Here are some of my favorite novels.
The China Garden by Liz Berry - When Clare goes with her mother to an English estate with dark secrets, she begins an unexpected journey. The ensuing story spins itself into many layers, featuring mystery, fantasy, and romance, all centered around an ancient family feud of which Clare is unwittingly a part. This novel is very rich in detail with a lot of historical and mythological references, so it is not for the faint of heart. For those who like deep stories with realistic romance, this is an outstanding read.
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - Taylor finds herself the leader of her boarding school's Underground Community, whose mission is to battle their counterparts at an all-male Cadet encampment and the public high school. For two decades the three factions have waged a game of negotiation, pranks, and sometimes physical violence for control of paths, places, and facilities. One problem: Taylor might have a crush on the leader of the Cadets. The author weaves in a back story about how the whole war started, and how Taylor is unwittingly tied to it.
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman - In an alternate reality England, white-skinned people, called Noughts, are an underclass minority oppressed by a dark-skinned majority descended of Africans, called Crosses. Nought teenager Callum falls for Sephy, the daughter of a politically powerful Cross. As their romance grows, so does their safety in a society that does not tolerate racial mixing. When Callum's family is implicated in a terrorist act, the lovestruck teens face difficult choices. Regardless of your heritage, this story will lend you a new perspective on race and what it means to be human.
The Shore of Monsters by David Nix - Five generations earlier, a horde of monsters nearly obliterated humanity. All males are dead or ruined by a monster plague; words like 'father' and 'romance' have lost meaning. When teenager Sky joins an expedition to the shore that falls apart, she must survive amongst the monsters that roam the ruins. She gets unexpected help from a very surprising source. Mystery, action, and romance follow.
The Fault in our Stars by John Green - Follows a pair of teen cancer patients coping with the challenge of terminal illness in a world that doesn't understand mortality. Sounds morbid, but the novel is uplifting, witty, and endearing. You will come to love the characters, cry for their pain, and cheer for their bravery. This is an instant classic.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - A child wanders into a graveyard after his parents' murder, where a kindly family of ghosts raise him. Under protection of the graveyard and the watchful eye of Silas, who might be a member of the undead, the boy thrives. His circumstance exposes him to a world of death, ghouls, witches, and monsters, all of which he takes in stride. When his blissful existence is threatened by the return of his parents' murderers, the boy must use his unique knowledge to survive.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - With one of the most unforgettable opening lines of any book, 14 year old Susie Salmon tells the story from heaven of her murder by a psychopath and the devastating consequences it has on her family. Although a grim subject, the story is ultimately one of faith, redemption, and the power of a father's love. The characters are compelling, and the emotion is palpable throughout. Much more uplifting than you might think.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Remarkable story as told by Death, about the young girl Liesel's life through the World War II years. Her family dead or missing, Liesel lives with foster parents in Germany. Stealing books and food provides Liesel an escape from her grim reality, but also leads her to many friendships. Death's narrative adopts a darkly humorous manner that keeps the reader spellbound. The last line of the book is fantastic, but don't peek.