Best books for teens: 12 must-reads for 13-18 year olds

Getting teens to read isn't always the easiest task these days thank to all their phones and laptops! This collection of modern must haves and classic reads is sure to peak their interest and spark a love of literature.

Image of a teen on a bed reading

Best books for teens include magic, travel, finding themselves, using their voice, love, heartbreak, best friends, the lot. And every single one comes with an underlying message to help your teen navigate life.

As parents of teens, you’ve probably moved on from the best books for toddlers, and the best books for kids. Though, no one is ever too old to love a personalised book.

When it comes to helping your teen choose a book, Kirsty Ketley, Parenting Consultant says: "Keep their minds open, explore different genres that provoke the best reactions - think fantasy, books that are relatable to them, adventure stories, autobiographies or sci-fi. 

“It's important to make sure that the books they pick are suitable for their age group and level of understanding. And ensure that younger teens are not reading anything too graphic or adult.”

She adds; "Some parents find that reading a book first themselves, helps determine what might be or not be suitable, and it readies them for any questions that may come up from reading it."

So, to help with that we’ve found 16 of the best tried-and-true books you and your toddler will love. 

Pastel blue cover with A to Z and illustrated people leaning on them

Credit: Simon & Schuster

1. Love from A to Z

Age suitability: 14-17 years | PaperbackZayneb’s teacher, who keeps reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are. As the only Muslim in class, she’s angry.When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break. Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

A heartfelt, honest, and featuring characters readers will fall in love with, this is sure to become a beloved book for many.

One Amazon reader said: “This book is absolutely stunning and it touched my heart so deeply. It's one of the most beautiful love stories I've ever read, it feels so raw and real. It deals with lots of important things, it's hard-hitting and difficult to read at times, but it's also interwoven with so much hope. An absolutely stunning book that's unlike any other YA that I've read.”


Blue cover with a red dog lying on the floor with a fork in him

Credit: Vintage

2. The curious incident of the dog in the night time

Age suitability: 13+ | PaperbackSeen through the eyes of Christopher, a mathematical genius and Sherlock Holmes fan, who also has Asperger's syndrome, this bestselling novel opens with the discovery of a murdered dog on the neighbour's lawn.

In his search to discover the identity of the killer, Christopher uncovers some disturbing information about his own family, which throws his ordered world into chaos, and he embarks on a journey to London to find the mother he thought was dead.

One reader said: “I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is not a story about aspergers but a story of seeing the world through the eyes of a young man who happens to have aspergers. The main character is honest and engaging.

The description of the crime in the beginning was graphic and violent which I imagine a lot of people, especially young readers, would find shocking and unpleasant.“


Black cover with pink hearts illustration

Credit: Corgi

3. Girls in Love

Age suitability: 12-17 years | PaperbackAs best books for teens go, this is stamped as a ‘Teachers’ Pick’ on Amazon, this is a great novel and has a funny and frank take on friendships, problems and heartaches that older fans will adore too.

The beauty of this story lies in the strong sisterhood of these three unique characters, in spite of their differences. The message is about trusting your instinct. Keep talking with friends, and turn to them to ask for their support. 


Bright orange cover with a large sand timer on the front

Credit: Simon & Schuster

4. They Both Die at the End

Age suitability: 14+ | PaperbackOn September 5th, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day.

A number one bestseller on Amazon, with over 18,850 ratings gives it a 4.6 out of 5.  One reader said: “They Both Die At The End is a fascinating speculative-YA about living vs. dying. It also features a gay Puerto-Rican main character and a bisexual Cuban main character, and I am ALL ABOUT the own voices representation.”


Cream cover with water painted blue dots 'holding up the universe' as one of the best books for teenagers

Credit: Penguin

5. Holding up the Universe Penguin

Age suitability: 12-18 years | PaperbackEveryone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed 'America's Fattest Teen'. But no one's taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Her mum died and now she has to go to high school, and she wants to be the girl who can do anything.

Stamped as a ‘Teachers’ Pick’ on Amazon it has over 2,900 ratings and a strong 4.5 out of 5 stars.  One reader said: “Very good, very emotional. Really kept me hooked until the last page- she’s a great author and it’s made me reevaluate life, as every good book should.”


Red book cover with yellow and black scissors

Credit: Penguin

6. Little Women Penguin

Age suitability: 10+ | PaperbackStamped as a ‘Teachers’ Pick’ this is a timeless classic that boys and girls will both love. Mary’s friendships grow in a lovely way throughout the chapters.

The story follows the lives and loves of four sisters which ultimately has a tragic end. Again, it’s a classic and a must-have for any book shelf.

