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Top 15 Most Popular Fiction Books Recommended by Real Students

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  • 1. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
    This book chronicles the transformative summers of a girl named Belly as she navigates love, friendships, and growing up at a beach house shared by her family and her mother's best friend's sons. Set against a coastal backdrop, the series explores the complex and bittersweet realities of coming of age.

    What students are saying:
    "A light-hearted, fun, and sometimes drama-filled read." — Annie F., New Jersey

    "It gives all the small beach town feels!" — Jordan L., Washington

    "Super cute books, and there is a TV adaptation!" — Rebekah H., Oklahoma

    Author's education: Fine Arts: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)
  • 2. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
    Follow the journey of Lily Bloom as she navigates a complex relationship with neurosurgeon Ryle. The story intricately explores themes of love, resilience, and the cycle of abuse as Lily grapples with her past, her present, and her determination to break free from a destructive pattern.

    What students are saying:
    "This book made me fall in love with reading again in lockdown." — Kamryn N., Texas

    "It will romanticize your summer and leave you shocked." — Wrehn T., Ohio

    "A complex love story mixed with social issues! A must-read!" — Emily W., South Dakota

    Author's education: Social Work: Texas A&M University—Commerce (Commerce, TX)
  • 3. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
    A beautiful coming-of-age story and mystery, this novel follows Kya Clark—the isolated North Carolina "Marsh Girl"—who becomes a suspect in a murder investigation. The book explores themes of loneliness, nature's beauty, and the impact of human connection in the face of both societal judgment and the wonders of the natural world.

    What students are saying:
    "It has summery vibes and a captivating plot." — Laura S., Kansas

    "It's a perfect mixture of romance, thrills, and suspense." — Addy M., Georgia

    "A mesmerizing blend of mystery, nature, and coming of age." — Doris P., New Jersey

    Author's education: Zoology: University of Georgia (Athens, GA)
  • 4. The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
    This young adult novel follows the life of Starr Carter, a Black teenager who witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed friend Khalil by a White police officer. The story explores Starr's journey as she navigates the complexities of racial injustice, activism, and finding her own voice in the face of systemic oppression.

    What students are saying:
    "It's very informational about systemic racism." — Addison Y., Wisconsin

    "It is a beautiful yet heartbreaking story." — Shirley J., New Jersey

    "It's a very educational, enlightening, powerful book." — Shawnaka S., Virginia

    Author's education: Creative Writing: Belhaven University (Jackson, MS)
  • 5. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
    This dystopian saga is set in a future where the Capitol forces children from oppressed districts to participate in a televised fight to the death. The trilogy follows Katniss Everdeen's journey from fighting in the arena as District 12's tribute to becoming a symbol of rebellion against the Capitol's tyranny.

    What students are saying:
    "It has everything you could want: action, adventure, and suspense." — Aiden S., Connecticut

    "It exemplifies how a normal person can promote change in an unjust society." — Kate W., Georgia

    "Riddled with political commentary and quippy remarks, it never gets old!" — Talisha M., Georgia

    Author's education: Theater and Telecommunications: Indiana University Bloomington (Bloomington, IN)
  • 6. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
    Follow the adventures of Percy Jackson, demigod and son of Poseidon, as he discovers his true heritage and embarks on quests to prevent catastrophic events caused by conflicts among the Greek gods. Alongside his friends, Percy navigates a world where ancient mythology intersects with the modern day.

    What students are saying:
    "It takes a creative view on Greek mythology." — Kinley O., Idaho

    "They are inclusive and adventurous!" — Alessandra S., Massachusetts

    "They helped me view my ADHD as a superpower." — Aidan C.R., California

    Author's education: English and History: The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX)
  • 7. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
    Retelling the ancient Greek myth of Achilles and Patroclus, this novel focuses on their deep and complex relationship as it unfolds against the backdrop of the Trojan War. Delve into themes of love, friendship, destiny, and the price of heroism in a world of gods and mortals.

    What students are saying:
    "Read if you like action, romance, poetry, and poignant themes." — Simon M., Washington

    "Beautiful writing style that keeps readers hooked." — Harshita N., Tennessee

    "It preaches that we should treasure those we love for as long as we can." — Maryam I., Virginia

    Author's education: Classics: Brown University (Providence, RI)
  • 8. Anything by Stephen King
    King is known for his diverse range of horror, supernatural, and suspenseful stories. His works often blend the ordinary with the extraordinary, delving into the human psyche while incorporating elements of the otherwordly and deeply developed characters.

    What students are saying:
    "The Body is a great book for the summer. It's a horror/coming-of-age novella." — Ariadna D., New York

    "It is a must-read for horror fans. Complex characters, friendship, loyalty, and love." — Emma R., Illinois

    "I would strongly recommend Cujo for the hot summer days; don't read in a car though!" — Trinity M., Wisconsin

    Author's education: English: University of Maine (Orono, ME)
  • 9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    This poignant story set in Nazi Germany follows a young girl named Liesel as she finds solace in stealing books and sharing their stories with others, including a Jewish man hidden in her home. Narrated by Death, the novel explores themes of humanity, friendship, and the power of words amid the backdrop of war and adversity.

