10 best book series for young adults

Can't get your tween or teen excited about reading for pleasure? Welcome to the gateway books: Once your kids get hooked on the right series, they won't be able to stop.

By GreatSchools Staff

Artemis Fowl

By Eoin Colfer

Our favorites: Artemis Fowl, The Arctic Incident, The Eternity Code

Perfect for: Kids too jaded to be entertained by old-fashioned fairies and elves.

The hook: Artemis Fowl is no regular kid. He happens to be an evil genius — a criminal mastermind with high-tech toys — and all but 12 years old. Delve into the murky underworld of fairies, elves, and other sprites as they battle Artemis in his relentless quest for the fairyfolk's pot of gold.

The Baby-Sitters Club

By Ann M. Martin

Our favorites: Kristy's Great Idea, The Truth about Stacey, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

Perfect for: Girls 10 and up starting to become obsessed with boys and clothes.

The hook: A close-knit group of middle-school girls from the fictional town of Stoneyville, Connecticut start their own babysitting business. Their trials and tribulations – many ordinary, some more trying (like Stacey's diabetes) – are made easier thanks to their strong friendships. While some of the books in this mammoth series (78 total, written between 1986 and 2000), feel a little dated, for the most part the portrayal of adolescent girls' growing pains ring emotionally true.

Mortal Instruments

By Cassandra Clare

Our favorites: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass

Perfect for: Middle-schoolers who enjoy a mix of urban grit, fantasy, and old-fashioned good-versus-evil.

The hook: New York City is more complicated — and populated — than 16-year-old Clary ever guessed. Walking out of a night club one night, she witnesses a murder that no one else can see — and learns about the city’s hidden Downworlders. Clary’s emerging powers (beyond seeing supernatural beings) prove she may be a Shadowhunter — a warrior who hunts and kills demons. The four books (and counting) have some story-line snafus, but still manage to be thrilling, empowering page-turners.

House of Night

By P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast

Our favorites: Awakened, Tempted, Burned

Perfect for: Girls (14 or older) who can identify with "typical" teen issues: mean girls, boy trouble and, oh, vampires.

The hook: Not the first vampire book series to hit the market, this eight-book set still captivates readers with a world where humans and vamps knowingly coexist. After 16-year-old Zoey is marked, she leaves her humdrum life in Tulsa to attend the exclusive House of Night boarding school for fledglings. Despite her powerful gifts, she can’t escape the troubles with cliques, social pressure, and exclusion that plague humans and vamps alike.

The Lord of the Rings

By J.R.R. Tolkien

Our favorites: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King

Perfect for: Any tween or teen ready to delve into a magical, incomparably complex world.

The hook: An epic work of meticulously wrought fantasy, Tolkien's three-part series (along with the prequel, The Hobbit), is first and foremost, a great and gripping adventure about fellowship, and about a boy who finds strength deep inside himself. The movies stay fairly faithful to the spirit of the original, but they can't begin to convey the rich texture, careful plotting, and underlying morality that Tolkien brings to each page.


The Uglies

By Scott Westerfeld

Our favorites: Uglies, Pretties, Specials

Perfect for: Tweens who understand that beauty’s not skin-deep.

The hook: A clever conceit that challenges society's obsession with physical beauty. This four-book series takes place in a future world where looks are prized above all. When Tally Youngblood turned 12, she became an Ugly. Living in an ugly dorm, she and the other uglies are educated on their despicability. But on their sweet 16, each one will be rewarded with an operation to be made Pretty, thus beginning a life of constant pleasure. But even young Tally can see the downsides to conformity.

Night World

By L. J. Smith

Our favorites: No.1: Secret Vampire/Daughters of Darkness/Spellbinder, No. 2: Dark Angel/The Chosen/Soulmate, No. 3: Huntress/Black Dawn/Witchlight

Perfect for: Teens looking for variety in their vampire, werewolf, and human love triangles.

The hook: Much like Harry Potter and Twilight, this series sets up a world within a world completely unbeknownst to mere mortals. An entertaining romp with supernatural teens — replete with vampires, witches, werewolves, and shape-shifters — these books are written like sci-fi romance novels with protagonist teen girls seeking their soul mates. All the usual tropes of the genre, but entertainingly told, à la wooden stakes, wicked martial arts, and, of course, teen vampire love.


By Robert Muchamore

Our favorites: Divine Madness, General, Brigands M.C.

Perfect for: Your high-flying daredevil, problem-solving genius of a middle-schooler.

The hook: Formed during WWII, CHERUB is an elite, secret sector of the British Security Service that employs minors aged 9 to 17 — mostly orphans — as intelligence officers. The 12 books in the first series (the first three books of the second series will be published in the second half of 2011) are stay-up-late page-turners. Savvy, capable heroes and heroines infiltrate gangs, take down terrorists, and investigate international arms dealers, all while maintaining covers as "normal" teenagers.

Earth Children Series

By Jean M. Auel

Our favorites: The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Valley of Horses, The Mammoth Hunters

Perfect for: Teens curious to taste life in the (very) olden days.

The hook: Thanks to Auel's meticulous research of the Ice Age period in this six-book series, the reader is vividly transported back to primeval times some 35,000 years ago. Ayla, a five-year-old Cro-Magnon girl is adopted by a Neanderthal medicine woman, much to the objection of her Neanderthal tribe: the Clan of the Cave Bear. Though often terrifying and brutal, the books’ psychological drama make Ayla's story from childhood to adulthood an emotionally gripping odyssey of a courageous heroine.

Dairy Queen

By Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Dairy Queen, The Off Season, Front and Center

This series is perfect for hardworking, athletic girls who love their families, their sports, and their lives — even when they don't all come wrapped in a pretty package.

The books follow the high school passions and perils of D.J., a teen who has all the drama of a 90210 socialite — just swap out star-spotting in glitzy LA for football games and farm life in rural Wisconsin. You see, Darlene Joyce "D.J." has been picking up the slack around her family's dairy farm ever since her dad got hurt and her football-star brothers left to play college ball, which includes a daily five a.m. wake-up call to milk their 32 cows. A little on the husky side, D.J. is also a major football fan. When she decides to become a player, there's drama, dissent, and a little dalliance with the rival team's quarterback.