The Fault In Our Stars is a heart-wrenching young adult novel that centers on Hazel, a teen diagnosed with terminal cancer. Inspired by author John Green’s real life friend who passed away from the same illness, the novel is a compassionate look at incredible teenagers in adult situations. Recently made into a Hollywood film, the book is both humorous and emotional, but will surely leave you hungry for another compelling read. Look no further, as the following ten novels explore similar themes in incredibly different and original worlds.
1. Looking for Alaska by John Green
This novel follows a seventeen-year-old student as he embarks on private boarding school in another state. Nicknamed “Pudge,” the protagonist quickly finds himself being hazed at the hands of other students. Soon after, a prank war starts between Pudge and his friends. As Pudge grows into himself with the help of his new friends, he starts to fall for his friend Alaska. As the end of the school year nears, an accident grips the entire student body, forcing Pudge to reevaluate his actions. Also written by John Green, the author of The Fault In Our Stars, Looking For Alaska chronicles one student’s struggle to understand responsibility and the effects of choices as he comes of age.
2. Paper Towns by John Green
Also from the author of The Fault In Our Stars, is Paper Towns. This novel follows Q, as he attempts to navigate his final year of high school. Q is soon reunited with a friend from his early years, Margo. Margo convinces Q to help her pull some final pranks on a few classmates. Q agrees, eventually pranking a bully from elementary school. Q and Margo refer to their town as a “paper town,” fake and one-sided, with no weight behind it. The group of friends is shocked when Margo disappears, leading them to fear she is suicidal. The group tries to discover the hiding place or burial site for Margo, forcing them to confront their perceptions of others as thin and one-sided as well. Through heartache and laughs, Paper Towns explores the crucial insight that the person we think someone is, isn’t always accurate.
3. An Abundance Of Katherines by John Green
Colin, the main character in this novel, is eagerly trying to become a genius by seeking his eureka moment. Quickly dumped by his girlfriend Katherine, Colin is encouraged to take a road trip with his friend Hassan to get his mind off the breakup. Colin, having only dated girls named Katherine, seeks to quantify a relationship’s chance at success or failure in a new theorem. Along the way, the two find friends, one of whom Colin starts to fall for. As he struggles to control his feelings, Colin and Hassan grow in ways they never predicted. Also from the author of The Fault in Our Stars, An Abundance Of Katherines shows readers the true unpredictability of human emotions and life.
4. Divergent by Veronica Roth
Divergent is an action-packed novel, the first in the Divergent trilogy. These books follow 16-year-old Beatrice in post-apocalyptic Chicago. Chicago is now divided into sections, based on emotional qualities. Called factions, groups accept members who are either selfless, peaceful, brave, or intellectual. Beatrice is caught between several factions, but chooses bravery. The teens then leave for their respective factions. Beatrice finds out the brave faction will only admit ten new teens, to be chosen via a series of challenges. Beatrice concerns herself with competing in these challenges, until one is sabotaged to incite a civil war between factions. A quickly paced, explosive novel, Divergent asks readers to challenge their identity and look at others in more than just black and white.
5. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
If I Stay follows Mia, a typical teenage girl who wakes up to a snowy day that has cancelled school. Mia and her family plan what they want to do with their unexpected day off over breakfast. The family playfully finds themselves on the road, when Mia’s world is changed forever. The car crashes, and Mia struggles to absorb her reality. Seeing her family’s bodies, she stumbles on hear own injured form. Mia follows her body as medical professionals rush her into treatment at the hospital. Hearing from doctors that her parents are dead, Mia must make a decision between fighting for a life full of new, heartbreaking challenges, and leaving this world forever. Much like The Fault In Our Stars, If I Stay tackles adult problems in a compelling way and from a teen perspective.
6. Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This novel follows introverted 15-year-old Charlie. Charlie starts the year absorbed in writing, rarely socializing. Charlie struggles on his own with graphic flashbacks, mental health problems, and has very little confidence. When Charlie meets Patrick and Sam—two students in their final year—Charlie starts to enjoy time with his friends. Charlie struggles with unrequited feelings for Sam, but expands his horizons and tries new things. Charlie ultimately suffers a breakdown, bringing up a long kept secret from his past. Another incredible young adult novel, Perks Of Being A Wallflower explores the very adult challenges that many teens face.
7. The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Giver is a novel told from the point of view of an eleven year old boy. Named Jonas, this child lives in a futuristic society that has eliminated all hatred, anger, pain and unhappiness. All decisions are made by the state, and each citizen must take an aptitude test at age twelve to determine their career training. Jonas is chosen for a rare honor, when he is selected to be the next “receiver.” Jonas’s new training teaches him that society must keep all the horrible memories in order to retain the lessons learned there, without sharing them with the community at large. Jonas starts receiving these memories from the “giver.” Jonas begins learning the extremes of human existence, and realizes his society lacks real joy, excitement, and inspiration. Jonas learns that the society euthanizes individuals when telling the public they are released outside the society. Jonas devises a plan to bring the truths he has learned to the public, in hopes of saving them from a half-lived existence. While The Giver takes place in a different world than The Fault In Our Stars, the book still explores themes dealing with integrity and responsibility as Jonas transitions to adulthood.
8. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Sam is a popular, queen-bee type teenage girl, who is killed in a car accident at the beginning of the book. Despite the graphic events, Sam wakes up, as if her death was a dream. Sam soon discovers however, that today is the day of her car crash. Sam continues to wake up after her death, reliving the same day again and again. Stuck in the same routine, Sam is forced to grow as a person and consider others’ perspectives before she can be set free. Confronting our selfishness, Before I Fall is a poignant, hard-hitting young adult novel.
9. Cut by Patricia McCorkick
Cut centers on the life of Callie, a quiet, lonely fifteen–year–old. Callie struggles with self harm, feeling stressed by her family and personal struggles. Callie is eventually admitted to a mental health facility, where she must confront her reasons for self harm and move beyond the fears that hold her back. A telling look at mental health problems among teens, Cut is an ultimately comforting and optimistic novel.
10. The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
The Boy In The Striped Pajamas takes place in 1943 Germany, through the eyes of a child named Bruno. Bruno’s father is given a new position, uprooting the family. The family moves into a smaller house, one neighbored by a prison like compound Bruno is forbidden from exploring. Eventually, Bruno meets a child who lives on the other side of the fence. Sheltered from reality, Bruno’s innocent view of a concentration camp is a truly unique perspective on history. A heart wrenching, original look at history, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas challenges readers and ultimately highlights the importance of empathy.
Featured photo credit: Ginny via flickr.com