Teen Book Recommendations

Book Recommendations

By Julie Vaught
These titles can all be accessed through Overdrive and the Libby app.


Contemporary Fiction

Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu
Ages: 12-18
Lucy is embarrassed and ashamed to allow anyone, including her best friend, to visit her house.  Her secret is that her mother is a hoarder, keeping so many things that they can barely move around the house.  When her mother dies suddenly in the house, Lucy waits awhile to tell anyone in order to have a little bit of normalcy.

Riveting read about parents, children, and mental illness.  One feels for Lucy as she tries to live a normal life but also care for her mother. Quick, entertaining read about a subject not covered much in teen literature.

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch (audiobook)
Ages: 12-18
Carey and her younger sister Jenessa have grown up in a camper in the middle of the wilderness.  Their mother comes and goes, sometimes leaving them for days.  One day, after their mother has been gone for a while, two people show up and take them away. They are introduced to their father and are brought into this new and modern world they have never seen before.

Engaging read that makes you think throughout.  You want Carey and Jenessa to thrive in their new life.  The story of what happened to them is delivered gradually.  There is some suspension of belief needed for the story, but it could also become all too real.

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia
Ages: 15-18
Sometimes you don’t know when a small (seemingly insignificant) thing can be something big to someone else.  Told by Trina, Dominque, and Leticia, this story covers an incident and why each person was involved.  Someone is about to get jumped and it won’t be pretty.

This is a great contemporary novel about the harshness of high school and people’s perspectives.  Each character has their own unique voice so one is able to differentiate easily between the stories.  This is a quick easy read.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Ages: 15-18
In a modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Zuri Benitez, a Brooklyn native, is not happy when the Darcy family moves across the street.  She can’t stand one of the sons, Darius, but her sister Janae starts falling for the other brother.  She feels pulled in multiple directions by her four sisters, her ambitions, and first love.

Great retelling with a modern urban flair.  You do not need to know the original story to understand but those with previous knowledge will get some of the references.

This is What it Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow
Ages: 15-18
Dia, Jules, and Hanna used to have a band; they were going places.  Hanna’s drinking and drugs got out of control so the other girls had to throw her out and the band broke up.  Now, a year later, there is the Sun City Originals, a contest worth $15,000.  Can they work together, getting over past obstacles, to win the contest?

This book is a great commentary on friendship.  Can people become friends again after major heartbreak and loss?  Are they willing to put aside differences to help each other out?  There is some heavy material so recommended for older teens.


The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
Ages: 13-18
Jessica is a track star who loses her leg in a car accident.  She feels her life is over as she tries to learn how to walk on her new prosthetic leg.  People look at her differently now and don’t know what to say to her.  When she meets Rosa, a girl with Cerebral Palsy, who will tutor her, she realizes that she was treating her the same way.  Throughout her therapy time, Jessica gets the motivation to run again, this time bringing Rosa with her.

Sweet story about overcoming obstacles and wanting to help others.  You will cheer for Jessica as she trains again and will love the friendship between her and Rosa.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten
Ages: 13-18
Adam, who has OCD, goes between living with his mother who is a hoarder and his father and step-mother who seem to have the perfect life.  He has goals that he wants to accomplish to fit more into society.  Then one day in his therapy group, he meets Robyn and instantly falls in love.  He must win her heart while also trying to be “normal.”

This is a great book about a person living with a disability.  The reader can feel Adam’s pain as he deals with his anxiety about certain things pertaining to his OCD.  The reader love his therapy group and how they take on superhero names.   The ending is unexpected, but works with the rest of the story.


Historical Fiction

Alex  & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
Ages: 13-18
Eliza Schuyler and her two sisters, Angelica and Peggy, are excited about the upcoming ball their parents are hosting.  They are high society in 1777 Albany, New York.  The night of the ball, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington’s right hand man, arrives with news for Mr. Schuyler.  Alex and Eliza meet and sparks fly.

Perfect for any Hamilton musical lovers.  The story covers some of the same material as the musical but also delves more into the family.  It is a work of fiction based on historical facts.  First book in a series.

