Holiday Book Gifts: Ages 13+

by Tom Burns

Photo credit: FatCamera, E+ Collection. Getty Images

One of the most significant things you can do this holiday season is buy a book for a teenager. And that’s not because teens don’t like to read — teens love to read. But buying a book for a teenager can be tricky because they have so many strong feelings when it comes to their reading material. Matching the perfect teen with the perfect book can be a hard thing to pull off.

With that in mind, the team at Brightly has put together this holiday gift guide filled with amazing YA and teen-friendly titles. At least one of these (if not more) should appeal to the teens in your life!

  • Ninja: The Most Dangerous Game

    by Tyler "Ninja" Blevins and Justin Jordan, art by Felipe Magana

    If you asked a scientist to go into a lab and create the perfect book for a reluctant teenage reader, this would probably be the result. It's an original graphic novel featuring Ninja, arguably the world's most popular video game streamer. (If your kids play Fortnite, they 100% know who Ninja is.) In The Most Dangerous Game, Ninja is transported inside one of the battle royale games he dominates online and is forced to see if he can survive IRL. Perfect for gamers.

  • Frankly in Love

    by David Yoon

    Know a teen who adored Netflix's To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (or the Jenny Han book on which it’s based)? Trust us — they will love this cross-cultural romance from David Yoon, who Entertainment Weekly calls "YA's next superstar." Teenaged Frank Li comes from a strict Korean immigrant family, and things get complicated when he meets the girl of his dreams ... and she's not Korean. It's heartfelt, complex, and achingly romantic.

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  • The Warcross Box Set

    by Marie Lu

    Do you have someone in your life searching for their next YA series to obsess over? Introduce them to Marie Lu's acclaimed Warcross series with this special two-book set. In the tradition of William Gibson, we're introduced to a world of hackers and sinister corporations all centered around a massively popular video game called Warcross. Teenage hacker Emika Chen finds herself forced to go undercover at a Tokyo gaming tournament and quickly discovers she might not escape with her life.

  • A River of Royal Blood

    by Amanda Joy

    This epic fantasy, steeped in North African mythology, is ideal for teens who couldn't get enough of Marvel's Black Panther or Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. It follows young princess Eva, who learns that she's the heir to a powerful blood magick that hasn't been seen in her family for generations. Now, as she strives to take hold of her kingdom's throne, which involves facing off in a battle to the death with her older sister Isa, Eva finds herself encountering more adversaries than she ever could've imagined.

  • Wicked Fox

    by Kate Cho

    Who doesn't love a good supernatural romance, especially when it rejects the traditional vampires and werewolves and gives us something new? Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung is a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox from Korean mythology, who must drain the life force of men to survive. She spends her evenings stalking the streets of Seoul, preying on violent men, until she falls in love with a human named Jihoon and her whole world is thrown into turmoil.

  • Looking for Alaska

    by John Green

    John Green is the patron saint of making teenagers have all the feels with his novels like The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns. Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, is finally getting its own adaptation as an eight-episode limited series on Hulu. So, now is a great time to have the teens in your life read the source material. Even if they're not big binge-watchers, they'll definitely connect with Green's heartfelt coming-of-age story set at an Alabama prep school.

  • Penguin Minis: Let It Snow

    by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson

    This is a fantastic gift idea if you know a voracious reader. Penguin Minis are a collection of new ultra-slim books designed to fit in your pocket — they’re perfect for reading on the go. Also getting the small screen treatment — this time from Netlfix — Let It Snow contains three holiday romance stories by bestselling authors John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle. Might be the best stocking stuffer concept we've heard all year.

  • Wilder Girls

    by Rory Power

    This dark meditation on survival and female friendship has been called an "eerie, unforgettable triumph," which is almost an understatement. When a viral contagion called the Tox spreads across the globe, three young women fight to say alive as the world, their relationships, and even their bodies mutate uncontrollably. It's unsettling, thrilling, and will linger in your thoughts for weeks after reading.

  • American Royals

    by Katharine McGee

    There are countless YA books about princes and princesses, but it's rare to find one with such an inventive concept behind it. In a clever bit of alternate history, this novel imagines what would've happened if George Washington had become America's king following the Revolutionary War. McGee's story follows Princess Beatrice, one of Washington's modern-day descendants, who is trying to navigate her role in America's 21st-century monarchy. A great page-turning romance in a world you haven't seen before.

