Celebrate Teen Literature Day is April 16, during National Library Week. For me this opens up a great opportunity to talk with our teens about what they are reading and have read, and what they are interested in reading. It also gives us a chance to suggest some books for them to read.
I have compiled a list of 10 Must Read Books for Teens. While I know there are many choices out there and that each family and their values vary, this is a list of some of my favorites as well as classics that you might want your teen to tackle.
10 Must Read Books for Teens
1. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher - Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush – who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and learns the truth about himself-a truth he never wanted to face.
2. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – Widely considered The Great American Novel, and often remembered for its epic film version, Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the red hills of Georgia. A superb piece of storytelling, it vividly depicts the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne – he Scarlet Letter is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s masterpiece and one of the greatest American novels. Its themes of sin, guilt, and redemption, woven through a story of adultery in the early days of the Massachusetts Colony, are revealed with remarkable psychological penetration and understanding of the human heart.
4. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – That neither nature nor nurture bears exclusive responsibility for a child’s character is self-evident. But generalizations about genes are likely to provide cold comfort if it’s your own child who just opened fire on his fellow algebra students and whose class photograph—with its unseemly grin—is shown on the evening news coast-to-coast.If the question of who’s to blame for teenage atrocity intrigues news-watching voyeurs, it tortures our narrator, Eva Khatchadourian. Two years before the opening of the novel, her son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and the much-beloved teacher who had tried to befriend him. In relating the story of Kevin’s upbringing, Eva addresses her estranged husband, Frank, through a series of startlingly direct letters. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son became, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about both motherhood in general—and Kevin in particular. How much is her fault?
5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
6. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare – In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare creates a violent world, in which two young people fall in love. It is not simply that their families disapprove; the Montagues and the Capulets are engaged in a blood feud. In this death-filled setting, the movement from love at first sight to the lovers’ final union in death seems almost inevitable. And yet, this play set in an extraordinary world has become the quintessential story of young love. In part because of its exquisite language, it is easy to respond as if it were about all young lovers.
7. Harry Potter Series – by J.K. Rowling – One day just before his eleventh birthday, an owl tries to deliver a mysterious letter the first of a sequence of events that end in Harry meeting a giant man named Hagrid. Hagrid explains Harry’s history to him: When he was a baby, the Dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, attacked and killed his parents in an attempt to kill Harry; but the only mark on Harry was a mysterious lightning-bolt scar on his forehead.Now he has been invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where the headmaster is the great wizard Albus Dumbledore. This series chronicles Harry’s adventures.
8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – In a remote Hertfordshire village, far off the good coach roads of George III’s England, a country squire of no great means must marry off his five vivacious daughters. At the heart of this all-consuming enterprise are his headstrong second daughter Elizabeth Bennet and her aristocratic suitor Fitzwilliam Darcy — two lovers whose pride must be humbled and prejudices dissolved before the novel can come to its splendid conclusion.
9. Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer – Bella Swan’s move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Bella’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Bella, the person Edward holds most dear.Deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires.
10. A Separate Peace by John Knowles – Set at a boys’ boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.
Many of the books I chose because they are so often referenced in movies, pop culture, and compared to in great literary works. To not know such works as Gone with the Wind or Harry Potter would mean missing many inuenduos and references.