The best books for teens

19 December 2019

teen girl reading

The last few years have seen an explosion in the rise of teen/young adult fiction - and it's not just for teens anymore. We've rounded up the very best books for teens - and you might well find your new favourite here too

1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, £6.01

1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, £6.01

This modern classic mystery novel tells the story of Christopher, a fifteen-year-old boy on the autistic spectrum who stumbles across his neighbour's dog, Wellington – who has been murdered. He's excellent at maths but struggles with social interactions, the colour brown and being touched. In his quest to discover who murdered Wellington, we get an insight into Christopher's neurodiverse mind.

“Just finished it and thought it was FAB. Cried at the end.”

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2. Wonder by Raquel Jaramillo, £3.99

2. Wonder by Raquel Jaramillo, £3.99

This bestseller was inspired by a real-life experience of author and mother-of-two, Raquel Jaramillo – her son noticed a girl with a facial disfigurement, and begun to cry. In an attempt to resolve the situation, she removed her son from it – which only made it worse.

Wonder tells the story of an 11-year-old boy with Treacher-Collins Syndrome as he navigates growing up in New York City, transitioning from being home-schooled to joining a private middle school. It's hard to forget how difficult school can be if you're even a little bit different, and this book will resonate with many teens who might be able to even slightly relate.

“An absolutely fabulous life-changing book- makes you think about what kind of a person you want to be.”

“It is a wonderful book. DD1 read it aged 12. DD2 read it aged 10 and still says it is the best book she has ever read.”

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3. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, £5.75

3. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, £5.75

This fantasy tale follows Feyre, a girl who depends on her ability to hunt and kill to get through the cold winter in the forest in which she lives. The story is a retelling of Beaty and the Beast, transported to a world of faeries, courts and magic.

“I got really into the Throne of Glass and Court of Thorn and Roses series by Sarah J Maas.”

“My DD loves Sarah J Maas-especially the Court of Thorns and Roses series. So much so that she set her alarm for 5.30am to download the latest one when it was released on her Kindle to read before school!”

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4. Maus by Art Spiegelman, £11.30

4. Maus by Art Spiegelman, £11.30

For any teens curious about history (or those that refuse to read) this groundbreaking graphic novel will go down a treat. The book tells a biographical tale of author Art Spiegelman's parents, and their experiences as Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust, and their life in New York City. Maus does an incredible job of presenting the nuance of the parent-child relationship, as well as an exploration of memory, guilt and racism.

“My two both read Maus at about that age. I thought it was an important book for them to read, as it makes the people who went through the Holocaust very real.”

“Maus is a wonderful book, my DS read it when he was in year 8.”

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5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, £5.63

5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, £5.63

It's rare for a book to be adapted to a film within a year – but that's a testament to how good The Hate U Give is. Released in 2017, it's Angie Thomas's debut novel, and tells a tale of racism and police brutality, written in response to the shooting of Oscar Grant in Los Angeles. If the book goes down well with your children, the film is excellent too and suitable for children over twelve.

“DD is 16, she really liked The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.”

“My 14-year-old DD is reading ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas. She says it’s really good.”

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6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, £5.51

6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, £5.51

Whilst not strictly a book for teens, it's not usual for To Kill a Mockingbird to be required reading in school as a teenager – and it often has a lasting impact.

“So many Mumsnetters mention it as a favourite on their profiles and I love it too. So what is the attraction? For me, more than anything, it's the realness – the descriptions, the characters, the dialogue – everything is just so right. Of course, it is also politically 'good' and the story is riveting all the way through, but it is the exceptional quality of the writing that really makes it for me.”

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7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, £6.23

7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, £6.23

If your teen is fascinated by physics, has an offbeat sense of humour, or just wants a simple answer to the meaning of life, The Hitchhiker's Guide is a great place to start. It follows the last man surviving, Arthur Dent and his human-like alien companion Ford Prefect on a journey around the universe.

“Oh I love it. I've read it so many times that I can quote it all!”

“Fantastic books. You'll never feel the same about towels, white mice or the number 42.”

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8. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, £5.19

8. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, £5.19

Inspiring one of the most critically-acclaimed teen shows of the last few years, Thirteen Reasons Why is another book that deals with that adolescent feeling of being an outsider – with tragic consequences. The book does deal with some sensitive themes, so it may not be suitable for some younger or particularly sensitive teens.

“I'm about halfway through and I'm hooked.”

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9. Crossfire by Malorie Blackman, £5.75

9. Crossfire by Malorie Blackman, £5.75

The eagerly awaited fifth addition to Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses series, released this year, will go down well with any fans of the original book. In the preface, Blackman explains how “the results of the UK Brexit referendum and the US presidential election in 2016 brought home to me just how potent the politics of fear and division can be,” and how this has inspired Crossfire – perhaps a good one for any politically curious children.

“DD is really enjoying Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses series.”

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10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, £5.75

10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, £5.75

This list wouldn't be complete without a dose of Katniss Everdeen. Set in the fictional universe of Panem, it famously follows Katniss and several other teenagers on a televised battle royale, to the death. The Hunger Games explores themes such as war, poverty and various moral dilemmas against a post-apocalyptic backdrop.

“My DD asked for the books for her 13th birthday – the queue at school library was too long to wait, all the year 8s reading them simultaneously! She wolfed them down.”

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11. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, £5.84

11. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, £5.84

Another book for history buffs, The Book Thief has been translated into 63 languages. It's been marketed as a novel for teens in some countries, and for adults in others – which just goes to serve as evidence it should be read by all. The Book Thief is a coming-of-age novel set in Nazi Germany – a good option if your teen enjoyed The Diary of Anne Frank.

“I've just finished this book – it's brilliant! Well-written, unusual, harrowing, sad, and in parts funny.”

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12. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, £5.97

12. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, £5.97

It's a toss-up between Brave New World and 1984 for the most influential dystopian novel of all time. If your child is a fan of the new wave dystopian novels in teen fiction, they might be interested in going to the roots of the genre – and Aldous Huxley's classic would be a great place to start.

“I loved Brave New World. Couldn't put it down.”

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13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger, £6.05

13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger, £6.05

This one is best read as a teenager – leave it too late and you may well find Holden Caulfield pretty grating. It's a great depiction of teenage angst, and is cited as popularising the term “screw up”. Your teen might relate to him, or maybe they'll think he's a phony.

“It's not my cup of tea anymore but when I first read it aged around 12 I thought it was incredible. It changed my perception of literature and sent me in the direction of my English Lit degree, which wasn't the direction I was heading in at the time.”

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14. The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson, £9.99

14. The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson, £9.99

It's not all about prose – and feminist icon Emily Dickinson's poetry has a reputation for being adored by angsty teens. Her poetry deals with depression and isolation, and she famously rarely left her bedroom – so it's easy to see why she might be relatable for a 15-year-old…

“I like a bit of American poetry every now and again. Emily Dickinson's is lovely.”

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15. World War Z by Max Brooks, £9.99

15. World War Z by Max Brooks, £9.99

Author of The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks's World War Z is a must-have for any lovers of the undead. The book was turned into a film starring Brad Pitt in 2012 – although the consensus is, the book is better.

“Oh this book is incredible. A very realistic portrayal, it really is a great read.”

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