10 Classics for Teen Readers

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Fourteen-year-old Ponyboy is a greaser, a social outcast locked in an endless struggle with the Socs, wealthier kids from the other side of town. He is fairly content with his life, however, because he has his brothers and his friends, a close-knit group who would do anything for each other. Then one night the fight between the greasers and the Socs goes too far and Ponyboy’s life is changed forever.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

At Hailsham, their boarding school, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy live a nearly idyllic life, though they are denied most knowledge about the outside world.  But Hailsham is hiding a secret.  Why are the students really there?  A modern classic with a mystery sure to grip readers.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

This autobiographical account of one woman’s life in slavery and subsequent escape North is a a valuable addition to the tradition of the slave narrative as it focuses on the unique experiences of being a slave and a woman.  Jacobs’ story

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Set in a New England boarding school during WWII, A Separate Peace chronicles the friendship between two boys: Gene, an introvert, and Phineas, an outgoing athlete.  Gene’s jealousy of his best friend ultimately results in his fighting the real war inside.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A staple in U. S. classrooms, To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of one girl’s loss of innocence as she witnesses the effects of racism in the American South.

Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paula Marshall

The daughter of Barbadian immigrants, Selina Boyce grows up in the 1930s and 1940s in Brooklyn, torn between her mother’s dream of educating her family and her father’s dream of returning to Barbados.  A powerful coming-of-age story.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

An overworked group of farm animals rebels against their human masters to create a utopian society.  However, their ideals of equality are quickly abandoned.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

When his pilot suffers a heart attack, crashing their small plane into the Canadian wilderness, Brian is left on his own.  Equipped only with a hatchet, he must find a way to survive and, eventually, make his way home.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

Set in 1940s Brooklyn, The Chosen follows the friendship of two boys–one, an Orthodox Jew, and the other a Hasidic Jew, raised in silence by his father, who desires him to become a rebbe.  A modern classic about navigating faith, friendship, and family.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Lord of the Rings

Many years ago, the Dark Lord Sauron created the One Ring to subjugate the peoples of Middle-Earth.  He was defeated and the Ring lost, until an unlikely Hobbit discovered it.  Now, along with eight companions, the Hobbit Frodo is on a journey to destroy the Ring once and for all.

29 thoughts on “10 Classics for Teen Readers

  1. Grab the Lapels says:

    I remember reading A Separate Peace in high school and bring so very mad at the ending. I did read The Hatchet as well and remember liking it. When I was in college, I learned that some schools in predominantly African-American communities will teach books like invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I thought that was great because it is an adult book that really gets into American history that shows us who we are as a people and how it stems from racism and slavery and how that has shaped us today.


    • Krysta says:

      Haha! A Separate Peace was one of my favorite books in high school! I don’t really know why. And I enjoyed reading Hatchet, too.

      Sadly, I can’t see Invisible Man being taught at my schools just because it’s so long! Often I think teachers choose shorter works so they can fit more on the syllabus. But I think Invisible Man could generate a lot of insightful discussions.


      • Grab the Lapels says:

        The brilliant part of Invisible Man is that so many of the characters are modeled after real people, such as WEB DuBois and Booker T Washington. You could pair this novel with a history class — a tandem — and stretch it out in a meaningful way. High schools that I’m familiar with don’t do tandems. I will argue it is the BEST way to learn.


        • Krysta says:

          I’m pretty sure no one mentioned this when I read Invisible Man for a class! That’s interesting! But, yeah, a tandem would be awesome!


  2. Milliebot says:

    I’ve been working on a recommendation post for classics for kids and teens. You’ve definitely got a different (and likely more helpful lol) list then my own. I haven’t read most of these 🤣


    • Krysta says:

      Ooh! Good choices! I still have to read The Color Purple, but I’ve read several of Morrison’s books. She’s always thought-provoking. And, obviously, so talented!


  3. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Brilliant list! Agree with all the ones I’ve read- I’m not gonna list them all lol, cos then you’ll just have most of this list repeated in the comments 😉 So I’ll just say I still need to read harriet jones, hatchet and a separate peace to save time 😉 Really cool that you included the chosen though- that’s such a good one for this age group!


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