Get book recommendations, tips & advice, and more tailored to your child's age.

Thank You!

The perfect book picks are on their way.

You're all set!

Teen

YA Novels to Read With Your Teenager

by Laura Lambert

books-on-togetherness-ya
Photo credit: PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier, PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images

The gift of YA is that we adults were teens once — and we can relate. The best books are meaty enough for an adult to enjoy, full of believable characters and stories that pull you right along and set in worlds that teens might want to inhabit. They make perfect fodder for the long days we have now as many of us are home with our families.

But reading YA isn’t just about escapism. As a parent of a teen, I’ve often found that I need to come at a subject sideways in order to spark conversation. (Head-on, it’s bound to be two sentences or less: “Honey, what do you think about X?” “Okay, mom.”) But we can talk about love and betrayal — or even heftier topics — by talking through the finer points of a good book. While you don’t have to start an official in-house book club with your teen, you certainly could.

Tuck into these 12 engrossing YA books that span across genres — first love, historical fiction, dystopian fantasy — and appeal to adults and teens alike (even if it is just to escape).

  • Frankly in Love

    by David Yoon

    Also available from:

    This YA rom-com tackles fake dating, first love, and family expectations with humor and heart. To keep his Korean parents from finding out that he’s dating a white girl, Frank strikes up a fake relationship with a family friend. But it doesn’t take long before Frank feels confused about who he is, what he wants, and which girl he loves.

    Also available from:
  • How It All Blew Up

    by Arvin Ahmadi

    Also available from:

    When Amir comes out to his traditional Iranian family, things quickly go downhill. To escape the drama and find a place where he can be himself, Amir heads to Rome for the summer. There, he discovers freedom and acceptance with a new group of friends. Told in alternating timelines, this heartwarming story about family, identity, and romance is perfect for summer.

    Also available from:
  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay

    by Adib Khorram

    Also available from:

    Darius feels like he doesn’t fit in anywhere, and going to Iran won’t help that. But once he’s there, he meets Sohrab, and the two teenage boys become inseparable. This hopeful story celebrates the power of friendship and its ability to change a person’s life. It’s a fantastic read for anyone who ever felt like they don’t belong.

    Also available from:
  • Together, Apart

    by Erin A Craig, Auriane Desombre, Erin Hahn, Bill Konigsberg, Rachael Lippincott, Brittney Morris, Sajni Patel, Natasha Preston, and Jennifer Yen

    Also available from:

    The pandemic was brutal for everyone, but the lockdown hit teens especially hard. This collection of short romantic stories set during that time is perfect for young people who still feel the effects. From delivery boys to young entrepreneurs, readers will find hopeful and uplifting stories about teens who found love under bizarre and stressful conditions.

    Also available from:
  • Color Me In

    by Natasha Díaz

    Also available from:

    If you’re in the mood for a YA novel that will make you laugh, cry, and think, this is an excellent book to read with your teen. When her parents split up, Nevaeh reconnects with her mother’s side of the family. But her new life presents many challenges she has never faced before, including racism, prejudice, and religious intolerance. As the girl who always does what she’s told, Nevaeh will have to find her voice to figure out where she fits.

    Also available from:
  • House of Salt and Sorrows

    by Erin A. Craig

    Also available from:

    Sisterhood, mystery, magic, and ancient curses collide in this spooky fairy tale retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. With four of her older sisters dead, Annaleigh determines to find out who (or what) has been killing them. Eerie visions haunt her days, and lavish balls occupy her nights as she hunts for a way to break her family’s curse.

    Also available from:
  • Nicola Yoon 2-Book Bundle: Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star

    by Nicola Yoon

    Also available from:

    Everything Everything is the first YA book I shared with my daughter. We didn’t read it at the exact same time, but one after the other – closely enough that we could discuss plot points or characters in a casual way. She thought I was cool for liking it; I thought she was cool for chatting with me about it. That’s about as good as it gets with a teen. Everything Everything is a love story, but the pieces my teen and I talked about were not just about love — it was a parent’s desire to protect a child, an 18-year-old’s need for freedom. I imagine reading it today, weeks into a pandemic that has us shut away inside from everyone but our immediate family, and how we might see the disorder that defines the main character's entire life — "bubble baby disease" — in a new light.

    If you love Everything, Everything, be sure to check out The Sun Is Also a Star.

    Also available from:
  • I’ll Give You the Sun

    by Jandy Nelson

    Also available from:

    I’ll Give You the Sun is the story of Jude and Noah, fraternal twins who at 13 are the best of friends, but by 16 are estranged. The story is deftly told from alternating perspectives — shy, loner Noah, from age 13; bold, beautiful Jude, from the vantage point of age 16, after the tragedy that tears them apart. As much as the story is about grief, it’s also about art. “The book celebrates art’s capacity to heal, but it also shows us how we excavate meaning from the art we cherish, and how we find reflections of ourselves within it,” wrote Lauren Oliver in her review in The New York Times. Nelson’s first book, The Sky is Everywhere, is also an equally good read.

    Also available from:
  • Legend

    by Marie Lu

    Also available from:

    Not every YA book needs a capital-M message to appeal to both parents and teens. Sometimes, a good ol’ dystopian romp through not-so-far-in-the-future Los Angeles is enough. In Legend, June and Day, both 15, are from opposite sides of what’s left of the United States: June is an educated elite from the ruling Republic, Day is a Robin Hood-like rebel from the slums. The story may feel familiar — part Hunger Games, part Les Miserables — but the writing feels fresh. The first in the Legend trilogy, this is a gripping series that will compel you and your teen to have a discourse about class.

    Also available from:
  • If I Stay

    by Gayle Forman

    Also available from:

    In If I Stay, the protagonist, Mia, a promising young cellist, is caught between life and death — and has to choose. Her parents died in the same car accident that has left her in a coma. As she hovers in an out-of-body in-between place, we learn about who and what she’s already lost and what she would leave behind. It’s a thought-provoking, compelling book that can spark truly meaningful conversation. What in your life would you say is worth living for?

    Also available from:
  • One of Us Is Lying

    by Karen M. McManus

    Also available from:

    A murder mystery, YA-style. Gen X adults will appreciate the allusions to The Breakfast Club, as five teens from five different social circles end up in detention. But only four of those teens make it out of detention alive. The student who dies — Simon — ran a gossip app called About That, and apparently, he knew enough devastating secrets to make any one of the others a viable suspect. Like any good mystery, One of Us Is Lying keeps you guessing and offers good fodder for discussions about stereotypes, secrets, and gossip.

    Also available from:
  • The Future of Us

    by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

    Also available from:

    Read The Future of Us together if only to see the look on your teen’s face when they finally understand what it meant to be ‘online’ in 1996. In this story — co-written by Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why, and Mackler, author of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things — Emma and Josh, best friends, log on in 1996 ... only to somehow land in a future full of likes and friend requests (i.e., Facebook). When they realize that their thoughts and actions in 1996 have consequences 15 years later, things get interesting. Can the two teenagers rewrite the future? Should they try?

    Also available from:

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2020 and updated in 2021.