Celebrate Teen Literature Day! Books to Recommend Reluctant Readers!

I absolutely adore teen literature. From the first time I picked up The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot back in 2000 (a book series that is infinitely better than the movies even try to be – fight me), I was hooked and I continue to be hooked. A HUGE reason that What A Nerd Girl Says is exists in the first place is because, as a twenty-four year old YA lover, I was just so tired of people crapping on it all the time! Since 2012, I have been fully immersed in the YA community so the idea that teens aren’t reading just seems absolutely wild to me! I feel like all that I see is teens reading, reading, reading.

But I’ve learned some kind of crazy facts! Back in 1980, about 60% of teenagers read novels outside those assigned in the classroom. In 2016, just a handful of years ago, that percentage had dropped all the way to 16%! With more literature being geared toward teens than ever before, how on earth is this happening?! Not to be the old lady here – hey, I’m a millennial so shhh – but with the burst of accessibility to the internet, the cell phone becoming glued to all of our hands, constant streaming from Netflix or Disney+ and so on – there’s just so much more to entertain a teen other than reading a book.

Today is all about encouraging teens to read more. Reading is so important. I know that most places will tell you reading does all these things as far as education and knowledge and all of that and I don’t disagree with that. Sometimes I think I’m really only as smart as I am because of the amount of books I’ve read in my life. I mean, I distinctly remember answering a question in my physics class in college and a girl asking me how I knew the answer, as it was the first day, and I kind of sheepishly told her – The Hunger Games. But its even more than that – it reduces stress, it distracts me from the bad things, its entertaining, it makes me feel good, its honestly the best.

I know a lot of teenagers don’t agree with that – heck, children and adults too! For some people, reading just isn’t fun. They don’t enjoy it. I know people who say, I can’t even remember the last time I read a book! So to celebrate today, to promote higher teen literacy, I’m recommending some of my favorite tween and teen books that I think are PERFECT for reluctant readers!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson was basically created for reluctant readers. Greek mythology is AWESOME and Rick makes his books so easy and relatable for kids to read. He especially reaches those audiences by making his main characters dyslexic (because they’re hardwired for Ancient Greek!). You don’t feel like you’re reading – you feel like you’re being told an epic story around a campfire.

Winger by Andrew Smith

This book is SO funny and so easy to read because Andrew really dives into the brain of a teenage boy. I think that this book is so opposite of what kids expect a book to be and that’s exactly the reason its so perfect for a reluctant reader.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I read this book in roughly an hour when I dove in and its because its so captivating and so simple and easy to read and to get lost in. It’s one of the most beautiful, magical books I’ve ever read and I want to put into the hands of every reader, no matter what age, no matter how reluctant.

The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Alanna is legendary and epic and the YA fantasy we read today wouldn’t exist without her, hands down. Her books were written for the time – the early 80s – so they’re captivating and SO easy to read. I tell people – the entire four book series is the size of a normal YA fantasy book NOW. I think that any reluctant reader would get hooked into fantasy if they read ANY Tamora Pierce.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

I’ve always been a huge reader, since before I could even process memories, but I credit this book for my absolute love of YA. The books are infinitely better than the movies and Mia Thermopolis is incredibly funny and relatable and its so easy to read because you’re reading her diary, so it genuinely feels like you’re reading a note from a best friend in class. I’m not sure if kids nowadays pass notes in class LOL but the sentiment is still there.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I think this one belongs on this list because of how relevant it truly is. This book came out in 2017 and has pretty much remained on there since then. Its being taught in schools because of its relevancy but also because its ability to reach today’s kids in ways that the books we normally read in schools just don’t. I highly highly highly recommend this books for kids who don’t want to read.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

The reason I recommend this book is because of how popular and wonderful the Netflix films turned out to be. I think they are some of the best adaptations that I’ve seen and I think that many, many teens have seen the movies and would truly be able to enjoy the books because of that. Jenny has such a great voice and the movies capture that for sure!

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

I’m actually not a huge fan of poetry as a form of fiction – I don’t hate it or hate ON it – but its just not my thing. HOWEVER, from what I’ve heard, these books totally reach kids who don’t want to read. There’s something about the poetry, the rhythm and the unique way of storytelling that really reaches kids. For that, I’d also recommend Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds too. Again, books I haven’t read BUT have heard nothing but great things about.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My dad is not a reader. My dad reads my books and that’s about it. But occasionally there will be a book that gets him to read and this was definitely one of them – he read the entire trilogy in like a few days, which is huge for him. Yes, I think kids will find them captivating because of the movies but I also think they’re just great reads and they’re starting to be taught in schools as well, which I think is wonderful, again because kids connect with these stories more than the older stories that I grew up reading in school.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

The reason I think Ten is perfect for those who are reluctant readers is because one, its just such a great book and genuinely I spent the entire time wondering WHO IS DOING THIS and two, its like diving into one of your favorite horror films and its so entertaining. Its fun to read, quick to read and genuinely has you turning the pages, faster and faster, needing to know who dies next and whodunnit!

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

This book is one of my favorite books I’ve read in the past few years and one of my favorite LGBTQ+ books. I think Jeff reaches an audience not often reached and even if you’re not gender fluid or really know much about gender, I think you can connect to the story and connect with Riley. I’ve seen it again and again, readers letting Jeff know that this book reached them, touched them, and made them readers, made them want to read again. So of course this has to be on my list. I also would highly recommend his sophomore novel, The Lightness of Hands, which has magic and tackling bipolar disorder and is absolutely wonderful.

Ahsoka by EK Johnston

I love recommending books based in an established TV or movie universe because I think its a great way to get reluctant readers to pick up a book. If you love Star Wars or Marvel or whatever it might be, you’ll probably have an easier time reading books in the same universe and you’ll probably really enjoy them. I picked Ahsoka because its my favorite of that kind of book. I think Ahsoka is easily one of the BEST characters in the Star Wars universe is a huge part of the success of Clone Wars and Rebels and even the Mandalorian too and I think this book by EK Johnston is just kickass and wonderful and would totally get a Star Wars non-reader fan reading.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I include this book mostly because its one of my favorite books and so I’m slightly biased on it. But I think the reason that it would be appeal to reluctant readers is because I think so many people can relate to being nervous, anxiety, unafraid to try new things, afraid of figuring out who they are and I think everyone can relate to being a fangirl/boy of SOMETHING. Plus its so close to Harry Potter and I know there a ton of people out there who love the HP. I loooooove this book and recommend it often so I definitely think it could capture the attention of someone struggling to read.


What are some middle grade or teen books that you’d recommend to reluctant readers? Share in the comments!

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