Amazing Mentor Sentences From A Few Of The Best Young Adult Books Out There

Amazing Mentor Sentences From A Few Of The Best Young Adult Books Out There

Using some of the best young adult books in your classroom can provide opportunities for your students to enjoy reading and learn to write better. And I’m all about killing two birds when you can. 

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You can use young adult novels to guide your grammar and writing lessons by examining some of the excellent mentor sentences in these novels. Since the subject matter of YA novels is often more relatable to your students than some classic texts, students’ defenses are down. This can make them more likely to be willing to slow down and examine the language in these novels; once they do that they can imitate powerful sentences. Ultimately this can lead them to being more intentional with their own writing. 

In this blog post I’m going to highlight a few beautiful sentences from YA novels and give you a few super simple tips for how to use sentences from YA novels in your grammar and writing lessons right away!

Great Sentences From YA Novels And Grammar and Writing Focus For Each

Mentor Sentence:

“My very first memory is blood, slopping from the throat of a terrified bull, and my grandfather--red handed--reaching for my face”. 

Daniel Nayeri, Everything Sad Is Untrue (11)

What’s Cool About This Sentence:

  • Imagery
  • Participles and participial phrases
  • Use of the long dash

Mentor Sentence:

"My cheeks were chubby, and people pinched them constantly, so I scowled a lot."

Daniel Nayeri, Everything Sad Is Untrue (15)

Use It To Work On: 

  • Compound sentences
  • Adverbs

Mentor Sentence:

“Guilt walks on all fours. It creeps, encircles, and climbs. It presses its thumbs to your throat. And it waits.”

Ruta Sepetys, I Must Betray You (14)

Quote from Ruta Sepetys book "I Must Betray You"

Use It To Showcase: 

  • Personification
  • Action verbs
  • Simple sentences

Mentor Sentence:

"The constant threat of surveillance clawed at our mother.”

Ruta Sepetys, I Must Betray You (26)

Use It To Work On:

  • Using action verbs
  • Personification

Mentor Sentence:

“The shadows followed me into the closet, onto my bed of rugs, and across the night.” 

Ruta Sepetys, I Must Betray You (32)

Use It To Work On:

  • Prepositional phrases
  • Mood


“He whined and kicked at my shins, but I lifted him from the floor by the TV and dragged him like that across the room until we were by the couch, where I dropped him face-first.” 

Jason Reynolds, All American Boys (26)

Use It To Showcase:

  • Action verbs
  • Clauses
  • Prepositional phrases

Quote from Jason Reynolds book "All American Boys"

Mentor Sentence:

“I let out a wail, a sound that came from somewhere deep inside me.” 

Jason Reynolds, All American Boys (22)

Use It To Highlight:

  • Prepositional phrases
  • Strong nouns

Mentor Sentence:

 “It chimed like it always did, and the guy behind the counter looked up like he always did, then stepped out from behind the counter like he always did.” 

Jason Reynolds, All American Boys (17)

Use It To Work On:

  • Repetition
  • Prepositional Phrases
  • Verbs
  • Clauses

Oh man, those sentences get me in the heart. There are few things as beautiful as a well-crafted sentence, amiright?

How To Use Mentor Sentences From YA Novels

So what do you do with these exceptionally-crafted sentences in your classroom? Here are a few ideas. 

You can use them as bell-ringers or use them in full lessons; use them as part of a regular routine, or once in a while when you want to go more in depth with a topic.

When using mentor sentences as bell ringers, you can display the sentences and have students do one or more of the following with the first few minutes of class:

  1. Make observations about what the author is doing in the sentence. What verbs, adjectives, and adverbs do you notice? Which words catch your attention the most or allow you to imagine the scene? 
  2. Have students imitate part or all of the sentence. You can use sentence frames to do this. If you’re curious about how I use sentence frames, check out this blog post “How To Use Sentence Frames To Teach Writing.”
  3. Have students extend the scene, or use the sentence as a story starter. 

I’ve got over 50 of these bell ringers that are already google-slided up for you! You can check those out here



Mentor sentences also work great in a full grammar lesson. For instance, if you are teaching about adverbs it will serve your students  well to show them several mentor sentences using adverbs. Otherwise, it just won’t seem that important to them. 

I have an entire grammar curriculum that uses mentor sentences to teach grammar concepts. Although I can’t use sentences from YA novels in my curriculum because I sell this curriculum (and that would infringe on authors’ copyright), you can easily trade out my sentences from classic literature with sentences from YA authors. Or keep some of mine and trade some out, so your students have a nice mix! 


image of grammar for high school students


We must capture students’ imaginations with how cool language can be, and mentor sentences do this, especially if they are already familiar with the author. 

How Mentor Sentences Help Your Students

Mentor sentences allow your students to see how published authors work with language to create powerful, vivid descriptions. It’s just a fact of life that students need to see things modeled many times before they see the possibilities of what can happen in their own writing. 

I go into more detail about what mentor sentences are and how they are beneficial here “What Are Mentor Sentences?” I’ll sum up to say that there is power in modeling writing for learners, and mentor sentences allow powerful models in your classroom. 

Plus, by focusing on only one or two sentences at a time we can really dive deep into what’s happening with the language. Mentor texts (paragraphs and entire essays) are also powerful, but when we zero in on one sentence, students can really get into the nuances of how individual words carry meeting and how syntax plays a role in what is happening even on the sentence level.

If you're interested in giving mentor sentences a try in your classroom, download this FREE UNIT, and you can start today!

Pro Tip: Use Sentences From Familiar Young Adult Authors 

You always want to customize your lessons as much as possible, so use sentences from YA authors that your students know and enjoy. If your students are big into Hatchet, use several sentences from that book, whether or not you think it’s a little below their reading level. 

If your students loved one Jason Reynolds’ novel, grab a few more and use his sentences in your lessons. This might be enough to pique their interest into reading the entire book where you got that mentor sentence. 

These efforts take time and energy, so it’s not always possible for every lesson. But even hand-selecting one mentor sentence from a familiar author for your grammar and writing lessons will go a long way with your students. 

A Smattering Of Sentences From Young Adult Books

Clearly this is only a tiny list of great sentences from just 3 novels that I’ve recently read, but I would LOVE it if you would be willing to add to this list! Drop a sentence into the comments, and I will be sure to tack it on here. 


Mentor sentences work great for observation, imitation, and inspiration. When you can grab mentor sentences from authors who are familiar to your students, like YA authors, do it! 

Read More Here:

Young Adult Literature For The Secondary Classroom by The Literary Maven

YA Novels That Make A Difference

15 Mentor Sentences From Black Authors

What Is A Mentor Sentence

How To Use Sentence Frames

Shop This Post

Full-Year Grammar Curriculum

50 Better Bell Ringers

Free Verbs Lesson


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