15 must-have historical fiction books for teens
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Historical fiction was my first genre love because from a very young age I loved learning about history and life in the past, but I didn’t like that my history lessons focused on men and adults. events. Reading about girls and everyday life has made history accessible to me, and good historical fiction books for teens are able to put readers in the shoes of the very real experiences of people throughout history. I continue to enjoy YA historical fiction in part because that genre is about exploring stories that have long been overlooked by history books, whether it’s the experiences of people of color, queer people, or even simply suppressed stories of those who resisted the persecution.
While there are so many great historical YAs to explore, we’ve rounded up fifteen new historical fiction books for teens from the past two years that you definitely don’t want to overlook! These books will take you as far back as 12th century Jerusalem, to 1980s Romania, and you’ll discover important facets of the story along the way.
Last night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
Malinda Lo’s National Book Award-winning novel explores the experiences of Lily, a young Chinese-American girl living in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1950s. When she discovers the Telegraph Club, a lesbian bar that welcomes her With her white classmate Kath, Lily can finally put words to feelings she has long struggled to understand. But being herself amid communist fears and McCarthyism may prove more dangerous than she realizes.
I have to betray you by Ruta Sepetys
Ruta Sepetys has a knack for telling stories about pockets of history that have been overlooked, and in her latest novel she sets her sights on Romania in 1989. Cristian is a teenager who looks to the future, but when he’s blackmailed by the communist regime into reporting on his community, he must decide whether he will betray his people or risk his life by joining the resistance.
Greenwood Angel by Randy Rose
Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, this novel follows Isaiah, a teenager with a reputation for being a troublemaker, and Angel, a rule follower whose family life is turned upside down. They are chosen by their teacher to participate in his mobile library program and they discover that the other has much more to offer than meets the eye…but their lives are changed forever when a white mob attacks. and set their community on fire.
We are not free by Traci Chee
This award-winning novel tells the story of 14 Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives were changed forever after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and who end up in an internment camp on American soil. Having grown up together in Japantown San Francisco, they must now come together to survive as they fight injustice and speak out against racism.
Blue Bird by Sharon Cameron
After the horrors of World War II, Eva is a concentration camp survivor who arrives in New York in 1946. As many move on from the past, Eva is driven by a singular purpose: to tell the world about the Nazis’ Bluebird Project, to pursue justice and find the only Nazi who escaped.
The most dazzling girl in Berlin by Kip Wilson
Hilde grew up as an orphan in 1930s Berlin, but when she turns 18, it’s time for her to finally strike out on her own. Life seems hard for someone without a family to speak of, but soon Hilde finds herself taken under the wing of Rosa, a waitress at Café Lila, where she finds a job, a family, and a place to belong for the first time. in his life. As his feelings for Rosa deepen, political feelings in Germany darken and Hide must come to terms with what it means to love a city that doesn’t seem to love him back.
Great or nothing by Jessica Spotswood, Tess Sharpe, Caroline Tung Richmond and Joy McCullough
In this story of Little woman, four YA authors each address the points of view of the different March sisters. But this iteration sees the little women facing a nation about to change during World War II as they each struggle to find their own way, together and apart.
Titanic’s Luck by Stacey Lee
While the story of the sinking of the Titanic is famous, few people know the fate of the Chinese passengers aboard the ship. Stacey Lee, a historical fiction writer known for bringing the stories of Chinese Americans to life, wrote about Valora Luck, a clandestine acrobat who boards the Titanic to follow her brother and pursue the dream of a better future in America. But when the ship scrapes an iceberg, his dream becomes a struggle for survival.
Bad girls never say die by Jennifer Matthew
Set in 1960s Houston, this tribute to The foreigners by SE Hinton follows Evie Barnes, a self-proclaimed bad girl who finds herself in a predicament at a party…and the person who comes to her rescue is the last she would expect: Pretty, popular, good girl Diane. As they both deal with the fallout of their actions, Evie must wrestle with what makes a girl good or bad, and the unjust society that rules those rules.
The red palace by June Hur
June Hur is the author of YA historical novels set in Joseon, Korea, and her latest is the story of Hyeon, a young woman working as a palace nurse who becomes embroiled in a court murder mystery. When she begins to investigate, she finds disturbing evidence suggesting that the culprit is none other than the Crown Prince. Set in the 18th century, this novel is loosely based on the real Crown Prince Sado.
A session in Saint-Jacques by Rita Williams Garcia
This LA Times Book Prize winner is set in 1860 Louisiana and is about the many intertwined lives tied to a plantation. When the mistress of the Petit Cottage decides to pose for a portrait, she triggers a series of events that will force accounts.
Travelers on the way by Aminah Mae Safi
Set against the backdrop of the Third Crusade, this Robin Hoods tale follows the paths of a motley group of unlikely characters from different sides of the conflict who find themselves thrown together into the most unlikely of situations. They not only find community, but a sense of purpose as they attempt to outsmart a queen and bring peace to the land.
So many beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow
Another one Little woman narrative, but this one sticks to the original period in the days following the Civil War, recasting the March sisters as black girls searching for their way and their future in the freedmen’s colony of America. Roanoke Island. Meg is a teacher, Jo is a writer, Beth a seamstress and Amy a dancer. They look to the future by forging new paths together.
mazie by Melanie Crowder
Mazie may be a small town Nebraska girl, but she dreams of big city lights. So she jumps at the chance to spend six weeks in New York, leaving behind a heartbroken boyfriend while hoping to leave her mark. But standing out in a hopeful town is no small feat, and as Mazie sees the dark undersides of show biz, she must decide if it’s worth sacrificing her integrity to pursue a dream.
The Degenerates by J. Albert Mann
Maxine, Rose, Alice and London are four girls sentenced to life in prison at the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded. The institution claims to be a haven for disabled, criminal and deviant girls in society, but it is not a good place. The four of them become a kind of family, watching over each other and protecting themselves from cruelty. But when it becomes clear that they must escape for their own safety, the girls will go to great lengths and risk everything for a better future.
Want more great historical fiction reads? Check out our list of 100 must-read historical novels.