With the recent spotlight on book banning, it is hard to wade through the media hype and find quality literature.  Sensationalism aside, what makes for a good book?  And in this information age, where we can read about things beyond our wildest imaginations, how do we navigate a glutted industry (nearly 4 million new book titles come out every year if you include indie authors) and give our kids reading material that appeals to their interest but remains appropriate?  As a teacher and a mom, I struggled with this quite a bit.  I believe that teen books should teach ideals.  They should show a world where goodness and morality prevail.  Not pedantically, but through real characters with real struggles, whose ideals are tested, and who remain true to themselves despite the environment telling them otherwise.  To me, this makes a really good story.

My students felt the same way.  The way I ran Middle and High School reading was simple: I provided full bookshelves, and they chose the books that most interested them.  Throughout ten years of teaching, I saw hundreds of books read, I pored over their essays, we discussed them in seminars, and I found that most students were moved by the same things: heroes with morals and integrity being tested (even if they didn’t start that way); boys and girls they could both relate to and look up to for the tough decisions they had to make.  While most of the time they just thought they were reading a good story, I saw them start to ask big questions and have deep conversations and look at the world differently as a result.  I learned not to underestimate the power of good fiction.

So instead of focusing on who is banning inappropriate books and why, I’d like to suggest what IS good literature for kids.  This is the first in a series of book recommendations for young adults.  Whether you homeschool, you’re a teacher, you’re a parent looking to nurture a love of reading in your child, or a teen simply looking for some reading ideas, stay tuned for my top Young Adult book recommendations.

I’ll leave you with my number one favorite YA book of all time: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.


Top Young Adult Book D.N. Moore


For ages: 13 and up (I read it when I was 35)

Themes of love, poverty and coming-of-age around the year 1912


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of Francie Nolan, an idealistic young girl living in the slums of Brooklyn in the year 1912.  Despite her family’s extreme poverty, Francie finds beauty in the most unexpected places.  Neither her father’s alcoholism, her mother’s harshness, her aunt’s wildness, or societal conditions will shake her from her overarching drive to be happy.  Although it isn’t a heart-racing, action-packed book (so not everyone’s cup of tea), it is one of the richest, most well-written stories of strength against adversity, and it will linger in your mind long after you turn the last page.

I loved this book so much that I named one of my cats after it.  Meet Brooklyn:



If you do read it, I would love to know what you think.  Send me an email or comment below.

Happy reading!