Timeless reads for tweens and teens

Looking for new books to inspire your tween or teen? Check out these YA works of fiction by noteworthy authors handpicked by Danielle Marshall and her team at Powell's Books.

By Danielle Marshall

The Book Thief

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Knopf Books for Young Readers (2006), 560 pages

This is an unusual novel about the power of words. The Book Thief takes on the seemingly impossible setting of Nazi Germany and the improbability of Deathas narrator and weaves together one of the most compelling stories of the year. Winner of the American Library Association's Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction, Zusak has created what can only be called an instant classic.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie
Little, Brown (2007), 240 pages
Sherman Alexie, well known as an adult fiction author, becomes a newly christened, enthusiastically welcomed young adult writer with his Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. This exciting foray into the young adult book world isn't generating lots of buzz just because he's a venerable author — it's because his YA debut is actually fantastic, as in, crying-while-laughing-and-staying-up-till- the-wee-hours fantastic.

Slam

Slam
by Nick Hornby
Putnam Juvenile (2007), 304 pages

In this tale of teenage pregnancy told from the boy's perspective, Nick Hornby's wit and wisdom shine as brightly here as in his popular adult novels. When faced with the unthinkable, the news that his ex-girlfriend is pregnant, Sam looks for answers in the biography of his hero, pro-skateboarder, Tony Hawk. When Sam's poster of Hawk begins talking to him, well, things just get weird ... and funny ... and truthful.

Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (2007), 320 pages

A wonderful retelling of an almost forgotten Brothers Grimm fairytale called "Maid Maleen," Shannon Hale creates a fantasy novel that is the perfect escape. All the great fairytale elements are present: a tower with a girl locked inside, a refusal of marriage to a powerful man she doesn't love, true romance and adventure.

Before I Die

Before I Die
by Jenny Downham
David Fickling Books (2007), 336 pages

Glowingly reviewed in the New York Times, this book transcends classification as a book for young adults and enters the territory of books you read and never forget. Tessa is dying of leukemia and in the process of making her last-things-to-do list, she learns how to truly live. Never saccharine, Downham's words always resonant with truth and beauty. This would make a wonderful gift for a teenage girl.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You
by Peter Cameron
Farrar, Straus and Giroux  (2007), 240 pages

In this book that has been compared to Catcher in the Rye, Peter Cameron has penned a story about emotional alienation and loneliness that is a wonderful coming-of-age story. Avoiding his freshman year in college, 18-year-old James Sveck allows himself to be distracted by anything and everything. This is a fantastic book about growing up and growing into yourself.

The Nature of Jade

The Nature of Jade
by Deb Caletti
Simon & Schuster (2007), 304 page

I never get tired of a great coming-of-age story, especially one as beautifully rendered as this one. Deb Caletti gives us Jade, a complicated, anxiety-ridden girl who finds herself in love and faced with some of life's most crucial questions. All this, within the unusual backdrop of an elephant house at the zoo.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect

A Crooked Kind of Perfect
by Linda Urban
Harcourt Children's Books (2007), 224 pages

Linda Urban hits all the right notes in this book about Zoe, a girl who longs to become a concert pianist. What does it matter that she doesn't have a piano and can't play? But, with a gift of an electric organ — which perfectly illustrates how adults can sometimes miss the mark when interpreting kids' dreams — Zoe finds herself in the music of the unwieldy instrument. 

An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines
by John Green
Dutton Juvenile (2006), 256 pages

An Abundance of Katherines is a laugh-out-loud book about relationships. The main character, Colin, is great with languages, anagramming and mathematical formulas, but not so great with girls named Katherine. He's been dumped 19 times and is creating a formula to prevent heartbreak that he calls The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability. This book is tender, truthful and just plain funny.

Danielle Marshall is a former longtime bookseller, most notably for Powell's Books in Portland, Ore. She continues her love of all things book related by working as the marketing manager for Beyond Words Publishing, best known as the publisher of The Secret.