I’m due to launch a new blog in the New Year and in preparation, I’ve compiled a huge list of our favourite 100 books by age category (with 150 for the 9-12s as this age group has SO many good selections). Much love has been poured into creating this list; every single selection has been read by one of our family or close trusted friends and only included if it’s of the best quality.
To give you a taster, I’ve selected five books from six different age categories, which I think would make the perfect Christmas presents for the children/young adults in your life. Three of those age categories, from ages 10 to young adult, are included in this post, with ideas for ages 3 to 10 in my next post. I’ve steered away from the obvious so hopefully you can find gifts your loved ones haven’t already read. Personally – and my kids would certainly agree here – delving into a good book, and discovering its hidden exciting new worlds, characters, and possibilities, is the best way to relax. And thus, they make the perfect Christmas present!
Ages 14 – Young Adult
The Cat I Never Named by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess
This book – one of the most poignant and moving stories of hope, love, strength and survival – will stay with me forever. Amra’s memoir takes us back to 1992 where in Bihac, the Bosnian genocide is just beginning and as a Muslim, her life is in danger. But, despite the atrocities happening all around – as first her Serbian friends disappear, then the bombing starts, and they struggle to find enough to eat – a stray cat with an unerring ability to save their family, provides a beacon of hope during the dark times.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Thief, conman, and criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered the opportunity to become rich beyond his wildest dreams if only he can extract a key hostage from Fjerda’s Ice Court, a military stronghold that has never before been infiltrated. The target captive is the inventor of a drug addictive to the Grisha, which allow them to amplify their powers. Kaz agrees to pull together a crack team to rescue the inventor and prevent the drug’s existence from being released into the world at large.
The team: “A gambler, a convict, a wayward son, a lost Grisha, a Suli girl who has become a killer, a boy from the Barrel who had become something worse.” Can they pull off the deadly heist?
All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D Taylor
The conclusion of the Logan family of Mississippi’s story (following on from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry), we follow Cassie’s journey, as she tries to find her way as a young black woman in 1950s America. Through her eyes we witness the Great Migration north along with some of the defining moments of the civil rights movement and, in the process, start to appreciate the harsh and deeply unfair reality of life in this period as a person of colour. Shocking but a deeply important and compellingly written account of events from this time.
Parachutes by Kelly Yang
Parachutes: the term for wealthy Asian teens dropped off to live in private homes and study in the US. Claire Yang, a wealthy 17-year-old from Shanghai is parachuted in to live in the spare room of her host family – a hardworking Filipino single mother and her daughter Dani, a full-scholarship student at Claire’s new American prep school. At first, the two girls don’t click, but two separate experiences of sexual abuse and rape unite them, as together they find their voices and courage to stand up to their abusers. A page turner covering some hard-hitting topics, but with an underlying message of hope as the characters bravely free themselves from the toxicity of their attackers and the systems that protect them.
Every Day by David Levithan
Every day A wakes up in a different body, in a different life. To cope with such a difficult existence, A doesn’t get attached, respectfully only accessing the memories of that person which allow A to function through the day without anyone knowing there is a problem. But then A wakes up as Justin and meets his girlfriend, Rhiannon, and A discovers someone they want to wake up next to every day. Thought-provoking, beautifully written and a masterclass in empathy, this book is a unique read for teens and young adults.
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Avery Grambs is at rock-bottom with no money and living in her car when her prospects suddenly change on receiving the news that she’s the sole heir of the recently deceased billionaire Tobias Hawthorne’s estate. Despite not knowing Tobias, his will states that to inherit his wealth, Avery must first live in his mansion, filled with secret passageways, codes, puzzles and dark secrets around every corner, for one year. But she must also do this alongside Tobias’ relatives, including the four Hawthorne grandsons, who had fully expected to inherit billions on their grandfather’s death. Seen as a con-woman by the relations, who are keen to take her down, Avery must have her wits about her if she is even to survive the games Tobias is playing with them from the grave.
