The 9 Best Books for Teens of 2019

A complication of great books for young adults

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First Look

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak at Amazon

"Beautifully-written and deeply moving."

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee at Amazon

"A poignant combination of fact and fiction."

OCDaniel by Wesley King at Amazon

"A mysterious and thrilling novel."

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed at Amazon

"Amal tackles class structure, poverty, and sexism."

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson at Amazon

"A tale of six students who meet weekly to speak from their hearts."

A Series of Unfortunate Events at Amazon

"Filled with many plot twists and intriguing mysteries."

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion at Amazon

"Simone Biles shares her inspiring journey."

The Family Romanov at Amazon

"This award-winning book presents a thrilling true story of the Romanovs."

Inside Out and Back Again at Amazon

"Beautiful coming of age story of Kim Hà during wartime in Vietnam."

Our Top Picks

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief

 Courtesy of Amazon

In Nazi Germany, 11-year-old Liesel Meminger is living outside of Munich when she discovers a discarded book in the snow and it changes her life forever. She begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. As her reading improves and she becomes even more fascinated with words, she begins writing about her life during this dangerous time. Beautifully-written and deeply moving, this novel stands out in the crowded field of Holocaust literature. Despite the tragic and disturbing storyline, The Book Thief is filled with warmth, humor, and hope and is an important and meaningful read for both teens and adults.

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

A poignant combination of fact and fiction, Outrun the Moon tells the story of an indomitable teenage girl and her determination to succeed, even in the face of disaster. Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong wants to break her family’s cycle of poverty, but the year is 1906, and in Chinatown, San Francisco, there aren’t a lot of educational opportunities for Chinese-American girls. She cunningly gets admitted to an elite private school for girls, but finds the environment to be more challenging than she anticipated.

Her life is then completely turned upside-down when an earthquake devastates much of Chinatown, destroying Mercy’s home and school. In the midst of all mayhem, Mercy is determined to help her broken city heal and tries to bridge the obvious divide between the affluent and marginalized. Outrun the Moon is a heartwarming story about the resolve and resilience of a teenage girl, but also her community, as they come together in a difficult, dire situation.

OCDaniel by Wesley King

This first-person narrative is told from the perspective of Daniel, a 13-year-old who tries to hide his obsessive compulsive disorder as he struggles to fit into the cruel world of middle school. Then he gets a note that puts him in the middle of a mystery that may change everything.

While the book does address Daniel’s experience with OCD and gives readers a realistic glimpse into the disorder, the plot revolves around the mystery, so it’s not too clinical and focused on OCD. Full of heartbreak and joy, as well as important lessons and themes, OCDaniel is a thrilling novel that will definitely have you rooting for Daniel and eagerly turning the pages as his story is revealed.

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

With dreams of becoming a teacher one day, the main character, Amal, is living a simple, ordinary life in her Pakistani village until a terrible incident forces her to become an indentured servant for the village’s corrupt landlord. Her new life is a struggle, at times traumatic and heartbreaking, but she stays strong and resilient.

As Amal discovers the corruption of the ruling family, she’s determined to band with others and fight injustice, so she can eventually return to her loved ones and pursue her goals. This riveting, beautifully-written novel addresses themes such as class structure, poverty, and sexism, while conveying the story of a brave, inspiring young girl.

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

This artfully-written and timely novel for middle schoolers tells the tale of six students who meet weekly, unsupervised, to speak from their hearts about issues that are affecting them. From race, prejudice, and privilege to immigration and grief, the subjects and are real, compelling, and very relevant.

As they express the feelings and fears that they hide from others and try to make sense of the world around them, the kids offer a powerful vantage point and demonstrate the power and effectiveness of talking to others. Although Harbor isn’t an action-packed, plot-driven novel, the characters’ relatability and stories will keep young readers in suspense and make them want to continue turning the pages.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

A series of 13 books, A Series of Unfortunate Events, follows the Baudelaire orphans as they seek to unravel the mysteries of their family. Filled with many plot twists, intriguing mysteries, and exciting adventures, this series manages to keep you hooked all the way through the last book. Lemony Snicket’s entertaining writing style and dark sense of humor make them quick and fun reads.

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles

Olympic gold medalist and the most decorated U.S. gymnast of all time, Simone Biles shares her inspiring and fascinating journey from her early childhood in foster care to the Olympic podium. In her own words, Biles describes all the trials and tribulations that she experienced along the way. Her intimate and intriguing stories give insight into her determined spirit and what drives her to stay positive and focused, even when under pressure. When reading Biles’ words, it’s difficult to not be motivated and encouraged to dream big and work hard.

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

This award-winning book presents the thrilling, tumultuous, and true story of the Romanovs, Russia’s last royal family. Through the use of first person accounts and photos, author Candace Fleming presents this riveting story of politics and intrigue set in early 20th century Russia. She paints an intimate portrait of the doomed family and their extravagant lives, while weaving in narrative details about Russia’s suffering poor masses. Teens who claim that history is boring will be surprised when they’re captivated by this exhilarating story that’s just as mesmerizing as any novel.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

It’s tough to stop reading once you start this poignant and beautiful coming of age story and, after you’ve finished, it will stay with you for a long time. Told in verse and from the point of view of the 10-year-old main character, Inside Out and Back Again tells the tale of Kim Hà and her journey during wartime in Vietnam. As Saigon falls, Hà and her family are forced to flee their beloved home and they board a ship headed to America. After settling in Alabama, Hà learns what it feels like to be treated as an outsider and how difficult it is to adapt and be accepted in a new country.

Through her struggles and determination to forge a better life, Hà also discovers the profound love and strength of her own family. Both heartfelt and heart-breaking, this book is an inspiring, important story that will give teens insight into the immigrant perspective.

Need more recommendations for young adult books? Check out our picks for the best motivational teen books.

Our Process

Our writers spent 8 hours researching the most popular books for teens on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 17 different books overall and read over 320 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.

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