10 Young Adult Fiction Books from Classic Literature

5 min read

Long before anyone had come up with the term ‘young adult’, books for that age group were a tenant of classic literature. Historically, the boundary between children’s books and adult literature was only loosely identified. The term young adult was developed to ease the transition between the two. 

Standing up to the test of time, many classic novels written for this age group are still excellent today. 

1) The Coral Island, R. M. Ballantyne (1857)

The Coral Island by R. M. Ballantyne

Sole survivors of a shipwreck, three boys become stranded on a coral reef with just a telescope and pocket knife between them. On the verge of manhood, they embark on the adventure of a lifetime in a tropical paradise overshadowed by cannibals and pirates. 

Ballantyne presents a tale of adventure, hardship and reward. Written during the peak of the British Empire, his book takes the reader on a journey through the Pacific Islands, exploring beautiful landscapes, exotic food and wonderful wildlife. 

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2) Murder in Mesopotamia, Agatha Christie (1936)

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie

Anyone who calls themselves a lover of classic literature will have come across Agatha Christie. While sometimes overlooked, Murder in Mesopotamia is a thrilling and often humorous tale that has readers hooked from the start.

Set in the exotic Iraqi desert during an archeological trip, the story calls upon Hercule Piorot to solve a mysterious murder. Packed with detail, Christie cleverly layers the plot to reach an exciting, though perhapshyperbolic, ending. 

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3) The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle (1927)

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

InThe Casebook, Doyle returns once more to the adventures of Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes. While not as famous as his other works and often overlooked by readers, these collected tales offer fresh twists and turns. 

Nature versus man, hatred against love, cowardice over bravery. Doyle plays with contrasts to present thrilling escapades filled with puzzles and mysterious twists. His stories are mildly reminiscent of his other works but carry their own unique style and sense of adventure. 

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4) The Snow Goose: A Story of Dunkirk, Paul Gallico (1940)

The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico

The Snow Goose is a simple but heart-warming story set against the backdrop of war. It focuses on a solitary artist, Phillip Rhaydader and the growth of his friendship with a girl named Fritha. The goose of the title is found wounded and is nursed back to health by the caring pair. 

Lost at sea with Rhaydader during the Dunkirk invasion, the goose alone returns to Fritha as a symbol of love and friendship. The novella is sweet and poignant, a parable about the importance of companionship. 

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5) The Diary of a Nobody, George and Weedon Grossmith (1892)

The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

This book is ideal for readers who enjoy humorous stories of mishaps and accidents. The plot follows the adventures of Mr Charles Pooter, an ordinary man with extraordinary troubles. 

Mr Pooter’s daily routines are filled with disagreeable encounters and unfortunate events. His misadventures and embarrassments often ring true with modern readers, giving rise to light-hearted and affectionate amusement.

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6) The Lost Princess, George Macdonald (1875)

The Lost Princess by George Macdonald

George Macdonald tells the intriguing story of a mysterious woman and two young girls. While separate in wealth and station, both girls are painfully spoilt. One is a princess, the other a shepherd’s daughter and both require the help of the Wise Woman. 

This is an enchanting tale, filled with magic, mystery and morals. It is both a parable and a fairytale, moralistic yet compelling. It is the ideal book for lovers of fantasy and can be enjoyed by young and old alike. 

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7) Further Chronicles of Avonlea, L. M. Montgomery (1920)

Further Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M.Montgomery

All those who loved theChronicles of Avonlea may also enjoy L. M. Montgomery’s collection of short stories. While the tales no longer focus on Anne Shirley, they explore the lives of other delightful characters living in Avonlea.  

Montgomery’s stories are humorous, mysterious and sometimes dramatic. They capture the same warmth and spirit present in her other writings that have enticed and enchanted readers of all ages for decades.

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8) Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne (1864)

The Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

This novel has been read and admired by many for decades and remains a classic today. Dipping between science fiction and time-travel adventure, it is an intriguing page turner. 

Following the discovery of a 16th Century manuscript, a geology professor begins a journey to Iceland in the company of his nephew. This adventure opens up a world of beautiful landscapes,  prehistoric sea creatures and dangerous phenomena which all hold the secrets of human existence. 

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9) Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin (1903)

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is a classic coming of age tale which explores the delight that can be found in simple things. It has often been described as a precursor toAnne of Green Gablesand carries the same lightness and charm. 

Set in America, the plot is built around Rebecca, a young girl sent to live with her aunt following the death of her father. The novel opens with her as a child but progresses to find her as a kind and intelligent young lady. It is a delightful tale for readers on the verge of young adulthood who can perhaps, even 100 years after it’s publication, identify with Rebecca. 

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10) Tarka the Otter, Henry Williamson (1927)

Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson

Both playful and dangerous,Tarka the Otter is filled with twists and turns. Sometimes joyful, at other times painful, it is an intriguing and beautifully written novel. Williamson doesn't humanize the animals in his writing, but instead uses them to represent the life force of the natural world.

Set in the Devonshire countryside, along the rivers Taw and Torridge, the story follows the adventures and trials of Tarka (meaning water wanderer). Although unsentimental in style, Williamsons language captures vivid details which provide wonderful insights into his animal kingdom. 

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Final Thoughts

Whether you’re just coming of age or a not so young adult, these books and stories will enrich your reading experience. Each of these suggested books will take you on an adventure, whether to a remote island, a countryside place or another world entirely. 

Want to find more reading recommendations by genre? Explore our previous blog posts

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