With blockbuster franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, there is no shortage of books to get teens excited about reading. But so much media hype and fan frenzy over the movies and the actors who star in them makes it easy to forget it all began with a book. Even moms have weighed in on whether they are Team Edward or Team Jacob. The post-cheating scandal interaction between RPatz and KStew as they do press for the latest (and last…sigh) Twilight movie has nearly overshadowed the film itself.
It’s important to remind our teens that long before anyone referred to a bestselling series of books as a “franchise,” there have been timeless, classic books that have spoken to generations of developing young hearts and minds. The following titles will show your kids that classic definitely does not equal boring. These favorites are packed with just as much action, drama, unrequited love, and thrilling tension as today’s bestsellers and are—in many cases—much better-written.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Follow the four fantastically individual March sisters as they struggle with growing up, financial woes, and an absent father who’s fighting in the Civil War. Take out the petticoats and hoop skirts, and this could be a completely contemporary tale.
Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume
For more than 30 years, Judy Blume has helped demystify puberty for tweens and teens with her many novels. In Are You There God? Margaret, the daughter of a Christian mother and a Jewish father, who have raised her in a non-religious household, struggles to define her own spirituality. Anyone growing up in a bicultural home will relate to her journey.
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Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Adolescence is a time of testing social boundaries, and dealing with the consequences of still-developing impulse control. William Golding’s exploration of what can happen when young boys are left to fend for themselves is a fascinating read.
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
This is a long book, but well worth the time. It’s an exploration of how one woman’s independent spirit is at odds with Victorian society and her ultimately tragic struggle to overcome her selfishness and pride, while preserving her individuality.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This is perhaps the most astute portrait of disaffected youth ever written. Holden Caulfield is a literary hero to angsty, sullen teens who think no one understands them.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
A must-read for every teenage girl, Anne Frank’s poignant, heartbreaking story is a history lesson as well as an inspirational example of grace under terrible circumstances.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is F. Scott Fitzgerald at his best: fabulous Jazz Age parties, the Hamptons, the idle rich, and unrequited love—all of the ingredients for a romantic teen fantasy. And it’s quality literature!
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou’s autobiographical novel set in the segregation-era South deals with difficult topics like racism, parental abandonment, and sexual abuse. Its strong-willed heroine will inspire young girls to overcome their own hardships.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Fans of The Hunger Games will love Margaret Atwood’s thought provoking science fiction tale depicting a dystopian future world and featuring a strong female protagonist.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This is the beautifully told and deeply absorbing life story of Janie Starks, an illegitimate child born to a teenage mother in the post-slavery South.