Wondering what to get the teens on your holiday gift list? Books are always a good option, and there are so many wonderful young adult (YA) books out now, with something for every teen’s interest. Here are ten riveting YA books that would be great to give as gifts to teens this holiday season, or any other time of year.
For teens who love sci fi and/or thrillers: Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
This fast-paced dystopian novel is a great option for teens who enjoyed Ready Player One or the Hunger Games trilogy and/or are fans of Veronica Roth. It’s an adventure that is a fun and entertaining, but the authors also said in this FacebookLive chat that they hope to inspire young people to ask questions about technology and virtual reality.
This is the duo’s fifth book together but their first for young adults. It is the first in a trilogy.
For teens who are fans of sports and/or biographies: Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
This story of football great Jim Thorpe is about much more than sports. It tells the history of the government’s treatment of Native Americans, including removing Native American children from their families and sending them to schools designed to erase their culture. It is the story of how an underdog group of boys pulled together to overcome obstacles as part of the winningest teams in American football history.
The Washington Post named this as one of its best books for kids in 2017.
If your teen loves coming of age stories or just loves a book that sucks them in: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Admittedly, this novel was released last year, but the paperback came out this year and it’s a really good one. So good, it won the YALSA Morris Award, was a New York Times Notable Book of the year and appears on several “best books of the year” lists.
It’s a coming of age story that focuses on the friendship of three teens living in a small town in Tennessee. They are discovering who they really are as they near their high school graduation, through a combination of humor and heartbreak. I love that it seems equally popular with boys and girls. You may want to give a box of tissues to go with this one.
For teens who love mystery: Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
This is a bestseller that won the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery. Set in Amsterdam in 1943, this follows a teen who is selling items on the black market while resisting the Nazis when she is asked to find a missing Jewish girl.
Common Sense Media says it is “[i]mpeccably researched and beautifully written” and adds that Girl in the Blue Coat “is the ideal book for a parent-child read-along . . . or simply the pleasure of a book that entertains, expands your horizons, and teaches you all at once.”
For teens who are interested in social justice issues: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book was both critically acclaimed and a New York Times best seller.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter sees her best friend killed in a police shooting that becomes national news. She is the only person who knows what really happened, but protestors and drug lords and others try to intimidate her and influence what she will say. Booklist calls this “[a]n inarguably important book that demands the widest possible readership.”
They wrapped filming of the movie version of this book, with Amandla Stenberg (“The Hunger Games”) playing Starr and rapper Common as Uncle Carlos. It doesn’t have a release date yet, but onsider pairing this with a promise to go see the movie together.
For teens who love romance: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Heroine Jessie is starting her junior year of high school at a swanky private school in Los Angeles after her father eloped with a woman he met online not long after her mother’s death. Jessie’s not sure how to navigate this new world, but a mysterious email from an unnamed source offering to help from arrives in her inbox.
Kirkus calls this “[a] heartfelt, wryly perceptive account of coming to terms with irrevocable loss when life itself means inevitable change.”
(If your teens have read this, check out What to Say Next.)
For teens who adore art and/or biographies: Vincent and Theo: The VanGogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
In a starred review, School Library Journal calls this study of brotherly love “[a] breathtaking achievement that will leave teens eager to learn more.”
It is based on the hundreds of letters Vincent wrote to his very supportive brother Theo. Short chapters help make this easy to read and while it’s particularly well-suited to art lovers, the story is compelling even if you only know a few of VanGogh’s paintings.
For teens who love suspense and/or science fiction: Mars One by Nathan Maberry
Tristan,a 16-year-old boy, has been selected with his family to be among the first to colonize Mars as part of the Mars One project. He finds leaving Earth harder than anticipated, and then the mission is threatened by a terrorist group threatening the project, the drama and suspense amp up quickly.
An employee at my local bookshop suggested this book. (Sidenote: Don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions- they are happy to help locate a great book for your teen.)
For teens who love fairy tales: Hunted by Megan Spooner
This is a mashup of a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with Russian folklore. It’s the best of both worlds – a familiar story that feels like an old friend but with enough twists on the classic to make it feel fresh. Yeva is the main character and she’s a huntress and powerful heroine. She is not interested in marrying an aristocrat or life at court, and she is certainly not a princess in need of rescuing. She heads to the woods to search for her father, who has gone missing
In a starred review, Kirkus says, “Spooner creates a detailed world populated by complex characters.”
For teens who love historical fiction: The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
This inspiring book is based on the real experiences of Dita Kraus, who at the age of 14 is imprisoned in Auschwitz and becomes responsible for the eight books the prisoners have hidden from the guards. Although it is set in a very dark time, the book also offers much hope. The author interviewed Kraus, who is still alive, for the book.
Publishers Weekly calls this “an unforgettable, heartbreaking novel.”
My teen will be getting a few of these great books as we embrace the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod this Christmas.
If you’re looking for books for tweens, check out New books for middle schoolers that make great gifts.
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