Young Adult books are all the rage. Since Harry Potter, and then Twilight, every bookstore I walk into feels like a trip into Limited Too when I was twelve. The YA books are right there, front and center, and often piled on top of toys, games and fashion accessories that teens and tweens just have to have right this second.

Don’t get me wrong. I love sudden wealth of fun, distracting, but not always challenging books that I can read through in a couple of hours. But the magic and the drama and the fact that one of the main characters seems to always be some fantastical creature that doesn’t exist (that we know of…) just doesn’t ring true to me.

Yes, this is where I make some impassioned speech about being barefoot and a school route that was uphill both ways.

Here are five YA books you may have forgotten or just not found yet. Give them a try.

Just as Long as We’re Together

I think I learned to be a teenager from Judy Blume and the various young women she wrote about. These girls went through everything I was going through – or wished I was going through. First dates, getting their licenses, first dances, first kisses – all that stuff that seems like an afterthought (well except the kissing that’s always front and center) in YA books I pick up now. It’s like teenagers are just supposed to know how it all works or learn it from TV.

There were evil forces, family members you didn’t always understand and adventure. How could you not love this book? It’s a grand tale of good vs. evil, and the big bad is called The Black Thing. There’s a lot of imagery and illusion in this book that critics equate with Christianity, but when I read it, I just loved the idea of kids taking control and going off to save the world. So cool.

Dragons. Need I say more? These may be housed in the general sci-fi/fantasy section of the library, but I read them for the first time as a teenager and they were a gateway drug to serialized science fiction. It was fantastic. The main character was young, and female, and kicked major ass. Because she had a dragon. Not that she “had” a dragon, but a dragon imprinted on her and they were a team. Who doesn’t want a dragon??

Before 90210 took us into the glamorous high school halls of California, the Wakefield twins were getting into crazy troubles. They were beautiful and nice and completely different for all that they were identical twins trying to navigate adolescence. For the younger set, Sweet Valley Twins took readers through their middle school days. And once you read your way through the long, long series of original books, there were all kinds of specials, including mystery sets and past lives sets. It was the best.

Ok. I get it. He’s scary as all get out. And I’m not usually one for guts and gore and horror but Stephen King had a way of getting under your skin and keeping you up at night. I had friends who read their way through everything he had written and then tried to get me to sit down and watch all the movie adaptations with them. (I don’t like scary movies. I don’t know what they were thinking.) I’m not saying they were easy reads but they were approachable and felt just dangerous enough that you probably would get some fierce questioning from parents who caught you with a couple of his books.

So next time you’re on the lookout for something to read in an afternoon or just can’t bring yourself to read yet another paranormal romance novel – because it feels like all the YA books are such now – give one of these a try.

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