Teen

Holiday Book Gifts for Teens

by Iva-Marie Palmer

holiday gift guide teen
Illustrations: Penelope Dullaghan

If they’re readers – and maybe even if they’re not always readers but have exhausted all their streaming options and are feeling a bit tapped out by social media — the teens in your life are easier to buy for than you might think. New books – or gorgeously repackaged gift sets of favorite titles – are always a delight. Here are a few of the best books to give this holiday season.

  • Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares

    by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

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    From New York Times-bestselling author duo Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, this anti-cliché Christmas romance is about to become a Netflix series. It was also originally published in 2010, perhaps making it new to today’s young-adult romance readers. The clever premise centers on the somewhat sheltered Lily leaving a red book of challenges on the bookstore shelf where the kind of guy she’d like might see it, and cynical Dash happening upon it and being charmed enough to take up the gauntlet. The Netflix tie-in edition will be on sale on October 27.

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  • His Dark Materials Boxed Set

    by Philip Pullman

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    Whether they’re fans of the HBO series His Dark Materials or not, any fantasy lover will consider Philip Pullman’s trilogy a must-have. This new set, complete with new cover art, will also captivate teens who’ve already read the adventures of Lyra and Will – normal children on a dangerous journey through haunted otherworlds.

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  • Patron Saints of Nothing

    by Randy Ribay

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    Filipino-American Jay Reguero has few plans for the last semester of his senior year; video games and a lot of doing nothing until college. That’s until he discovers his Filipino cousin was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs. His family refuses to talk about it, so Jay travels to the Philippines to find out what really happened. Randy Ribay’s novel was a National Book Award finalist, and his exploration of huge issues alongside his poignant and real observations on family, culture, and religion make this a winner.

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  • This Is My America

    by Kim Johnson

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    Author Kim Johnson explores the racist inequities of the American justice system in her debut novel about 17-year-old Tracy Beaumont, a teenager writing letters to seek help for her father, an innocent Black man on death row with the clock ticking. Then her brother, Jamal, a bright-futured track star, is wanted for the alleged murder of a white classmate, and he is nowhere to be found. The extraordinary Tracy, whose voice and wisdom propel readers through this book, now has to save her brother, too. This ultimately uplifting book is a must-read for every American teenager (and their parents).

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  • Dear Justyce

    by Nic Stone

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    In this sequel to her William C. Morris finalist Dear Martin, Nic Stone tackles police brutality and the unjust carceral system. This novel brings back characters Justyce McAllister and Vernell LaQuan Banks years after the first book, with Justyce now a student at Yale University and his friend Quan behind bars at the Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center, charged with murder. In flashbacks and scenes interspersed with letters from Quan to Justyce, Quan’s story takes shape, and offers a new perspective on our flawed justice system.

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  • The Inheritance Cycle Boxed Set

    by Christopher Paolini

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    Paolini’s first book, Eragon, became an international sensation not only because readers were swept up in the story of a young boy learning of his fate as a Dragon Rider, but also because Paolini wrote the first draft when he was only 15 years old. Three additional books tie together The Inheritance Cycle, and this boxed set features interlocking art across the spines of the four novels. It makes a beautiful gift for a young fantasy lover.

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  • Watch Over Me

    by Nina LaCour

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    Printz Award winner Nina LaCour, author of We Are Okay, is back with what Kirkus calls an “emotion-packed must-read.” High school graduate Mila has aged out of the foster care system, so when she’s offered a position in a remote part of Northern California, working on a farm with young foster children, she takes the opportunity — hoping to find a real home. But while it’s a sanctuary in many respects, the farmhouse where she’s living is haunted, and the ghosts force Mila to confront her own past and memories.

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  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

    by Erika L. Sánchez

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    Not being who your parents expect you to be is a challenge for many teens, and it’s the story in this often-funny, extremely poignant book by Erika L. Sánchez. This National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller is about Julia, who’s very intentionally not living up to her parents’ dreams for her, while her sister Olga does everything right. When Olga is killed in a tragic accident, Julia takes it upon herself to heal her family, and learns that maybe her sister wasn’t the perfect Mexican daughter she’d led their parents to believe.

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  • The Magic Fish

    by Trung Le Nguyen

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    This gorgeous graphic novel from debut author-artist Trung Le Nguyen is about Tiến, a teenage boy who adores fairy tales and uses them to navigate his life. He and his parents, Vietnamese immigrants, share the stories he checks out from the library, but when Tiến realizes he has a crush on his best friend Julian, he struggles to tell his own story. Beautiful in art and story, this touching graphic novel covers a multitude of themes.

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  • They Wish They Were Us

    by Jessica Goodman

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    Jessica Goodman’s stylish and suspenseful debut has already been optioned for television and is a must for fans of Gossip Girl or The Secret History. Enjoying a posh life in the vaunted world of East Coast prep schools, Jill Newman knows things aren’t always as they seem. Freshman year, her best friend was murdered by her boyfriend. Years later, Jill is a senior determined to enjoy her last year of school as a member of a not-so-secret “secret” society. But when she learns her late friend’s boyfriend may not have committed the murder, it’s up to Jill to find out who really did. And that might mean risking much more than her celebrated social status.

