Many teens lose interest in reading after middle school, so it’s important to find books to keep them hooked on reading. Everyone wants to read books with characters and situations they can relate to, and teenagers are no different. While many popular TV shows miss that mark with rich, beautiful characters and outrageous plotlines, there are a plethora of books that speak to teens on their level about topics that are important to them.
For modern American teenagers, things like drug use, mental illness, chronic illness, and bullying are at the forefront of their minds. They might be dealing with their own personal traumas, thinking they’re all alone, but then they read a book and see a character going through the same thing. It helps them to feel less alienated and may even spark a dialogue with a friend or trusted adult to help. What follows are 10 young adult fictions books that your teen will enjoy reading.
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
Considered one of the most important books for teens to read, Go Ask Alice has been captivating young readers since the 1970s. A supposedly true anonymous diary, the book chronicles adolescent life through the raw, visceral storytelling of a young girl’s descent into drug abuse.
Bonus: TV movie, 1973
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Clay Jenson receives a mysterious package of tapes from a schoolmate, Hannah Baker, two weeks after her suicide. On the tapes, Hannah speaks directly to her classmates, giving them the 13 reasons why she killed herself, and Clay is one of the reasons. As the story unfolds, the reluctant listeners are awakened to the extent of Hannah’s pain, and must come face to face with how they hurt, and ultimately failed, their friend.
Bonus: 2017 Netflix series starring Katherine Langford
Awards: California Book Award Silver Medal, South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, YASLA Best Book For Young Adults
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A ground-breaking modern classic now being taught in schools, The Book Thief is a book that celebrates the power of words even in the darkest of times.
In 1939 Nazi Germany, Death is busy. Death has come for Leisel’s brother, and while at his graveside, Leisel picks up a lost object: The Gravedigger’s Handbook. So begins Leisel’s journey as a book thief, saving books from Nazi book-burnings. Then when her family begins hiding a young Jewish man in their basement, her world is changed forever.
Bonus: 2013 film starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson
Awards: Nine (!) awards, including the ALA Youth Medal Awards’ Margaret A. Edwards Award
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This cult classic follows Charlie’s journey from adolescence to adulthood, navigating the teenage minefield that is new schools, new friends, and new ways of looking at life. Running from a childhood trauma, Charlie loses himself in his new friends, drugs, and first love.
Bonus: 2017 film starring Emma Watson and Paul Rudd
Awards: ALA Best Book For Young Adults, ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, ALA Quick Picks For Reluctant Young Readers
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Based on the real struggles of author Ned Vizzini, who committed suicide in 2013, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a gripping look into both teenage and adult mental illness.
Craig Gilner is like any other ambitious New York teenager striving to get into his dream school, which he sees as the only pathway to his bright future. When he doesn’t get in, Craig’s anxiety and depression get the better of him, and he tries to take his own life. Just as he’s about to jump off a bridge, he decides to seek help, and he is involuntarily committed to the adult ward of a local psychiatric hospital. There, Craig learns the real meaning of hardship, friendship, and love, and discovers that sometimes your problems aren’t as bad as they seem.
Bonus: 2010 film with Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts
Awards: Best Book For Young Adults
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak is another modern classic that has been taught in schools due to its sensitive treatment of sexual assault, trauma, and PTSD.
Melinda, a friendless outcast, is both ignored and bullied by her classmates for calling the cops to an end-of-school party. Unable to recall the events at the party, and further alienated by her classmates, she withdraws into herself further and further until she stops speaking altogether. Finding solace in art class, Melinda begins an art project that leads her on a path to facing the truth of what happened the night at the party. Only when she faces the truth can she begin the journey to her own healing.
Bonus: 2004 film starring Kristen Stewart
Awards: Golden Kite Award for Fiction
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
If I Stay is a heartbreakingly beautiful novel about the tragedy and the inconstancy of life.
Seventeen-year-old Mia knows how life can change in an instant, as she loses her entire family in a devastating car accident. Separated from her body while she lies in a coma, she watches the present unfold while she also jumps back and forth in time, remembering her moments, good and bad, with her beloved family and boyfriend. Now caught in between worlds, Mia must decide if she wants to stay, or if she wants to leave life behind and join her family beyond.
Bonus: 2012 film starring Chloe Grace Moretz
Awards: NAIBA Book of the Year, 2010 Indies Choice Book Award
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Before I Fall investigates the sometimes devastating effects of bullying and just how much we can affect someone else’s life.
Popular high school senior Samantha Kingston has it all: beauty, brains, a killer wardrobe, the right friends, and the perfect boyfriend. Until she dies in a car accident one fateful night after a party.
But the next morning, on Cupid’s Day (her fave), she wakes up and realizes she’s not dead—but she should be. Cursed to relive the same day over and over again, Sam finally discovers that even the slightest change in her actions can completely change the trajectory of everyone else’s life. Sam uses this power to change the world in a powerful way—at least for the one person she had the most impact on.
Bonus: 2017 film starring Zoey Deutch and Jennifer Beals
Awards: Good Reads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fiction
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
This author has two books on the list, and for good reason. In 2009, Laurie Halse Anderson received the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the ALA for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.” Anderson’s novels take an honest and unflinching look at the most intimate of problems facing young adults today.
In Wintergirls, deemed the most influential book of the decade by the Chicago Tribune, Anderson chronicles the toxic journey of two high school friends. Cassie and Lia, the Wintergirls, are perpetually “frozen” in their fragile, ever-shrinking bodies. When the two friends compete to be the thinnest by whatever means necessary, Cassie loses her life in the desperate struggle. Racked by guilt for her best friend’s death, Lia is left behind, haunted and traumatized. Will she also succumb to her quest to be thin, or will she find a path to recovery?
Bonus: No film as of yet
Awards: Kirkus Reviews Best YA Book, Milwaukee County Teen Book Award
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
“This is the funniest book you’ll ever read about death.”
So begins the journey of Greg Gaines, who feels he has life just about figured out as a high school senior. A filmmaker who makes mediocre films with his friend Earl, he discovers life isn’t as easy as it seems when he befriends a fellow student who has cancer.
A huge hit among young adult readers, this novel approaches the toughest aspect of life—losing those we love—with humor and sensitivity.
Bonus: 2012 film starring Mollie Shannon, Olivia Cooke, and Nick Offerman
Awards: ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults