The best teen reads to guide you through all adult moments in life

Posted by
Sarah Biddlecombe
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We’ve long been believers in the power of a good book. When life’s vending machine is handing out nothing but lemons, it’s books that we turn to for comfort, seeking solace in imagined lands and letting favoured fictional characters guide us back on track.

And we’re not the only ones to rely on books when we hit a bump in the road. As of April this year, the NHS has been prescribing books to teenagers suffering from mental health conditions, in the hope that the written word can help them deal with issues as wide-ranging as depression, anxiety, OCD and bullying. There are 35 YA titles on offer, including Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower for dealing with issues such as anxiety and sexuality, as well as Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident, which shines a light on Asperger syndrome.

And it’s not only teenagers who find reassurance in YA books: they can be just as cheering for adults as well. Here, bestselling author Louise O’Neill hand picks 10 of her favourite YA books to help you cope with the difficult times in life. From dealing with rejection to getting over heartbreak, there’s a book as comforting as warm toast for everyone.

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  • For dealing with rejection

    In the Dark, In The Woods by Eliza Wass was one of my favourite YA novels of 2016. Castley and her five siblings are forced to abide by the rules their ultra religious father has decided to inflict upon them but Castley just wants to be normal.

    Her attempts to fit in at school are constantly rebuffed and rejection is sewn into her existence from a very young age. It's a haunting tale and not one easily forgotten.


  • For when you're struggling with body image

    Claire Hennessy's latest book, Nothing Tastes As Good, features a snarky ghost called Annabel who has been sent back to earth to help Julia, a teenage girl who seems to be overeating to numb her pain.

    A funny but ultimately poignant tale, this story deftly deals with the rampant body shaming that affects young women today.


  • For when you feel left behind

    I love Holly Smale's Geek Girl series. Harriet Manners, the eponymous 'geek girl' is plucked from obscurity and thrust into the cutthroat world of modelling with some rather hilarious results.

    The latest book, Head Over Heels, sees Harriet coming to terms with the fact that she can't control those around her, no matter how much she tries. 


  • For facing up to work trouble

    I can only describe The Next Together by Lauren James as The Time Traveller's Wife for young adults. Mixing reincarnation with heady romance, Katherine and Matthew are destined to meet and fall in love across the ages.

    In the most recent incarnation, the pair are scientists struggling to fight a corrupt government and save the world as we know it. Definitely not the most comfortable working environment...


  • For figuring out who you are

    Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley is set in 1959 Virginia. Two girls, one white and one black, who are on opposite sides of the civil rights movement, form an unlikely bond.

    This book takes a bold look at race and sexuality and encourages us all to be true to who we really are.


  • For social media disasters

    When I was writing my own novel, Asking For It, I decided that I wanted to explore issues of consent and rape culture and see how that would play out in the age of the smartphone.

    Inspired by events in the US, such as the Steubenville case and the Maryville case, Asking For It tells the story of a young Irish girl who is gang-raped and then publicly humiliated when photos of the attack are posted on social media.


  • For coping with grief

    Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan is a beautifully told but gut-wrenching read. Ces desperately wants to be a tattoo artist but she is young and poor and has been the victim of abuse and neglect her entire life.

    As she comes to term with what has happened to her and grieves for the childhood that she never had, the reader gets a sense that Ces is merely surviving and that her life is simply something that she must endure. A heart-breaking story.


  • For getting over heartbreak

    Noughts and Crosses, the series of dystopian novels by Malorie Blackman, centre around Sephy and Callum, a couple who falls in love despite the misgivings of their families and the society in which they live.

    When they are torn apart due to the prejudices of others, Sephy is left devastated and heartbroken. 


  • For a friendship fall out

    Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence is an exciting thriller set in Hackney that offers a fascinating exploration of gang culture and race issues in contemporary London. 

    However, my favourite aspect of the story is the relationship between Milo, the main character, and his next door neighbour, Tish, and how Lawrence depicts the gradual disintegration of their friendship. 


  • For handling stress

    The first two books in Catherine Doyle's mafia trilogy, Vendetta and Inferno, are so fast paced that you can barely catch your breath when reading them.

    From falling in love with the wrong boy to a father in jail (and with a staggering body count along the way), Sophie certainly has plenty of obstacles to overcome.