With over 8600 ratings, this book has a strong 4.4 out of 5 stars. And one reader said:  “What a fantastic book! I was a bit sceptical about buying this book since I thought maybe it wouldn't suit an adult. But I was proved completely wrong since no matter whatever age you are, you will surely enjoy this. This is one beautiful book which I read slowly (over a month) , I would highly recommend every girl and boy to read this brilliant classic! 


Green cover illustrated with two people listening to earphones - a great book for teens

Credit: St Martins Griffin

7. Eleanor and Park Orion

Age suitability: 13 - 17 years | PaperbackThis New York Times bestseller is set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is funny, sad, shocking and true - an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.

Stamped as a ‘Teachers’ Pick’ on Amazon, it has over 7800 ratings earning it 4.4 out of 5.

One reader rated it five stars; “Oh my God, I loved this book so much, it took my little heart and snapped it into pieces. Eleanor is an amazing character. I felt just like her in school, the weird girl who stuck out like a sore thumb no matter how she tried to be invisible. I loved Park as well.”


Golden dragon illustrated on front cover

Credit: Harper Collins

8. The Hobbit 

Age suitability: 13+ | PaperbackAs best books for teens go, this is a timeless classic, about the adventures of a Hobbit Bilbo Baggins in his magical world of elves, dwarves and wizards. It’s quite a lengthy book, so one for keen readers, but if they’re a fan of Lord of the Rings, they’ll love this.

With over 20,000 ratings, this best-selling book has 4.8 out of 5 stars. One reader said: “It was an enjoyable tale of adventure, friendship, and courage which was set in a beautiful, massive, and lore-filled world named MIDDLE-EARTH.

"This book was originally meant for the pleasure of children and was created with that idea in mind. Even so, it can be enjoyed by all ages.”


dark pink and purple cover with pink wrought iron gates as book for teens

Credit: Tinder Press

9. Catherine House 

Age suitability: 17+ | PaperbackThe students who go to Catherine House know they've made a special commitment to the isolated school: No contact with the outside world for three whole years, no TV or internet, or even their own clothes. But Catherine House has something amazing to offer in return, even if few realise exactly what that is.

One reader, rated this as one of the best books for teens 5 star and said: “Loved the creepy campus setting and was hooked by the atmosphere and voice from the start. The unfolding mystery is chilling and well-paced, but what's stayed with me the most is the excellent characterisation.”


Orange white and black book cover, nineteen eighty-four book

Credit: Penguin

10. Nineteen Eighty-Four 

Age suitability: N/A | PaperbackAs best books for teens go, George Orwell's dystopian masterpiece, first published in 1945, is a hugely recognised novel has global mass appeal.  

It also demonstrates how crucial free-thinking is to protect, especially to readers whose minds are most malleable. Right now, Orwell's classic is more necessary than ever. 

While there isn’t a defined age group for reading this, however on commonsensemedia 66 reviews from kids put it at a 14+ reading age, compared to 17 parents who put it at 15+ years old. 

This hugely influential book has over 57,000 ratings on Amazon and has a strong 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

One reader said: “I first read 1984 in my late teens and I can honestly say it changed my view of the world and got me interested in politics and generally taking notice of what was happening in society. There are themes in this book that are as relevant now as when it was written.”


Front cover with floral arrangement over the text Everything Everything as a book for teens

Credit: Corgi

11. Everything, Everything

Age suitability: 14-17 years | Paperback As best books for teens go, this is a heart-warming story about a girl who’s allergic to the world, falling in love with the boy next door and risking everything for everything. Maddy spent her entire life in the cage that is her house. A prisoner to her sickness, she only ever gets to meet two people: her mother and her nurse.

Intrigued by the life of her next-door neighbours, she begins to watch them closely. She finds herself infatuated with Olly (the boy next door) and it seems that he feels the same way. This novel really is everything, powerful, heart-wrenching, and so absorbing it lifts and shatters and fills you all at once.

The message of this novel, being alive means living your life beyond that fear. Do the things that scare you, risk getting hurt, wear your heart on your sleeve. Because if you’re not being truly alive, then what’s the point in living?


Bright blue cover with orange font on the front for best books for teenagers

Credit: Walker Books

12. “I will not be erased” walker books

Age suitability: 14+ | Paperback Created by gal-dem, the award-winning magazine created by young women and non-binary people of colour. This is a great collection of fourteen well written, and funny life-affirming personal essays. They invite the reader to empathise and learn from the authors.

One reader, who rated it five stars, said: “This is brilliant. Devoured it in one sitting. Highly recommend it! It’s an important book about identity, sexuality, family love and about growing up as people of colour. Racism and revenge will always be bigger than your bullies.”


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Stephanie Lowe
Family Editor

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodToKnow covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. Just keeping on top of school emails/fund raisers/non-uniform days/packed lunches is her second full time job.