Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a teen looking for that one book that might actually connect with you, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve already talked a lot about how to find the right book, but if you’re looking for quick suggestions on where to start, I’ve rounded up some of the books I’ve noticed my students who aren’t enthusiastic readers have really connected with in my classroom.
I make no guarantees that you or your students/children will enjoy them, but they do have an impressive track record.
The Selection Series by Keira Cass
For fans of The Bachelor/The Bachelorette, The Selection books are perfect for students looking for a high-stakes romance story. Seriously, these books have it all: choices with major stakes, questioning everything you ever knew, handsome princes, you name it. I had a very hard time finding a copy of the first book for my classroom library due to how popular the books are. Even the used copies were being sold closer to full price than half-off.
The main series is a trilogy, but novellas, prequels, and other books in the Selection universe have also been written. There’s even a coloring book if you need a break from all of the binge reading you’ll be doing.
Long way down by jason reynolds
A novel in verse, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a thrilling, quick read about the consequences of never questioning tradition. In this case, our protagonist Will feels the call to take revenge against the person he thinks killed his brother Shawn only to be confronted by the literal ghosts of his pass. On an elevator. Within a minute’s time. There’s no question why it appeals to so many readers and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Reynolds’ other books cover many different topics and are written to appeal to young audiences, but also manage to captivate adult readers as well. Don’t lie, you just ordered this book off of Amazon, didn’t you?
Refugee by Alan gratz
Alan Gratz has mastered the juvenile historical fiction genre by giving a thorough background on each historical situation with kids trying to navigate the world around them. Refugee is interesting because of the three different perspectives: Josef in 1930s Germany, Isabel in 1990s Cuba, and Mahmoud in 2010s Syria. All three stories intertwine in a surprising way, but you’ll have to read until the end to find out how.
Gratz’s other books have a very similar setup, but with different time periods. His book Ground Zero is a great choice if you are looking for a book that compares the past and present of the impact of the September 11th attacks.
Speak by laurie halse anderson
When my students read this book, they are shocked that it was published in 1999. The message of the book persists into conversations about the #MeToo movement, but it takes time for readers to unravel the reason why Melinda is hated by people who used to be her friends and why she is convinced no one cares about her voice. For students who prefer graphic novels, this book was adapted into one in 2018. Halse also released her memoir in verse Shout, which mentions the book and her experiences leading up to its creation. All of these books are powerful contemporary classics and are great additions to the classroom.
The House of the Scorpio by Nancy Farmer
Another award winner…and for a good reason. Kids and teens still love dystopian worlds, and this has elements of dystopia with real-world questions about the ethics of cloning, class, race, love, and so much more in a sensible and understandable way…without sacrificing an exciting plot. The book follows a cloned boy who is the “son” of a powerful man named El Patrón and his journey to define his place in the world and to escape terrible danger.
To give you an idea of how the book holds up, I read this when I was in 9th grade and then gave it as an option for my 9th grade students. Nearly all of the students who read the book begged me to order the sequel I didn’t even know had come out until some of them got it from the library or ordered it online. Nancy Farmer truly created another modern YA classic.
I’m sure there are many other options out there for reluctant readers, so don’t worry if your kid or teen doesn’t seem to connect with any of these choices. It helps narrow down the pool of potential reads they will like!