Discover the best books for teenagers and encourage your son or daughter to read. They’re all award-winning and or highly rated.
Whether you are trying to encourage a teenager to pick up a book instead of a phone or you have a bookworm in your home, you will need a list of the best books for teens. Many of the best books for teens or novels create lasting impressions on their readers, even when those readers are young people.
While the novels on this list may not be trending on social media, you will find the stories and themes will engage your teen. Whether they are looking for a fantasy world to escape to or want to read about other teens like them, one of the books on this list will fit well. Head to Amazon to get them today to start stocking your booklist. From dystopian fiction to autobiographical works, this list of books to read for teens has something for those who want to read more often.
- Best Books for Teenagers Ranked
- 1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
- 2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- 3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- 4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- 5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- 6. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- 7. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muno Ryan
- 8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- 9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- 10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- 11. Divergent by Veronica Roth
- 12. The Giver by Lois Lowry
- 13. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
- 14. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
- 15. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
- 16. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- 17. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
- 18. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
- 19. Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
- 20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- 21. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- 22. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
- 23. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
- 24. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
- 25. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
- 26. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
- How I Chose the Best Books for Teenagers
Best Books for Teenagers Ranked
1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Any list of good books to read for teens must include Harry Potter, published in 1997. This is the highest-selling series of all time with over 500 million copies, including 120 million of the first book alone sold.
Harry Potter follows the coming-of-age of a young boy who discovers he is part of a hidden world of wizards. Through the seven-book series, Harry and his friends must battle magical foes to restore balance to the wizarding world while learning about their histories and characters. Check out our explainer on YA literature.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”J.K. Rowling
- Philosopher's Stone
- School Days
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games is the first in a dystopian trilogy that follows the story of Katniss Everdeen. The strong 16-year-old heroine is taken to battle to the death with other teenagers in a tribute, a televised game designed to keep the people in subjection to the governing class.
Among young adult books, this one has a tremendous following, and the book series has over 36.5 million copies in print in the United States alone. The first book in the series hit the shelves in 2008.
“You don’t forget the face of the person who was your last hope.”Suzanne Collins
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Set in Nazi Germany, The Book Thief is unique among many World War II books in that it shows the perspective of a German girl, not a Jew. This 2005 book has Death itself as the narrator.
The main character, Liesel, is living in Nazi-occupied Germany and has to steal books marked for Nazi bonfires in order to read. She also learns about risk by helping her family hide a Jew in their home.
“I have hated words, and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”Markus Zusak
4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This heartbreaking tale tells of two teenagers, Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters, who, like many teen novels, fall in love. However, Hazel has cancer, and that creates an added layer of tragedy as the two learn how to overcome difficult circumstances and celebrate the life they have.
John Green published The Fault in Our Stars in 2012. The end of this book is sad, but the story has beautiful themes of love, friendship, and life.
“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”John Green
5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit is a classic piece of literature that follows friendship, sacrifice, and loyalty themes. The 1937 novel follows Bilbo Baggins’s journey to Middle Earth in a magical world of dwarves, hobbits, elves, and wizards.
This grand adventure changes the young hobbit as he learns to move beyond himself and sacrifice for those he loves. If your teenager is a fan of the best fantasy authors, this one will please, though the reading level is higher because it was published in 1937.
“Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not, or that you feel good this morning, or that it is a morning to be good on?”J.R.R. Tolkien
6. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
This autobiographical account is one of the few nonfiction books that make this list. The diary tells how Anne and her family hide from the Nazis for two years. It gives a first-hand account of the horrors of World War II and how strong a 13-year-old girl can be. The Diary of a Young Girl came out in 1947 and was published originally in Dutch. It has translations in over 70 languages.
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because, in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”Anne Frank
7. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muno Ryan
In this historical fiction novel, Esperanza is the daughter of a wealthy ranch owner in Mexico. She has everything she wants until her world is turned upside down, and she must flee to California to settle on a farm camp where she learns about economic needs.
Throughout Esperanza Rising, she gains quite a bit of grit as she and her mother weather the Great Depression together in this award-winning book, which originally hit the shelves in 2000.
“We are like the phoenix,” said Abuelita. “Rising again, with a new life ahead of us.”Pam Muno Ryan
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This book takes an honest look at teenagers’ everyday lives, making it popular with this age group of readers. The Perks of Being a Wallflower talks about hard topics, like drug abuse and teen pregnancy, through the eyes of a 15-year-old main character.
