Fantasy Books For Young Adults

A Personal Look

During my childhood, my mother would buy good books for me that nurtured my drift toward fantasy, adventure, and sci-fi genres. As a writer, poet, and playwright, she strongly encouraged reading the classics. Her own tastes were eclectic, but she must have recognized a leaning in her daughter toward mythology and fantasy.

I Read Mostly British Fantasy Books

The first books I can remember were those written by the popular British children’s author, Enid Blyton. Her books were ubiquitous in my world, and she was the J.K. Rowling of her time. I started out with her “Noddy” series, a wooden toy elf, and his friend Big Ears, the dwarf. Now, I can see Enid Blyton as a product of her time and generation: the “stiff upper lip” white British middle class, but she was what we had during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. Her books invoked a sense of familiarity and coziness, and the young adult characters had unparalleled freedom to do what they wanted and to go wherever they wanted. That was intoxicating to the freedom-loving child I was!

Now, in the 21st century, we have so many more authors and books to choose from that it becomes mind-boggling. J.K. Rowling knocks Enid Blyton out of the Quidditch Park in more ways than one, but I still retain nostalgia for Noddy. For those who do not wish to instill their children with 1950’s biases, there are other books that I have read and loved that I can recommend in my list of 10 best fantasy books for young adults. Starting the countdown from #10 to #1, with a short blurb about why the book or author appealed to me, and what, if any, I didn’t like about it. I will not include any book or author I have not read, so if I missed something you loved, it’s simply because it has not made it to my reading list yet.

10 Best Fantasy Books For Young Adults

  1. Brian Jaques’ Redwall

This one can be confusing with a plethora of characters throughout the series, but I found the first fantasy book, “Redwall,” less confusing than those that followed. Martin the Warrior is a likable character in a world where animals rule. I read this book as an adult, so not certain how a child would react to it, but I do try to remember that I would have enjoyed it at a much younger age too.

  1. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time

I also read Madeleine L’Engle later in life, but her stories are gripping, and her characters appealing. She also merges fantasy with science fiction in a seamless and enjoyable way. I recommend all of her books for young adults.

  1. George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin

I remember reading this book at a young age and found it enchanting! A successful and much-loved book of adventure from the Victorian era, it tells the story of Princess Irene during a time when princesses lived in towers, and goblins roamed the countryside. The sense of danger and mystery appealed to me and like all good books, it has a happy ending.

7. Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass

The Series is known as His Dark Materials. By the time Pullman had replaced The Golden Compass with His Dark Materials as the name of the trilogy, the US publisher had become so attached to the original title that it insisted on publishing the first book as The Golden Compass rather than as Northern Lights, the title used in Britain and Australia. Regardless of what the titles are, Pullman is a talented writer, and his character, Lyra, is unforgettable. This book is another must for any young adult.

  1. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

Another Victorian author, Lewis Carroll depicted a fantastical underworld of that time with great skill. It was a world where anything could happen, and where the laws of physics could be suspended, and the reader never knows what could happen next. This is a book that can stimulate the imagination and lead it down paths that break free from the mundane. I think every young adult should read this book of mystery and adventure at least once. I know I read it as a child so many times I lost count.

  1. J.K. Rowling, The Harry Potter Series

I am not pointing to only one of her books, but the series as a whole. I think there’s barely a fantasy-loving young adult who has not yet read the epic series so including it here seems almost superfluous. For me to say your child will love it is not even necessary. I loved it as an adult, and I am sure this author and the series as a whole is a shoo-in!

  1. Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows

A perfect fantasy starter, the Wind in the Willows follows the adventures of Mr. Toad, Ratty, Badger, and Mole. I did read this series as a child and remember vividly how captured and enthralled I was by these characters. First published in 1908, it reflects the attitudes of British society at that time. Mr. Toad has the personality and character of someone who could be viewed as offensive and entitled, but I found him endearing, nevertheless. It’s a thin line to walk between those two extremes in the main character, but Grahame carried it off superbly.

  1. Christopher Paolini’s Eragon

Again, another fantasy author I discovered much later in life. Paolini wrote this book when he was 17. I am amazed and stand in awe of his talent. His character, Eragon, will appeal to any age, not only children. The dragon, Saphira, captured my heart so much that I wanted the series The Inheritance Cycle to go on forever. I can see why a movie was made from this epic series.

  1. Richard Adams’ Watership Down

A small group of rabbits fight for survival in an uncaring world. It may be too brutal for the very young. Even though I read it later in life, I found it a little too realistic for my sensibilities, but I plowed through those parts and was glad I did. The main character, Fiver, has a sixth sense and can tell when things are going to happen—not good things. This fantasy book is worth reading but caution is recommended for the easily triggered.

Drum roll…

1. Mary Norton’s The Borrowers

To say I loved this complete series, published in the 1950’s, is an understatement. I have read it over and over, both as a child and as an adult, and couldn’t get enough of the Clock family—Arrietty, Pod, and Homily. The Borrowers are tiny people who live in the walls and under the floor of normal-sized human homes. They “borrow” items from their unwitting hosts, hence the name “Borrowers.” These books, along with the setting and the characters, stayed with me all my life, making a profound impression upon me. How I longed to be a Borrower!

What Are Your Favorites?

If you have a memorable favorite or good fantasy book for young adults, please feel free to share it here in the comments! I know my selection is only based upon my own personal tastes and what I’ve read. Yours may be completely different, and that will only add another perspective to this wonderful genre.

If you’re in the mood for something new be sure to check out my own fantasy series for young adults  The Ialana Series. You can follow the journey of six powerful souls as they take on a great quest in search of a powerful healing crystal. Learn more about what makes the six so unique and if they can accomplish their mission here.

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