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Books for Teens

Best Teen Reads for 2021

What Makes for a Good Teen Book?

Here are 4 things that make a book especially good for a teen:

  1. Appropriate for the reading skills of your teen. Know your teens reading level and look for books that are within their limits. To help with this, you can use the Guided Reading Level, or the Lexile Framework for Reading. These will help you pair your reader with the appropriate vocabulary and themes of the book.
  2. Encourages reading for pleasure. As with adults, teens form good reading habits from a desire to read for fun. Finding unique locations for leisure reading, scheduling a time to read, book clubs, and more can encourage spontaneous reading. Also, allowing a reader to read below their level can make the activity seem more effortless.
  3. Focuses on teen interests. You don't need to be an expert on teen youth to know that they may not be interested in the geo-political struggles of Poland. Find what your reader is captivated by and find stories that incorporate their interests. To help you get started, try WhatShouldIReadNext.com to get some ideas based on a few popular topics such as Time Travel, Alien Encounters, Dystopias, etc.
  4. Good for reading aloud. This one may sound a bit odd. Several parents have found that they can get their teen to be interested in a book simply by reading an excerpt aloud. Sometimes it's the sleeve of the book or the first chapter. In any case, you can't judge a book by its cover, but you usually can tell a lot by reading the first chapter aloud!

Best Books for Teenagers in 2021

To help you with the recommendations we provided above, we've included the reading level, topics covered, and an excerpt you can read aloud to help you convince your teen the book is right for them. Here are 7 books we think your teen may love:

  1. The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins
    • Synopsis: A 16-year old lives in a futuristic but post-apocalyptic world where the Capital, a super advanced city controls the rest of the impoverished nation. Once a year one boy and one girl from 12-18 years old is forced to fight to the death in a televised event.
    • Reading Level: Scholastic grade 5.3 for ages 11-13
    • Themes:Poverty, survival, pop culture, government control, celebrity, dystopian futures.
    • Excerpt: "Sixty seconds. That's how long we're required to stand on our metal circles before the sound of a gong releases us. Step off before the minute is up, and land mines blow your legs off. Sixty seconds to take in the ring of tributes all equidistant from the Cornucopia, a giant golden horn shaped like a cone with a curved tail, the mouth of which is at least twenty feet high, spilling over with the things that will give us life here in the arena."
  2. Harry Potter (series) by J. K. Rowling
    • Synopsis: A young boy learns that he is descended from wizards and becomes enrolled in a school of witchcraft and wizardry. He struggles to defend himself against a dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, who murdered his parents and aims to become immortal.
    • Reading Level: Lexile Rank 880L-1030L for grades 5-8.
    • Themes: Death, religion, power, prejudice, magic, free will, authority.
    • Excerpt: "Hagrid looked at Harry with warmth and respect blazing in his eyes, but Harry, instead of feeling pleased and proud, felt quite sure there had been a horrible mistake. A wizard? Him? How could he possibly be? He'd spent his life being clouted by Dudley and bullied by Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon; if he was really a wizard, why hadn;t they been turned into warty toads every time they;d tried to lock him in his cupboard? If he’d once defeated the greatest sorcerer in the world, how come Dudley had always been able to kick him around like a football?"
  3. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
    • Synopsis: Tells of two days in the life of a 16 year old boy after he has been expelled from prep school. He struggles with his identity and future while searching for meaning in the adult world. He deals with emotional instability, relationship issues, and parental expectations.
    • Reading Level: ATOS Reading Level 4.2 for grades 9-12.
    • Themes: Teen angst, alienation, the judgement of society, teen rebellion.
    • Excerpt: "Where I want to start telling is the day I left Pencey Prep. Pency Prep is this school that's in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. You probably heard about it. You've probably seen the ads, anyway. They advertise in about a thousand magazines, always showing some hot-shot guy on a horse jumping over a fence. Like as if all you ever did at Pencey was play polo all the time. I never even once saw a horse anywhere near the place. And underneath the guy on the horse's picture, it always says: "Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men."
  4. To All the Boys I've Loved Before (series) by Jenny Han
    • Synopsis: A young half Korean high school girl keeps a box of love letters to all her secret admirations. The contents of the letters become known to many at her school and she forms a contract with a boy to fake a relationship.
    • Reading Level: Guided Reading Level Z for grades 3-12.
    • Themes: Teen angst, alienation, the judgement of society, teen rebellion.
    • Excerpt: "When someone's been gone a long time, at first you save up all the things you want to tell them. You try to keep track of everything in your head. But it's like trying to hold on to a fistful of sand: all the little bits slip out of your hands, and then you're just clutching air and grit. That's why you can't save it all up like that. Because by the time you finally see each other, you're catching up only on the big things, because it's too much bother to tell about the little things. But the little things are what make up life."
  5. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
    • Synopsis: A 12-year old hispanic girl spends a year learning about the harsh reality of adulthood in a male-centric poor Chicago neighborhood - "Mango Street". She struggles with the conditions she finds herself in, while also maturing in a variety of ways into adulthood.
    • Reading Level: Guided Reading Level W for grades 9-12.
    • Themes: Gender,Adolescence, Identity, Culture, Poverty
    • Excerpt: "The house on Mango Street is ours and we don't have to pay rent to anybody or share the yard with the people downstairs or be careful not to make too much noise and there isn't a landlord banging on the ceiling. But even so it's not the house we'd thought we'd get. We had to leave the flat on Loomis quick. The water pipes broke and the landlord wouldn't fix them. We were using the washroom next door and carrying water over in empty milk gallons. That’s why Mama and Papa looked for a house, and that's why we moved into the house on Mango Street, far away, on the other side of town."
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by L'Engle, Madeleine
    • Synopsis: A group of siblings have lived without their mysterious scientist father for several years following his discovery of a new planet and attempt to travel there using a tesseract. The children embark on a journey with mysterious beings to the even more mysterious destination, with plenty of danger along the way.
    • Reading Level: Guided Reading Level W for grades 5-7.
    • Themes: Science, Religion, Spirituality, Conformity, Feminism
    • Excerpt: "It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. "Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I'll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract."
  7. The Fault in Our Stars by Green, John
    • Synopsis: This book tells the story of a 16-year old who has been living with a cancer diagnosis for 3 years and her relationship with a 17-year old boy who had just gone into remission, but lost his leg in the process. They connect through their love of novels and agree to try and meet the author of one, however, they quickly learn that it's not always good to meet your heroes.
    • Reading Level: Guided Reading Level Z+ for grades 9-12
    • Themes: Suffering, Death, Grief, Importance of Literature
    • Excerpt: "I'm in love with you, and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I am so lucky to love her. ... You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say who hurts you."

Why Every Teen Can (and Should) be Reading

Now that you have some idea of what makes a book readable for teens, and a few examples of the top teen books right now, it's a good idea to step back and remember why teens should read in the first place. Teen literacy is one of the most important factors for success after High School. For example:

  • Girls with low literacy are 300% more likely to become pregnant.
  • 43% of adults with low literacy live in poverty.
  • 16-year olds who choose to read books for pleasure outside of school are more likely to secure managerial or professional jobs later in life.
  • Reading for just 30 minutes a week, teens are 20% more likely to report greater satisfaction in life.

There are many other benefits of reading for teens:

  • Falling Asleep
  • Mental Stimulation
  • Blood Pressure
  • Stress Levels
  • Reading in the Morning

Hopefully this list helps you engage a teen with some great reading material. Is your teen getting ready for college? Don't make the mistake of sending them to the local bookstore! Remember to visit us again, or join our email list to get great deals on textbooks!