Mostly fiction, but sure-to-please nonfiction too.
For the teenagers in your life. For more suggestions, see Novelist Plus.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
In this fast-paced thriller, four teenagers are caught up in Homelands Security’s search for terrorists who have blown up the Bay Bridge. Good for those concerned about civil liberties.
Walk On Earth a Stranger trilogy by Rae Carson
Traveling to California at the time of the Gold Rush was hard for anyone but even harder for young women all by themselves. But Lee has a special power that might just make the journey easier: she can sense gold!
We Are Okay by Nina Lacour
Marin reflects on family secrets, romance, and her past in San Francisco while left alone over Christmas at her snowy New York college campus. Cold and lonely – bring tissues! Local author.
Satellite by Nick Lake
For science fiction fans, a leisurely look at life on Moon 2, a space station. But three teenagers are about to take a trip home, to an Earth they’ve never known. Features real science!
The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt
Realistic romantic fiction with a dark twist. Gretchen is recently the victim of a mugging and Phoenix is facing deportation back to the town in El Salvador he and his brother fled in the face of brutal gang violence. Talk about a high stakes relationship!
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
An action-packed urban fantasy set in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. For purveyors of street art and the supernatural.
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
In this alternate reality, you get a phone call notification that you have one day left to live. Then you can use the Last Friend app to meet other people whose time has also come. That’s how Mateo and Rufus meet.
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Her mother is detained upon their arrival to the United States, leaving Fabiola to navigate her American cousins, Detroit, a new school, and a romance—all on her own. A riveting immigration story.
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
Time travel and Hawaiian history meet in this swashbuckling fantasy seafaring adventure.
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
Collage art. That’s how Jade pieces together all the parts of herself including the rough neighborhood where she lives, the prep school where she goes on scholarship, “opportunities” that are forced on her, and a deep longing to travel abroad.
Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
Girl power to the max in this graphic novel series that features a group of friends at a summer camp where strange things are afoot. Funny, magical, and empowering!
A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
A hilarious and exciting trip through outer space for those who enjoy a good space romp with engaging characters.
Amulet. The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
You really can’t go wrong with this first in a series of 7 (so far) graphic novels featuring fantastic art and fast-paced stories. A girl and her brother find, yes, an amulet, in the library of the family’s creepy new house. Amulet has it all—drama, adventure, and suspense. Marketed for middle schoolers, but compelling for older teenagers too.
One Last Word by Nikki Grimes
Mashup poems from the Harlem Renaissance, current poems they inspired Grimes to write, and artwork from over a dozen talents. Now you’ve got a small volume sure to please any poetry lover on your list.
The Emotionary by Eden Sher and illustrated by Julia Wertz
Some emotions are too big or complicated for the words we already have. Enter The Emotionary: a dictionary of imagined words for real feelings. It’s funny and smart. It’s as sophisticated as the word-loving teens you know—those whose internal lives are best described as complicated.
Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith
For the tinkerer or scientist on your list. An engaging and funny look to the future.
March by John Lewis—in three (short) volumes
Longtime United States Congressman John Lewis describes his life and the long struggle for civil rights. Informative, moving, and very readable. In graphic novel format.
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
Subtitled A True Story About Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives, this is a great gift for social justice advocates. The incident in question happened in Oakland in 2013 on the AC Transit 57 line.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale
Funny historical comic books about intense, gory, gruesome events? Yes! You don’t have to read them in order but if you want to: One Dead Spy; Big Bad Ironclad!; Donner Dinner Party; Treatise, Trenches, Mud, and Blood; The Underground Abductor; Alamo All-Stars; and Raid of No Return.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
This full cast audio version of the graphic novel features an imp-like shapeshifter in a medieval world that is curiously like our own. Readers will be wondering who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Fantasy fans will revel in the world of the Grisha, whom the author describes as “the magical elite of Ravka, also known as the Soldiers of the Second Army. They practice the Small Science: they manipulate matter at its most fundamental levels. I like to think of it as a magical version of molecular chemistry.” Presented in full cast audio.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
At the end of World War II, refugees in East Prussia are fleeing the vengeful Russian army while trying to avoid the equally dangerous German army. This is the haunting story of those trying to make it to what they hope is the safety of the ship called the Wilhelm Gustloff. Engaging, grim, and very well-researched.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The enduring story of Nobody Owens ["looks like nobody but himself"] brought up in a graveyard by a family of ghosts. A full cast audiobook.