Entering high school is a major turning point for teens. It often means switching to a bigger school, meeting new peers, trying out greater levels of independence, and managing increased responsibilities and academic expectations. In addition, high schoolers have to figure out who they are, who to date, how to drive, and what to wear. It’s four years of intense highs and lows. It’s also a goldmine for writers, who have sifted through the challenges and joys of adolescence to create a body of work that gives teens characters and narratives they can relate to. We’ve compiled some of our favorites reads to help almost-freshmen (and their parents) get prepared for the phase ahead.
Sleeping Freshman Never Lie
Wouldn’t it be great if you got a manual on how to survive high school? Scott Hudson thinks so, which is why he’s writing one for his soon-to-be sibling. To make sure his future little brother or sister has an easier time than he does, Scott covers everything from bullies to unrequited love to how to survive on too little sleep.
Surviving High School: A Novel
Chances are, if you’re the parent of a girl between the ages of 10 and 16, your daughter knows who Lele Pons is. A Vine sensation with millions of followers, she’s funny and cool and doesn’t take herself *too* seriously. Her first novel dives into the world of cliques, classes, and craziness that is freshman year.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Charlie is a painfully shy freshman. A wallflower who watches the world around him rather than interact with it. Which makes finding friends, dealing with his family, and falling in love difficult. When it all becomes too much, and Charlie has a mental breakdown, he has to find a way back to the world and himself.
Does My Head Look Big in This?
Amal is an ordinary girl — a smart, funny, boy-crazy, shopaholic who also happens to be a devout Muslim. When she decides to wear the hijab at school, her whole world changes. A great read for anyone who makes a choice to stand out and stand up for what they believe in.
Eleanor & Park
First love almost never ends well, as Eleanor knows. Eleanor’s best friend Park, however, won’t be deterred. He knows they should be together. This is a book about being young and in love and believing that really liking someone is enough to overcome any obstacle.
A Step Toward Falling
Emily is a good girl; the girl who does the right thing, until one night she doesn’t. After Emily and fellow high school student, Lucas, fail to stop a classmate with developmental disabilities from being attacked, they are made to do community service at a center for disabled people. What happens next changes both of them. A heartbreaking exploration of fitting in and growing up.
The Great American Whatever
The Great American Whatever has all the facets of a great American story — an aspiring artist, a tragic loss, a dedicated best friend, and romance. That the main character is a gay 16-year-old boy only adds complexity and depth to this funny and sad coming-of-age tale.
How many of us wish we had been kinder in high school? Would you go back and be more accepting, generous, or aware of other people’s challenges? I would. Help prepare your rising freshman to be the person you wish you had been by asking them to read Wonder. It’s “technically” a middle grade book, but it’s never too late to instill kindness in our kids before they hit the high school halls.
Highly Illogical Behavior
Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left his house in three years. Lisa wants to be a psychologist. She wants to fix Solomon and secure herself a place in a college psych program. This is a story about friendship and love and mental illness and becoming who we want to be.
The Fault in Our Stars
Hazel and Augustus are the modern day Romeo and Juliet, but with a twist. This is the romance story of romance stories for teens. After reading this, crushing on the guy in English class won’t seem so tragic.
The Unexpected Everything
Parents are embarrassing, which is why it’s best to avoid them. That’s hard to do, though, when your dad’s a congressman caught in a political scandal and your whole world turns upside down. For every teen who thinks they can control their lives, The Unexpected Everything is a reminder that sometimes life just happens and you have to deal.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Blue van Meer has a head full of knowledge, but no friends. She and her father Gareth move too often for her to make any. She thinks things might be different when she starts at the prestigious St. Gallway School and meets the Bluebloods. That is, until students start dying. This book will take you through the canon of books kids read (or are supposed to read) in high school, while captivating you with a devilish murder mystery. Who says high school has to be dull?
What other books would you recommend to high school newbies? Let us know in the comments below!