A study by Forbes states that the highest percentage of readers by age was 88 percent among the 18-24 age group, followed by 86 percent in the 16-17 range. So, a lot of teenagers do read novels, particularly in the US and U.K. (India is lagging in this list, with only 25% of literate youth reading for leisure!). What genre do teenagers prefer? Fantasy tops the list, like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and thousands of other fascinating fantasies. Followed by teen stories and young adults like The Catcher in the Rye, and the most loved, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Well, you cannot be certain about which genre a teenager might like, my 13-year-old cousin loves reading novels like A Man’s Search for meaning and Tuesdays With Morrie! That really fascinated me, you can expect your parents or grandparents to read that kind of novel, not your teen cousin!
So, after ranking the best novels of all time and the alternative list, we’ll be ranking the best books to read for teenagers. And again, ranking them was not really an easy task, and a cold-hearted one too, as ranking these masterpieces one above the another and leaving out some great books which couldn’t make it to the list isn’t easy.
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Best books to read for teenagers-
1) Looking for Alaska by John Green
“So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”
How will you get out of this labyrinth of suffering? Well, that’s the question around which the novel revolves, as one of the main characters, Alaska Young, is a labyrinth herself, which the protagonist Miles Halter tries to solve. The nerdy protagonist Miles Halter’s boring and regular life turns into an adventurous and unexpected one when he moves to Culver Creek high school and meets extraordinarily talented yet reckless Alaska Young, with whom he falls in love at the first sight. However, he doesn’t really know who Alaska is, a wonderful and joyous young girl, or something else he cannot even imagine? The novel is filled with fun and adventures and a profound philosophical debate, ‘how to get out of this labyrinth of suffering?’ Making you laugh, cry and ponder at the same time.
Read the full summary of Looking for Alaska- Looking for Alaska: Summary and Review.
2) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“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.”
I guess this novel has already been included in your assigned readings, but I’m sure it didn’t felt like homework! Often considered the best novel of the 20th Century and a ‘modern classic’, this novel by Harper Lee is truly a must-read, not only for teenagers but people of every age group. To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930s, in a small town of Maycomb, Alabama, when discrimination, prejudice, and hypocrisy are at their peak in America. The mockingbird of the novel, Tom Robinson, a black man, is falsely accused of rape of a white girl. Atticus Finch, an honest lawyer with dignity, popular in the town, is assigned as a defense lawyer for Tom Robinson. Well, the racial and orthodox people of Maycomb have already declared Tom Robinson as the culprit. Will Atticus Finch be able to defend and save the mockingbird? And the most interesting part of To kill a Mockingbird is that this serious issue of racial discrimination is hilariously narrated by the six-year-old protagonist, Jean Louise!
Read the full summary- To kill a mockingbird: summary and review
3) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
“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.”
Well, one cannot write a list of best books to read for teenagers without including The Catcher in the Rye in it, which is worshipped by young adults since it got published in 1951! And even after 70 years of its publication, it still retains its spot in the list of best novels of all time, especially the teenage version. The Catcher in the Rye is the story of an awkward and frustrated 17-year-old Holden Caufield, who narrates the story of his life in the last year after he got expelled from his school, which was already his fourth one! In this last year, Holden feels everything a normal teen feels, angst, alienation, frustration, etc. Holden narrates the story of his completely messed-up life in the most hilarious manner, and that’s what makes it a teenager’s favorite and ever refreshing, even if it’s set in the 1950s.
Read the full summary- The catcher in the rye: Summary and Review
4) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
“Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.”
Well, if you love novels whose stories are narrated by the characters, this one’s surely for you. However, this isn’t narrated by a protagonist, or even a living character, or even a person, The Book Thief is narrated by Death! Death is a male voice who narrated the story of the protagonist Liesel Meminger. The story is set in the age of Nazi Germany during World War 2. Liesel moves to live with her foster parents, Hans and Ruby, after the death of his brother. However, innocent Liesel is eventually exposed to the horrors of Nazi Germany. Her life changes after Hans teaches her to read and write, which eventually starts her obsession with books, especially those which the Nazis are seeking to destroy! And she starts stealing them. Will the cruel Nazi world forgive her innocence?
5) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
“I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.”
Finally, a mystery novel! The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the first novel of Mark Haddon and is indeed the first-time wonder, winning the Whitebread Book Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year. The story is narrated by the 15-year-old protagonist Christopher John Francis Boone, who, like most protagonists of young adults, has behavioral problems. Christopher’s life takes a u-turn when he finds the dead body of his neighbor’s dog. Unfortunately, Christopher himself becomes the prime suspect and gets arrested. He’s ultimately released, but with a police caution. To prove his innocence, Christopher investigates the dog’s death, and that’s when the misery starts, as some serious truths await him.
6) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
“Life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of a community.”
I think first-person narration novels have a monopoly over the list of best books to read for teenagers, and they truly deserve it, every teenager likes to view and understand things from the perspective of the narrator, who are quite extraordinary. Similarly, this novel is narrated by Arnold Spirit Jr., known as ‘junior’. Junior is a 14-year-old cartoonist. He grows up on Spokane Indian Reservation, however, he is determined to move out of his troubled school and move to an all-white public school, and leave behind his Spokane Indian Reservation. But, the world out there isn’t quite welcoming for him as the only other Indian other than Junior is the school mascot! The beautifully narrated story is accompanied by some amazing comic illustrations, making it more impressive.
7) The Giver by Louis Lowry
“The life where nothing was ever unexpected. Or inconvenient. Or unusual. The life without color, pain or past.”
A utopian society, no wait… a dystopian society, well, that’s how the novel confuses you. As quite evident from the introduction, The Giver is a young adult dystopian novel, which follows the story of the 12-year-old protagonist, Jonas. Jonas lives in a ‘perfect’ community, which is free from poverty, hunger, prejudice, violence, and crime. Every family in society has a copy of the Book of Rules, the society’s constitution, which is blindly followed by them. And every other kind of ‘weird’ thing happens in the society to make it look utopian, including a plan to eradicate emotional depth from their life. But it doesn’t take much time for a utopian society to turn dystopian.
8) The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
“They grew up on the outside of society. They weren’t looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.”
A mesmerizing fact: The author was sixteen years old when she wrote the novel! So, this is a ‘real’ coming of age novel written by a teenager himself, quite fascinating, isn’t it? The Outsiders is the story of a 14-year-old protagonist, Ponyboy Curtis, who believes that he’s an outsider in this society, who’s confused and struggling between right and wrong, between the greasers and socs (two rival gangs). And according to Curtis, there are just two kinds of people in the world, greasers, and socs! The socs are rich, they have money, and enough attitude to irritate the greasers, who are relatively poor and live on the ‘outside’. Ponyboy is a proud greaser, until one night when his friend……..
9) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
“I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.”
The great Charles Dickens needs no introduction, I mean the moment you see Charles Dickens’ name on the cover, you can assume that ‘this one’s a masterpiece!’ And so is Great Expectations, which is Charles Dickens’ second first-person novel after David Copperfield. The novel portrays the story of the seven-year-old Pip, who’s an orphan, living with his ill-tempered sister and her husband. Pip encounters a prisoner, who forces him to steal food and other items from his sister, but soon, they develop a relationship. As Pip grows old, he desires to be a gentleman and has ‘great expectations’. But would the cruel world of Dickens let him fulfill his great expectations?
10) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I’m both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
Well, in a nutshell, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is quite similar to The Catcher in the Rye, but with much more lovable characters, especially Charlie, an introvert, awkward, and extremely adorable teen protagonist. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a first-person novel that follows the story of Charlie, through his freshman year, when he navigates the world of adolescence with his innocence. He makes new friends, falls in love with one of them, helps the other, and makes everyone adore him, but mistakes ought to happen at this age, intentionally or unintentionally…..
So, that’s all for the list of best books to read for teenagers, but…
It would be a total injustice if we didn’t mention some special acknowledgments in the list!
Best books to read for teenagers: Special Acknowledgments
- The Fault in our Stars by John Green
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
- Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
- The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou