Step into the young adult section of your local library or bookstore and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of books written just for teens. From paranormal romance and dystopian tales to stories of identity and social justice, there are plenty of options. The problem is, most teens aren’t reading them. To help teens wade through the masses, we’ve rounded up some of our top picks.
How’d we choose the books on our list? We looked for books that were exciting, books that teens could connect with emotionally, books that told about real-life teens, and books that would encourage teens to think a little deeper about the world. Some are fun, some are serious, and all are great reads.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is a graphic novel that focuses on Jin Wang, a Chinese-American student who just wants to be an American boy. It’s a quirky story that deals with identity, disaster, and The Monkey King.
Blubber by Judy Blume is one of those classic novels teens have loved to read for decades. It takes on bullying and asks teens to consider how far is too far when it comes to making fun of someone.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is a slightly odd, but enjoyable book about a character name
Christopher John Francis Boone. He is intelligent, but very little, and has no real understanding of human emotions. The novel was recently adapted into a Broadway musical.
Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick is one of Amazon’s 100 Young Adult Books to Read in a Lifetime. The book tells the story of Steven, whose younger brother is diagnosed with leukemia, and how he and his family navigate life in the wake of the diagnosis.
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler has a humorous title, but it takes on very important issues that teens face, such as eating disorders, self-esteem, and rape.
Feed by M.T. Anderson, which is set in the future, imagines what would happen if televisions and computers were implanted into everyone’s brain. Teens will be able to connect many of the novel’s events with today’s focus on technology.
The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian introduces readers to a teen prophet, Larry. In a humorous way, this book discusses issues of self-identity, popularity, and what it takes to conquer the masses.
Hoops by Walter Dean Myers is a great book for teen boys. It follows Lonnie Jackson who dreams of being a big-time basketball player one day, but must deal with the pressures of life that get in the way.
For a bonus H pick, check out The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas which tells the story of an African-American girl who witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend.
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman shows a teen standing outside her body and considering her life up until that moment. It’s a powerful story that will encourage teens to consider what makes their lives worth living.
Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume is a story of friendship. Stephanie and Rachel have been friends forever, but their friendship is altered by the addition of a new friend, Alison, and by life changes, but they learn to navigate it all together.
The Kill Order by James Dashner is part of the popular Maze Runner series. This prequel provides teens with a welcome introduction to the events of the series and helps them learn more about Mark, Thomas, and Teresa.
Looking for Alaska by John Green is an award-winning book from one of young adult literature’s hottest authors. This particular story deals with sexuality, fitting in, grief, and controversial life choices.
Monster by Walter Dean Myers is written as a screenplay mixed with journal entries that detail Steve Harmon’s life in prison. Is he really he monster he sees himself as?
New Moon by Stephanie Meyer is part of the infamous Twilight series. Like it or not, many teens love Twilight, so that earned this book a place on our list.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is one of those classic novels that every teen, especially teen boys, should read. It tells the story of the Greasers and the Socs and shows how they navigate some of life’s toughest moments.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a coming-of-age story that was turned into a major motion picture. It is written as a series of letters from a character named Charlie who must handle a whole host of social and psychological problems.
The Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof tells the story of two teenagers, one with a fatal illness, who learn major lessons about life and about love.
Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper takes the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet and sets it in Cincinnati, Ohio. The couple, from two different cultural backgrounds, must fight their families and their friends to maintain their relationship.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson follows Melinda, a formerly popular girl who has become an outcast. Readers will learn a lot about high school, the power of rumors, and what it means to stand up for yourself.
Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper is part of the Hazelwood High Trilogy, a series of books about a group of African-American teenagers and the struggles they face. In this book, Andy deals with guilt after his best friend is killed in a drunk-driving accident.
For a bonus T title, check out To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, a story about a teen girl whose high school existence is turned upside down when letters are secretly mailed to her five crushes. It was also made into a movie for Netflix.
Uprising: Three Young Women Caught in the Fire that Changed America by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a historical fiction novel that centers around a fire at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City. The book helps teens learn about the Industrial Revolution and its effects on many different types of Americans.
Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. Le Guin focuses on two friends, Owen and Natalie. Near the end of their senior year in high school. Owen narrates the novel as he figures out what their friendship means and whether he really knows as much as he thinks he does.
WTF by Peter Lerangis is an edgy book that tells of two parties from six different points of view. It’s a high energy, action-packed story that focuses on some of the worst-case scenarios that can happen to real teens.
X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon that tells about Malcolm Little’s younger years. The book, which was co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, helps explain the life decisions that he made before becoming the famed civil rights leader.
YOLO Juliet by Brett Wright and William Shakespeare takes the tale of Romeo and Juliet and puts it into terms teens today can understand. While it may seem a bit crazy, it’s actually a very clever take on classic literature that can help get teens hooked on the Bard.
Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts shares the story of two teens who meet in the pediatric cancer ward of a hospital. Both have very different personalities and perspectives on their illness, which means they each have something to offer the other.
We’re sure many of your favorites didn’t make this list. What do the teens you know love to read? Share them in the comments and encourage teens to pick up a book and get reading this week! Also don’t forget to check our our printable worksheets based on popular young adult novels or create your own literature quizzes using our Test Maker and Online Testing options.