Favorite Books For Middle Grade & Young Adult Readers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Flannery Fitch   

This September marked a sad day for me—I worked my final shift at Bookshop Santa Cruz. After nine years, I’m heading off to focus on my education. It has been a pleasure recommending children’s books in this magazine over the last couple years, and I hope some of what I’ve recommended has been helpful. For my final pieces, I want to showcase a small fraction of the children’s books that have meant the most to me in life. Last month I focused on picture books and early readers. This month, I end on middle grade and young adult. Farewell and excelsior!


by Gary Paulsen

Island of the Blue Dolphins

by Scott O’Dell

I grew up in the country—which might be apparent in my taste in children’s books, no more so than these two. Both are stories of children who are stranded alone and forced to survive against the wilderness and their own isolation. Island of the Blue Dolphins is extra special thanks to its basis in California history. I like to think of these are the Survival Duo—different environments, different kids, different historical eras, but one common goal: Survival.


The Chronicles of Narnia
by C. S. Lewis

I loved this series, and will get into an intense debate about which book is technically book one; I like to start with The Magician’s Nephew, others prefer The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—as long as you read them both, you’re probably good. These books have it all—fantastical creatures, talking beasts, magic, swordplay, quests, and uncomplicated evil.


The Redwall Series (especially Mariel of Redwall)

by Brian Jacques

British Jacques created a rich, textured world of woodland animals living in harmony in their beloved Redwall Abbey, fighting off invading foes, questing, and eating lavish feasts that’ll make your mouth water. These books not only gave me a strong moral compass, they expanded my vocabulary, and kept my mind fully occupied for years.


The Song of the Lioness Quartet

by Tamora Pierce (Alanna is the first)

I never wanted to be a princess or a lady. I always wanted to be a knight or a witch. As a child in the early 90’s, this wasn’t a role that I saw in books or film often—except for Tamora Pierce. All of Pierce’s books feature strong, capable, human female heroines changing their worlds for the better. They tackle issues like friendship, self-identity, and social stratification. Overall, they are adventures full of magic, swordplay, fantastical animals, and quests. Alanna was Pierce’s first quartet, and she expanded that world over the years. Alanna gave me an example of a woman who didn’t want to be a lady, and who fought against all odds to become who she was. I reread them every year, and every year they mean a little more to me.


The Weight of Zero

by Karen Fortunati

Girl in Pieces

by Kathryn Glasgow

I have struggled since I was a teen with severe depression, anxiety, and an only recently diagnosed chronic illness. Books have always been my refuge, and in the last two years, these two books in particular cut me to the quick and bled some of the pain. I return to them whenever I’m struggling, and cry my way through as hope begins to burn through the darkness in my chest. If you have a teen dealing with issues of depression, anxiety, or related disorders (or if you, yourself, do), I cannot recommend these two highly enough. They’re a healing kind of painful beauty.


All the Crooked Saints

by Maggie Stiefvater

If you’ve read my reviews, or walked through Bookshop’s Young Adult section, you know about my all-consuming love of Maggie Stiefvater. All the Crooked Saints came out last month, and oh, this book. I don’t even know where to start. Maybe with the characters: Complex and mysterious, frightened and flawed, brave and miraculous. Maybe with the music: A celebration of the music of the 60’s and pirate radio. Maybe with the light: Bright miracles that make you reconsider what you most fear. Maybe with the dark: Dangerous miracles that make you reconsider what you most need. Maybe with the miracles themselves: Two miracles, torn from heart and soul, that make you want to embrace, rather than run from, the darkness we each hold inside. What I know for sure is that I have to end with the writing—the glorious writing that marks any Maggie Stiefvater novel—and this is the most Stiefvater of them all. She brings magic to life, steeping every moment in such magic that it infuses every page, sentence, word, leaving the reader to dream of owls once it’s done.




Flannery Fitch was a bookseller at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Her life has been about books since before she could read.



Last Updated on Friday, 01 December 2017 01:48
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