1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
We’re all familiar with the story of Harry Potter. If you didn’t read the books, you probably saw the movies. The new movie franchise and the Broadway play are bringing the Wizarding World back to life, but why don’t you take a break from all the newfangled stories? Instead of catching up on the Pottermore website, revisit the final book in the original series. Harry learns so much about family, love, and friendships, and he overcomes death itself. One of the best interactions in the entire series happens at the end of the book when Harry is speaking with Dumbledore beyond the grave. The advice Dumbledore gives him almost floats off the page and serves as advice for yourself and your life. Revisit those pages and maybe learn something new about yourself or your beliefs.
2. Brisingr, the third book in The Inheritance Cycle
Maybe you remember the disaster movie adaptation of Eragon? Ignore that film. If you never read Eragon as a young adult, you need to read this YA series now as an adult. Brisingr is the third installment in the series, and it was at this point the author Christopher Paolini decided that Eragon was too large and complicated to be a trilogy and he would have to write a fourth book. You may not notice it as a kid, but as an adult you notice all the pondering about death and religion. Particularly in Brisingr, Eragon struggles with his beliefs about the afterlife and what happens to us when we’re long gone. While that sounds like a depressing topic, Paolini manages to write about that confusion in such a way that it feels safe to think about it. Through Eragon’s inner dialogue with his dragon, you may find that if you’ve been struggling with your faith, it won’t be so much of a struggle anymore. This is definitely an excellent young adult book to read as a grown up!
3. The Amulet of Samarkand from The Bartimaeus Trilogy
This trilogy never quite took off. At least, I never met anyone in school that was also reading this trilogy. However, the brilliant Jonathan Stroud finds a way to tackle real-life issues such as racism and discrimination through a magical world that isn’t much different from ours. As a kid, I never noticed the real-world themes, but re-reading as an adult, I realized how eerily similar some of the events and situations in the books are similar to things that happen today. In Stroud’s world, there are magicians who run the ruling class in the world. Those with the gift for magic can summon spirits from another world to do their bidding, and those powerful magicians keep themselves at the top of the totem pole, living in the lap of luxury while non-magic users suffer in poverty. Additionally, women are shut out from this world. However, that all changes when a young magician named Nathaniel summons the dangerous and ancient Bartimaeus from the spirit world. This sets Nathaniel on a path he didn’t plan to take, and he has to overcome his own prejudice to save the world. If you never read this as a kid, you need to read it now! This trilogy shows the reader how to use their own voice and overcome oppression. Find your voice and discover the power you wield as a citizen in your country. This YA book is one to read if you’re feeling hopeless when it comes to politics and standing up for your beliefs.
4. Child of the Dark Prophecy from The Great Tree of Avalon
T.A. Barron wrote this great series as a spin-off from his Merlin books. If you never read this as a kid, now is the time! Terrifying headlines about climate change bombard us on a daily basis, but unless you’re actually living in areas of the world that are severely affected by the changing climate, it can be hard to wrap your head around how we affect the environment. This trilogy is a fantastic and beautiful adventure that stresses the importance of taking care of our forests and landscapes. There may not be an evil sorcerer bent on wiping out our existence, but some of the events stand as metaphors for what’s happening to us now. Learn how to get into touch with nature and develop an understanding for humans’ relationship with the natural world by reading this great YA book.
5. Spinning Silver
This is a newer title by Naomi Novik. She is a gifted writer that takes the old fairy tales and provides a new spin. In this case, she was inspired by the classic story of Rumpelstiltskin, and she crafts an ingenious story about family and greed. On top of that, the main characters are all female, and they are responsible for saving their world and overcoming insurmountable odds. The story can be hard to follow because she writes from the perspectives of all the characters without providing any real distinction or discernible way to immediately tell whose perspective she switches to. However, she does that to demonstrate how connected we are as humans. The story sounds like it’s being told by the same person even though there are several characters because in a sense, we’re all telling the same story. We are all living through life together, even if we feel alone. This is a wonderful YA book to read if you need a reminder about your own strength and how you’re never alone in this world.
6. Green Angel
This oldie by Alice Hoffman is a short read. You could probably finish it within a day, but it’s a day that could change your life. Forgiveness and redemption seem to evade us every day. It can be so hard to overcome guilt or forgive someone for something they did to you. We often feel angry and abandoned when relationships go sour. Or if we lose the ones we love to something senseless and tragic. In this short novel, Green has to recover from the death of her parents and beautiful sister. She lives alone in the family home, shattered by their sudden deaths and transformed by her grief and anger. Throughout the novel, she has to learn to come to terms with this tragedy, and she learns a lot about forgiveness and acceptance along the way. If you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one, especially one taken from you much too soon, this is a YA book you need to read. Hoffman’s prose is beautiful and poetic, and you will find comfort in Green’s literary presence.