Whether you’re participating in the Lifetime of Reading Challenge, or simply interested in reading books with teen characters, we’ve curated a diverse list of recommendations with main characters ranging from ages 13 to 19.
Before we get to the book list, let’s start with a couple of definitions. Throughout our book descriptions, we often use the terms YA and coming-of-age, but it’s helpful to step back and look at what these terms really mean.
What is a YA book?
YA stands for Young Adult, which is a category of fiction written with teenage readers as the intended target audience. However, statistics show that approximately half of YA readers are adults. So if adults read YA titles with the same frequency as younger readers, what are the main differences between young adult fiction and adult fiction?
First, to be considered YA, a book must have at least one teenage protagonist. Second, despite being authored by adults nearly all of the time, YA novels are written in a voice that is authentic to the teenage experience (most often from the first-person perspective). And third, while the themes of YA novels may include any of the same things you’d find in adult fiction, sensitive issues are typically discussed in a manner that is generally considered age-appropriate for young adult readers (typically meaning less explicit and with less graphic details).
What are coming-of-age novels?
Like YA, it’s hard to define “coming of age novel” with precision, but as it is generally used, a coming-of-age story is one in which a young person is heading toward adulthood while gaining knowledge and maturity along the way.
Every teenage experience is unique, but for most people, a few things are true – the teen years are often challenging, always formative, and very few people get out of them without some heartbreak. Most teenagers have different priorities and different responsibilities than adults and are still figuring out who they are and how they fit into the world around them.
These years between childhood and adulthood are a balancing act between needing guidance and seeking independence. This balancing act leads to compelling storylines in fiction and memorable non-fiction accounts of growing up.
The Best Books with Teenage Main Characters
While there are countless excellent YA books, our list is not limited to YA titles. On our recommended book list, below, you’ll find a good mix of both YA and adult fiction, as well as non-fiction.
We hope you enjoyed this book list and found several books to add to your TBR (to be read list). If you’re choosing a book for our reading challenge, you are also welcome to read any other book that meets the challenge prompt.
If you have a suggestion for a book that you think would be a great addition to this list, please fill out this form.
Book Lists By Character Age
Links to our book recommendations for all twelve of the Lifetime of Reading challenge prompts can be found below:
- Books with a Child Protagonist
- Books with Teenage Characters
- Books with Characters in Their 20s
- Books with Characters In Their 30s
- Books With Characters in Their 40s
- Books With Characters in Their 50s
- Books With Characters in Their 60s
- Books With Characters in Their 70s
- Books With Characters in Their 80s
- Books With Characters in Their 90s and 100s
- Intergenerational Novels: Books that Connect Generations
- Books Spanning a Character’s Lifetime