25 Must-Read Underrated YA Novels

Sometimes it can feel like the YA community is controlled by only a handful of books, right? We know there are incredible, deserving novels which are overshadowed by the most popular ones, but fear no more! We’ve compiled a list of 25 must-reads, of any genre, for all you YA book junkies out there. Don’t see your fave listed? Tell us in the comments and we’ll check it out!

underrated

  • The Body Electric by Beth Revis: When I think “underrated”, this book immediately comes to mind. Beth Revis crafted a brilliant novel about aritificial intelligence based on an old short story she had written, and it could not be better. It barely left my hands once I picked it up, and it’s chock-full of genuinely surprising twists from an unreliable narrator. It’s absolutely fascinating and thought-provoking, and to miss out on it would be a crime.
  • Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton: Cutthroat ballerinas, diverse characters, and New York City is all I need in a book. The first in a duology focusing on three girls at an elite ballet training school, this novel takes on far more than what you would expect. Eating disorders, bullying, and institutionalized racism are to be expected, but by delving deep into the psyches of these girls, you find far more. It does all of this and more, but never at the expense of the core of the novel, which is dance.
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke: Tucholke takes gothic to new heights in this novel. It’s a captivating blend of romance, horror, and psychological thriller that has sadly gone unnoticed by many readers. The characters all come with their own annoyances and faults, but that’s what makes this book so hard to put down: you know they’re doing everything wrong, and you’re eagerly anticipating the fallout.
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: I hold this book so close to my heart that every time I recommend it to someone else, I feel like I’m giving a part of myself away. Describing the plot here would equal spoiling it, so I’ll be plain. Set in World War II, it focuses on the friendship between two girls: one a spy, and one a pilot, and how their lives intertwine and change forever. It’s gripping and heartbreaking, and though everyone says it’s about the power of female friendship, let’s be real – we all know Maddie and Julie are in love with each other. Gut-wrenching though it may be, everyone should experience this novel.
  • Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate: Penned by a recent graduate of the college I am about to attend, this book focuses seven high schoolers who all embody the seven deadly sins. While I haven’t read it myself, Meg has, and she absolutely adored it. It’s diverse, scandalous, and impossible to put down.
  • The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: I’m always down for a good political thriller, but this one takes the cake. It’s not overly complicated, but it’s fast-paced and weaves a brilliant web of lies, deception, and secrets. Tess Kendrick moves to D.C. and accidentally becomes just like her sister, and is made the “fixer” at her new elite high school. I know it sounds like Scandal, but believe me, it’s insanely better. I devoured it as soon as it was in my hands.
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby: Despite winning multiple awards, this book is rarely discussed between the readers of the community. The citizens of Bone Gap, Illinois, are no stranger to people leaving. So when a young woman goes missing, no one thinks the better of it – except one boy, who’s convinced he saw her kidnapped by a man whose face he cannot remember. But when no one believes him, he takes it upon himself to find her. It’s a strange amalgamation of magical realism, mystery, and romance, but it works like no other.
  • The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma: My obsession with ballerina books is back, and this time with a twist – murder. Alternating between the perspectives of two girls – one in jail for murder, and one hiding a terrible secret whilst on the brink of her big break – this novel is unbelievably suspenseful. With a hint of paranormal, and a whole lot of questions, Nova Ren Suma crafted a truly brilliant tale with a genuinely shocking ending. Her writing is gorgeous and atmospheric, and each page leaves you wanting more.
  • All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill: Meg had to convince me into reading this, and after doing so, I knew I should’ve listened to her earlier. I really, truly don’t want to give the plot away, so I’ll leave you with some key words: time travel, unexpected love, and sacrifice. While it may not be constantly surprising, it is quite the journey, and it left me speechless by the end. Go read it – now.
  • The Merciless by Danielle Vega: I have a soft spot for horror novels (now there’s a sentence!) but this one in particular. I always describe it to people as “Heathers, but if it was Satanic” and that still holds true. It’s just the right amount of stomach-turning descriptions for it to be tastefully young adult, but it does not ever shy away from being outright terrifying. It’s not shocking, but it doesn’t need to be. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat either way, keeping you up far later than you should be while reading a book like this.
    • Fun fact: I got a nosebleed the night I read this, and a perfect drop of blood ended up falling on the cover, right in the middle of the pentagram. Oops?
  • The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness: I will never understand how this book doesn’t get all the love and attention that The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. do. It’s incredibly well written and its language reflects the intelligence and dialect of the characters’ narratives, it refuses to dumb down complex ideas for a target audience, and it’s just all around stunning. I’ve never read another book like it, and I don’t think I ever will. It is unique, captivating, and a literal journey. You’re seriously missing out. And if you read the first one and then gave up like so many do – read it again. I think you’ll find that a fresh eye brings new discoveries with each page.
  • The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti:  I received an ARC of this book and absolutely adored it. I set it aside in my head as a wonderful memory, and never thought to check back up on it after its publication. When I did, I found that the jury was hung on opinions of it. However, I thought it was a gorgeous debut and a very realistic, casual portrayal of what it’s like to be finding yourself in high school when it seems like all the odds are stacked against you. It hits you with reality and its highly affective. Whether in a good or a bad way is up to the reader to decide.
