Younger kids need lots of entertaining, but the older ones have challenges of their own. Teens are social creatures for the most part, and being away from school and friends is hard. Many of us are finding solace and connection through books, escaping into other worlds or the lives of characters we can relate to. Books also provide a topic of conversation outside of the daily news and can bring us closer together. If this helps us, why not our teenage kids?
I get it, suggesting to your teen that they start a virtual book club is probably going to be met with a dead stare if not outright laughter, but finding them a book they can get into? That might be another story (so to speak). Below are six young adult books that are proven winners for teen readers (and also happen to be books adults love as well). You'll find fantasy series, nonfiction that reads like an adventure novel, a clever mystery, and a contemporary story of two teens navigating the choppy waters of family and romance with a touch of snark and a lot of humor.
Ebooks and audio books are great options for getting started right away—my daughter finally gave audio a try this week and instead of laying on the couch with her phone, she's laying on the couch listening to a book. I'll take it. If your teen is a Kindle reader, there's a lot available for them on Kindle Unlimited, including one of the wildly popular series you'll see below. I hope you find something that gives your teen a boost and you a break, or better yet, an opportunity to connect with them on a different level: reading and sharing your thoughts.
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Described by Entertainment Weekly as "Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club," One of Us Is Lying may be the book to send your teen off on a mystery/thriller reading extravaganza. Those of us adults who grew up with John Hughes' iconic movie, The Breakfast Club, will recognize the scene: five teenagers with nothing in common are thrown together by the fate called detention. McManus uses the same five archetypes that we knew and loved in the 1980s: the jock, the brain, the outcast, the beauty, and the criminal. But in this case, is the criminal also the murderer? Five enter the classroom to serve their time, but one ends up dead. Who did it and why? The murdered teen was about to spill secrets on every one of the others, so everyone has a motive. And an opportunity. One of Us Is Lying is an exciting and clever whodunit for a new generation. Bonus: if they love this one, readers can jump right into the sequel, One of Us Is Next.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
A perfect series to start right now since there's no wait for the next book, and the next, and the next. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was made into a movie a couple of years ago and if your teen enjoyed that, I think they will love the books. Sixteen-year-old Jacob is living a fairly dull existence until he sees something horrible that he can't believe was real. But Jacob's mind wasn't playing tricks on him, and when he travels to a remote island off the coast of Wales what he finds there is more mind-boggling than ever: an orphanage of highly unusual children and their guardian, Miss Peregrine, stuck intentionally in a time loop. A magical and strange blend of fantasy and reality, with antique photographs that Riggs collected adding visual detail to an already intricate story, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a blockbuster start to a series that captures a reader's attention and doesn't let go.
The young adult adaptation of Unbroken introduces teen readers to Laura Hillenbrand's bestselling account of Olympian Louis Zamperini's survival and courage after his plane was shot down in enemy territory during WWII. Zamperini was stranded on a raft in thousands of miles of shark-infested ocean, and that was just the beginning. His salvation from certain death on the water ends up to be another form of hell in a prisoner of war camp. But Zamperini survives, finding ways to keep himself and his fellow soldiers from losing all hope or humanity themselves. Unbroken is an incredible story; it's dramatic, terrifying, and impossible to put down. The young readers adaptation also includes photographs and an interview with Zamperini. A great book to give teens that is totally absorbing, inspiring, and brings history to life.
The Hunger Games Trilogy: The Hunger Games / Catching Fire / Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Now is the perfect time to read (or re-read) this series: after a ten-year hiatus from the Capitol, the Districts, and the Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins has written a prequel to her best-selling trilogy, called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Your teen may have seen The Hunger Games movies, but in my opinion, the film adaptations didn't do these books justice—there's a lot of nuance and detail to the story that just doesn't translate to the big screen. Collins is a fantastic storyteller and each chapter ends with some sort of cliffhanger that pulls the reader away from whatever else might be vying for attention. The lure to read just a little more is too powerful to resist, so don't be surprised if instead of TikTok or YouTube videos, your teen disappears into the arena of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games for hours.
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Tweet Cute is an absolutely delightful contemporary young adult novel with relatable, lovable, characters who have a lot going on in their social lives and on social media. Pepper and Jack go to the same high school and both characters' family's own restaurants. Pepper's family has Big League Burger, once a mom-and-pop place but now a national chain. For Jack it's a locally famous and beloved deli started by his grandparents, called Girl Cheesing. A new sandwich launch and high profile Twitter campaign from Big League Burger has Jack and his family up in arms because the "new" sandwich looks exactly like the one that put their deli on the map. A Twitter snark war between the two businesses ensues, and guess who's behind the clever posts? The pressure of family and achievement weighs on both characters, but romance is also in the air. Surprises are plentiful and readers can't help but smile all the way through this lighthearted rom-com.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Civil War and...zombies. Justina Ireland's alternate history of America—with a fantasy twist—brings the War between the States to a temporary truce so that both sides can band together against the undead who are suddenly rising up from the battlefields. Unfortunately, the new circumstances don't really help those who were already enslaved—a new act is passed that forces African American and Native American kids into newly created combat schools so they can learn how to fight the undead. Jane McKeene, being the biracial daughter of a wealthy Southern socialite, is accepted into Miss Preston's School of Combat in Baltimore, where she's taught how to be both lady's maid and zombie killer. Things take a strange turn, and there seems to be a political agenda afoot, when Jane is called on to help a friend. In Dread Nation, there's no shortage of action, humor, and certainly zombies, in a story that also speaks to the many forms slavery can take. If your teen watches The Walking Dead, I think this book will be right up their alley.
Living with a teen who is glued to their phone? These books will capture their attention.