Self-Discovery Through Literature: Books That Challenge and Inspire

Woman holding a mirror reflecting her face in a grassy field.

There is nothing better than a great novel that challenges and inspires you. Books teach us that getting to know someone is the only way to truly understand their situation and empathize with them. We’ve all read those books that have impacted and influenced our outlook on a particular subject, and it was through the character’s journey that we gained those all-important new insights.

Through exciting stories, young adults are exposed to new ideas, experiences, and situations, and without realizing it, they begin to challenge their beliefs and explore their own identities. A great novel is the only way you get close to walking in the shoes of another person!

As you know, here at Once Upon a Book Club, we are huge fans of YA literature. We have put together a list of our favorites, which are bound to provoke thought, encourage personal growth, and are ideal for young adults on the path of finding themselves.

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YA Books That Make You Think

The Giver by Lois Lowry

In The Giver, Lois Lowry constructs a seemingly utopian society devoid of pain, suffering, and choice, seen through the eyes of twelve-year-old Jonas. It is a world called Sameness where everything is, well, the same - no color, no emotion, no climate, no choice!

When Jonas is selected to be the Receiver of Memory, his life is changed forever. As he receives the community’s memories of life before Sameness, Jonas is forced to confront the moral complexities of a life without choice. This novel will challenge your teen to think about the values of individuality, emotion, and the human experience.

If you enjoyed The Giver, you will definitely want to try our Leaves of Magic ready-to-ship YA book box. Our whimsical box features Forty Words for Love by bestselling author Aisha Saeed, plus FOUR beautiful gifts that bring this beautiful, magical realism story to life!

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YA Books That Will Change Your Life

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

John Green has a knack for creating stories that resonate deeply with young adults, and Turtles All the Way Down is no exception. This novel centers on Aza Holmes, a teenager grappling with anxiety and OCD, as she embarks on a mystery to find a fugitive billionaire.

Aza's internal battles will give you a raw, unfiltered look at mental health while offering comfort and understanding to those who struggle with similar issues. For those of you who connect with Aza's story, Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest is another thought-provoking novel that delves into the complexities of self-perception.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This coming-of-age novel invites readers into the introspective world of Charlie, a teenager navigating the tumultuous waters of high school, first loves, and family dramas.

This book is a heart-wrenching exploration of friendship, mental health, and the power of acceptance - both of yourself and others. Through Charlie's letters, we are encouraged to embrace their uniqueness, understand the impact of the past on the present, and find the courage to live authentically. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is more than just a book; it's a companion for anyone feeling lost or misunderstood.

Self-Growth Books for YA

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

We loved this book! The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a wonderful tale of four best friends, each embarking on their own summer adventures, connected by a pair of seemingly magical jeans that fit them all perfectly – we would love to find a pair of these!

This story celebrates the strength of friendship, the challenges of growing up, and the indelible impact of life experiences on personal growth. The characters' journeys will inspire your teen to explore their own paths, cherish deep friendships, and believe in the possibility of magic in the everyday.

For those touched by the themes of friendship and self-discovery, Deep in Providence by Riss M Neilson is another must-read that explores the complex dynamics of friendships tested by tragedy and time.

To give you a teaser! A spellbinding young adult fantasy debut following three best friends who turn to magic when a friend's death haunts them...and perhaps her spirit!!

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Becky Albertalli's novel is a heartwarming and humorous look at the life of Simon Spier, a not-so-openly gay high school student who prefers to save his drama for the school musical. However, when an email falls into the wrong hands, Simon's secret is at risk of being exposed.

This story is a beautiful reminder of the courage it takes to be oneself and the transformative power of acceptance. Through Simon's journey, your teen will be encouraged to embrace their own identities and the diversity of the human experience.

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The coming-of-age experience is all about the journey of self-discovery. YA literature is not only a mirror of your teen’s own life but provides a window into the lives of others.

Each of these novels will go a long way to helping your teen navigate the challenging journey of growth and self-discovery. They remind us that books not only reflect our own experiences back at us, but also challenge us to see the world through the eyes of others, broadening our understanding and empathy.

In the end, the journey of reading is much like the journey of life—filled with challenges, surprises, and the endless potential for discovery.

Make sure your teen never misses out on an opportunity to explore the world through someone else’s eyes!

Simply the Best Subscription Boxes For Young Adults

Our exciting Young Adult Book Boxes will have even the most ardent YA book fan captivated from the get-go. At Once Upon a Book Club, we believe in bringing books to life, and our monthly subscription boxes are the ideal way to introduce any young adult to the exciting world of books.

Interactive Reading Experience for YA Readers

There is something about receiving our book box; it is like celebrating Christmas every month! Our fun packaging and book-shaped box will intrigue any young adult as they wait to discover the unexpected delights of our specially selected monthly novel. 

Unlike your average monthly YA book club subscriptions, each month is full of surprises, and for young adults, the reading experience is an interactive one. For us, it's not just about reading; it is about the whole experience from the minute you receive your box to the moment you finish reading the last word.

Newly Released YA Novels

Each box contains a newly released novel with 3 to 5 wrapped gifts labeled with corresponding page numbers, which have been carefully selected to bring the pages to life. As the story captivates your imagination, you can't help feeling the anticipation rise to the surface as you are prompted to open each gift at certain page numbers.

Book Club Kit

Our YA boxes also contain extras like the Book Club Kit, which is full of information and activities which simply add to the reading experience. Our bookmarks and quote cards are specifically designed each month, containing a quote from the novel, and some of our select boxes contain bookplates signed by the author. Yes, it is the gift that keeps on giving!

YA Book Subscription Options

We have four monthly subscription options, so finding the perfect solution has never been easier. Choose from our Young Adult Month to Month, which is billed on a monthly basis, or from our 3, 6, or 12-month subscription plans. A Once Upon A Book Club subscription is a gift every young adult deserves.


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