After its publication in 1999, this novel became a cult classic. The role of friends and family in a young person’s life are central themes to one of these best books for teens.
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”Stephen Chbosky
9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Even though the narrator is a six-year-old, To Kill a Mockingbird remains a top contender for best books for teens. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960 and tells the story of Atticus, a middle-aged lawyer, who is defending a black man accused of rape against a white girl.
Though it is full of racial slurs and sexual themes, causing it to get banned from some schools, mature teens can benefit from the realistic tale. Many literary critics consider it one of the best pieces of literature out there.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”Harper Lee
10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give has stayed on the New York Times bestseller list since its publication in 2017. Inspired by Black Lives Matter, this book shows the difference between a poor black neighborhood and a wealthy prep school.
Teens receive good insight into social justice concerns while reading enjoyable fiction with this novel.
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”Angie Thomas
11. Divergent by Veronica Roth
Divergent is another novel that starts a dystopian trilogy and is very popular with the teenage reading group. In this 2011 tale, five factions divide society, and each person’s faction highlights their main character trait.
This societal formation continues until Tris Prior, the heroine, realizes she does not fit into just one. She is divergent and must use her unique talents to save the dystopian society she finds herself in.
“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”Veronica Roth
12. The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Giver tells of a world void of color or much emotion, in which a young boy receives the gift of society’s memories. As he learns more about the past of the world, he discovers what he thought as a utopia is actually dystopian, and he must make an effort to change it or risk losing someone he has come to love.
The Giver has over 12 million copies in print worldwide, and it won the 1994 Newbery Medal. It has a couple of sequels that further tell the story of its characters as they discover more about their world and its realities.
“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”Lois Lowry
13. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Outsiders follows 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis, a working-class member of a gang known as the Greasers, who takes on an upper-crust group called the Socials. Written when Hinton was just 16 years old, the book may have birthed the young adult genre of literature.
The main plot of the story is the struggle of three brothers to stay together in a difficult world after the death of their parents. Its first publication in 1967 broke the mold of prom and romance-heavy stories for young adults.
“Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold . . .” The pillow seemed to sink a little, and Johnny died.”S.E. Hinton
14. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak tells the story of Melinda Sordino, a high school freshman, who suffers a rape from a classmate. The resulting trauma creates deep depression until Melinda can barely speak.
The topics in this 1999 novel are not easy to look at, but they are important for many teams to consider. The realistic depiction of the aftermath of a terrible crime and how the novel opens the conversation about sexual harassment make it a good reading choice for older teens.
“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.”Laurie Halse Anderson
15. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
Published in 2018, The Astonishing Color of After is one of the newer books on this list. Its main character Leigh Chen Sanders is a half Asian, half white young woman. After the suicide of her mother, Leigh travels to Taiwan to learn more about her family history.
This teen novel works well because it touches on the thoughts of grief along with the magical realism that teen readers love.
“There’s no point in wishing. We can’t change anything about the past. We can only remember. We can only move forward.”Emily X.R. Pan
16. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 best English-language novels, The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel that explores two days in the life of Holden Caulfield after his expulsion from prep school. The book talks about the young man’s angst at adults, which is what makes it popular with young readers, even though the original intended audience was adults. For more books like this, check out our guide to the best American authors.
“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”J.D. Salinger
17. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
This 2007 graphic novel tells three stories that show the prejudiced thinking against Chinese and Asian people in America. Through the three seemingly unrelated tales, Yang explores what it is like to be the target of prejudice. in the end, the author weaves them together in a delightful twist.
Even though it looks like a comic book, this unique piece of literature covers some important themes. American Born Chinese also appeals to the visually-oriented modern teen.
“It’s easy to become anything you wish . . . so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.”Gene Luen Yang
18. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Cinder tells the Cinderella story but with a sci-fi twist. In this tale, the rags-to-riches teenager, Cinder, is a cyborg. She quickly becomes entangled with a prince and starts an intergalactic dispute.
This 2012 appeals to teens because of its mixture of romance, adventure, and a fairy tale twist. It is the first of the Lunar Chronicles series, and Meyer skillfully weaves everyone’s favorite fairy tale characters into these books.
