I don’t remember when I discovered John Green. It was after he’d published most his early books, though, so I was able to devour them without waiting in line at the library. Quirky yet often relatable teens on emotional, epic quests were mine for the taking. Or the reading, as it were. I loved each one, from Looking for Alaska to The Fault in Our Stars. But then, radio silence from our pal John Green.
Well, not technically. I suppose we all heard from him in the form of movies and podcasts and conventions and GOOD GRIEF THIS GUY HAS BEEN BUSY. I suppose it’s understandable that it took him a few years to produce another novel for us. Turtles All the Way Down, Green’s sixth full-length novel, was a long time coming and much-awaited by readers like me (readers like us, if you’re a fan of contemporary YA, too).
And yet I still haven’t read it.
I know many of you probably pre-ordered it and read it the week it was released. Others might still be waiting on a long list of reservations at the library. (Or, if you’re like me, you specifically re-upped your Book of the Month subscription JUST for the free copy of this book!) But whether you already finished the book or are yet to begin, you might find yourself itching for a good, contemporary YA read to fill the gap.
If you aren’t familiar with John Green, he writes contemporary young adult books. The main character is usually a teenage boy who’s a little different from his peers in some way. The stories are clever and funny, but they also have emotional weight. They deal with real and serious issues, with realistic dialogue (and perhaps less than realistic adventures). I wouldn’t call them lighthearted, but they are moving.
So, in that vein, I’ve put together a list of books that might fill your John Green book-sized hole. They are serious but enjoyable, moving, and realistic contemporary YA novels. And they should keep you busy for a while (if not until Green publishes his next book!).
Books to Read if You Love John Green Books
- Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay – Like many of these books, this one is about two teens who’ve endured tragedy connecting. Romantically. [Insert wagging eyebrows here.] [Because I’m mature like that.] But this is, by far, one of the best in the genre. I loved it.
- Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch – I’ve read a handful of books this year about teens traveling through Europe to fulfill someone’s dying wish. This one involves a summer in Italy, an old journal, a missing father, and a handsome Italian boy.
- 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson – This is similar to Love and Gelato, but I didn’t like it as much. The main character receives letters from her aunt, after her aunt passes away, and they lead her on a trip across Europe.
- Beautiful Chaos by Alex Tully – I think Kindle recommended this one to me, and I got it on a whim – and then really liked it! The son of a bookie misplaces an envelope of money and falls for a girl in the process of tracking it down. (Note: This author also has another book, but I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t even finish it, actually, a decision I do not regret after reading several synopses and reviews.)
- Something Real by Heather Demetrios – Chloe grew up in a family that starred in a reality show, and she’s over it. Imagine getting the back story of one of the kids in Jon and Kate Plus Eight. This is that story, and I thought it was fantastic.
- Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella – The main character suffers from anxiety, and it’s affected her whole family. When she meets one of her brother’s friends, though, she starts to heal and grow. I wanted to love this one more than I did.
- Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw – This book is bit closer to the light side of contemporary YA, but I think the temptation of losing ourselves in online worlds is grave enough that it qualifies as a “serious issue.” Scarlett writes fan fiction and enjoys popularity online, but she struggles in real life. When her worlds begin shifting and eventually collide, things begin to change.
- Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes – If you were in a car accident that killed your dad and brother, while you walked away without a scratch, you might start believing you were cursed. The main character in this book definitely believes that – until she meets a cute tennis player who might be able to convince her the world is not actually out to get her.
- Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer – I have this one on my Kindle, waiting for me, right now! A girl whose mom has died and what I’m assuming is a bad boy with a heart of gold exchange letters anonymously. I’m looking forward to reading this one.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Have you heard of this one? Everyone’s been talking about it (but I haven’t read it yet). A girl who lives in a poor neighborhood but attends a ritzy private school watches her [unarmed] best friend get shot by a police officer. Reviews promise this isn’t preachy or just “ripped from the headlines” sensationalism, and that it’s a must-read. It’s on the top of my list.
Authors to Read if You Love John Green Books
- Nicola Yoon has written two excellent books. Both Everything, Everything andThe Sun is Also a Star take complicated situations and make them real and human and moving. I loved the characters in both books and can’t wait to see what Yoon writes next.
- Katie McGarry writes YA books that are a bit more gritty than the others on this list. Drugs, gangs, gambling, violence all show up, along with dialogue that feels real and characters who make you care about them, even when you hate what they’re doing. I really liked her Pushing the Limits series (volume 1 is 3 books and a novella, volume 2 is 3 books). Her Thunder Road series was harder for me. It’s three books about the teens related to a motorcycle club.
- Erica Cope and Autumn Doughton have written several books together. I’ve read two: The Bright Effect and Chasing Polaris. And I loved them both. The stories both got way heavier than I anticipated (so consider yourself warned), but I kind of liked that gravity (as well as the characters and the storylines). Chasing Polaris (like Beautiful Chaos and Love & Gelato that I mentioned above) is similar to John Green books in that it involves two people working together to solve a problem in a short time. I’m not saying they’re all epic quests. But the characters might feel that way.
- Jennifer L. Armentrout is a prolific author, and I’m only a teensy bit embarrassed to admit I’ve read her entire series about teenage aliens invading Earth. (Sigh. I KNOW.) Recently, she wrote The Problem with Forever, but I didn’t love it. It’s about two teens who were in an abusive foster family together and are reunited years later. It was weird for me, but I’m more hopeful for If There’s No Tomorrow, which is about “one choice that destroys everything.” The description is pretty vague, but I’ll give it a try when my library gets a copy.
Are you a John Green fan? What’s your favorite contemporary YA book?
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