Fantasy fiction is one of the most immersive literary genres. People of all ages enjoy the genre.
Many of us have grown up with our favorite fantasy series in our teen and young adult years and still love those characters, settings, and authors to this day. Such is the power of a great fantasy book.
The world of fantasy novels is fantastical, full of dark magic and wizardry, corrupt authority, and fan-favorite underdogs – leaving a lasting impact on those who enter.
This article lists some of the best young adult and teen fantasy books, including the Harry Potter series, The Lord of The Rings series, and more!
Best fantasy books for teens and young adult (YA) fantasy novels
If you’re a teenager or young adult looking for a new fantasy book series or a parent looking for a new favorite book for your teen, read on for some of the highly-recommended works.
The Hunger Games Trilogy
You may have seen and loved the movie adaptations of the Hunger Games, but the books offer an even more immersive experience. So, even if you’ve already seen the movies, the books are still worth a read.
In the trilogy, we meet Katniss Everdeen, our young heroine who takes her younger sister’s place as ‘tribute’ and enters a fight to the death on behalf of her district.
Katniss’ district is one of twelve in Panem, and two tributes from each district are chosen to enter the games, where 24 contestants (two from each district) must use a selection of weapons and their environment to fight and survive.
Katniss enters the games with another young man from her district. Soon, the two become deeply involved in a rebellion against the Capitol, the authority above the competition.
The series is highly-recommended reading material for teenage girls and young women because of the strong character of Katniss.
The books in the trilogy includes:
- The Hunger Games
- Catching Fire
“One more time? For the audience?” he says. His voice isn’t angry. It’s hollow, which is worse. Already the boy with the bread is slipping away from me. I take his hand, holding on tightly, preparing for the cameras, and dreading the moment when I will finally have to let go.”
The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling
J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series is undoubtedly one of the most popular and impactful fantasy book series ever published.
There are seven books and eight films, and each one has enjoyed incredible success.
Harry Potter begins in the world we know, where we meet the young Harry Potter, an eleven-year-old orphan who lives in a small box room under the stairs in his aunt and uncle’s house.
On his eleventh birthday, Harry discovered that his parents were no ordinary parents – they were loved and respected wizards.
He also learns that he’s no ordinary boy – he has powerful magical powers worthy of acceptance into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a boarding school of magic.
The series begins relatively light, but as the young characters Harry, Ron, and Hermione age and learn to use their powerful magic at the boarding school, themes and intensity shift and become darker, scarier, more challenging, and more epic.
The books in the series include:
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)
The entire series is far too expansive to summarize book by book, but let it be said that reading them is an unforgettable experience.
Even if you’ve already seen all the movies, the books can offer a more immersive and detailed experience of the characters and settings.
“One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours’ time by Mrs. Dursley’s scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousin Dudley… He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: “To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!”
The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyers
Isabella ‘Bella’ Swan is a teenage girl attending Forks High School, Washington. There she meets a handsome young man named Edward Cullen.
Bella soon learns that Edward is no ordinary student. Edward and the Cullens are vampires, and Edward himself is already over one hundred years old.
He was born in 1901 and saved from illness by Dr. Carlisle Cullen, who turned him into a vampire and kept him at the perpetual age of 17.
The Twilight Saga contains four books and is some of this century’s most popular young adult fantasy books. The series was first adapted for the big screen in 2008 and was a box office hit.
The Twilight series is also classified as a romance because of the relationship between the characters Edward and Bella as well as the love triangle with Jacob, a werewolf in human form.
The four books in the series are:
- Twilight (2005)
- New Moon (2006)
- Eclipse (2007)
- Breaking Dawn (2008)
“About three things I was absolutely positive about. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him-and I didn’t know how potent that part might be that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.”
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
If you’re a fan of fairy tales, you will love Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs’ debut fantasy novel.
The book, which was first published in 2011 and was adapted for the screen in 2016 appeals to younger teens.
In this story, we follow protagonist Jacob Portman, a young man who, as a boy, was fascinated by his grandfather’s stories of escaping Nazi persecution and finding refuge from actual monsters in a small home in Wales for what he calls ‘peculiar children.’
Jacob believed his grandfather’s stories as a child, but as he grew older, he outgrew that belief.
When his grandfather dies, Jacob witnesses one of these monsters lurking.
In a therapy session after his grandfather’s death, Jacob’s therapist advises him to travel to Cairnholm, Wales, and investigate the nature of this house, Miss Peregrine, the children, and the monsters his grandfather told him about.
“To have endured horrors, to have seen the worst of humanity and have your life made unrecognizable by it, to come out of all that honorable and brave— that was magical.”Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
The Lord of The Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
No list of the best fantasy books for teens, young adults, and everyone else would compete with JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Also considered as a medieval fantasy work, The Lord of the Rings trilogy features a cacophony of fantastic characters. From the powerful wizard to Gandalf to the brutal orcs to Frodo Baggins, the hapless hobbit protagonist who ventures beyond the Shire, where he has lived his entire life, to go on a life-changing adventure, the characters of Tolkien’s epic fantasy trilogy are unforgettable.
The three books in the trilogy are:
- The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)
- The Two Towers (1955)
- Return of the King (1955)
In the first book, we meet Bilbo Baggins, Frodo’s uncle.
Bilbo has in his possession the One Ring, an immense source of power that quickly corrupts the bearer’s mind. The Ring was forged by the Dark Lord Sauron, who seeks its return.
