13+ Books for Teens (and tweens)

With a teen whose reading level has been in the high-school range way before she was a teen, it’s been hard to find age-appropriate books that aren’t ridiculously beneath her reading level and therefore, boring. When we do find books that pass muster, we have to share! These are all highly recommended by Kathryn (soon to be 14) from her recent reading list.

The reading level of the following books range from middle to high school level, but all are interesting enough to engross the reader regardless of age. Although Kathryn has never needed urging to read, some of these would engage even reluctant readers, and most of this list would be great for boys, too.

books for teens
I’m using affiliate links in this post, but regardless of whether you purchase through them (thanks from our family if you do!), I hope you’ll find a few books you and your kids will enjoy!

1) Escape Into the Night by Lois Walfrid Johnson

This is the first book in the Freedom Seekers series. This series is about 12-year-old Libby, who becomes involved in the Underground Railroad while living on her father’s Mississippi River steamboat in the 1850s.

There are six books in this series; Kathryn has read and enjoyed the first three, and is eager to read the rest in the series.

2) Jupiter Winds – C.J. Darlington

In the year 2160, a teen girl becomes the bait to capture her missing revolutionary parents she thinks are long dead; when the worst happens, she questions everything she thought she knew about life, her missing parents, and God. Futuristic sci-fi with a Christian worldview.

Kathryn says this is a 5-star must-read, and she’s eager for the next book in the series.

3) The Giver – Lois Lowry

Jonas lives in a perfect world with no fear, no pain — and no choices. When he begins to learn the truth of reality, everything changes for him. (The Giver movie is out now, but read the book first!)

The rest of the books in the series are just as highly recommended: Gathering Blue; Messenger; and Son.

4) Princess Academy – Sharon Hale

Not the fairy tale book in sounds like from the title, this story is somewhat more adventurous. Definitely not one the boys would enjoy but good for girls who don’t like all fluff. Looks like this is part of a series, too, but she’s only read the first so we can’t recommend or not recommend the rest of them.

5) Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – Grace Lin

Fantasy story based on Chinese folklore. A young girl named Minli lives in the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, and goes on a quest to find the Old Man in the Moon in order to change her poor family’s fortune. Kathryn enjoyed this and I adored it, too.

6) The Upstairs Room – Johanna Reiss

Written by the author of Heidi, this is a story of two Jewish girls who secretly lived with a Dutch family for two years at the end of World War II. Although the story is about the Holocaust, it manages to be realistic without being as disturbing as many other books on the same topic.

7) May B. – Caroline Starr Rose

Set in the times of Little House on the Prairie, this story is about a girl with a learning disability who is left to fend for herself during a harsh Kansas winter. The story is told through verse, and was a quick read, but enjoyable.

8) The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate

Knowing Ivan was a gorilla who lived at our local (Atlanta) zoo, I was eager to read this book. It’s a fictionalized account of his life, told from his perspective. Kathryn and I both loved it — and I cried because I’m a complete sucker for animal stories. Beautiful and worth reading.

9) The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan

Part of Percy Jackson & the Olympians series.
“Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school… again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’ master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.”

Kathryn says it’s the best thing since Lord of the Rings. That’s about the highest praise a book can get, and she’s antsy to get the next one in the series!

10) Hoot – Carl Hiaasen

Though not convinced at first that she’d enjoy this book, Hoot won her over. Set in Florida, a new-to-town boy ends up involved in trying to save a colony of endangered owls living on a construction site.

11) PIE – Sarah Weeks

Alice’s aunt Polly dies and leaves her legendary pie crust recipe to her cat, which means everyone suddenly wants the cat — who has been left to Alice!

12) Turtle in Paradise – Jennifer Holm

We’re currently obsessed with all things ocean, so the cover art of a girl holding a starfish first drew our attention. Set in the 1930’s during the Great Depression, this story is about a girl named Turtle who is sent to live with relatives in Key West while her mother takes a hard-to-find job to make ends meet.

13) Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – Robert O’Brien

Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse facing illness in the family and imminent disaster. The extraordinarily intelligent rats end up helping her because of a mysterious tie to her late husband. Kathryn was sad about the outcome for one of her favorite characters, but loved the story regardless.