The Best ‘Great American Read’ Picks for Tweens and Teens

by Keith Rice

Literature is an illuminating force, the imaginative spark that encourages and empowers young minds to learn, grow, and create. We all have one book (or hopefully several) we read when we were kids that inspired us or moved us or completely changed the way we saw the world and the people in it. That’s the magic of a great book. That’s the power of reading. It’s also what has us excited for “The Great American Read.”

Over the course of its upcoming eight-episode run, “The Great American Read” looks to “spark a national conversation about reading and the books that have inspired, moved and shaped us.” That’s certainly something we can get behind. The series has curated a list of 100 of the most-loved novels in the U.S. and will encourage fans to read the books, vote on their favorites, and share what they think makes the novels truly great. In anticipation of “The Great American Read,” which is set to premiere on PBS on May 22, we’ve taken a look at the list and pulled some of our favorites for young readers. From beloved classics to contemporary gems, there’s something here for every fan of middle grade and YA literature.

  • For Tween Readers

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    by Lewis Carroll

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    The curious and surreal adventures of young Alice in the bizarre Wonderland have been captivating readers for decades. Alice’s tumble down a rabbit hole sets her on a journey not quite like anything before or since — one populated with a Mad Hatter, deranged queen, and trippy caterpillar, among others.

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  • Anne of Green Gables

    by L. M. Montgomery

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    Anne Shirley is a precocious red-haired orphan sent by mistake to live with a middle-aged brother and sister on a farm in the fictional community of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. What follows is a classic coming-of-age tale that has been charming fans for over 100 years.

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  • The Giver

    by Lois Lowry

    Set in an eerie, emotionally sanitized future, this Newbery Medal-winning story centers on Jonas, a 12-year-old boy chosen to become his society’s Receiver of Memory — a person burdened with the memories of all of history. Only as Jonas delves further into his new trade does he begin to fully understand the dark and haunting secrets that underlie the seemingly idyllic society.

  • Harry Potter Series

    by J. K. Rowling

    Few young adult novels in recent memory have captured readers’ imaginations like J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. If you’re my age and grew up with Harry, odds are nothing will ever quite compare. The story of the Boy Who Lived is a modern classic — a bit of Roald Dahl, a bit of the good-versus-evil struggle, and a little of the boarding school tale … all told with J. K. Rowling’s flair.

  • Little Women

    by Louisa May Alcott

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    Louisa May Alcott’s beloved chronicle of the March sisters in Civil War-era New England stands as an example of early feminist literature. Through the story of four very different but very devoted sisters, Alcott examines the tensions between cultural obligation and the desire for more from life than society is willing to grant.

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  • Where the Red Fern Grows

    by Wilson Rawls

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    Where the Red Fern Grows is one of the great novels of middle grade literature. It is powerful examination of the bond between an owner and a beloved pet. Billy has long dreamt of owning two hounds. Once his dream is finally realized, he finds tragedy waiting just around the corner. With its precise language and keen observations, Where the Red Fern Grows is a must-read.

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Want to know what other books made it onto “The Great American Read” list? Head on over to PBS to see all 100.