Books Every Teenager Needs to Read

You know how there are some books that you just read at the perfect time of your life? And it just feels right? Here are some books that I believe are best appreciated from a teen’s perspective (although really everyone should love them cause they’re all great). Being a teenager comes with unique challenges and it can feel like you’re alone in it all. Something we need to remember though is that we’re all going through these struggles. Here are a few of my favorite books that I think highlight the challenges, beauty, and coming-of-age-ness that is being a teenager.

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Looking for Alaska by John Green

Miles “Pudge” Halter decides to go to Culver Creek Boarding School. Armed with an obsessive amount of memorized famous last words, nothing could prepare him for life at Culver Creek, the friends he makes, and more specifically, Alaska Young. She’s smart, funny, a bit dangerous, and Pudge is definitely in love with her. But that was all before.

“We never need be hopeless because we never can be irreparably broken. We think we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old.”

John Green, Looking for Alaska

This book is like the ultimate coming-of-age story. I love it so much and I think a lot of other teens would as well. My favorite part is that it’s a very character-driven novel that’s about teenagers. There’s nothing special about them. They’re just normal teens. Sure, they’re a bit eccentric and Alaska is a lot of things lol, but at the end of the day they’re just kids. I think there’s something really beautiful about that. There’s so much beautiful commentary on religion and feminism and our outlooks on life as well and it stuck in my head long after I finished reading it.

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

Izzy O’Neil, aspiring comic, is just trying to get through high school when a website pops up, releasing explicit photos of her with a politician’s son. Other teens at her school and even people she doesn’t know jump at the chance to rip her apart, while the boy is left blameless. It raises questions that are begging to be addressed concerning slut-shaming and how girls and women are portrayed in the media vs their male counterparts. It’s not okay. It’s The Exact Opposite of Okay.

“I actually really admire people who slut-shame on the internet. Usually when someone has a low IQ they try to hide it, but these guys just throw it right out there in the public domain.”

Laura Steven, The Exact Opposite of Okay

The book made my feminist heart so happy while also making me want to punch a large percentage of the cast of characters, which is exactly what it was meant to do. This book is so impactful and so relevant. I cannot recommend it enough. It touches on very important and sensitive topics with humor and a conversational tone. I think a lot of teens will relate to Izzy, even if they’ve never been through her exact situation. At the end of the day, she’s any one of us. She’s just a girl trying to make it through high school and figure out what she’s going to do with the rest of her life.

Popular by Maya Van Wagenen

This book is a memoir about a teenager named Maya. She finds a popularity guidebook from the 1950s and decides to use it to attempt to climb the social ladder of 21st century middle school. She ends up learning a lot of lessons about confidence, the way we see ourselves, and the concept of popularity as a whole. This social experiment is funny, but also thought provoking and emotional.

“This is the time to remember that I’m the protagonist in my own story, facing every challenge with grace and wit.” 

Maya Van Wagenen, Popular

First off, I would just like to mention that this book is a memoir written by a 15 year old which I think is just amazing. The whole book really reads like a novel, proving the point that we really are protagonists, and it was just so beautiful. It highlights the challenges of growing up wonderfully while also touching on questions about the legitimacy of popularity. If you’ve ever felt insecure or like an outcast, I can’t recommend a book more than this one. It will truly change your outlook.

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes

Yamilet struggles with being one of the only Mexican kids at her new Catholic school. She already feels like an outsider. The last thing she needs is for them to know that she’s also gay. Especially when word could get back to her mother. Her mother who already can’t find a good thing to say about her. However, things get more complicated when she meets Bo, the only openly queer girl at the school who also happens to be really cute.

“Looking at her, I realize I’m not surviving anymore. I’m dancing, and laughing, and living.” 

Sonora Reyes, The Lesbian’s Guide to Catholic School

This book touches on many important topics like race, sexuality, and religion. It’s really thought provoking and I especially appreciated the commentary on how religion can be used to excuse hatred. I think this book is relevant to a lot of teenagers and is just the kind of book that everyone should read.

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Oliver and Emmy were childhood best friends. That is, until Oliver was whisked away to who-knows-where for ten years by his father. Emmy just wants some freedom, but her parents refuse to give her any since Oliver went missing. When Oliver is found and returns to his old hometown, things are complicated. Oliver doesn’t know how to act around his old friends and family that he hasn’t seen in so long. Emmy hopes to pick up right where they left off, but a lot changes in ten years and neither of them know where to begin.

“That’s when I first learned about true frustration, that wrenching ache when the thing that matters most to you barely makes a ripple in other people’s lives.” 

Robin Benway, Emmy & Oliver

I just finished this book a couple of days ago but I’m totally in love with it. Like, I’d like to apologize now because I’m probably going to recommend it a lot on here and Instagram. This book is emotional and cute and is one of the most realistic portrayals of teenagers I’ve came across. All of the characters felt so real and you’ll empathize with them from the first page. This book teaches so much about the struggles of growing up, having strained relationships with your parents, and figuring out who you are and if you’re anything like me, you’ll absolutely love every word of it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and founds some book recommendations. If you have any books you think teenagers should read before becoming adults, make sure to share them down below. As always, I hope you’re having a great day and this post finds you well!

5 thoughts on “Books Every Teenager Needs to Read

  1. Wow, i sure got a lot of recs from here. I actually had a neutral opinion on Looking for Alaska- because it was just so sad and melancholic, it left me with an empty feeling. Glad to know you loved it though! I want to read Emmy and Oliver, but rn I’m busy with school and stuff. I hope i get to read it soon.
    Loved this post 💛

    1. I get that. There are a lot of mixed reviews of Looking for Alaska lol. I feel like it’s one of those books that can teach you a lot even if you didn’t love it, you know? Also you should totally read Emmy and Oliver when you get the chance. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve read this year!

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