Authors Share Their Favorite Novels from Teen Years

Odds are you can name a childhood book that was instrumental in developing your passion for reading. So what about the books that shaped your favorite author’s love for writing? We asked these YA authors about the stories that have stuck with them since they were kids, and how those books continue to affect their writing today. Their answers may surprise you!


Evangeline Denmark, author of Curio:

I know Jane Eyre may not be considered YA in the strictest sense, but it’s the novel that affected me most as a young girl so I’m hoping this will work: 

 Evangeline Denmark

I owe so much to Charlotte Bronte for writing Jane Eyre. This book informed my ideas about romance, womanhood, and independence, and it planted in me the seeds of Gothic fiction–fiction that pulls at our subconscious needs and beliefs. But if Jane is naïve and pure as the genre dictates, she is also clever, strong in spirit and in conviction. She is the heroine who captured my imagination as a 10-year-old girl, and she is the archetype for the heroines in my own novels. “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre


Heather Burch, author of Haflings:

Heather Burch

In high school, I read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.  That book changed me to the core of my being. When everyone else saw a group of degenerates, the reader saw hope. We were transported into the world of greasers and socs–the socs being the real bullies of the story. And true to bully form, one night, things go too far. From the ashes of a tragedy, one of the greasers becomes a hero, saving a group of small children, an act that eventually costs him his own life. I think it was the raw and rare emotions that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I always knew I wanted to tell stories about “outsiders”–those people who are first to be overlooked but are the very ones who will rise to defend others. My Halflings series has a similar thread. I guess I love a good “outsider” story. Both reading and writing them. 


Colleen Oakes author of Wendy Darling

My favorite YA novels from childhood ranged from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to Hatchet to Goosebumps Series by R.L Stine.  The two standouts that really leapt out at me when I considered what had the most impact on my childhood were The Westing Game and The Secret Garden.

 Colleen Oakes

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin centered on a eccentric millionaire leaving his fortune behind to inter-connected strangers, but connected how?  I loved all the word-games, the illusions, the tricky narrative – it felt like reading above my intelligence level, which inspired me to read MORE things that I found complex and intriguing.  The characters are quirky, the suspense and thrill of the novel hurtles forward even now, as an adult, where I remember it’s like reading an interactive game of clue. 


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodggson Burnett, a childhood tale that, if told in the right tone of voice on the right dark night, could be classified as light Gothic horror, was one of my favorite fantasies. It begins with the death of Mary’s parents of the cholera in India – quite a way to begin a childhood story – and she ends up in a haunted castle with a neglected, withered secret garden in need of care.  This was one of the first books that taught me about symbolism and the kind of feelings that amazing scenery can create – haunting, lovely undercurrents.  Also, the musical version of this book was everything in my formative, geeky high school years.