YA contemporary books bring in a realistic approach to action, regardless of the type of the book. It could be a drama or perhaps a thriller. Apart from the high levels of realism, the reader should also expect some magic or fantasy elements. Some believe the young adult contemporary genre should feature a teenage protagonist, but this is only a misconception. Essentially, these books are aimed at teenagers and young adults, but the characters can vary. As for the course of action, it can go in multiple directions. Now, what are the best young adult contemporary books, and what should you expect?

The Misfits of Lima, by Benjamin Rosenberg

Benjamin is not the most popular guy out there. He reads a lot and likes hero movies – the type where a bad boy gets the girl. He likes watching these charming and cool men get whatever they want. He wants to be like that, but he is far from it. He often finds himself in awkward situations. One day, he creates a mess, and his father drives back home to deal with it – unfortunately, he ends up dead before even getting back home.

Benjamin goes through a mental breakdown and even attempts to kill himself. His mother decides the family needs something new to get over this obstacle. They pack everything up, and they move to her childhood town. They end up in Lima, a small town with an overwhelming history and not too many future prospects. Benjamin is tied to this town by lineage, but he is still trying to establish an actual connection with it.

Things change when he meets Theo – similar from many points of view, but totally different. Theo is charming and a bit reckless. Inevitably, Benjamin is attracted to his style, and the two end up in a team. Theo has dreams, and Benjamin joins in to help him achieve them. They end up causing a lot of trouble and engaging into all kinds of illegal activities. Will they cause a disaster or can they actually pull it out and succeed?

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

The action took place in 1939. The place? Nazi Germany. It smells like death all around. The country is ready to take the world over. However, no one really knows what is about to happen. There is tension, and death is just around the corner. People in the country are holding their breath. They could succeed, or they could be ruined. One thing is for sure, though – there will be many casualties, no matter what happens in the end.

Liesel's life is not the best. She has suffered before, and she has no future. Her brother has passed away. She keeps visiting the grave every once in a while. One day, she sits next to the grave and sees something in the snow – something that might actually change her life. She picks it up, only to realize that it is the Gravedigger's Handbook. It was not left there with a purpose, but by accident. This is how she becomes the book thief.

This is the first book she actually steals. She goes through it, and she falls in love with words and stories. She finds her inner passion, and she discovers a new life through books. Every book she goes through gives her a different feeling. She is helped by her foster father and discovers the art of reading. Before she even realizes it, she ends up stealing books from Nazi book burning sessions, the mayor's library, and pretty much any other place that could have books. But then, her family hides a Jew, and her entire life changes.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Starr Carter is 16 years old and lives between two different worlds. On one side, she lives in a poor neighborhood where poverty is everywhere. On the other side, she attends a school in a posh suburban area. She hangs around the rich, only to come back home around the poor. She ends up in shock when she sees her best friend Khalil killed by a police officer. Khalil was unnamed, making the situation even worse. This is when she realizes the dangers she is exposed to when it comes to where she lives.

Her friend's death makes it to the news, and media from all over the country gains interest in the case. Some people are referring to him as just another thug who got killed – perhaps a drug dealer or a gangster. Some other people find his death unacceptable, so they gather around and protest in his name. Then, Starr's family gets intimidated by both drug dealers and the police. At the end of the day, she is the only witness.

The police want to know more about it, so they intimidate her. Drug lords want to hide their traces, so they also need to know what happened. What did Starr see that night? She is the only person who can answer everyone's questions. She has to analyze her situation very carefully. If she talks, she might offend some groups of people. If she keeps quiet, she will upset others. Therefore, she has to make a good decision in order to stay alive. It is worth noting that the book is inspired from the Black Lives Matter movement and protests.

The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye is one of the best YA contemporary books out there and a classic. Initially published in 1951, the book has been released on a regular basis in newer editions, but the story is unchanged. It has gained a series of awards and has been constantly included among the best English language novels out there due to its powerful message and great details. It has also been challenged in court a few times due to its daring message for those times.

The main character is also the narrator of the story. Native to New York City, Holden Caulfield is only 16 years old. A series of circumstances force him to leave the prep school in Pennsylvania, only to end up underground in New York City. He takes this adventure for three days only. The boy experiences a series of thoughts and ideas over these three days. He is simple at times, but extremely complex and complicated too. He is different from kids of his age.

This novel brings in a series of voices, and the book goes through a few different stages. Apart from the narrator hero, you will also experience different voices. His voice stands out in the crowd, though. Bottom line, this is a book of both pleasure and pain. It brings in sexuality, as well as rebellious adventures. It was a challenge for the 1950s, but it is just as intriguing today. Just like every other artist, the deepest pain is hidden inside the hero's heart.

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Published in 2012, John Green's novel is among the top-rated YA contemporary books out there and has gained an impressive reputation within the first year on the market. It has been widely praised by publications from all over the world. It is insightful and bold, but also raw and harsh. It will mix your emotions and make you float from sadness and anger to happiness and joy. It can be funny, but it can also be heartbreaking from other points of view.

