In recent decades, young adult literature has ballooned in popularity. Rather than a few popular books to choose from, the category has expanded into a wide variety of genres and styles, with readers of all ages. In fact, some of the most popular television shows and movies now find their source material in YA books. This is in part because young adult books are often a part of longer series, allowing the reader to become attached to readers and await the conclusion.
Whether you want to find the right series for a teenager in your life or want to enjoy some popular YA yourself, read on for some of the best series out there in every genre.
The Best YA Fantasy Series for Teens
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Years after the blood fever, Adelina Amouteru has survived with unique consequences. Her hair has been turned white, and she has been left as a Young Elite. This gives Adelina the power to create illusions. But when Enzo Valenciano enters her life, everything changes. He is also a Young Elite, and he soon recruits Adelina to his secret society. But when she is captured by the ruthless group Inquisition Axis, readers follow Adelina on a dark and twisted journey through three novels – The Young Elites, The Rose Society, and The Midnight Star – as she seeks power and revenge.
The Folk of the Air Series by Holly Black
Twins Jude and Taryn are the only humans living in Faerie, having been adopted after their parents were killed by enemies. They remain at risk because of their family ties, especially when it comes to Prince Cardan, the youngest son of the king. The trilogy begins with The Cruel Prince and traces Jude’s relationship with Cardan and her own quest for power. Books 2 and 3, The Wicked King and The Queen of Nothing, continue the dark and intricate tale that follows a standout antiheroine. The Folk of the Air series combines elements of fae folklore, high fantasy, and dark romance to craft an engrossing tale.
The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
Once a great power, the nation of Ravka finds itself surrounded by enemies, torn in two by the Shadow Fold – a near impenetrable darkness that bursts with monsters that survive on human flesh. When her regiment is attacked, Alina Starkov’s best friend is injured, and she finds herself with a new power. Alina has never been good at anything before, but suddenly could be the only person with the power to free Rakov.
Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, a group of magical elites led by a Darkling. Through Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising, readers follow Alina as she learns about the darkness in her county and more secrets than she could have imagined.
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
All her life, Blue’s psychic mother has told her she will cause her true love to die, but it’s hard for her to believe when she is the one person in her family without powers. She focuses mostly on avoiding boys from the local private school, until she meets Gansey. Drawn to the rich and charming boy, Blue finds herself a part of his friend group and their mysteries.
Gansey is obsessed with finding a dead Welsh king, supported by three other Raven boys. Together, Blue, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Gansey begin an adventure that will test everything they know about both magic and the real world. Over the course of The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and The Raven King, the unlikely friend group face life and death together.
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
One of the longest series on this list, Mafi’s Shatter Me series is a six-book story that follows Juliette, who kills anyone she touches. She has isolated herself, but little notice has been paid given the crumbling of society around her. But in the midst of disease, famine, and war, the Reestablishment government of Juliette’s world begins to think she may be just the weapon they need.
Throughout the course of five follow-up books like Unravel Me and Ignite Me, Juliette finds herself struggling against her government and embroiled in a tumultuous relationship. These books are well known for their unique writing style, which sits somewhere between prose and verse and make them fast reads.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
From one of the most popular young adult authors in recent years, A Court of Thorns and Roses is a richly created world that spans four books. Feyre kills a Faerie beast, which lands her in captivity and at the mercy of Tamlin, the Fae prince. Trapped in the kingdom of her enemy, Feyre assumes her world has ended.
But Tamlin takes a special interest in Feyre, and the two begin a push-and-pull relationship and find themselves part of a curse bigger than themselves.
The Nightmare-verse Trilogy by L.L. McKinney
In a twist on the classic Alice in Wonderland tale, this trilogy follows Alice, who has been trained to fight monsters in a dark dream realm, using both her fighting skills and magical weapons. But during her waking hours, Alice juggles more normal problems, like fights with her mom and poor grades.
But when Alice’s mentor is poisoned, she will have to venture deeper into her dream realm than she ever has in the past. Starting with A Blade so Black, the books follow Alice as she puts everything she’s learned to use, including lessons from the real world. A Dream So Dark and A Crown So Cursed continue Alice’s story, perfect for fans of both twisted fairy tales, strong leading women, and traditional coming-of-age stories.
The Bone Witch Trilogy by Rin Chupeco
Tea has always known she is a witch, just like everyone else in her family. But the surprise comes when she accidentally resurrects her brother Fox using a type of magic no one else possesses. Necromancy makes Tea a bone witch, something the other witches in her community fear, and she finds herself on the outskirts quickly.
But alongside Fox, Tea is taken to another land for training under the guidance of an older bone witch who has had many years of using this power. Tea’s new focus becomes learning to wield elemental magic in the art of being an asha. But as the series carries on, Tea learns there are much darker forces at play than her own, and she will have to make hard and powerful choices to keep herself safe. Tea’s dark and empowering tale is told over the course of three books: The Bone Witch, The Heart Forger, and The Shadow Glass.
Star-Touched Series by Roshani Chokshi
For astrology lovers, this series beginning with The Star-Touched Queen is a perfect fit. Maya’s horoscope has doomed her to a marriage that is full of death and destruction, which comes to fruition when her father arranges a political coupling for her. When she marries King Amar, Maya is shocked to learn that he’s a compassionate and loving partner.
But as Maya learns some of Amar’s secrets, she fears her horoscope is coming true. And worse, the darkness extends to an ancient darkness that begins to play out in front of them both in the follow-up A Crown of Wishes. Readers can also enjoy a novella, Death and Night, and a series of Star-Touched Stories.
The Best YA Romance Series
Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Anna & the French Kiss finds American student Anna forced to attend boarding school in Paris. While it sounds great, she struggles to adjust until she makes new friends, including Etienne St. Clair, who has a girlfriend but seems to like Anna. Anna must navigate this relationship while adjusting to her new surroundings.
In Lola and the Boy Next Door, a friend of Anna and Etienne has her world disrupted when her old crush moves in next door. Other friends Josh and Isla must navigate their own love story back in Paris in Isla and the Happily Ever After, the final book in this series about love, self-discovery, and growing up.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
The basis for a popular Netflix series, Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a sweet and fun romance series. Lara Jean Song has been writing love letters to all the boys she’s loved in her 16 years of life – all five of them. These letters are personal, and she would never share the information in real life, which is why she keeps them safely in her late mother’s hat box.
But a mistake ends in her secret letters being mailed to each of the five boys they were written about. Suddenly, Lara Jean’s imaginary love life is no longer just hers, and she must contend with the boys she has loved. As P.S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean unfold, readers will undoubtedly have an opinion on who Lara Jean should be with. But no matter what team you are on, the series has a satisfying and refreshing arc.
Dimple and Rishi by Sandyha Menon
The perfect set of romances, this series begins with the story of When Dimple Met Rishi, a classic hopeless-romantic-meets-academically-focused-girl story. But the twist? These characters are set to be arranged in a traditional Indian marriage. Dimple and Rishi’s opposite personalities, and different approaches to love and tradition, are the perfect baseline for a tense and romantic story.
In the same universe and loosely connected, readers can enjoy There’s Something About Sweetie, which finds a girl with an overly critical mother challenged by someone who meets her expectations. And in 10 Things I Hate About Pinky, a fake boyfriend plot turns real. Each book features characters from the other while telling the story of three very different couples.
Simon-verse by Becky Albertalli
The basis for his movie Love, Simon, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the touching and witty story of Simon, who has not yet come out to his friends or family. The only person who knows his secret is Blue, a mysterious online pen pal. But when these letters become public, all of Simon’s friendships are called into question.
These friends are each given their own story in the companion books that make up the Simon-verse. The Upside of Unrequited goes inside the life of Molly, who has had many crushes but no relationships, until she is suddenly faced with not one but two potential love interests. And in Leah on the Offbeat, Simon’s best friend Leah still hasn’t told Simon that she likes both boys and girls. As her friend group faces new challenges, she struggles to reconcile her feelings for someone she had previously only thought of as a friend.
Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
For fans of American history and Hamilton alike, the Alex & Eliza series fictionalizes the real love story of Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler. Each book is set in a specific year, starting with 1777 when the two meet and fall in love.
Love & War takes readers to 1781 when Alex and Eliza are first married, All for One finds them in 1785 New York, when the couple isexpecting their first child and try to play matchmaker with loved ones.
Royals by Rachel Hawkins
Perfect for fans of the royal family, this duology follows Daisy, who is totally normal except that her sister is engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. When she visits their future castle, she meets Miles, who is assigned to teach her how to be regal – but Daisy wants to go about things her own way in the first book, Prince Charming.
Her Royal Highness takes us to the same family, where Princess Flora and her boarding school roommate Millie find themselves fighting for their own fairy tale.
Once Upon a Con Series by Ashley Poston
Centered around the fictional Excelsicon, this series offers romance against a backdrop of fandom, all through the lens of a fairy tale retelling. Geekerella finds a devoted fangirl given the opportunity to meet the actor who plays her favorite character, and The Princess and The Fangirl brings together a fan and an actress who switch places and expose a conspiracy.