Anyone who bears the Ring is granted the power of invisibility. The problem is the Ring grants invisibility from all but one – Sauron, its creator. Further, the Ring dominates the bearer, driving them mad and making them aggressively possessive of it.
Bilbo understands the power of rings and tasks Frodo with destroying it once and for all. Frodo must venture to Mordor and throw the Ring into Sauron’s fire.
Frodo, a mere hobbit, is joined on his life-changing adventure by a team of elves, dwarves, rangers, and the wizard Gandalf.
“I wish it didn’t happen in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Sabriel by Garth Nix
Garth Nix is one of the most beloved young adult fantasy writers. Sabriel is Nix’s debut fantasy novel and one of his most famous.
The story follows a young girl named Sabriel.
Sabriel’s father, Abhorsen, after whom the third book in the series is named, is a necromancer – someone with the power to communicate with the dead.
When her father goes missing, Sabriel, though young, knows that she’s supposed to venture into the Old Kingdom and find him.
Sabriel is a story about sacrifice, self-knowledge, and bravery.
Published in 1995 and featuring a strong central female character, essential themes for young adults and younger teens, and genuinely immersive and high-quality fantasy writing, Sabriel stood out at the time of publication and is still held in high esteem among lovers of the genre.
Sabriel is the first of four books in Nix’s The Old Kingdom Series. The books, in order, include:
- Sabriel (1995)
- Lirael (2001)
- Abhorsen (2003)
- Clariel (2004)
“Five Great Charters knit the land
Together linked, hand in hand
One of the people who wear the crown
Two in the folk who keep the Dead down
Three and Five became stone and mortar
Four sees all in frozen water.”
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is a coming-of-age fantasy series that sparked controversy with its first book Northern Lights (known as The Golden Compass in the US.)
The controversy stemmed from Pullman’s conveyance of religion, in particular Christianity.
There are no direct references to Christianity as the authoritative religion in the series, but the black robes of the priests of the Magisterium and their solemnity have lead people to believe he is referencing the Christian Church.
Pullman denies that the Magisterium is a direct reference to the Christian Church but admits that his outlook on the Magisterium is a statement about organized religion in general.
There are three books in the series:
- Northern Lights (1995)
- The Subtle Knife (1997)
- The Amber Spyglass (2000)
His Dark Materials follows a young girl named Lyra Belacqua. Set in an alternate Earth, Lyra lives in this alternate world’s Oxford University among scholars and other children.
The alternate Earth’s inhabitants live under the Magisterium’s authority, a religious order.
Each person also has a daemon, a shape-shifting animal companion that takes its final form when a person becomes an adult.
Lyra has a unique destiny that she doesn’t know about.
Throughout the books, Lyra learns more and more about her destiny and past and is joined by another young hero named Will, who comes from the original Earth we live in.
“Seems to me-” Lee said, feeling for the words, “seems to be the place you fight cruelty is where you find it, and the place you give help is where you see it needed…”
His Dark Materials is an award-winning masterpiece published by Penguin Random House. Incidentally, Penguin Random House also has a Reader Rewards program that allows members to some special perks such as free books for a qualifying book purchase.
More free books for young and old readers alike.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch is the story of a twelve-year-old girl, Sunny, a daughter of Nigerian parents in the US.
Sunny soon learns that she’s a free agent, a person with powerful magic not inherited from her parents.
Sunny also experiences bullying in school due to her albinism, encouraging her to follow her own path even further.
Sunny joins three other young free agents, all of whom study with the Leopard Society, a training school for free agents, where they learn to control and master their magical abilities. Will their training and abilities be enough to stop the Black Hat Killer?
“Lambs think money and material things are the most important thing in the world. You can cheat, lie, steal, kill, and be dumb as a rock, but if you can brag about money and having lots of things and your bragging is true, that bypasses everything. Money and material things make you king or queen of the Lamb world. You can do no wrong, you can do anything.”
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Christopher Paolini’s Eragon follows the story of Eragon, a poor farm boy who finds a mysterious blue stone while walking in the mountains. The unassuming Eragon soon discovers that his fate is far greater than he could have expected.
The mysterious blue stone turns out to be a dragon egg, and from it soon hatches the young dragon Saphira. As Saphira grows, Eragon discovers his telepathic connection with her, which soon leads him to his new path as a Dragon Rider.
“I’ll fight when needed, revel when there’s an occasion, mourn when there is grief, and die if my time comes…But I will not let anyone use me against my will.”
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Leia comes from a poor family and gets by each day, taking on her daily responsibilities.
Leia and her family live under the Martial Empire, a 500-year-old empire lacking individual freedom, and those who resist the Empire’s rule face punishment and death.
When the Empire kidnaps Leia’s brother, she can no longer keep her head down. She seeks her brother by going undercover to infiltrate the Empire’s most outstanding military academy, Blackcliff.
An Ember in the Ashes is an exciting, immersive, and unforgettable tale of underdog vs. authority, unexpected friendships, and oppression.
“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. Such moments are tests of courage, of strength.”
Are you a fan of dark fairy tales when you were younger? Are you a new fantasy reader looking for your first YA book? Perhaps you’re an avid reader looking for even more of your fantasy supply, or you’re looking for the perfect gift for your fantasy-loving best friend, the list above is for you.
You may already be familiar with some of the more prominent titles above, such as JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but it’s worth checking out the other books on the list, too.
All have been praised as high-quality examples of the fantasy genre and will most likely remain that way in years to come.