- Diary of a Teenage Girl series
Author: Melody Carlson
This is one that can really be read any time during high school because it follows the main character Caitlin O’Connor through the struggles and triumphs of her teenage years. The diary format sucks you in immediately and keeps your attention, like when your best friend comes up to you bursting with a story and their first words are, “You will not believe what just happened…!” This series is about finding true faith in God for yourself, and not just going through the motions of church or being a ‘good girl’. Carlson uses a diary to be quite frank with the reader and I found that it helped give me some perspective as it covers most of the common issues that teens either go through, or witness in their friends’/classmates’ lives (including family conflict, crushes/dating, teen pregnancy, friendship changes, puberty, faith, mental health and eating disorders). I often came away from reading this feeling convicted to address certain areas in my life and really connected with Caitlin because of how relatable she is.
- Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
This one had to make it into one of my book lists sometime. Those who know me well are probably rolling their eyes right now. I’ll never forget telling one of my guy friends that Jane Austen was my favourite author and his reply was, “Oh cool. She wrote the Twilight series, right?” He was being totally serious, bless him. Pride and Prejudice I have read five times and counting. This book is the bomb. Love, betrayal, friendship, family relationships, drama, humour—it’s got it all. Elizabeth Bennet is such a quirky, strong, kind character who doesn’t let 19th century etiquette rules stop her from standing up for herself and speaking her mind. The best thing about Jane Austen’s writing is that someone can be getting totally insulted but not even realise because the person has phrased it sounding like a compliment. A lot of people write off Jane Austen as just a lady who used a pseudonym to write a bunch of sappy romance novels, but what stands out most to me is her witty social commentary, peeling back the layers of Regency England.
- The Hawk and the Jewel
Author: Lori Wick
This one we bought for a dollar at our school’s fair before it sat on the coffee table unopened for months—until my sister picked it up and then we didn’t hear from her for two days straight, and then she told us we all had to read it. It may not quite a classic but if you like historical novels (can you tell that I do?) with fascinating family, social and cultural dynamics, then this will interest you. The Hawk and the Jewel is the first in a four book series but in my opinion is by far the best. It depicts the story of a girl who thinks she is an Arabian princess until she travels to England to discover a family she never knew she had.
- Number the Stars
Author: Lois Lowry
This book really tugs at the heart strings. It is an amazing fictional work of something that could have happened during World War II, and likely did happen, hundreds of times in a hundred different scenarios—fill in the details yourself. Ten year old Annemarie is best friends with Ellen, a Danish Jew, in Copenhagen in 1943. She is given the opportunity to save Ellen’s life, but it may cost her own. This is a beautiful story of friendship and the strength of the human spirit in times of history’s greatest turmoil.
- The Hunger Games series
Author: Suzanne Collins
This one features a bit of violence, with some more hectic themes, but Katniss really comes alive as she struggles against a system in a futurist America that is stacked against her in every way. Most people have probably seen the movie but as someone who read the book afterwards, it is still worth it. Because the threat of the evil ‘Capitol’ restricts what Katniss can say without fear of being killed, the movie can’t give you all her inner monologue and struggle which, in my opinion, is the highlight of the novel. The series also highlights the dangers of where Western society is headed by being desensitised to violence.
- Little Women
Author: Louisa May Alcott
Another all-time favourite, among the March sisters everyone can find someone to relate to. It shows sisterly relationships and what it’s like to grow up in a house full of females. Little Women is a classic for a reason, showing the girls grow up, navigate love and relationships in a world that has the ripple effect of war stamped all over it. It deals with themes of class, wealth, gender expectations, dreams and male/female barriers of the time period.
- The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
Author: Ann Brashares
From Bethesda, to Mexico, to North Carolina, to Greece, following a pair of magic pants around the world is a really interesting experience. I liked this book because the girls all have such different ways of seeing the world and as you watch their various approaches, your mind is opened and you see the importance of spending time with people who are unlike you. This book is funny and relatable, and was a quick, easy read because it is written in a very conversational tone.
- Lion/A Long Way Home (the young readers edition)
Author: Saroo Brierley
Ever imagined what it would be like to survive alone on the streets of a dangerous city at the age of five? Enter the mind of little lost boy Saroo as he accidentally travels thousands of miles away from his home town and is unable to get back because he doesn’t even know what it is called. This tale of survival and resilience is so compelling that at several points you want to check the front cover again to make sure that it really is a true story. It gave me a snapshot of what some people’s lives are like simply because unlucky things happen to them, and that none of us should underestimate the value of home and family.
- Bridge to Terabithia
Author: Katherine Paterson
I read this novel with my Year 7 classmates (one of whom ruined the ending for me) and remembered it for its purity. It explores innocent friendship and the transforming power of imagination. Jesse’s world is changed when he meets Leslie, and they create a magical land together. Terabithia: a place where they are free to be themselves—isolated from bullies, home’s pressures and anything else they don’t want to think about. This novel for any young person who looks at the world and realises, in one way or another, that is not quite what it should be.
- Ella Enchanted
Author: Gail Carson Levine
This novel is very different to the movie version, and definitely worth a read. Full of quotes that you feel like writing out and putting on your bedroom walls, the language is beautiful and shows a separated young couple’s longing for each other. It also shows how Ella responds to difficult circumstances and chooses to overcome with kindness.
Hope this list was helpful, now happy reading!
Images (all sourced 17 August 2017):