  • House of Salt and Sorrows

    by Erin A. Craig

    Know someone who likes their YA fantasy a little gothic and otherworldly? This macabre fairy tale might be the perfect fit. A ghostly take on the classic "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" legend, this story follows a girl named Annaleigh — one of 12 sisters — who starts wondering if local legends about her family being cursed are true when her sisters begin mysteriously dying off. Full of atmosphere and magic, this is ideal for fans of Angela Carter and the Brontë sisters.

  • Blood Heir

    by Amelie Wen Zhao

    There are times when you just want to kick back and read an epic fantasy about a strong female protagonist. If you're familiar with that feeling, you won't want to put this book down. It's set in the corrupt Cyrilian Empire, where people with magical abilities are considered enemies of the state. Princess Ana has been struggling for years to hide her own inherent talent with blood magic, but her life gets a whole lot more complex when her Emperor father is killed and Ana is the chief suspect.

  • How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems

    by Randall Munroe

    Have you ever thought about the best way to build a lava moat around your home? Or wondered which sports equipment is most efficient at taking down a drone? Former NASA roboticist and creator of the popular xkcd webcomic Randall Munroe invites readers to apply ridiculous amounts of science (and humor!) to these scenarios and more in his new book, How To. Illustrated throughout in Randall's brilliant style and hilariously footnoted, this quirky nonfiction book makes an excellent gift for science-loving teens.

  • The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth

    by Philip Pullman

    Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is considered one of the greatest fantasy series of all time. In 2017, Pullman kicked off a new trilogy set in the His Dark Materials universe, The Book of Dust, with the novel La Belle Sauvage. Now, we're getting the second chapter of the new series, which gives fans something they've always wanted to see: a glimpse of what happened to lead character Lyra Belacqua after the events of the first trilogy. In The Secret Commonwealth, Lyra is all grown up and finds herself drawn into a new mystery surrounding the nature of "Dust" (the strange elementary particles that play a huge role in her world). This is essential reading for Pullman fans or anyone excited about the new HBO/BBC His Dark Materials TV series.

  • Girls Who Run the World: 31 CEOs Who Mean Business

    by Diana Kapp, illustrated by Bijou Karman

    Beyoncé told us years ago who really runs the world ("Girls!”), and this remarkable graphic novel takes the next logical step and shows us how they do it. This is a fantastic concept — Girls Who Run the World profiles 31 different women who run their own companies. Through their empowering stories, young readers get to hear real-world examples of how women broke through barriers to succeed in business — and it also gives readers tips on how they can do it, too.

  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch

    by Kelly Thompson, illustrated by Veronica Fish

    Thanks to the new, more mature direction of Archie Comics and the recent Netflix series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, everyone’s favorite teenage witch has become a popular icon for modern young adults. This exceptionally cool graphic novel offers a great introduction to the character and indulges in some of Sabrina Spellman's classic supernatural teen hijinks.

  • Random Mini: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

    by Erika L. Sanchez

    This powerful book about family and cultural identity is a bestseller and 2017 National Book Award finalist. If you've read it, you know why. Sánchez presents an achingly perceptive portrait of a young woman trying to live up to the oppressive expectations of her Mexican family. After the death of her seemingly perfect sister, Julia is forced to consider whether anyone can ever live up to her parents' idealized notion of what a Mexican daughter should be. This edition of the book comes in Random House's new slimmer Mini format, which makes it easy to read this unforgettable book wherever you go.

  • The Fountains of Silence

    by Ruta Sepetys

    Sepetys is a master of historical fiction — her past novels Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray have been huge bestsellers. Now, she's returning with a heart-wrenching historical tale set against the violent backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. In 1957, the scion of a wealthy family, 18-year-old Daniel Matheson, comes to Madrid to pursue his love of photography. But, as his camera captures the horrors of war, Daniel has to ask himself what he's willing to do to protect his family from what's boiling under the surface in Spain.

  • Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

    by Rachel Cohen and David Levithan

    We could all use a little more whirlwind romance in our lives. If you know a teen who wears their heart on their sleeve, you should definitely introduce them to Dash & Lily. From the authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, this openhearted ode to romance follows 16-year-old Lily who leaves a red notebook filled with challenges on the shelf at her favorite bookstore — hoping the perfect guy will accept her dares. Fate directs the book into the hands of Dash, who rises to the occasion and gets Lily back with some dares of his own. Ideal for romantics or anyone who wishes they could be a romantic.