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills
Ages: 15-18
It’s 2016 and Jessie’s family is still dealing with the death of her brother during the 9/11 attacks although she has never heard how her brother died.  In a second storyline that takes place in 2001, Alia, a proud Muslim, has finally decided to wear her hijab. After being grounded for a mistake, Alia decides to visit her father at his office in the Twin Towers to talk to him about the error.  Then there is a bang and Alia is trapped in the buildings.

While it may be weird to think of September 11, 2001 as historical fiction, it took place 19 years ago.  This book alternates chapters and timelines to take you into the events of that tragic day but also the grief of those who are still mourning.  The reader will figure out part of the twist early on, but still are entranced to find out what fully happened on that fateful day.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
Ages: 12-18
In Amsterdam, Hanneke is helping locals find black market goods during the Nazi invasion of World War II.  One day while making deliveries, she is asked by a neighbor to help find the Jewish girl who was hiding at her place.  Hanneke has to go deep into Nazi politics to try and figure out what happened to the girl.

While there are many books about World War II, I found this refreshing as it is about areas rarely covered in books.  It gives a great discussion on what happened in areas that might not have concentration camps or as heavily occupied but what the average person went through during that awful time.

Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell
Ages: 12-18
Mildred Jeter first meets Richard Loving when she was little.  He is a friend of her brothers so he keeps visiting the family over the years.  As they get older, Mildred and Richard fall in love and get married.  The problem is that it’s 1950’s Virginia: Mildred is African-American and Richard is white.  They are arrested as it is illegal for different races to marry at that time.  With help from lawyers and different groups, they take their case to court, ultimately all the way to the Supreme Court.  Their case is known as Loving vs. Virginia, the case that made interracial marriage legal.

This book covers a difficult time in United States history.  Most may not have heard of this story before, but will learn through this book and other research.  The book is written in poetry form and is easy to understand.  There are more books, a documentary and feature film based on their story.



Every Day by David Levithan
Ages: 15-18
A wakes up in a different body each day, never knowing who it could be.  One day A inhabits Justin and meets Rhiannon.  After the day as Justin, A keeps trying to find Rhiannon, no matter what body he is in at the time.  He wants to be with her every day.

Great LGBTQ+ novel showing that love comes in all shapes and sizes.  It doesn’t matter who it is, just that you are loved.  Also, check out the movie based on this title.

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
Ages: 15-18
When Ben comes out as non-binary to his parents, they are thrown out of the house.  They move in with their sister, whom they haven’t seen in years, and her husband.  Although Ben’s sister and husband are receptive to their announcement, Ben still struggles and just wants to complete their final year of high school quietly.

This is a wonderful book about identity, family, and overcoming obstacles.  One can feel Ben’s pain throughout and hope that things get better.  A timely read.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Ages: 15-18
After an incident at her old school, Amanda moves in with her father, whom she hasn’t seen in six years, for her senior year.  She doesn’t want to get close to anyone as she has a big secret.  Then she meets Grant.  As they start hanging out more, Amanda starts having feelings for Grant but is scared to disclose her secret as she is not sure how Grant will take it.  The big secret: Amanda is transgender, having been born Andrew.

I love the interaction between Amanda and her father.  He at first doesn’t understand, “old school” as he says, but allows Amanda to be who she is and is willing to learn. A great, timely novel that delicately discusses transitioning and becoming the real you.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Meredith Russo
Ages: 15-18
After her parents die in an accident, Cameron must move in with her conservative aunt and grandmother.  She is just making do in small town Montana until Coley Taylor comes to town.  They become friends but there is an attraction also.  When her family finds out about her relationship with another girl, they send Cameron to a conversion camp to “fix” her.

This book is set in the 1990s with that flair, but that doesn’t hurt the story.  The reader will feel for what Cameron goes through at the camp, things that were considered okay at the time.  The relationships, at home and camp, are well defined and the dialog is authentic of teenagers.  Check out the movie based on this book.



The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Ages: 15-18
Three years ago, Alex’s sister was murdered but the killer walked free.  Since then Alex has been training to take matters into her own hand, which she finally does.  When her incident is not discovered, she tries to live a normal life, even making friends.  Then one day something happens and Alex decides to retaliate.

