When I was in high school, there was a lot of talk about what students were expected to do after graduation. College and careers seemed to be the only clear, correct choice. For me, this was disheartening. I wanted to go to college, but I also liked the idea of freedom from high school and the possibilities that adulthood brought. Why do I have to go to college right away? I wondered. And what happens if I don't get to go to the college I want to go to? Should I settle and enroll in a college I don't want to go to? Should I go for that degree that everyone says isn't marketable?
Maybe my experiences and questions are why I gravitate towards YA books that ask these questions and choose to go down those roads less traveled. The protagonists in these books ask the hard questions about conventions and what's expected out of us in life, and then they go their own ways.
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
This book is about a girl who longs to travel on her own terms, but finds herself on a structured tour of Central America--not what she was planning. When she meets a brother and sister who are backpackers that set their own itinerary, she ditches her tour group and heads out with them.
Just One Day Gayle Forman
Allyson's life has been planned for her from the moment of her birth. But after a day of rebellion and revelations in Paris with a stranger, she begins making her own decisions about her life during her first year of college.
Golden by Jessi Kirby
Parker is on the fast track for a full-ride scholarship to college when a writing assignment gets her asking questions about a girl who disappeared from her town years earlier. Parker is forced to question what matters in life, and what she wants to do with hers.
Return to Me by Justina Chen
Rebecca is set to head to college and go to architecture school when her father leaves her family. Rebecca feels a responsibility to stick with her mom and little brother, but doesn't know what to do about her future plans, or if they even matter to her anymore.
The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
Wren has always done what her parents have wanted her to do, but as graduation approaches, she has a plan to put off college for a year and do something she's passionate about. So when she meets Charlie and falls in love, she isn't sure of her future at all anymore.
Stay and The Story of Us by Deb Caletti
Both of these novels by Caletti have protagonists that are dealing with past events as they ponder their futures, and both have the same fantastic beach setting. I liked these books because they both take different directions in their conclusions, but are equally thoughtful and well-written.
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Lucy was once a famous pianist, but she quit performing after a family betrayal. Now her mother and grandfather seem to hold her refusal to perform against her. When Lucy meets her younger's brother's new teacher, she begins to wonder for the first time at the possibilities in her future, and being able to do what she wants to do.
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan
Bronwen has always imagined that she is someone else, until she starts dating Jared. With Jared, she doesn't want to be someone else. As graduation approaches, Bronwen is given an opportunity to finally make her daydreams come true and be someone other than the person she has always been, but is it the right choice for her?
Can you think of other books that might fit on this list? Let me know in the comments!