books for teens header image Growing up is tough. There are so many firsts, so many lessons, so many disappointments to endure on our way to figuring out who we are. Luckily for us, though, we never have to do it alone. With so many wonderful titles in young adult fiction—from Judy Blume classics to John Green mega hits—there are plenty of bittersweet aids to keep us smiling through our growing pains.

The Best Books for Teens

Whether you’re a young adult, young at heart, or just looking for some great reads for the teens in your life, this list of fresh young adult novels will not disappoint.

1. Opposite of Always by Justin Reynolds

In his debut novel, Justin Reynolds introduces readers to Jack and Kate, two teens who meet at a party and form an instant bond. Jack begins to fall hard and fast for Kate—but then Kate dies. Her death literally sends Jack back to the moment they first met. He’s not sure if he’s lost his mind, but he might have a chance to prevent her death, even if it means believing in time travel. Filled with heartfelt moments and witty banter, this novel is perfect for any teen who’s ever dreamed of a do-over.

2. Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

In this follow-up to her best-selling novel One of Us is Lying, Karen McManus brings readers a new thriller full of twists. Ellery has just moved to a small town to live with her grandmother, but she soon discovers that her new home is full of secrets surrounding a deadly homecoming that took place five years earlier. Fans of Pretty Little Liars won’t be able to put down this YA thriller.

3. The Boy Who Hit Back by Peter Wood

Matthew used to be the perfect, popular high school kid—until his parents’ marriage fell apart and his brother and father both disappeared. That’s when Matthew began acting out by stealing, fighting, and skipping school. After running away to Greenwich Village and befriending a mysterious panhandler, Matthew must use his newfound cunning in order to survive and save his new friend. Fans of The Book Thief and Angela’s Ashes will especially love this coming-of-age tale.

4. We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Daniela Vargas is a star student at the Medio School for Girls, an elite academy that trains young women to be perfect homemakers and mothers. But when Daniela is approached by a resistance group with the opportunity to act as a spy and bring greater equality to the school, she is faced with a difficult choice: should she stand up for what she believes, even if it means jeopardizing a family secret? This novel is especially perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as any young readers who love a story about love, rebellion, and change.

5. Slayer by Kiersten White

Set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is the story of Nina, a student at the Watcher’s Academy who prefers healing over the violent work of Slayers. But when she learns she has been chosen to act as the last Slayer ever, Nina must learn to fight in order to protect the ones she loves most. This is a gripping read for fans of the Buffy series or anyone who loves a great supernatural thriller.

6. Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

Lou Parker is determined to have an epic summer. Unfortunately, there are a few things standing in her way, like the fact that her new job requires her to dress as a hot dog at an amusement park while her crush’s girlfriend is literally the princess of the park. While Lou dreams of finding her own fairytale, she also schemes to stop the park’s imminent closure and set up her best friend, Seeley, with the perfect girl—but both efforts are met with resistance. This coming-of-age novel captures all the beauty and pain of growing up, from awkward first loves to humiliating first jobs.

7. Peter Green and the Unliving Academy by Angelina Allsop

14-year-old Peter Green can’t remember how he died. But he’s somehow ended up at Mrs. Battisworth’s Academy and Haven for Unliving Boys and Girls, a school for orphans like Peter. Peter fits in quite well with his new schoolmates and even begins to enjoy life after death—but he has feeling that he’s left something (or someone) behind in the land of the living. Fans of Harry Potter and The Nightmare Before Christmas will love reading about Peter’s fun-filled afterlife adventures.

8. Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum

Abbi Hope Goldstein became accidentally famous thanks to an iconic photo that was taken of her as a child on 9/11. Dubbed “Baby Hope,” Abbi has lived most of her life in the shadow of that fateful day. Fifteen years later, she’s desperately searching for anonymity as a camp counselor. It just so happens that Noah Stern, whose life was also changed forever by that day, will also be in attendance. Noah believes that meeting Baby Hope is fate, but she disagrees. Nevertheless, the two team up to answer some difficult questions about the history behind that infamous photo.

9. Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi

17-year-old Opal Hopper is a coding wiz. But she couldn’t figure out what happened to her father, who disappeared suddenly after 10th birthday, leaving only a cryptic note. Opal tried to move on by enrolling in a boarding school for technical prodigies, but when she comes across an opportunity to meet a close friend of her father, Opal’s hacking gets out of control. More lies, hacks, and manipulation ensue as Opal continues to dig for the answers she’s wanted for years.

10. Screen Queens by Lori Goldstein

Lucy Katz, Maddie Li, and Delia Meyer have secured their spots in a prestigious tech competition that promises the winning team a summer internship with a Silicon Valley startup. As the girls realize just how difficult the five-week competition will be, they also face a series of personal obstacles, from first loves to two-faced mentors and scheming exes. Filled with love, humor, and lots of girl power, Screen Queens is as inspirational for young readers as it is entertaining.

Classic Books for Teens

These books have become a classic for a reason: they have endured the test of time, and they are excellently written to stir up our interest and capture our imaginations.

11. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Sallinger

J.D. Sallinger’s story initially came out as a serial publication between 1945 and 1946, and eventually got published as a novel in 1951. Originally written for adults, its themes of alienation and angst have made it a helpful story for teenagers. Seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield, the story’s protagonist, epitomizes teenage rebellion as he struggles with having been expelled from school. The book also tackles questions of identity, innocence, loss, belonging, sex, and connection.

12. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Pecola is a young girl teased by her peers for being “ugly,” simply because she has dark skin and hair. Her white doll has her convinced that having blue eyes is what she needs to be pretty. Set in the years after the Great Depression, Morrison traces the stories of Pecola’s parents as they grew up black in a predominantly white neighborhood. She explores issues of race and class that remain relevant even today.

13. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

This story follows a group of boys who, because of a plane crash, end up stranded on a deserted island. They try to govern themselves with disastrous results.
Golding explores themes such as the tension between individual and group dynamics, between emotional and rational thinking, and between immorality and morality.

14. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Harper Lee traces the lives of siblings Scout and Jem, with Scout as the primary narrator. Set in the Deep South, this classic tale explores important questions about rape, racial inequality, and injustice. Loosely based on experiences in the author’s childhood, Lee also tackles questions about compassion, courage, and class. This novel, published in 1960, has been widely used in United States schools to demonstrate tolerance and discourage prejudice.

15. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This classic romance follows the life of Elizabeth Bennet, who learns the consequences of prejudice and realizes the value of actual goodness over superficial pretensions. The story revolves around Elizabeth’s family’s desire for each of the girls to be married off well. The struggle between her hasty judgments comes to light when she encounters Mr. Darcy, whom she immediately labels a proud man. The two get to know each other better in light of his friend Mr. Bingley’s interest in Elizabeth’s sister Jane.

16. The Giver by Lois Lowry

This is a young adult novel set in a seemingly utopian society that later turns out to be dystopian. Twelve-year-old Jonas is appointed Receiver of Memory—a position that collects and keeps all past memories, in light of the society’s strategy for erasing pain. In its attempts to preserve order and maintain “Sameness,” the community does not have any memory, color, terrain, or climate. And when Jonas receives the new emotions and concepts given to him for his role, he struggles with all the new ideas and feelings.

17. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This coming of age story of the March girls has captured the hearts of readers throughout generations. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy live with their mothe,r whom they call Marmee, while their father is serving as a chaplain in the American Civil War. After spending their first Christmas without their father, the elder girls Meg and Jo find work to help support the family. Each girl has a distinct personality that makes the book memorable: Meg is the traditional lady of the house, Jo the tomboy writer, Beth the timid musician, and Amy the party-going artist.

18. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

This epic high-fantasy series follows the journey of the One Ring, created by the Dark Lord Sauron, to rule all the other Rings of Power. This antagonist desires to conquer all of Middle-earth. The hobbit, Frodo Baggins, inherits the Ring from his cousin and guardian Bilbo, and wise Gandalf the Grey counsels Frodo to take the ring away from the Shire. Frodo’s friends Sam, Pippin, and Merry accompany him to take the Ring back through the Old Forest where it can be destroyed.

19. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

This short adventure novel, set in the Yukon, follows the journey of Buck, a dog kidnapped from his home to become a sled dog in Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s. In the harsh work environment, Buck becomes increasingly feral, learning to fight for survival and dominate other dogs. As the story ends, he gives up every shred of civilization, and with his experiences rises up as a leader in the wilderness.

20. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The book starts off with older siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert applying to adopt a boy to help with the chores, but they receive a little girl instead. Anne Shirley is talkative, romantic, and fiery, and Marilla struggles with wanting to return her. When the Cuthberts finally decide to keep Anne, they experience challenge after challenge as she tries, and always fails, to be good. The book has become a series that traces Anne’s life from childhood all the way to motherhood, ending with Rilla of Ingleside, Rilla being Anne’s youngest daughter.

21. 1984 by George Orwell

This dystopian novel, published in 1949, takes place in the imagined future year 1984 when endless war and excessive government surveillance have taken over the world. Through the main character, Winston Smith, Orwell explores the issues of persecution of independent thinking and individuality. Diligent worker Smith is a member of the Party that rules Oceania, but he secretly dreams of rebelling.

22. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

The novel follows the life of orphan Oliver Twist, who was born in a workhouse and sold as an apprentice to an undertaker. Oliver escapes and heads to London, becoming entangled in a gang of pickpockets. The book explores the life of criminals as well as the rough treatment of orphans in mid-19th century London. It also deals with many of the hypocrisies of the period, such as child labor and the entry of children into a life of crime.

23. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane, an orphan who underwent extreme abuse at a charity school, emerges unbroken and becomes a governess at a mansion owned by an absentee tycoon. She falls in love with Mr. Rochester, the owner of the estate, but finds an irrevocable hindrance to their marriage. Jane’s struggles with her love for Mr. Rochester explores issues of integrity and morality, giving us insight into the consequences of choice.

Books Teens Will Love

When paired with the right books, teens and young adults can discover the many benefits of reading. The books on this list can entertain readers of all ages, but they make particularly great matches for younger age groups. Share them with a young reader in your life!

What was one of your favorite books to read as a teen? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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