This is an edge of your seat thriller.  One keeps waiting for Alex’s deeds to be found out.  One can see the anger and evil that lies underneath the surface and you just wait for it to come bursting forth.

Heist Society by Ally Carter
Ages: 13-18
Katarina has always worked in the family business of thievery/burglary, but at age 15 she has decided she wants to get out of that life.  She has decided to go to boarding school and have a normal life.  Before she can leave, a former friend comes by to let her know that a mobster’s art collection has been stolen and her father is the only suspect.  She knows she must now find the true thief, while having Interpol and others chasing her.

This is a fun action-adventure/mystery.  The reader cheer Kat on as she navigates the twists and turns of finding the art.  A clean read for younger teens but also intriguing for older.  Anyone who likes Ocean’s Eleven will love this book.  This is the first book in a series.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Ages: 15-18
Ten friends decide to have a party and spend the weekend at an island house.  A storm arrives, forces them to stay in the house, and they lose contact with the outside world. A killer is on the loose and the guests start falling one by one.  Who is the killer?  Will anyone make it out alive?

A thriller that will keep you quickly flipping pages til the very end.  Many twists and turns keep the killer’s identity a secret so you never know what’s coming.


Oldie but Goodie

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Ages: 13-18
Known as the first true young adult novel, this book discusses class and privilege in a small town.  There are two groups, the Greasers and the Socs.  Ponyboy, along with his brothers, Danny and SodaPop, and friends live on the wrong side of the tracks with a few blue collar jobs so they are considered Greasers.  The rich kids on the other side of town, the Socs, love nothing more than to beat up on the Greasers.  When an accident happens at a rumble, Ponyboy and his friend Johnny must go on the run.  They find out that friendship and family can help get one through life.

This was written over 50 years ago but still discusses issues teens deal with today, class, family, opportunity, etc.  The book is very well written and draws the reader in.  Once required reading in schools, this book should be read by all teens.  Check out the movie based on this book.



Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
Ages: 13-18
Sloane Emily Jacobs is a figure skater.  Sloane Devon Jacobs is a hockey player.  When a luggage mix-up in Montreal forces them to meet, they come up with a plan to switch identities.  The other person’s life has to be better, right?

Cute romance for younger to older teens.  Each chapter rotates between the Sloanes, with their names at the top.  Great, fun, easy read.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Ages: 15-18
Brittany is the “perfect” girl at her high school.   Alex is a gang member just trying to protect his brothers and get through life.  One day they are partnered together for a chemistry assignment.  As they work on the project, they get to know each other and the secrets each keep.  Can they be together with all the drama involved?

Great Romeo & Juliet type romance with a lot of heart.  The main characters each have a side that you might not like at first, but by the end you are cheering for them and want them together forever.  First book in a trilogy about the Fuentes brothers.


Science Fiction/Fantasy

Cinder by Marissa Meyers
Ages: 13-18
Cinder is a cyborg and mechanic in the town of New Beijing.  She is blamed for her stepsister being sick and her stepmother hates her.  Unexpected she meets the prince and gets involved in an intergalactic battle that puts the fate of the Earth in Cinder’s hands.

A wonderful retelling of the Cinderella story.  The science fiction setting gives a fresh take on the story without being too far-fetched.  This is the beginning of a series, each telling a different fairytale with some mingling of the stories throughout.

Denton’s Little Deathdate by Lance Rubin
Ages: 15-18
Imagine knowing the day that you were going to die.  In Denton’s world, every teen knows the day they will die, but not when or how.  They have funerals the day before, mostly people sitting around waiting for the death.  At his own funeral, Denton starts thinking about all the stuff he has yet to accomplish.  He then makes it his mission to try and do as many things as possible in the next 48 hours.

A hilarious comedy with some drama, this book is perfect for those who like quirky material.  Some things are spoken of irreverently so one must suspend their belief at times.  This is the beginning of a series so one can probably guess what happens at the end.

