To make you think...

Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty

First published in 1991, this Carnegie-winning novel is the story of two teenagers from Sheffield, an unplanned pregnancy and the ripple effects it causes for them and their families. It alternates between the voice of Chris – the father, reflecting back on the events – and letters from Helen – the mother, during her pregnancy to her unborn baby. Still one of the most intense, realistic books about falling in love as a teenager.

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

This novella from iconic American author John Steinbeck was first released in a magazine in 1933. It follows ten-year-old Jody who lives with his father on their ranch. When his dad brings home a small (red) pony, Jody has to learn to take care of it, as well as learning about the responsibility that comes with it. It’s a heart-wrenching story of growing up and sacrifice

Buddy by Nigel Hinton

Written and set in the 1980s this moving contemporary story looks at family, racism and finding your place in the world. The first in what ended up being a trilogy, it follows Buddy who has to try to build a relationship with his useless father after his mum walks out. But as he gets to know his dad, Buddy realizes that he’s involved in something serious. It’s particularly clever because of the way Hinton sets all of the action in the house they live in.

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Love stories...

The Twelfth Day of July by Joan Lingard

The first in Lingard’s Kevin and Sadie series which has sold over a million copies since it was published in the 1970s. It is set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and follows Sadie, a Protestant, and Kevin, a Catholic, on the unsettled and violent streets of Belfast. What starts as a dare escalates into something much more dangerous as romance blossoms between them. 

Across the Barricades by Joan Lingard

Across the Barricades picks up Kevin and Sadie’s story three years later and looks at how their relationship developed despite their families’ disapproval. The series ended up stretching to five books, including a move to England and even a secret marriage. The series picked up both rave reviews and controversy when it was first released and is now known as an iconic story of love against a backdrop of conflict.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Dodie Smith’s beloved story crops up on many people’s lists of all-time favourites so it was destined to be included in the series. Smith (who also wrote 101 Dalmatians) dreamed up witty, lovable heroine Cassandra while living in California during the Second World War. Cassandra dreams of romance while living in a falling-down castle surrounded by her eccentric family; it’s the quintessential coming-of-age book.

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War Stories...

Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers

Aidan Chambers’ Carnegie-winning novel is set in Amsterdam in both 1994 and 1944. The 1994 timelines sees seventeen-year-old Jacob find out about his grandfather and the battle he fought in, while in 1944 nineteen-year-old Geertui is enduring the German occupation of the Netherlands. It’s part of Chambers’ ambitious Dance Sequence of six novels exploring big themes of war, love and growing up. 

The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig

If you are looking for non-fiction then this autobiography is for you. This memoir is based on the author’s real-life experiences of being arrested with her family by Soviet troops in 1941. It’s a brutal but ultimately redemptive look at the realities of survival under the regime and a testament to the kindness of the people who lived in the village to which they moved that helped them overcome the harsh reality of their exile.

The Wave by Morton Rhue

Morton Rhue (also known as Todd Strasser) has written over 140 novels but arguably his most iconic is this story, inspired by a true event, about a Californian teacher trying to show the impact of propaganda under the Third Reich. When the experiment takes hold of the school in a way he could never have predicted, student Laurie tries to stand against it. A chilling look at crowd mentalities, power and fitting in. 

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Rebel stories...

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Greasers and the Socs are at war, divided by class and income, in Hinton’s story of violence, antiheroes and growing up. S.E. Hinton was fifteen years old when she started writing, and it was published when she was still only eighteen. This powerful story of two rival groups at war was also turned into an award-winning film starring Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise, cementing its place in popular culture. 

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

The second of Steinbeck’s titles on The Originals list, and another book that you can read in a few hours but that will stay with you for much longer. Inspired by a Mexican folk tale, and first published in 1947, it’s a parable-esque story of a pearl diver called Kino and explores ideas of greed, race and the nature of good and evil. 

No Turning Back by Beverley Naidoo

Naidoo grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, during the apartheid regime and her work is heavily influenced by her experiences there. Another Carnegie-winning title on The Originals list, this tells the story of black street kid Sipho and his struggle to survive in 1990s Johannesburg after escaping from his violent stepfather, and his tentative friendship with a white girl, Judy. 

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Survival Stories...

After the First Death by Robert Cormier

Although Cormier’s YA thriller was first released in 1979 it remains startlingly and chillingly relevant. When a group of terrorists hijack a summer camp bus, they threaten to kill one child for every death of a terrorist at the hands of the police. But Cormier shows that little in life is as simple as it seems by switching perspectives between a high-school student, the son of an anti-terrorist worker and one of the terrorists themselves. 

Stone Cold by Robert Swindells

If you’re after another Carnegie-winner, Stone Cold is next on our list. Another iconic suspense novel, this time following seventeen-year-old homeless boy Link. He thinks he find an ally and a friend in Deb, another homeless teenager, but when a serial killer starts targeting vulnerable children, Link finds out that everyone is keeping secrets. 

Z for Zachariah by Richard C. O'Brien

One of the first YA post-apocalyptic novels. In this future version of America, nuclear war has nearly destroyed the world and has left Ann living by herself for over a year until a scientist in a radiation suit arrives in her valley. Initially hoping for help, he turns out to have far more sinister aims and is the catalyst for Ann’s determination to find out what has happened to the rest of humanity. 

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