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  • One of Us Is Lying and One of Us Is Next Two-Book Boxed Set

    by Karen M. McManus

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    Once the holidays are over, the winter months become the perfect time to curl up with some suspenseful reads. This two-book set of Karen M. McManus’s bestsellers, One of Us Is Lying and One of Us Is Next, the first a detention-set murder mystery and the second about its copycat crime, are ideal reads for both teens who love thrillers and those just getting into the genre.

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  • American Royals II: Majesty

    by Katharine McGee

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    Katharine McGee’s bestselling American Royals asked, and answered, the question, “What if George Washington had been America’s first king, and not its first president?” The sequel to that novel finds Princess Beatrice assuming the throne, as the United States’ first queen. As she grapples with power and sacrifice, her siblings, Samantha and Jefferson, deal with their own royal family drama. The series is a great one for any reader obsessed with royals.

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  • Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star Two-Book Boxed Set

    by Nicola Yoon

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    Nicola Yoon is one of the reigning queens of YA romance, and for good reason. Both Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star captured readers’ hearts for their portrayals of falling in love against all odds. Yoon’s well-crafted characters and gorgeous writing make this box set a great gift for both her fans and newcomers to her work.

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  • Breathless

    by Jennifer Niven

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    Author Jennifer Niven wowed fans – both teen and adult – with her young adult debut All the Bright Places, now a Netflix movie. With her third book, Breathless, she’s sure to do the same. Claudine Henry is a young writer unabashedly pursuing her plans for her future – from penning a great novel to having sex for the first time. But when her parents unexpectedly split and her mother takes her to a mosquito-infested island off the coast of Georgia, her plans are disrupted by her own broken heart. Enter Jeremiah, a talented photographer who sees her the way she wants to be seen. Niven’s empowering coming of age story is a compulsive read.

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  • Bridge of Clay

    by Markus Zusak

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    Markus Zusak is best-known as the author of life-changing novel The Book Thief, and his latest has already won similar high praise. Zusak, a master of language, weaves an amazing family narrative about the five Dunbar brothers — who take care of one another in a world where they’ve determined the rules.

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  • All I Want for Christmas

    by Wendy Loggia

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    Any reader who devours holiday-set romantic comedies will need this book on their shelves. The Christmas-obsessed Bailey Briggs is all-in for the holiday, right down to donning reindeer ears to work at her local bookstore. But what she really wants is a kiss under the mistletoe. She’s sure she’s chosen the correct candidate in Charlie, a mysterious stranger with a cute accent, and that she must avoid Jacob Marley, noted player. Whether she’s chosen the correct guy to smooch is sorted in Wendy Loggia’s sweet romance.
    (On Sale: 11/3/20)

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  • Super Fake Love Song

    by David Yoon

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    Music and mistaken (or really, faked) identities take center stage in David Yoon’s second novel, the follow-up to his bestselling Frankly in Love. In this rom-com, self-proclaimed nerd Sunny Dae is blown away by the confident, cool Cirrus Soh. So when she wrongly thinks Sunny’s older brother’s bedroom – filled with rock posters and paraphernalia – is his, he tells her that he’s in a band himself. Not true. He starts a band, hoping to fake it ‘til he makes it, and it seems to be working, but a scheme like his can only last so long before it hits a sour note.
    (On Sale: 11/17/20)

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  • A Sky Beyond the Storm

    by Sabaa Tahir

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    The much-anticipated series finale to Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes saga, A Sky Beyond the Storm picks up a few months after the conclusion of A Reaper at the Gates, and readers will finally learn who will survive the storm. It’s a must-read for those awaiting the fates of Commandant Keris Veturia, Laia of Serra, the Nightbringer, and the Soulcatcher. But, if you know a teen who loves high-stakes, action-packed fantasy, the entire four-book series also makes a great gift.
    (On Sale: 12/1/20)

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  • New Year’s Kiss

    by Lee Matthews

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    This is a must-have for the romance fan on your list. Tess is spending the week after Christmas at a snowy ski lodge in Vermont and she’s not into it at all. But when she meets a cute guy, she wonders if maybe it’s not so bad after all. She then sets a goal to get out of her comfort zone before the New Year (some late-year resolutions, if you will) and readers won’t be able to resist turning pages to see if they’ll share a midnight kiss.
    (On Sale: 12/1/20)

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  • Admission

    by Julie Buxbaum

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    Julie Buxbaum’s latest is a “ripped from the headlines” novel set in the competitive world of the college admissions process. But, in Buxbaum’s trademark way, her characters never feel like caricatures. Protagonist Chloe Wynn Berringer is the privileged daughter of a B-list celebrity and, until her mom is arrested in a college admission bribery scandal, she’s never thought much about her complicity in the rarified – and maybe unfair – circumstances of her own life. This book promises to be buzzed-about, making it a great gift for teens with their fingers on the pulse.
    (On Sale: 12/1/20)

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  • The Cousins

    by Karen M. McManus

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    Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins who’ve never really gotten to know one another, and none of them have met their grandma. So, it’s very strange when she invites the three cousins to work at her island resort for the summer. Their parents, long cut-off from their rich mother, all agree that not going is not an option. As the strange summer begins, the Story cousins learn that whatever pulled them apart is not over. If the teens in your life love thrillers, author Karen M. McManus promises to deliver.
    (On Sale: 12/1/20)

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