“Imagine there was a cure, but finding it would cost you everything. It would completely ruin your life. What would you do?”Marissa Meyer
19. Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children is the first novel in a sci-fi trilogy that tells the story of Jacob Magellan Portman, a young man trying to discover how his grandfather, a Jew, survived World War II. It has photographs to accompany the riveting tale.
As the 2011 novel unfolds, Jake ends up exploring an abandoned orphanage on a mysterious island, only to discover there is more than meets the eye.
“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”Ransom Riggs
20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Though Louisa May Alcott originally published the book in 1868, its themes of powerful women and the bonds of family remain strong today. Little Woman follows four sisters as they go through life and grow into womanhood. Even when tragedy strikes, the family remains committed to one another and their love only grows.
This book was revolutionary because of how independent the women in the story were. Today, the character of Jo remains popular, especially among teenage girls, as she discovers who she truly is.
“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”Louisa May Alcott
21. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
In 1954, William Golding explored what would happen if children ran their own world. In Lord of the Flies, a group of British boys crashes on a deserted island where they must set up their own semblance of society.
This book appeals to many teens who wonder what it would be like to live without adult supervision. It clearly shows that the idyllic world of freedom is less appealing than they might think.
“Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.”William Golding
22. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
For teens who want an adventure and wilderness story, The Call of the Wild never disappoints. This 1903 classic tells the story of Buck, a dog who is stolen from his original home. As Buck goes through a series of terrible owners and becomes a sled dog, he eventually finds his way back to the wild where he belongs.
“He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time.”Jack London
23. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
What would happen if you could live forever? The Tuck family discovers this quandary in Tuck Everlasting, a 1975 novel. The story explores what happens when a young girl, Winnie, discovers a man who claims to be 104 years old yet appears to be in his 20s.
The quandary in the story is that Angus Tuck, the old yet seemingly young man, actually wants to age, but can’t. As the story unfolds, Winnie must decide whether or not she will drink from the water that gave them their invincibility.
“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”Natalie Babbitt
24. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Stargirl Caraway comes to a local high school with a new look that the other students just can’t quite wrap their minds around. She doesn’t care about what others think of her, which makes her appealing to Leo Borlock who has conformed to the school’s standard for all of his years there.
This 2002 book explores what nonconformity looks like and how it can be a good thing, which makes it a great choice for teenagers to read. Time Magazine calls it one of the 100 best young adult books of all time.
“The trouble with miracles is, they don’t last long.”Jerry Spinelli
25. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Maze Runner explores a dystopian world where a 16-year-old main character, known only as Thomas, wakes up with no memories in a maze-like labyrinth. He must work with others in the same predicament to find a way to escape.
Yet in the 2009 novel, Thomas finds that the world outside the maze is not what he thinks. Each page leaves the reader guessing as to what will happen next. This book for teens has a Lord of the Flies and Hunger Games feel to it, so fans of these books will likely enjoy it too.
“But there was something about the largest object in the solar system vanishing that tended to disrupt normal schedules.”James Dashner
26. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
This is an excellent book for teens. Set in Middle Earth, Tolkien’s seminal work combines adventure, high-fantasy and mythology. It’s also a captivating read that a teen can spend weeks, if not months reading. Lord of the Rings is particularly enjoyable if the reader has already read The Hobbit. When a teenager is done reading the trilogy, they can dive into the films directed by Peter Jackson. For more recommendations like this, check out our guide to the best fantasy authors.
“All You Have To Decide Is What To Do With The Time That Is Given To You.”Gandalf the Grey
How I Chose the Best Books for Teenagers
The journey began on Goodreads, where I dived into the vast sea of teen literature, focusing on top-rated titles and the genuine feedback from young readers. To gauge wider popularity, I then perused bestseller lists that catered specifically to the teen demographic. Recognizing that the teenage years are transformative and diverse, I sought insights from educators, librarians, and members of teen book clubs to ensure a selection that addressed a spectrum of experiences, challenges, and dreams.
It was paramount to identify books that not only entertain but also resonate with the complexities and nuances of teenage life. I aimed to strike a balance between contemporary tales and timeless classics that have inspired today’s Generation Z and Alpha. While engaging storylines and relatable characters were essential, I also considered sales figures as a testament to a book’s wider appeal. Combining all these facets, I’ve put together a list that, I offers the best reading experiences for teenagers.