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Ages: 15-18
Sophronia’s mother wants her to grow up a proper lady, but she has other plans.  She would rather be tinkering with machines or climbing trees.  Her mother decides to enroll her in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies.  When Sophronia arrives though, she realizes that this is not your normal finishing school.  They are taught the basics of running a household but also espionage and diversion.

This is the book for those who like steampunk titles.  Machinery that should not be in Victorian England is seen and used.  There is a lot of action and adventure to help keep the pace going throughout the book.  This is the first in a series.

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Ages: 12-18
In a world where magic has been forgotten, three groups fight to claim the rightful throne.  Cleo, a privileged Princess, must learn to survive when her kingdom is threatened.  Magnus is trying to earn his father’s trust and show that he can lead.  Jonas is the leader of the rebellion with a secret. Their lives begin to intertwine and secrets are revealed as they all claim a right to lead.  Who will end up on top?

This is Game of Thrones lite for teens.  It has action, adventure, magic, romance, and a fight for power but it appropriate for younger to older teens.  This is the first book in a series.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Ages: 15-18
Romy has spent her life on the spaceship Infinity.  Her parents have died so now she is all alone on the ship, no one to talk to, and a long time to go on the mission.  Then one day she receives a message from J, who is on a ship that will meet up with the Infinity.  When they finally dock together, she finds out that J is not who he seems and his mission is no what she thought.

Good space novel with a sinister flair.  The mystery ramps up in the second half and you root for Romy to get through everything.


Sensitive Subjects

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (Audiobook)
Ages: 15-18
**Trigger Warnings**
Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday.  Today is also the day that he has decided he is going to kill himself.  First, though, he is going to visit the only four people he cares about to say goodbye.

This book will tear your heart out.  You will find out slowly what makes him come to this decision but hope that each of his visits will talk him out of the decision.  There are a lot of sensitive subjects in this book but it is a wonderful read.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (audiobook)
Ages: 15-18
**Trigger Warnings**
Melinda starts her freshman year of high school as an outcast after calling the cops on an end of summer party.  She withdraws into herself, and she barely speaks to anyone.  Her only solace is art class where the teacher assigns her a semester long project.  As she works on the project, she starts healing and you learn that she was raped during the party that summer.  When she is attacked by the same guy later that year, she is able to stand up and fight, refusing to be silent.

This book takes the reader through a full gamut of emotions as they read.  The pacing is great and slowly takes you through what happened that night.  The reader will cheer on Melinda on, first feeling her sorrow and pain and then experiencing her healing and growth. The tree symbolism is wonderful.  This Is a treasure of a book.  Check out the movie based on the book.

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
Ages: 15-18
**Trigger Warnings**
It’s a new semester and the principal has just finished making her welcome back speech.  Most of the students are inside listening to the speech, but the track team is outside already practicing for the upcoming season.  As the students in the auditorium leave, they realize that the doors are jammed and they can’t get out.  The people outside can’t get in.  Then someone notices the boy with the gun as he starts shooting.

The story is told from four points of view, giving insight from all angles of the shooting.  The author takes you through the highs and lows of what everyone is feeling before, during, and after that 54 minutes.  This book keeps you on the edge of your seat hoping that everyone makes it out alive.



Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Ages: 13-18
D.J. is having to take on more of the farm work this summer since her father was injured.  Her older two brothers are not speaking to the family and her younger brother has his own issues.  She has no direction.  Then one day a rival football coach asks for D.J.’s help in training the new quarterback.  With two brothers who both played football, she knows her stuff.  After training the summer, D.J. decides to try out for her team and makes it.

Although this book is about sports, it also highlights the themes of family, friendship, and self confidence.  There is enough football to satisfy fans but also a great story for those who might not be as into sports.   This is the first book in a series.

The Final Four by Paul Volponi
Ages: 14-18
It’s March Madness and it’s down to the final four teams.  The first semifinal game, between the Michigan State Spartans and Troy Trojans, is about to be played.  Two players from each team, Malcolm and M.J. from Michigan State and Roko and Crispin from Troy, tell their stories from childhood to the big game.

This is a great book for those missing sports and the NCAA basketball tournament.  Shows the good and the ugly sides of college sports and the drive that it can take to get there.