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Book clubs aren’t just a way to enjoy reading and branch out by trying books you wouldn’t have picked for yourself — they’re also a great way to get into discussions of multiple different subjects inspired by the reading you’ve done together. While book clubs can be beneficial to people of all ages, they can be a particularly helpful place for teens to engage with new ideas, put their opinions forward, and take part in friendly discussions about everything from social issues to the writing process. I’ve been in a few book clubs over the years, and while I certainly haven’t loved everything I’ve read as part of them, it definitely led me to YA book club books I otherwise would never have tried and got me looking at a whole range of different perspectives.
School is back in session for the autumn, and whether you’re an educator yourself or just want to help the teens in your life discover new books, a YA book club is a great way to get young people engaged in reading. Books that teens encounter as part of a book club can also be a basis for classwork or a springboard for creative projects like poetry or filmmaking. Here are some suggestions for books in a variety of genres that would make a great starting point for a YA book club.
8 of the Best YA Book Club Booksa
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This memoir in verse by poet Jacqueline Woodson is a beautiful and impactful look at her life and the lives of her family members as she grew up in the South and then New York during the ’70s. Students reading this fantastic work could discuss family relationships and their complexity, the role of creativity, or the fight for civil rights and the impact of racism. It could also be a great inspiration for young writers to try their hand at narrative poetry.
Broken Hearts and Zombie Parts by William Hussey
William Hussey’s romcom is a sweet and funny read, following young filmmaker Jesse Spark as he tries to occupy his time before a major heart surgery by making his dream film, a romantic thriller set during a zombie apocalypse. This book could lead to discussions of homophobia and inclusion, beauty standards and friendship, the nature of biological and chosen family, and the role of creativity in keeping people going during tough times.
The Cats We Meet Along the Way by Nadia Mikail
This highly acclaimed novel is set in a world where the apocalypse is looming, and people are trying to fill their remaining time with as much joy and companionship as they can. Protagonist Aisha, along with her mother, her boyfriend and his parents, and a grumpy cat, decide to track down Aisha’s estranged sister, June so that they can spend time together before the end. Teens reading this book could discuss what they would do in an end-of-the-world situation, who they would spend time with, and the nature of community and forgiveness.
A Million to One by Adiba Jaigirdar
Jaigirdar’s historical thriller follows four young women who are attempting to carry out a heist, not realising that they’ll soon have more than the law to contend with — they’re trying to rob one of the rich passengers on the Titanic. This book could be a jumping-off point for a discussion about the real events of the Titanic’s doomed voyage and could also be a springboard for talking about race, class, and gender.
After the Fire by Will Hill
This novel deals with the recovery of a teenage girl, Moonbeam, who is a survivor of a Branch Davidian-style cult. As Moonbeam discusses recent events with her psychiatrist, young readers can consider the nature of fanaticism and healing, cults and healthy relationships, and dogma versus free thinking. After the Fire could also be a great resource for any students learning about real-world cults or cultish thinking.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
This short novel is a gut-punching, important read. Justyce, a Black teenage boy attending a prestigious school, is wrongly arrested by a racist police officer and soon finds himself at the epicentre of an act of horrific anti-Black violence. Justyce tries to make sense of events through a series of letters to Dr. Martin Luther King. Dear Martin could be an important read for students discussing racism, resistance, Black Lives Matter, and other social justice movements.
Feed by M. T. Anderson
Despite being over 20 years old, this cyberpunk YA novel is increasingly relevant. Set in a world that is slowly being destroyed by pollution and the excesses of capitalism, and where almost everyone has access to the internet inside their heads, it follows Titus and his friends, who are frighteningly oblivious to the way that society is crumbling around them. Feed would be a useful book for a group to use in discussions about the pros and cons of technology, corporate greed, and the impact of consumerism on nature.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Set in a high-concept fantasy world, Girls of Paper and Fire shows us a society inhabited by humans and demons. A member of the human Paper caste, the lowest-ranked group, Lei is brought to the royal palace to become a concubine for the demon king. The book includes sexual violence in a fantasy setting, so could be a starting point for sensitive discussion of this subject, as well as class, identity, and love.
Are you looking for question prompts for your YA book club? Try our list of 50 Great Book Club Discussion Questions for Any Book. If you need more teen-friendly books to add to your reading list, have a browse at The 25 Best YA Books of All Time 2022.