Must-Read Books That Teens Will Actually Enjoy

Allison Scovell | November 22, 2023 | Culture & Media

illustrated books and house plant on a shelf

No matter how inundated we are with social media, video games, and TV shows, nothing will replace curling up with a good book. Sadly, the percentage of kids who read for fun has decreased in recent years. But it’s certainly not for a lack of good books! We hand-picked a list of excellent books for teens that will really capture their attention. It’s a wide-ranging list, including fantasy, non-fiction, history, romance, and more.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys is a beloved historical fiction author whose writing explores the would-be-forgotten tales of people who lived through some of the most memorable events in history. In this novel, readers are transported to World World II. Specifically, the book takes place leading up to the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ship evacuating civilians and wounded soldiers. There are four main characters, all unrelated to each other and yet share the same fate of being on this ship. The story explores their lives and the hardships they faced that led them to this tragedy. For any teen who’s a history buff, this should surely be their reading list.

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam by Thien Pham

Memoirs are a fantastic way to get kids interested in history and the different cultures around them. And this memoir in particular has a special flavor to it. The author, Thien Pham, tells his story of fleeing Vietnam and ending up in California through his experience of food. From his descriptions of salty salmon to crispy American potato chips, the reader gets a feel for how his family processed this huge culture shock. 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Who would’ve thought that a coming-of-age story that takes place in the Civil War era would still be popular among teens today? That’s certainly what we see with Little Women. It’s a story that follows four sisters and the all-too-relatable struggles of entering adulthood. The book explores family bonds, romantic relationships, and societal expectations in a way that teens will find approachable and captivating.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer Stone by J.K. Rowling

There’s hardly a book list for teens that won’t feature this magical, seven-book series. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone follows Harry as he discovers a magical world that exists in plain sight. In fact, he learns that he is actually famous in this world he didn’t even know existed. This book and the rest in the series follow his death-defying adventures as a young wizard, as well as the experiences of a teenager navigating friendships, school bullies, and lots of homework. 

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner is a story about Amir who tells the story of his time growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, when the Taliban was gaining power. In his childhood, Amir had a very close friendship with a servant’s son named Hassan. As Afghanistan began to face trouble from the Taliban, Amir faced a decision that ultimately led to him betraying Hassan. The book follows Amir as he lives with the guilt of this decision until something happens that brings him the redemption and forgiveness he’s hoped for. It’s a deeply emotional story of personal reflection and the lasting impact our decisions can have. 

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

A good high-school summer romance novel will always be a go-to for teens! This story follows Belly and her life-long crush on a childhood friend, Conrad. They’ve spent every summer at the beach with their families for as long as she could remember, but for the first time, she wonders if Conrad may reciprocate her feelings. Readers will certainly get lost in this easy-to-read, relatable teen drama.

The Giver by Lois Lowry 

Dystopian novels are great ways to simultaneously escape into a good story while also considering philosophical themes that apply in real life. The Giver takes place in a society where all emotion and individuality are essentially outlawed — every step of one’s life and development is structured by the leaders of this society. That is until the main character Jonas discovers the beauty of diversity and emotions and realizes the “utopia” he grew up in is far darker than he ever thought. This is also a series with four total books for teens to dive into! 

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson 

This nonfiction book is highly relevant to face the harsh and present realities of the American justice system. Bryan Stevenson is a defense attorney who has seen countless disheartening examples of men, women, and children being mistreated in the system. The book is full of eye-opening statistics and anecdotes that paint a clear and sometimes hard-to-swallow picture. But the real draw of the book is how Stevenson urges readers to not just see the numbers, but consider the real people experiencing these injustices. This is definitely a must-read for any young person with a huge heart.

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