    What students are saying:
    "It highlights love in a world full of hatred." — Alexis A., Indiana

    "The reader will fall in love with the characters and sympathize with the narrator." — Caitlin M., California

    "Amazing book about the Holocaust from an unusual POV." — Mikaela G., Pennsylvania

    Author's education: Bachelor of Arts, Diploma of Education: University of New South Wales (Sydney, AU)
  • 10. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
    Delve into the captivating life story of the fictional reclusive Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo, who recounts her tumultuous relationships, rise to fame, and secrets behind her seven marriages in a tell-all interview with a young journalist. As their conversations unfold, the novel explores themes of love, ambition, identity, and the complexities of personal history.

    What students are saying:
    "Heart-wrenching but heartfelt all in one. An emotional roller coaster." — Autumn G., Illinois

    "A historical fiction novel full of glamour, glory, and revenge." — Sophia A., Texas

    "A stunning depiction of love, identity, and loss as a queer woman." — Haven J., Florida

    Author's education: Media Studies: Emerson College (Boston, MA)
  • 11. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
    This heartwarming novel follows a young boy with a facial deformity as he enters a mainstream school for the first time. The story beautifully captures his struggles, triumphs, and the impact of kindness and empathy on those around him.

    What students are saying:
    "It teaches you to accept everyone, no matter how different they look or act." —Riley T., Utah

    "It gives you a new perspective on how different people see the world in different ways." — Rany M., California

    "A must-read that embodies the impact of kindness and friendship." — Eva C., Oklahoma

    Author's education: Illustration: Parsons School of Design at The New School (New York, NY)
  • 12. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
    This psychological thriller follows Alicia Berenson, a talented artist who shoots her husband and stops speaking. A psychotherapist becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth behind her silence, delving into her past and unraveling a web of secrets that lead to shocking revelations.

    What students are saying:
    "It's a great book because you won't see the end coming—it's really unexpected!" — Dayan P., Utah

    "A tale that leaves one questioning what they knew about sanity and deception." — Kaelin T., Virginia

    "A great break from school reading! Excellent crime mystery!" — Matthew K., New Jersey

    Author's education: English Literature: University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK)
  • 13. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
    This fantasy heist novel is set in the gritty city of Ketterdam, where a skilled and diverse group of criminals take on a dangerous mission to break into a heavily fortified prison and retrieve a valuable prisoner. As they navigate treacherous alliances and personal demons, the team must outwit both their enemies and their own pasts to secure their futures.

    What students are saying:
    "Readers can escape into the book by seeing a part of themselves in each unique member." — Kylie R., California

    "A good fantasy book filled with battles and adventures." — Marcela D.C., Idaho

    "It has great characters, world-building, plotlines, and messages!" — Julianne C., New Jersey

    Author's education: English: Yale University (New Haven, CT)
  • 14. Verity by Colleen Hoover
    This psychological thriller revolves around author Lowen, who's hired to finish a successful writer's incomplete series after an accident. As she delves into the writer's notes, Lowen discovers disturbing secrets and a manuscript that reveals a chilling tale of manipulation, betrayal, and deadly intentions.

    What students are saying:
    "A thrilling and suspenseful novel that will keep you invested to the end." — Justin A.I., Tennessee

    "This book constantly gives me goosebumps." — Yana Z., Texas

    "The plot twist was amazing and left me speechless." — Sarah V., Virginia

    Author's education: Social Work: Texas A&M University—Commerce (Commerce, TX)
  • 15. Scythe by Neal Shusterman
    This dystopian novel is set in a world where death has been conquered and an organization of Scythes is tasked with controlling the population by "gleaning" people. The story follows two young apprentices as they grapple with the morality, power, and implications of immortality and legal murder.

    What students are saying:
    "It's a great fantasy book that delves into ethical debates on human inference to longevity." — Makayla J., New Jersey

    "It brings a new perspective on life and death." — Paul H., Florida

    "A dystopian read on how we view life and death and overcome adversity." — Makayla P., Virginia

    Author's education: Psychology and Theater: University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA)

Source: CX Student Users

Want more information on how this list was compiled? Find out more about where our Lists & Rankings come from.

About This List

We asked the CollegeXpress student community what book they’d recommend to a friend to read in 2023, and we were blown away by the number of responses we received. We couldn’t keep these amazing books just between us, bestie. We had to share them with you! Out of 15,500+ entries, these are the top 15 most popular fiction books recommended by students like you (or maybe even you, yourself). Check out which titles made the cut, where their authors went to college, who achieved success without a formal education, and why students are raving about these stories to help you decide what you’re adding to your reading list.

Popular fiction not your genre? Don’t worry! We also have lists of the Top 10 Best Non-Fiction Reads and the Top 10 Best Classic Novels Recommended by Real Students if those are more your literary style. And keep an eye out for more one-question scholarships and surveys from CX for a chance to get a recommendation of yours added to a future list!

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