One of my favorite types of books is historical fiction and my teen has been reading a lot of historical fiction books recently, which makes me happy. Because it gives us a lot to talk about,
With the help of my daughter, I put together this list of great historical fiction for teens. If we could, we’d have covered a lot of different time periods and different points of view. However, there are some gaps in this book list when it comes to history and geography, so we’ll keep reading and adding new books as we find more great ones to add.
Some of these books are YA fiction, but there are also some that are middle grade and even a few that were written for adults. I don’t pay too much attention to the age recommendation from the publisher. Instead, I think about what I think a teen will like and be able to connect with.
When I read these books, I’ve been careful to make sure they have age-appropriate content. I’ve marked any that might be a little PG-13 and those that might be better for older teens. If you have any questions about a book on the list, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them. These are all the books I’ve read and liked.
Historical Fiction for Teens
The Wednesday Wars
The story is about Holling Hoodhood, a young boy who thinks his teacher doesn’t like him. It takes place during the Vietnam War. She forces him to stay with her on Wednesday afternoons to learn about Shakespeare, which Holling thinks is like being thrown in a pit. When he learns more about Shakespeare, he learns more about himself, as well.
The Fountains of Silence
(1950’s) This is good historical fiction for kids who want to learn about Madrid during General Francisco Franco’s fascist rule. There is a lot of poverty, and soldiers are on the streets ready to punish anyone who doesn’t follow the rules, like a dog.
In Spain, it’s dangerous, but Daniel Matheson, 18, and his family have arrived in Madrid for a trip. Daniel wants to learn more about the country where his mother was born and take pictures that he thinks will help him get into journalism school. After that, he meets Ana. You learn a lot about 1950’s Spain when the two of them get to know each other.
Salt to the Sea
(1940’s) In 1945, the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by a naval attack from World War II, killing 9,000 of the 10,500 people on board. Most people don’t know much about it.
Ruta Sepetys tells the story of the tragedy through the eyes of four people: Joana, a Lithuanian nurse; Florian, a Prussian soldier fleeing the Nazis; Emilia, a Polish girl nearing the end of her pregnancy; and Albert, a young Nazi who wants to be praised for his greatness.
Ashes in the Snow
(1940’s) This book is one of my teenager’s favorite things. It’s the story of a Lithuanian family who is sent to Siberia by the Soviets during the Second World War. In this book, you’ll read about war and the cruelty of the Soviet regime. It’s also a book about courage and how to be a good person, though. Great book! It also has a movie version now, so there’s more to it.
(1940’s) In this book, there are a lot of different ways to look at the war. On D-Day, it’s about four young people in the war and how their lives meet.
It’s about time for Dee to go to the French coast. She’s a young soldier from the US. Then there’s Samira, a girl who works as a spy for the Germans in France. She’s trying to get them to do bad things. James is getting ready to jump out of a plane at night for a raid. It doesn’t stop the fight. Henry, a medic, is looking for people who need help while the fight goes on.
(1940’s) You should read this book, which is about Jewish teens who looked “Aryan” enough to get things into and out of ghettos in Nazi-occupied Poland. One of my favorite teen authors wrote it.
I think it’s very interesting to learn about the Jewish resistance and the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
Code Name Verity
(1940’s) I love this book about WWII. It’s about women during the war, and it’s a good, complicated story. It is about two best friends who are both English commoners and pilots for the ATA and spies for the SOE. As part of the British War effort, both women are doing what they can. When a spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France, one of them is taken by the Nazis.
If you don’t know what’s going to happen, you’ll be left guessing until the very end.
Girl in the Blue Coat
(1940’s) Another book about World War II. This one is set in Amsterdam after the Germans took over Holland. It’s good!
Hanneke’s parents don’t know that she spends her days delivering goods for the black market right in front of the Nazis’ eyes. This is what she does. As soon as she helps hide a Jewish teenager, things get very complicated. Beautifully written, and a book that will keep you turning the pages.
Orphan Monster Spy
(1930’s) There are some dark parts in this book, so I think it’s best for older teens to read it.
Sarah is a blonde, blue-eyed, Jewish teen living in Nazi Germany at the time. A mysterious man who works for the government as a spy comes into her life after her mother was shot. For his mission, he asks Sarah to join him. Then, he sends her to an elite boarding school where all the top Nazi officials send their daughters. If you want to keep reading, this book is for you.
1930s, 1990s, and now I love this book and I think you should read it, too. Is a movie that tells the stories of three kids in three different times. They’re all refugees, one from Nazi Germany, one from Cuba, and one from Syria, so they’re all different. Alan Gratz is very good at telling their stories and putting them all together in the present.
(1920’s) This one has a lot of PG-13 content, so it’s best for teenagers who are older than 13. It’s great historical fiction, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.
17-year-old Rowan Chase is on her family’s land in the present when she finds a skeleton buried there. To find out what happened in 1921 and why it happened, she has to go back to the 1920s and look into racial tension, segregation, and Jim Crow laws.
(1917) This is a love story set in France and London during World War I. The story is told by the Greek gods – Ares, Aphrodite, Apollo, and Hades – who tell the story.
In this book, you will learn about the birth of Jazz and Ragtime, the first African American soldiers, and how their cultures clashed with each other. This one is great to listen to because it has a lot of music in it.
Hattie Big Sky (Hattie Series)
She is 16 years old and an orphan. When she inherits her uncle’s Montana homesteading claim, she decides to leave Iowa and start a new life for herself.
Based on the author’s grandmother, who was a teenager when she made her own claim and started farming her own land on her own. 🙂 It’s so good!
The Hired Girl
(1911) I really liked this one. I think it was great. Joan Skraggs is tired of living on a farm in Pennsylvania and wants to move to Baltimore on her own. She gets a job as a hired girl for a wealthy Jewish family and lives there.
A narrator who is brave and kind is the best in this one.
A Fall of Marigolds
(1911) In this beautiful book, two women are linked by a scarf. When Ellis Island was built in 1911, one woman is a nurse on the island. Other than that, this is a woman who worked in Manhattan in 2011. She is in 2011. Both women have lost a lot of things, but the scarf helps connect the two women and their stories.
Words on Fire
(1890’s) This one takes you to Lithuania when it was under Russian rule. Russia’s Cossack soldiers put a ban on the Lithuanian language and books for 40 years after there was a fight in 1863.
As a young girl in 1893, Audra lives with her parents on a farm in Lithuania. She is the subject of this book, which starts when the ban was in place. Her parents are arrested and her house is set on fire. As she flees, Audra has a package that they asked her to bring back to them. As time goes on, she gets caught up in a secret book-smuggling ring. It’s great!
(1890’s) Toyo, a teenage boy, is caught up in the world of competitive boarding schools in Tokyo, where he goes to school. A lot of people are impressed with him at school. He wants to play besuboro (baseball), which is a game that is played between two teams of people from the same school. Samurai uncle: His father wants him to learn samurai skills. He is mourning the loss of this uncle and figuring out why this is what his father wants him to do. Samurai values from the old world help him learn a lot about baseball in the end.
The book is a great look at the time when Japan was becoming more modern and adopting more western values and getting rid of the old samurai culture. It’s also a good way to see how baseball was seen in Japan at the turn of the century.