Best books for teenagers and young adults that everyone should read
hile we may wish to erase parts of our teenage years – thanks to questionable fashion choices and a constant stream of end-of-the-world dramas – one thing that’s impossible to forget are the books we read.
Navigating the world of young adulthood isn’t an easy feat and that’s why books play such an integral role in providing solace, comfort and an escape from a somewhat challenging reality. Nowadays, imagining a life without a screen feels almost impossible but sometimes, going back to basics is what’s needed – after all is there anything greater than not being able to put a book down because it’s so gripping?
Although there is no explicit age range for Young Adult fiction, books in this genre are generally considered appropriate for those aged 12 to 18 as the experiences and age of the protagonist tends to correlate with that of the reader. Dealing with themes such as identity, first love and friendship, YA books are also referred to as coming-of-age fiction as characters explore the transition from youth into adulthood.
YA fiction is enjoying its golden age as authors expand the realms of the genre to include nuanced perceptions of relatively unexplored themes such as sexuality, gender and race.
As school holidays approach, there’s no better time to get a teenager immersed in the fictional worlds of some of the most dynamic characters.
From newly released novels of fantasy adventures to age-old stories helping us navigate teenage years, we have the perfect book for your summer reads and beyond in our roundup.
Queen of the Tiles
In a nutshell: a Scrabble-obsessed teen solves cryptic Instagram posts to investigate a mysterious death
Every young person takes time to find their hobby and niche – be it chess club or a local football team, and for Najwa it’s competitive Scrabble. As Najwa comes to terms with complicated grief, things aren’t all as they seem when her recently deceased friend’s Instagram mysteriously comes back to life with cryptic messages. It’s up to Najwa to find out who’s behind these posts in order to save Trina’s memory and herself from potential danger.
This debut novel from Malaysian author Hanna Alkaf is both an intriguing murder mystery and an exploration of teenage determination that will leave readers on the edge of their seats.
Noughts and Crosses Collection
In a nutshell: a dangerous love story between two young people who must fight injustices to be together
This five book series first published in 2001 is a timeless and thought-provoking read that is as relevant today as it was over 20 years ago. Set in a parallel universe where Africans enslaved Europeans, the story follows Sephy a Cross who lives a life of power and privilege and Callum, a Nought whose only role is to serve the Crosses.
Set against a backdrop of racism, oppression and dominant majority Sephy and Callum form a deep bond that has explosive consequences as this star-crossed couple choose love over hate. A true modern classic that is now a major BBC TV series. The whole set is available to purchase together – making it the perfect gift or addictive read that will span weeks.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
In a nutshell: the true story of a young Jewish girl forced into hiding in Amsterdam due to Nazi rule
You’d be hard pushed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Anne Frank and this book is the definitive compilation of her diary entries that span almost two years as she lives in hiding with eight other people fearing discovery by the Nazis. This moving portrayal of adolescence, confinement and struggle is a must read for everyone and is an incredible historical autobiography that will invoke tears, laughter and shock in any young adult reader.
The Maze Runner Series 5 Books Collection
In a nutshell: a young boy finds himself trapped in an ever changing maze and must find a way out before it’s too late
This dystopian series will capture the minds and hearts of young adults who are fans of the film as well as those who are coming to it brand new. This fantasy adventure is fast paced and thrilling as 16 year old Thomas must use his bravery and courage in order to lead his fellow Gladers out of a suffocating maze. Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games, this series is guaranteed to get every young person reading.
Sofi and the Bone Song
In a nutshell: a young musician battles the injustice of a fellow musician who has been using illegal magic only to fall in love with her
This fantasy standalone is an emotional rollercoaster that explores themes such as difficult family relationships, jealousy and sexuality. Sofi, a young talented musician embarks on a journey to prove that her competitor, Lara, has illegally used magic to improve her ability. On this journey Sofi discovers the depths of this deception and is confronted with questions she has never previously addressed.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret
In a nutshell: Margaret asks God for the answers on the most important teen dilemmas in this witty novel
One of the most popular coming-of-age books for any young woman, this story follows Margaret as she battles through an identity crisis. She turns to God to share her inner most thoughts asking him all the important questions, from boys and bras to periods and puberty. Moving to a new town, starting a new school and making new friends, Margaret has all the classic preteen angst and frets about everything from when she will get her period to who her first kiss will be with. This book is much loved by generations of women and remains to this day a bible of navigating the confusing transition from child to teenager.
The Hunger Games 4-Book Paperback Box Set
In a nutshell: district Tributes go head-to-head in battle to win the hunger games where only one person survives
Taking the box office by storm in 2012 when The Hunger Games was turned into a blockbuster hit, this dystopian book series is as much about adventure and fantasy as it is about sacrifice and love. It follows 16 year old Katniss Everdeen who takes her sister’s place in the named Hunger Games and must fight against other teenagers who all have one goal: to survive. These three books have revolutionised the world of YA fiction and are all gripping page turners.
The Princess Diaries
In a nutshell: a normal girl discovers she’s a princess overnight and her world is turned upside down
Probably most teenage girls dream: 14 year old Mia Thermopolis suddenly learns she is in fact a princess but the impact it has on her life is far more dramatic than anyone could imagine. Thrown into stardom, she must embark on various challenges including makeovers that will leave you laughing out loud, to princess lessons that are described with pure wit and hilarity; it’s like reading your best friend’s diary. It’s a perfect feel-good friendship novel and the film is equally as timeless.
The Complete Collection of Arsène Lupin
In a nutshell: a master of disguise thief artfully and enigmatically galivants around France
Many of us will have first heard of Arsène Lupin from the successful Netflix crime drama that follows gentleman thief Assane Diop as he adopts Lupin’s disguises and tricks to avenge his father.
This set of 10 books, written by Maurice Leblanc in 1907, brings to life the enigmatic and mysterious world of underground France as master of disguise – Lupin – creates masterful plans, devious schemes and shoddy scandals all in the name of justice.
Read Arsène Lupin VS Herlock Sholmes for a thoroughly enjoyable and humorous read of the battle of wits between two of the greatest criminal and detective masterminds.
In a nutshell: four sisters experience adventure and endure hardships as they transition from youth to adulthood in 19th century America
This timeless classic is a joyous and poignant read for women and girls of all ages. Alcott’s semi-autobiographical story follows the lives of four sisters – Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth – growing up in rural New England during the 19th-century. All with distinct characteristics this celebrated book is all about female empowerment and enduring family relationships. This spectacular Folio Society edition features a classic hardback design and wonderful illustrations throughout which helps bring this 150 year old story to life.