All in all, this book follows Hazel’s story. Hazel has never been too positive about life, as she has always had to struggle. She has always been terminal – she has always been on her final chapter. However, a medical miracle makes her tumor shrink, meaning she has a few extra years of life to enjoy. It is a miracle, but her past years have brought in so much sadness that she does not know whether she should be happy about it or not.

Then, the plot twist kicks in. Augustus Waters kicks in, and he joins the Cancer Kid Support Group. He is perfect from every point of view. This is when Hazel's story changes to 180 degrees. The story is sad, but it suddenly becomes positive. It is funny at times, as well as thrilling. It is a mix of love and death. It shows the joy of being alive and exploring love, but it also brings in the sadness associated with a terminal disease. It is definitely a must-read on your YA contemporary list.

On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas

This is one of the top young adult contemporary books if you love a bit of action and music. Angie Thomas has tried to bring a tribute to hip hop with this book, and she has done an incredibly good job. She has put her passion in this book, while the amazing storytelling keeps inspiring people today. It could be a motivational book as well, as it evokes the necessity of fighting for what you believe in or your dreams, even if no one really believes in you.

The story goes down to Bri. She is only 16 years old and wants to become one of the most famous rappers in the world. She knows all odds are against her, but she wants to be who she really is, rather than who everyone expects her to be. She comes from a poor black family – the working class that struggles to put food on the table. She knows she does not have too many opportunities, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to be on top.

Bri knows that if she cannot become a famous rapper, she will at least get out of that neighborhood. Her father used to be a local underground legend, but he passed away before his outbreak. Bri has some shoes to fill. However, her mother loses her job out of nowhere. Relying on food banks and facing notices and bills, Bri is no longer trying to make it for herself – instead, she has to make it. She has to avoid homelessness for herself and her mother.

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

Cath loves Simon Snow. She is the biggest fan out there. Simon Snow is part of her life and her whole world. She knows everything, and she is good at it. She has a twin – Wren. For them, the Simon Snow series helped them throughout their childhood. Their mother left when they were young, so the series helped them forget about it and stop thinking about it. They learned to overcome this obstacle with a smile on their faces, so they are tied to the show.

Wren has grown away from Simon Snow, but Cath cannot leave it behind. She hangs around forums and discussion boards, writes fan fiction, and has a whole wardrobe full of costumes. She dresses up whenever there is a movie premiere. All in all, time flies, and the two must go to college. Wren tells Cath that she no longer wants to be her roommate, and this is when Cath ends up being on her own – out of her comfort zone too.

People around her are all different. Her roommate has a boyfriend who is always there. Her professor thinks fan fiction is not civilized. One of her classmates is incredibly handsome, but he is obsessed with words. Meanwhile, she worries about her father, who is left behind. Challenges hit Cath one after another. Can she go through this venture without Wren by her side? Or better said, does she even want to do this and leave Simon Snow behind? There is only one way to find out…

Eliza and Her Monsters, by Francesca Zappia

Eliza Mirk's real life is ordinary. She does not have too many friends because most people would call her weird. She is also a bit shy, so she does not socialize too much. However, her life over the Internet is completely different. She is known as LadyConstellation, and she is the name behind Monstrous Sea – a popular webcomic that everyone appreciates. She is widely acclaimed, and her story has fans all over the world.

Now, Eliza's real life is not too enticing, and she is truly into her online life. She does not even want to try to experience real-life – she has no desire at all. She has a fan fiction writer too – Wallace Warland. One day, he transfers to her school. He has no idea she is the famous LadyConstellation. Instead, he believes she is just a random fan. He slowly takes her out of her shell – at some point, she even asks herself if a life offline would be worth it.

However, one day, everything falls apart. Eliza's identity is revealed. She is then shared with the entire world. It is only an accident, but it ruins everything she has built so far. Her story ends up suffering. Her relationship with Wallace starts crumbling. Even her sanity feels different. Will she manage to put all these pieces together and enjoy the real-life she deserves? Or will she hide even deeper in her thoughts and feelings while trying to fade away?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

This is one of the most twisting young adult contemporary books if you are after a haunting story based on the fight between passion and passivity. It could be motivational, but it could also be harsh and funny at times. It is a provocative story that will change your perspective over what life looks like during one’s teenage years. All in all, the story is about growing up in high school and follows Charlie’s adventures.

Charlie loves writing letters. His words are unique. His expressions stand out in the crowd. Some of these letters are devastating, while others are extremely funny. These letters are more private than an actual diary. However, no one knows who he is actually writing to. The reader cannot tell where he lives, who he is, or other details about him. Instead, all you gain access to is a world that Charlie wants to share through his letters.

The young teenager is caught between enjoying his life and dealing with teenage challenges. He discovers sex and drugs, but he also talks about his newest friends, family issues, and first dates. The author has managed to create a character who no one knows anything about. You see life through a high school teenager's eyes, and you experience all the feelings he goes through. It could be a bit nostalgic at times, but it is also interesting.


Bottom line, these are some of the most appealing YA contemporary books you can enjoy. The list can definitely go further than this, but the above-mentioned titles will give you different types of action from more directions – totally worth your time. Explore life through some young teenagers’ eyes, whether you are a teenager yourself or you want to live your incredible teenage years again.​ If you are looking for slightly different genre check out our “Teen & Young Adult Memoirs” list.

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