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  • Writer's pictureGaila Cohen Morrison

Dear Gaila - Top Twenty Teen Books

This month I want to share with you my top twenty teen books. This list is especially dedicated to our 7th-8th grade Readathon participants (and also some 6th grade super readers!).

1) I'm starting out with the most obvious and popular series - Harry Potter. I think no more needs to be said...

2) The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz are a series of 9 fun, suspenseful books about Alex Rider, child-spy. Packed with action, suspense and drama - this is a good book for teens who are not into fantasy books.

Top teen books

3) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins are a good pick, especially since they have become very popular. I am certain that most teen readers have heard of this series (and movies) and will be interested in giving this trilogy a try.

4) The Giver is the first in the Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry. This one too, like the Hunger Games, is set in a dystopic future.

5) Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddox is the first of the Shadow Children series. This series too is set in an alternative future universe. However, unlike The Giver and the Hunger Games, the future is more similar to ours. The only difference is that third children are outlawed - and Luke, the protagonist is a third child. Apparently there are always law breakers for every law. Luke teaches us about empowerment, truth and growing up.

6) Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is another futuristic quartet. This series is more science fiction oriented, and a true delight to read.

7) John Christopher's The White Mountains opens another series of an alternative future.

Many teen books, such as Sounder and Shiloh, deal with a boy and his dog

After these four futuristic series, I'll suggest a few that are set in the past:

8) Sounder by William H. Armstrong is a story about a dog and his family set in the racist deep south of the 19th century.

9) Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor is also deals with racism in the deep south, this time during the depression era. A Newberry medal winner, it is one out of series of books, but it is the best one.

10) Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell is set earlier on in the 1800s.

11) On the other hand, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne is set closer to our time, during the holocaust.

12) The Tillerman Cycle by Cynthia Voigt, starting with Homecoming is set in the 1980s, when 13 year old Dicey must care for her 3 younger siblings against all odds. A book about family, social expectations and homecoming.

Many teen books discuss dealing with change

Many teen books discuss dealing with change:

13) Walk Two Moons and Bloomability by Sharon Creech are two such examples. Both teenage protagonists unfold their stories from their fresh perspective, leaving us wishing for more.

14) Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Peterson deals with friendship and loss.

15) Maniac Magee by Jerri Spinelli discusses racism and social conformity.

16) Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is a book about a boy's love for his dog and doing what is right.

On the other hand, 17) Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt discusses what happens when there is no change. Is immortality truly all that it is cracked up to be?

18) Holes by Louis Sachar is an interesting mix of surreal, mysticism, realism, mystery, past and present.

19) Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is the first of five books about a teens survival in the woods on his own.

20) The Wave by Todd Strasser is a short book about a high school experiment by a history teacher who wants to reveal to his students how the holocaust could have happened.

Next month I'll post a list of our top pick of fantasy books. Let us know what fantasy classics you think should go in there!

Gaila has almost 40 year of experience teaching and runs A.H.A.V.A., a non-profit to promote English literacy. Would you like to ask Gaila a question? Email us at or send us a message. Look out for more Dear Gaila columns

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