YA Books With Animal Best Friends

A Book List In Honor of National Love Your Pet Day!

by REBECCA, February 19, 2014

Tomorrow (Feb 20th) is National Love Your Pet Day! Yeah, I know these things aren’t “real” in the strictest sense, but it’s such a perfect opportunity to celebrate my favorite animals of YA. While there are a great number of animals in children’s books—Charlotte’s WebThe Velveteen Rabbit, etc.—and in classic “coming of age fiction”—Where the Red Fern GrowsOld Yeller—there aren’t as many in contemporary YA. Here, then, are some truly delightful instances of loving your pet in YA lit! (All descriptions from Goodreads.)

Meeting Chance Jennifer Lavoie

Meeting Chance, Jennifer Lavoie

Scarred physically and emotionally from a dog attack at age nine, Aaron Cassidy has spent the last seven years breaking out in a cold sweat at the mere sound of a bark in the distance. Days after he receives his driver’s license, he decides to challenge his bone-deep fear once and for all.

Volunteering at the Happy Endings Animal Foundation gives Aaron a new sense of purpose. Here he’ll face his fears and learn to love man’s best friend. When an abused pit bull with scars mirroring his own arrives at the shelter, Aaron cannot even be in the same room without lapsing into his familiar, paralyzing terror. But as he gets to know the wounded animal, and the two learn to trust again, Aaron finds that sometimes all you need is a little . . . Chance.

My full review of Meeting Chance is HERE.

Starting from Here Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Starting From Here, Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Sixteen-year-old Colby Bingham’s heart has been broken too many times. Her mother has been dead for almost two years, her truck driver father is always away, her almost girlfriend just dumped her for a guy, and now she’s failing chemistry.

When a stray dog lands literally at her feet, bleeding and broken on a busy road, it seems like the Universe has it in for Colby. But the incident also knocks a chink in the walls she’s built around her heart. Against her better judgment, she decides to care for the dog. But new connections mean new opportunities for heartbreak. Terrified of another loss, Colby bolts at the first sign of trouble, managing to alienate her best friend, her father, the cute girl pursing her, and even her dog’s vet, who’s taken Colby under her wing. Colby can’t start over, but can she learn how to move on?

My full review of Starting From Here is HERE and our interview with the delightful Lisa Jenn Bigelow is HERE.

Claws Mike and Rachel Grinti

Claws, Mike and Rachel Grinti

In a contemporary fairytale as irresistible as catnip, one girl discovers that some magic cuts deep. Emma’s sister is missing. Her parents have spent all their savings on the search. And now the family has no choice but to live in a ramshackle trailer park on the edge of the forest, next door to down-and-out harpies, hags, and trolls. Emma wonders if she’ll ever see Helena, and if she’ll ever feel happy, again. Then she makes a friend. A smooth-talking, dirty-furred cat named Jack. He’s got a razor-sharp plan to rescue Emma’s sister. He just wants one small favor in return . . .

Tessa’s complete review of Claws is HERE.

Grasshopper Jungle Andrew Smith

Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith

Ok, so Grasshopper Jungle is about animals (bugs) that we do not want to be best friends with, but there is also a dog friend who we do love, and also there’s this picture of my cat with the book that I meant to put in the post where I reviewed Grasshopper Jungle but forgot, and so I must include it. My complete review is HERE.

The Scorpio Races Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

My complete review of the amazing The Scorpio Races is HERE.

Harry Potter J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling

SO many animal best friends here (sometimes literally—Catmione, anyone?)! You’ve got Hedwig, Errol, Crookshanks, and Scabbers, of course, but also Mrs. Norris, Buckbeak, and the rest of Hagrid’s vast menagerie. So, so many.

The Golden Compass Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him. The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies—and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about. Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her—something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights.

Gah, dæmons!

Straydog Kathe Koja

Straydog, Kathe Koja

A female collie mix, so beautiful, all gold and white and dirty; she’s in the last cage on the aisle, curled up quiet, watching everything—but when I get too close she goes completely crazy, biting at the bars, herself, anything in reach, until I back off and away. Her growl’s like ripping metal, jagged, dangerous, and strong . . . Don’t mess with me, that growl says. I may be in a cage but I can still bite.

Rachel is happiest when she’s volunteering at the animal shelter, especially after she meets the feral collie she names Grrl: they’re both angry and alone. When a teacher encourages her to write about the dog, Rachel finds another outlet for her pain and frustration. Writing about Grrl is easy. But teaching Grrl to trust her is a much tougher task. And when Griffin, the new boy in school, devises a plan to bring Grrl home, Rachel finds that the dog isn’t the only one who must learn to trust.

Sabriel Garth Nix

Sabriel, Garth Nix

Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.

Did I miss your favorite YA animal best friend? Tell me about it in the comments. In the meantime, here’s my cat sticking her tongue out at me while crouched in the special space I left her on the bottom shelf of my one rainbow-organized bookshelf:

Dorian Gray!





  1. Love this post! I am so not a dog person, but I did think the dog named in WHEN YOU WERE HERE by Daisy Whitney was cute.

  2. R, I love you because you say “Oh, god, how could I forget about dragons!” and your cat is adorable.

  3. Speaking of Garth Nix, I love the Disreputable Dog in Lirael and Abhorsen — almost certainly because I am a librarian the way Lirael starts out and I’ve adopted my share of disreputable dogs (though none of them has turned out to be composed of incredibly powerful magic… yet)!

    I love the way Robin McKinley writes animals, like her horse Talat in The Hero and the Crown, the dogs Beauty and Brown-Eyes in The Outlaws of Sherwood, and the baby dragon Lois in Dragonhaven. 🙂

    • Oh, god, how could I forget about dragons! Yes, I totally agree about Lireal—I actually included it in my picks for top 20 library scenes last year: http://wp.me/p2b9fU-cl

      I’m still between 28 and 82 per cent sure that my can can understand everything I say and simply chooses not to answer . . .

  4. weheartya

     /  February 19, 2014

    Aww, we did a post about this too! But, like, years ago, haha. So the only overlap on your list and ours is Harry Potter.


    Animals are just the best. Thanks for the reccos!

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