I start off this list with a little-known graphic novel that I discovered in the kids’ books section of a department store, believe it or not. It’s been one of my favorite (if not my favorite) graphic novels of all time ever since. The story revolves around a girl named Penelope and her adventures as a member of the art club at her new school… where her only friend is a member of the rival club. It’s a fairly quick read, beautifully drawn, emotive, and touches on a lot of issues people have in middle- and even high- school. Minimum age: about twelve.
6. The Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger
Told in case file-form with illustrations added by the unique yet hilarious artist Kellen, this series is too weirdly perfect to keep off this list. It’s aimed towards a broader age group than some of he others on this list, but in my opinion that kind of stuff shouldn’t matter as long as it’s a good story. The plot revolves around a strange kid named Dwight, his beloved finger puppet Yoda, and the effects they’ve both had on his fellow students. Above all, the main message of the story is that sometimes being a little weird is okay- helpful, even. Minimum age: nine or ten.
5. Survivors by Erin Hunter
While not nearly as well known as the fairly popular Warriors series, this dog-oriented counterpart has a flavor of its own, centering on a stray dog named Lucky and how his life changes after an enormous earthquake evacuates the city he calls home. It’s a “survival of the fittest” situation, and Lucky shows his true character when he teams up with a group of abandoned leashed dogs to find a new life together. At its core, the Survivors books are about dynamic and strong characters, and how they react when they’re forced to rely on each other. Minimum age: ten to eleven.
4. Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
One of the more adult choices on this list, Aftermath is the gripping tale of an entire galaxy dealing with the aftermath of a major turning point in a civil war. Within this galaxy is a mother scarred by her past, a son making his way in a war-torn society, a bounty hunter often sidetracked by her own moral compass, and a former imperial officer searching for purpose. These four are shoved together and pitted against one of my favorite antagonists of all time- cold and calculating Admiral Rae Sloane. Minimum age: thirteen.
3. Tales of the Frog Princess by E. D. Baker
I’ve thought to myself on more than one occasion, “you’re too old to be reading this.” Still, I find myself drawn to this creative take on the Princess and the Frog story, later inspiring the Disney movie of that name. However, this series goes so far beyond the standard fairy tale- with frequent world-building, family curses, time travel, vampires, magic carpets, and a nation of dragons. It’s no surprise that with so many loveable characters, the books continued on to tell the story of the next generation of Greater Greensward royalty. Minimum age: nine.
2. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Taking place within the same town as the podcast of the same name, Welcome to Night Vale is just as amazingly strange as the podcast portrays it. While the calming voice of Cecil Palmer notably takes a backseat, his role is filled by a duo of working Night Vale women: Diane Crayton, a single mom with a shape-shifting teenage son, and Jackie Fierro, a pawnshop owner who’s been nineteen for as long as she can remember. The two ladies join forces, fighting librarians and spying on a nonexistent fly salesman as they struggle to unlock the mystery of a single piece of paper, reading “King City.” Minimum age: thirteen.
1. Percy Jackson and the Olympiansby Rick Riordan
I could’ve easily filled this list with the books within this universe. Rick Riordan is a master of storytelling to rival J.K. Rowling, and everything about his series is just captivating, from the characters to the creatures the places they go. I chose this series to recommend because it really is the gateway to the rest of the books. If you want, you can read what other crazy magical battles are going on in the overly action-packed life of Percy Jackson, or you could stop after book five and be perfectly satisfied with the ending. However, I strongly suggest reading on, as there are so many other mysteries to explore, and Percy finds himself tangled up in nearly every single one. Minimum age: ten.