So, here we go...
1.) The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce — I absolutely cannot write this list without giving a nod to the author who sparked my love of YA fantasy. Before I read the first couple Alanna books, I was not a big fantasy fan. I kept to my "realistic fiction" and I couldn't seem to get into fantasy books like the Narnia series (I never got into those, really, although I have read a few of them.) Then along came Alanna: the First Adventure and I was hooked. Big thanks to my sister for bringing it along on that summer trip years ago, when I finished my own books and wanted something else to read!
2.) Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine — all right, all right, it's more MG than YA. But it's absolutely phenomenal so that shouldn't matter a bit! I've read this so many times over that my copy is showing the worse for wear for it. This was my favourite book around Grade 7/8 and it still claims a place amongst my other favourites in my bookcase.
3.) The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale — Shannon Hale really has a wonderful ear for the way words fit together and the beat of a line. The characters are well-sketched and the system of magic is simple but effective.
4.) The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede — if you like to laugh, you will LOVE this series. It's light-hearted, comedic fantasy at its finest, full of entertaining characters that sparkle with personality, and rollicking adventures.
6.) Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer — if historical fiction is more your cup of tea, then pick up this one. It's composed entirely of letters between two cousins, is set in Regency England, and is chock-full of secrets, magic, and a splash of romance.
7.) Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith — I would be remiss if I didn't put this one on the list! When I was younger I re-read this one countless times. It features a gutsy heroine, a villainous king, a secret admirer, and a whole lot of adventure.
8.) Archangel by Sharon Shinn —technically this is actually an adult sci-fi/fantasy, but I think it would be suitable for older teens. Sharon Shinn wrote this long before the paranormal angel trend, and it shows. This is no jumping-on-the-bandwagon kind of novel, but rather a carefully crafted world in which angels are considered the highest of the social strata, and the Archangel the very highest of them all. When it's his time to marry, he seeks out the bride he is told is his destiny, Rachel — and is shocked to discover she is a slave. For those of you who enjoy hate-turned-to-love romances: this one's for you.
10.) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman —and now for something completely different... this one's more "urban fantasy" than traditional. It's kind of dark and gritty, but the protagonist Richard is so very likeable and his journey is so very strange that it makes for a really interesting read.