When teenagers are the main characters

Teenagers make great characters in books. Image: commons.wikimedia.org

We all know there is a lot of book material in the teenage life and these stories prove my point. Family, romance, relationships and looming adulthood are the ingredients for great characters. I love to read about teenagers and how they make decisions during life-changing events. These stories are even richer when there is a larger historical, social or economic backdrop. And who can resist a suspenseful thriller with teenage secrets and lurking danger? Take a look at the titles I’ve reviewed and see if you can add to the list.

Billy Bathgate by E. L. Doctorow – 4 bookmarks – fifteen-year-old Billy Bathgate from the 1930s Bronx becomes a protégé of the notorious hot-head New York mobster Dutch Schultz.

Calmer Girls by Jennifer Kelland Perry – 4 bookmarks – teenage sisters confront romance, jealousy and tense family issues in this absorbing story set in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Defending Jacob by William Landay – 3 bookmarks – Andy and Laurie Barber face conflicting emotions of doubt and guilt when their teenage son is named a murder suspect.

Eating Bull by Carrie Rubin – 4 bookmarks – exciting psychological thriller that tackles serious family issues, obesity and the food industry.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo – 4 bookmarks – intense teenage relationships and family conflicts in a struggling Maine town.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson – 4 bookmarks – fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook grows up fast during Philadelphia’s Yellow Fever plague in 1793.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman – 3 bookmarks – seventeen-year-old Mia clings to life in the hospital and wonders if the decision to live is up to her.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight – 3 bookmarks – debut novel about a mysterious death and the secret life of teenagers at an elite private school in Brooklyn.

“Saint Marie” from Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich – 4 bookmarks – a dark tale about a half-Native American girl in a Catholic convent and the desire for revenge.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak – 5 bookmarks – unforgettable World War II story about Liesel Meminger, given up to a foster family outside Munich, Germany. Strong friendships and new family relationships make this an incredible story.

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant – 3 bookmarks – coming of age story about Addie Baum, daughter of Jewish immigrants from Russia, set in Boston during the early 1900s.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 4 bookmarks – heartbreaking teen love story in the face of devastating illness.

The Fever by Megan Abbott – 3 bookmarks – what’s causing bizarre symptoms and seizures at a small town high school? Dark secrets and teenage culture muddle up the picture.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – 5 bookmarks – six talented teenagers meet at a summer camp for the arts during the 1970s and grapple with the complicated relationship between talent, success, money and happiness.

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson – 4 bookmarks – debut novel about eight privileged high schoolers from a wealthy suburb of San Francisco and a new English teacher who tries to connect with them.

Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements – 4 bookmarks – fifteen-year-old Bobby Phillips wakes up one morning to discover that he is invisible and must place his trust in an unlikely friendship.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson – 3 bookmarks – teen angst and coming of age story about high school senior boy, a modern Catcher in the Rye.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – 4 bookmarks – family wealth and rivalry are too much for three teenage cousins and their best friend, who decide to take matters into their own hands, with disastrous results.

Of course there are many more classics I’ve read but haven’t reviewed. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and A Separate Peace by John Knowles are two examples. What are your favorite teenager books?

Thanks for visiting  – come back soon!

14 thoughts on “When teenagers are the main characters

  1. I’ve read several of these, too – and am looking forward to reading more, thanks for the recommendations. The one stand-out that I would add to the list is To Kill A Mocking Bird. In all the years (decades actually) that have passed since I read it, Scout is still my hero.

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