Are you looking to buy a book for a teen in your life but have no idea what teens these days are reading? I may not be completely up to date with the latest books, but below are some great books for all kinds of teens, complete with age suggestions. Best of all, if you click the links to read the reviews, you’ll discover a convenient link to Amazon and Barnes and Noble if you think you’ve found a good gift. Please note that my age recommendations are very subjective: all teens are different, so make your judgment based on the individual.
For the history buff:
The tale of Troy is ancient, but it’s also timeless. In Colleen McCullough’s The Song of Troy, she brings all of the legendary figures to life as humans, not as the legends they are now. They’re flawed, but you can also detect the grand themes running through the novel.
This is for a younger audience, mainly because it doesn’t have as much explicit content as my other recommendations. It follows the story of Kurt, an exchange student in Germany, as he tries to figure out what his grandfather did in WWII and why he won’t talk about it. It’s a deep examination of the nature of right and wrong, but it also lets the reader come to their own conclusion about Kurt’s grandfather and his actions.
This book is definitely great for someone who likes history, but loves romance more. It’s not entirely historically accurate, but you get the gist of the time periods the two lovers are in and their incredible journey through the centuries. It does have brief sexual content, so it’s not recommended for sensitive teens.
For the romantic:
To me, this is the ultimate romantic novel for both teens and adults. I know you’re thinking that time travel romance has already be done and it has. But nowhere near as well as John Heldt has done it in The Mine. His novel brought even me, a hardened cynic, to tears in the end.
Yes, this is a zombie romance. Yes, it is sort of predictable. But the difference between Tomorrow Land and other romance novels with zombies is that the two main characters don’t fall in Insta-Love. There’s not much science related to the zombie outbreak, but it’s still a great romance set against a post-apocalyptic backdrop.
For the science lover:
Yes, I know, zombies again. I was actually terrified of zombies until I read Feed, which is more of a political thriller with zombies than a pure zombie novel. As for the science involved, wow! It will impress all lovers of science, whether they are obsessed with it or only have a passing interest. Feed is definitely not for people who are grossed out easily, though; Mira Grant goes into the science of Kellis-Amberlee in excruciating detail.
No, this is not an Avatar rip-off (it predates the movie), but if your teen loved Avatar, they will love Old Man’s War. It seems like a teen reading a book about a seventy-five year old man would be bored or unable to relate to the character, but believe me when I say this is not the case. John Scalzi’s humour and thorough explanations of the science involved in the novel will make it easy to relate to for everyone, not just teens.
Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series is aimed at tweens and younger teens, although it can be read and thoroughly enjoyed by all ages. It’s a great coming of age story that has science, but also has important messages about body image and self-esteem. This book is what helped me work through my own body issues, so if you want to give a gift that is so much more than just a book, this would be the one.
For your daydreamer:
Puppet Parade has everything fantasy should: a well-built world, great characters and just a little bit of romance. Some teens may roll their eyes at the title, but once they start reading they’ll fall in love with Zeinab Alayan’s world. I know I did and I’m not someone who easily connects to books.
Krystal Wade’s debut novel was amazing, as was the rest of her Darkness Falls trilogy. Like Puppet Parade, it has romance and an amazing world. It also has its fair share of tragedy and plenty of plot twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Teens and adults alike will fall in love with Katriona and Arland, I guarantee.
Yes, there’s a huge lack of fiction for males on this list, but The Accidental Hero is a great book for teenage boys. It’s from the point of view of a boy and it’s about superheroes. What more could you ask for? The Accidental Hero is also the first book in a trilogy, which means if your teen likes it, you know what to get them for their birthday!
This is by no means a comprehensive book guide, but it’s a start if you have no idea what to get teens other than the obvious choices like The Hunger Games and Twilight. There are so many more great YA books out there if you only look. Guaranteed, there’s a book out there for everyone, even if they claim to hate reading!