Books Teens Should Read

Every teen should have a reading list that contains a good blend of genres and subjects, particularly those that deal with coming-of-age themes that can help them to navigate the real world in a more effective way. 

A selection of popular and award-winning books has been compiled for young adults in this reading list, which will offer them an opportunity to reflect upon themselves.

Dread Nation

Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation is a sci-fi novel that blends genres of sci-fi and historical drama. Having been published in April 2018, this young adult fantasy novel has already become a New York Times Bestseller and has earned several starred reviews all over the world. According to this fictional version of history, the Civil War ends in a truce because white people need former slaves in order to fight a new war against the dead. 

Jane McKeene is a black teenage girl who is shipped off to a combat school to learn how to fight the undead shamblers as the main character of the story. A zombie apocalypse is presented in the novel as a novel that also discusses important topics like racism, feminism, and classism within the framework of the zombie apocalypse.

Soldier Boy

The book Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton, published in 2017, is just over 300 pages long and consists of a mix of non-fiction and fiction. During the late 1980’s when the Uganda Civil War was in full swing, the novel follows the true experiences of teenager Ricky Anywar as a child soldier, while another part of the novel takes place in the early 2000’s, following a character named Samuel as he is rescued from a life similar to Ricky’s as he was a child soldier in Uganda during the Civil War. 

While the subject is a tough one, this story examines all aspects of human nature, hope, courage, and resilience in the context of today’s global climate, regardless of how tough it is. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review and rated it as one of the best books of the year.


Increasingly, teens are dealing with mental health issues, and Sarah Moon’s Sparrow helps readers gain an insider’s view into the mind of a teen girl who is dealing with intense emotions while coping with a life-changing experience. Throughout the book, readers will meet eighth-grader Sparrow Cooke, who lives in Brooklyn, NY and finds comfort in picturing herself flying like a bird, in just under 300 pages. 

Those around her mistake her behavior as an attempt at suicide when they find her up on top of a building when she is found. Through Sparrow’s experience with evaluations and treatments, she offers insight into topics such as social anxiety, loneliness, coping mechanisms, and the courage to overcome them all as she undergoes evaluations and treatments. It is a pleasure to announce that Sparrow has been named among the Top Ten Best Fiction Books for Young Adults for 2018 by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

The Hate U Give

New York Times Bestseller, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas examines the timely topic of police shooting unarmed black teens and fitting in. Starr Carter is the sixteen-year-old main character who lives in a poor neighborhood but attends a suburban prep school. 

As the only witness to the questionable shooting of her best friend, Starr struggles to figure out who she is, where she belongs, and how to approach tough topics like social justice. Although just published in 2017, a movie based on the book is set to release in October 2018.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a classic coming-of-age story featuring a female lead. Published in 2005, the book was selected by PBS as one of the 100 Most-Loved books for The Great American Read. In 1912, Francie Nolan is eleven years old and living with her eccentric family who often find trouble but remain loyal and bound. The novel features strong female characters and themes of family, poverty, gender roles, and perseverance.

The Giver

Lois Lowry’s classic novel, The Giver was published in 1993, won the Newberry Medal in 1994, and was made into a film starring Jeff Bridges in 2014. Despite being over two decades old, the book continues to resonate with teen readers. Jonas is a mostly typical boy living in a society with no emotion, no prejudice, and no choices. 

When he is assigned the unique job of Giver, he gets the chance to experience all of these things for the first time and decides to change his and another’s fate. Teen readers explore the roles of family, society, and authority in finding one’s true self and becoming that person.

The Catcher in the Rye

Teenagers who are struggling to understand the adult world around them are able to relate to sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield in the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, who depicts him as a sixteen-year-old boy. In spite of its 1951 publication, the influential story explores the timeless concept of self-identity. 

As a result of his expulsion from school, Holden reflects on all aspects of his life. It was a finalist for the 1952 National Book Award for best coming-of-age book.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Time Magazine’s number one choice for the best Young Adult books of all time is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. The 2007 novel follows teenager Junior who lives on an Indian reservation and struggles to reconcile his talents and ambitions with his cultural surroundings. The novel is based on the author’s real-life experiences and touches on self-discovery, disabilities, and friendship.

A Global Perspective

The world of today requires teens to think globally and push them to be at the forefront of social issues. By reading books like these, youth can gain a broader understanding of the lives of teenagers from various backgrounds.

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