  • The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel: This is one of Meg’s picks, and I admittedly know next to nothing about this novel. But I trust Meg (and the shocking 4.19 average rating this book has on Goodreads) and it certainly sounds like an interesting read. Ivy is determined to kill the president’s son, who just so happens to be her soon-to-be-husband, in a war-torn America in order to restore her family’s legacy. Whew.
  • The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings: Fast-paced and gory, this book seems like it would be predictable and overdone. It’s anything but. It’s a fantastic debut about a future in which the murder rate is higher than the birth rate, and an organization known as “The Murder Complex” sends out trained assassins to keep the population in control. Its short chapters keep you turning the page and itching for more, and you won’t be disappointed.
  • Dare Me by Megan Abbott: In my opinion, this book gets a bad rap. Abbott is a brilliant writer who is highly skilled at crafting an atmosphere, creating feeligs that seem almost palpable at times. She establishes tone with unheard of precision, and this book is the pinnacle of that. So many people say that this book advocates dangerous perspectives on teen girls, but I disagree. I think it does the opposite. It lays out unflinching reality, just with a more murderous background. Plot and characters aside, I think it’s hard to argue that this isn’t a brilliantly written novel.
  • The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz: I’m an absolute sucker for high fantasy and forbidden love. This book is, plain and simple, an enjoyable read. It’s interesting, it focuses intently on many characters, and it causes a whole host of emotions. It’s incredibly sad that there won’t be a sequel, but the memories I have of staying up until 6am to finish this are fond, and I have always hoped more readers would open themselves up to this book.
  • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman: This is a downright captivating novel about mental illness and the challenges it presents. What makes it especially powerful, however, is that Shusterman was inspired by his own son’s struggles to write this novel. The inclusion of his son’s drawings as representations of the plot only further maximizes the emotion of this book. I’ll admit, I had an easier time reading this than some and that may be why I like it more than many do. It’s is confusing and challenging, but it’s supposed to be. It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s hard to distinguish where reality begins and ends. But it is a reflection of the narrator, and that is what makes it so special. Please, please read this novel.
  • The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian: This book turned out to be nothing like I expected, and for a while after reading it, I was disappointed. However, when I think of it now, I’ll admit I get super weepy. It’s based on a true story (even though I’ve tried and failed to find out what that may be) about a town slowly being flooded by the government. You see each resident leave for different reasons, one by one, and the failure of those who try to stay. It has family elements, romance elements, but it is, at its core, a deeply human novel.
  • Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke: Unsurprisingly, another Tucholke novel has ended up on this list (because seriously, guys, she’s fantastic). Based on an old French film from the 1950s, this book is a masterful web of genres. A little fantasy, a little mystery, and, of course, a dash of murder. It’s twisty and dangerous, and the characters are alluring and complex. It made me question everything at all times, and even when I thought I had it all figured out, I turned out to be completely wrong. It’s incredibly imaginative and beautifully written.
  • Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins: Let’s pretend, for my sake, that Rebel Belle is underrated, okay? I’ve been a fan of Rachel Hawkins since I was in 5th grade, and I’m not kidding when I say that I was looking forward to this book since the moment she posted about the idea on her blog. And it ended up becoming one of my absolute favorites of all time. It’s funny, it’s romantic, and it’s just plain enjoyable. Harper and David have permanent spots in my heart, but it’s Harper who I truly adore. She’s badass and feminine, and she never sacrificed one for the other. It’s contemporary, it’s fantasy, it’s everything you need in a book.
  • The Internment Chronicles by Lauren DeStefano: Call it dystopia or fantasy, one thing is true: people are living on a cloud. A cloud where everything is perfect until someone gets murdered. The death sparks change for the community and the characters – a love triangle, a new desire to see the world beyond the cloud, and a distrust in the life that has always been accepted at face value. It’s a gorgeous book with a gorgeous cover, and it builds ever in complexity.
  • City of Savages by Lee Kelly: Another of Meg’s picks, this is a dystopian novel centered on the island of Manhattan, where two sisters are attempting to discover family secrets, but find ones about Manhattan instead. Gripping, dangerous, and revelatory.
  • Hourglass by Myra McEntire: I read this book quite some time ago, and I always wish it had found its popularity when it was first published. Emerson Cole has always seen people and things which were not there, and when she finally meets someone with the same power, ends up in a time-bending situation – trying to change a death. The trilogy just gets better and more complex with each book, and the focus on different characters in each one allows for wonderful development. Also, it’s a southern novel about time travel – so really, how can it be bad?
  • The Endgame Trilogy by James Frey and Neil Johnson-Shelton: Now, before you bite my head off, no, this book is not The Hunger Games or Battle Royale. This is a complex, unique, and interactive novel that has never been done before. It’s a huge book, but the chapters are short and fairly simple. It’s a stunning mix of history, sci-fi, and dystopia with a diverse cast of determined characters. It’s a page-turner, if nothing else.
  • Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina: Last but certainly not least, this is one of Meg’s picks! Set in New York City in the 1970s, a serial killer is on the loose, and Nora’s life just so happens to be falling apart at the same time. It’s a tense time for the city, and a tense time for Nora, who has to learn to face life head-on even when she doesn’t want to.
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6 thoughts on “25 Must-Read Underrated YA Novels

  1. Marie says:

    This is such an amazing list! I read Seven Ways We Lie and The Walls Around Us, both were really good and definitely underrated. The Walls Around Us was such a weird book, I don’t think I’m over it quite yet ahha. I feel like Bone Gap is indeed not too hyped and it should be a bit more, what a fantastic tale! 🙂 I have heard good things about Rebel Belle and it’s on my TBR, can’t wait to get to it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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