Finally, Bookish and the Beast centers around a popular actor with a bad reputation and a book-loving fan who is locked in his library. Their time together brings them closer in a tale that celebrates fandom and love.
The Best YA Mystery Series
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
In Vermont, a small school called Ellingham Academy is home to some of the brightest children there are, from scientists to artists. Not only are the children special, but so is the school: the founder created the school to be a mysterious haven, full of riddles and hidden passages. But it is also known for a dark past, as his wife and daughter were kidnapped, with the crime never solved.
Stevie Bell’s entrance to Ellingham Academy is based on her passion for solving crimes, so she plans to solve the case from the inside. Of course, this plan is foiled by the distractions of a boarding school, from Stevie’s new friends to a budding relationship. Though Truly Devious sees the Ellingham crime played out, follow-ups The Vanishing Stair and The Hand on the Wall are perfect for those who love a mystery and an ensemble tale.
Charlotte Holmes Series by Brittany Cavallaro
A modern twist on Sherlock Holmes, these books follow the famed detective’s descendent Charlotte and her friend Jamie Watson. The two attend a boarding school together, and A Study in Charlotte finds them part of a murder mystery ripped straight from Sherlock Holmes’ work. As they work to solve the case, they must also contend with their complicated family histories.
Holmes and Watson continue to work together in the subsequent three books, which follow their friendship and the feelings that grow out of it. By turning these literary figures into ancestors, the series contends with the pressure of fame along with more traditional teenage issues.
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Avery Grambs doesn’t know Tobias Hawthorne, but when he dies, she is left nearly his entire fortune of billions. But there is a catch: she must move into his mansion, which is a puzzle in itself, and full of his disinherited family members and his four grandsons. The Inheritance Games finds Avery caught in their grips and playing what the Hawthornes see as one last, twisted game.
In The Hawthorne Legacy, Avery begins to unravel the mystery of how she is connected to the family at all. By The Final Gambit, she is days from finally inheriting the money, but there is one last puzzle to solve.
The Best YA Dystopian Series
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
One of the most popular YA series of all time, made into equally popular films, The Hunger Games is the best place to start for almost any reader. The books take place in Panem, a country that sends 24 children to a battle each year, where only one can come out alive. In the county’s capital, rich and indulgent citizens watch the battle on television for entertainment.
When Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her sister’s place in the games, she finds herself accompanied by Peeta, a baker with a crush on her. The first book, The Hunger Games, follows their battle to survive. Catching Fire introduces past winners of the games and a budding tension throughout Panem, and the story culminates in Mockingjay as Katniss finds herself the unwitting symbol of a revolution. Packed with action, themes relevant to today’s society, romance, and a varied cast of characters, it is no wonder these books have found such popularity.
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Orleans is a world where everyone is born gray, with only those graced by a Belle made beautiful. The Belles control the beauty, but that is not enough for Camellia, who wants to be the Belle assigned to the royal family. To prove her worth, Camellia joins a competition that gives her access to the castle.
But the royal life is not all that she imagined. It becomes clear quickly that life within the castle walls is dark, and there are secrets that could threaten Orleans as they know it. In both The Belles and The Everlasting Rose, as well as the final chapter The Beauty Trials, Camellia must risk her own life to defeat the evil forces at play in her world.
The Arc of a Scythe Series by Neal Shusterman
The premise of Scythe sounds like a utopia: there is no hunger, no disease, no war, and no misery. Humanity has moved past nearly all troubles, including death. Instead, people can only die when a scythe ends their life. The scythes are chosen for this role, and only kill when they are commanded to do so as a population control measure.
The series follows Citra and Rowan, who are chosen to apprentice under an existing scythe. Though neither wants the role, they must grapple with their new place and the power it gives them. Failure means losing their own lives, making the series a high stakes page-turner for those who love a classic dystopia.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
In a post-apocalyptic Chicago, the world is divided into four factions that represent different values. When Tris Prior comes of age, she must be sorted among these factions: Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, and Dauntless. But Tris finds out she doesn’t fit into these categories, which is dangerous in a society designed to be so perfect. To conceal her divergence, she joins Dauntless.
There, she meets Four, who she soon learns is also divergent. As the two learn more about the way their world works, they find even more cracks in the system, and suddenly find themselves the key to changing their world. Divergent is followed by Insurgent and Allegiant, as well as Four, which offers an alternate perspective. This series was also made into a film series, starring Shailene Woodley as Tris and Theo James as Four.
Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie
In a future version of the United States, the country is known simply as The Society, and all aspects of life are tightly controlled, even who you love and what you do for fun. Cassia Reyes is seventeen and in good standing, which means she is eligible to be matched with her most compatible partner. In Matched, she is paired up with her childhood best friend, but a mixup places her with Ky, who has been shunned for his father’s crimes.
Ky teaches Cassia things she shouldn’t know, like how to write, and the two begin to develop feelings. As the story continues in Crossed, she even commits acts of rebellion to keep him in her life, and they begin to unravel The Society’s secrets. The series concluded with Reached, as Ky and Cassia try to lead their loved ones to a better world.
Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu
The United States is no more, replaced by a nation called the Republic that is at constant war with its neighbors. In a wealthy district, June is a prodigy and from one of the most elite families – there is no question that she will be sent to the highest military ranks. Meanwhile, Day lives in the slums as the most wanted criminal in the country.
But when Day is accused of killing June’s brother, the two become entwined in a way they never expected. What starts in Legend as a rivalry quickly turns to a camaraderie in Prodigy and Champion as they learn more about the world they live in and how they might fit into it.
The Best YA Sci-Fi Series
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
There is no shortage of twisted fairytale books, but The Lunar Chronicles puts a twist on the twist. In these books, classic storybook characters live in a sci-fi reality. Cinder follows Cinderella, who is a cyborg that lives in isolation until she meets a prince and learns that only she can save the world from a lunar force that threatens it.
Other books in the series continue to follow Cinder and add additional twists on well-loved characters. Scarlet brings us a Red Riding Hood retelling, and Cress turns Rapunzel’s tower into a satellite. Fairest and Winter are best for Snow White fans, and there are plenty of novellas and bonus stories to read as well. The series culminates in Gone Rogue, which finds all of the characters brought together in an epic battle.
Firebird Series by Claudia Gray
In a world where people can travel to different dimensions, Marguerite Caine discovers that her parents’ murder is related to their work on the Firebird, which is used for interdimensional travel. In A Thousand Pieces of You, she begins a journey through dimensions to find their killer and clear her family’s name. The story continues through Ten Thousand Skies Above You as she meets alternate versions of herself, each of whom creates new consequences for her.
The series concludes with A Million Worlds With You, when the stakes are raised from Marguerite’s own life to saving the multiverse itself. With even more parallel universes to travel through, readers will follow Marguerite as she makes painful choices to protect the very fabric of reality.
Starflight Series by Melissa Landers
Follow a group of misfit space travelers through the dangerous galaxy through Starflight, where we meet former orphan Solara who is hired to work on a spaceship. She must work with the captain, Doran, despite their differences as they become part of a dangerous conspiracy and encounter aliens and space pirates along the way.
Solara and Doran go their separate ways, but are reunited in Starfall when they must work with former crewmates to save the entire galaxy from destruction. Along the way, they must contend with the newcomer Cassia who may or may not have the same motives as them. This fast-paced and action-packed series is perfect for those who love strong character relationships and galactic romps.
Across the Universe Series by Beth Revis
Across the Universe takes readers to a spaceship called the Godspeed, passengers embark on a 300-year journey to reach a new planet while in a cryogenically frozen sleep. But when Amy wakes up 50 years too early, she must work with the future leader of the ship to navigate the complex dynamics. Together, Amy and Elder investigate mysterious deaths that lead them to a chain of secrets about what the Godspeed is truly meant to do.
As they work to find out the truth in A Million Suns and the finale Shades of Earth, they arrive at their destination to find something very different than what they expect. Amy and Elder must survive the physically hostile environment they find themselves in, as well as resolve the lingering conflicts from their time on the ship.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
A classic of the genre, Ender’s Game follows the story of Andrew “Ender” Wiggen as he is recruited to save the military from an alien race called the “buggers.” He is trained in battle through a series of games and simulations that become increasingly difficult. While he succeeds in his mission, the consequences leave Ender in a place of guilt.
These feelings are explored through the rest of the series as Ender tries to make amends with the buggers. Readers have been drawn to the story’s focus on empathy, the impact of war, and the exploration of ethics.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is considered a young adult book?
Young adult is a category of fiction generally aimed at readers between 12 and 18 years old, with characters in that same age range. However, many adults read and enjoy young adult
What is the most popular young adult series?
Some of the most popular YA series of all time include Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter.
Is young adult the same as new adult?
New adult is a more recent category of fiction that usually concerns characters in the age range of 18-22, while young adult focuses on the ages of 12 to 18. They may have similar themes and tropes, but are aimed at different stages of life.