10 Classic Books All Teens Should Read

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Young Adult literature is enjoying an almost unprecedented explosion in popularity, moving more and more teens to lose themselves in the wonderful world of books. While the shelves of the local big-box retailer may be weighted down with plenty of offerings from bestselling authors, there are also a plethora of classics that no teenage bookworm should miss. These ten classics are among the most moving, inspiring and thought-provoking out there, giving today’s YA lit a run for it’s proverbial money.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird – A beloved study of racial injustice and intolerance that simultaneously explores the experience of youth and exploration through the eyes of narrator Scout Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird may be greeted with groans when it shows up on an English class reading list, but is sure to capture his imagination within the first few pages.
  2. The Hobbit – Convincing kids to pick up the first installment in J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic Middle Earth universe may be a bit easier in the light of recent big screen adaptations, but it’s still a classic that shouldn’t be missed. Great adventure, friendship and the exploration of corruption as a concept also make this tale a thought-provoking ride.
  3. The Catcher in the Rye – The darling of progressive Young Adult literature aficionados and the bane of censors’ existence, J.D. Salinger’s frank depiction of the turbulence, confusion and indignities that can all too often come with adolescents still strikes a chord with that audience today. There is some questionable language, however.
  4. The Giver – A modern classic in its own right, The Giver was eventually followed by the books that made up The Giver Quartet: Gathering Blue, The Messenger and Son respectively. Even without the continuation of the tale, The Giver stands on its own as a moralistic tale about leaving childhood behind, embarking into the great unknown journey of adulthood.
  5. Lord of the Flies – The struggle to survive in the wake of a plane crash leaves a group of young boys struggling with their primal instincts, to establish their own sort of chaotic society. Fans of The Hunger Games may be especially drawn to the themes of brutality and primitive survival, but parents should be prepared for at least a discussion or two about the use of violence as a plot device.
  6. Rebecca – The romance and mystery in Daphne Du Maurier’s classic are enough to appeal to any teenage girl, but the most remarkable aspect of the novel isn’t always immediately obvious. Du Maurier’s heroine is vividly drawn and multifaceted, one that wistful teen girls everywhere are able to identify with. After becoming so entangled in her world and the things that she lives through, young readers will invariably become attached to her. They may not realize until they’re asked, however, that they made it through this harrowing journey without ever learning their beloved heroine’s first name.
  7. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Vibrant and relatable, Betty Smith’s Francie Nolan is an unforgettable protagonist that brings Brooklyn in the 1900s, poverty and the meaning of beauty to undeniable life. A classic coming-of-age tale that’s sure to resonate with even today’s teens, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn deserves a place on every summer reading list.
  8. Wuthering Heights – Devotees to the turbulent love affair of Bella and Edward are sure to eagerly snap up this classic tragedy, due to to Bella Swan’s professed adoration throughout The Twilight Saga. Emily Brontë’s classic also serves up a heaping helping of stormy romance, which will also resonate with Twilight fans.
  9. The Outsiders – A stark exploration of societal structure and class systems, S.E. Hinton’s mid-century classic was completed when she was a junior in high school, published when she was eighteen years old. The novelty of being written by a teenager alone may be enough to draw the interest of young readers, with the captivating story keeping that interest until the last page is finished.
  10. Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt’s beautiful examination of immortality and its implications was selected as an ALA Notable Book and has won a wide array of awards since its publication. While it’s best suited for younger teens, older ones may also find themselves swept away by the poetic phrasing and romantic, lilting style.

If your teen has an eReader or a smartphone, fostering a love of classic literature can be quite a money-saving proposition, as books that have fallen into the public domain can be downloaded in digital format for free in many cases. Be sure that you’re exploring the perfectly legal world of free eBooks with your teenager, encouraging an appreciation for both the value of a dollar and the value of intellectual enrichment.

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