique and we promise you will find the people who you belong alongside.
As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.
But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.
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5. Stories keep the heart alive.
LORD OF SHADOWS, by Cassandra Clare
Whether you’re an artist, a writer, or a reader like us, stories keep the heart alive. Going about life day to day is fine, but being able to escape into another world is a vacation that the soul sometimes needs. Creativity gives you a pulse that makes life worth living. And as Arthur describes to Julian, fact is fact, but fiction is still based in it. There are truths in every story told, and those stories can be necessary to find something deeper. This sounds like a win/win to us.
A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.
Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?
Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it.
6. Selflessness will help you with your own struggles.
THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE, by Patrick Ness
This book takes a look at what it’s like to not be the Chosen One, and we love the way Patrick tackled it. It also reminded us just how important it is to help others. Everyone is a main character in their own lives, so if you back out a bit, you’re a supporting character in the lives of everyone around you. Helping others will eventually help you. Whether that means literally, or it will just provide you with a well-intentioned respite, we believe that selflessness truly is one of the most important keys to happiness. This book is proof.
What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?
What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.
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7. Live your life to the fullest.
THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END, by Adam Silvera
Is there anything that could remind you to carpe diem more than a phone call telling you that you have less than 24 hours to live? We fell hard for Rufus and Mateo, and, well, you can guess just how emotional the read was from the title of the book. Sure, we might not have DeathCast in real life. But why should that matter? Every second counts and we’re done taking life for granted. So go on that vacation you wanted to go on, see that friend you’ve been meaning to see, and join that club you weren’t sure about joining. You might regret it otherwise.
On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day.
The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.
- Start reading THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END right now!
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8. Live for yourself, not others.
THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED, by Becky Albertalli
Step 1: Be yourself. Accept yourself.
Step 2: Find your tribe.
Step 3: Live for yourself.
This might sound pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised just how many things we do just because other people expect them from us. But in UPSIDE, Molly reminds us that we’ll only really be happy if we put these expectations aside and go where life takes us. Maybe we’ll crush on someone unexpected. Maybe an opportunity will come up that we didn’t see coming. Who knows! Isn’t that part of the fun? Etiher way, make sure you’re doing things because you want to, not just because you think they’re the things to do.
Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?
- Start reading THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED right now!
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9. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING WE’VE EVER READ
This is true for both books and non-books! Just like we’ve learned that while the cover of a book may show one thing, what’s inside may be much different (and often times, much better), our favorite characters have shown us that there is so much more to people than meets the eye. You don’t even start to get someone’s backstory until a few chapters into your friendship. Judge less, experience more, and keep an open mind. It’s all we ask 😊
What books have taught you important life lessons? Let us know in the comments!