The Edge of Anything by Nora Carpenter
This is a beautiful story of an unexpected friendship between Len and Sage. Len, a talented photographer, ostracized at school for being “strange”, is struggling with a severe form of OCD triggered by a past family tragedy, whilst Sage is a popular and gifted basketball player whose new medical diagnosis will put an abrupt stop to her sporting dreams. A chance meeting and against the odds, these two form an unbreakable bond as they push each other to face and tackle their demons and let go of the past. This book gives an important insight into mental health issues experienced by young people but above all, it’s a heart-warming story about the importance of real friendship, the kind that endures.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
In Prentisstown, noise pervades every space. There can be no secrets as every man can hear the thoughts of every other. And since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, all the women died off. But then Todd Hewitt, the last surviving boy just one month away from officially becoming a man, finds a spot of complete silence. What secrets are the town hiding from him? Thanks to this new discovery, he’s forced to flee with his loyal dog, Manchee. The two stumble across a girl, and a silent one at that… Why wasn’t she killed by the germ and if not, why can’t he hear her thoughts? Together, the three run from Prentisstown in hot pursuit by its inhabitants, as the trio start on their dangerous journey of discovery. An exceptional first book of a trilogy – Bean12 and I were quickly hooked! There are some graphic scenes of violence though, so not one for sensitive readers.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
A deeply addictive first book of a series set in a dystopian Chicago world. Their society is divided into five factions each with a specific role to fulfil: Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful) and Erudite (the intelligent). These factions are supposed to work together for a harmonious world, but when Tris reaches sixteen and, on her official, choosing day, decides to move away from her parent’s Abnegation faction to the world of the Dauntless, she discovers unrest and increasing conflict. Tris holds a dangerous secret, one that could help save the ones she loves, but one that in the wrong hands could destroy her.
Rebel Spy by Veronica Rossi
Quick thinking by Frannie Tasker allows her to escape her abusive stepfather and her home in Grand Bahama Island by assuming the identity of a young woman whose dead body she finds floating in the sea after a shipwreck. Now as wealthy Emmeline Coates, living with the cream of British society in New York and swept up in a courtship by an attractive lieutenant, her position affords her access to secret information about the war between England and its thirteen colonies. After some key meetings with revolutionists, where she witnesses first-hand the dark side of the war, she uses her power to become agent 355, eavesdropping on British soldiers and passing information to George Washington’s Culper spy ring. Inspired by the real agent 355, this is a fascinating read rich in historical content leaving readers on the edges of their seats as to whether she’ll be discovered.
Itch by Simon Mayo
Itch, a fourteen-year-old boy with a passion for chemistry is an element-hunter, on a mission to collect specimens of all the elements of the periodic table in his bedroom, with rather destructive results…But when Itch discovers a suspiciously warm rock made of a never-before-detected element, at first no one believes him. When the truth of the situation is leaked, everyone is after Itch and his precious new finding, launching him and his family into an exciting adventure with very high stakes. Can his scientific knowledge help keep them all safe?
Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
Ben Ripley is an awkward, science nerd and a truly gifted mathematician, with a dream to become a spy and work for the CIA. In the middle of the school year, he’s recruited to a magnet school with a focus on science, but to his surprise, he soon discovers it’s a front for the CIA’s top-secret Agency of Espionage. Only he’s been brought in as bait to catch a deadly enemy agent. Soon he’s running for his life accompanied by a beautiful and talented girl, to solve the crime before he ends up dead. The first of both my children’s very favourite action-packed book series so I couldn’t not include it here.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
August, Auggie, wants to be just like every other ten-year old boy, but born with a terrible facial abnormality, ordinary kids can’t help but stare at him and in some cases run away screaming. Up until now he has been homeschooled, but now he’s being sent to a real school, and he’s scared. Cleverly, the author starts the story from Auggie’s viewpoint, but quickly changes to write from the perspectives of his classmates, sister and her boyfriend. Through these experiences, we see a community struggling to accept differences. One of the most moving books I have ever read, challenging readers “to wonder about the true nature of empathy, compassion, acceptance, friendship, and – ultimately – kindness.”
The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange
Henrietta’s move to her new house doesn’t go well. Her father leaves the country to find work and her Mama, seriously ill, is treated by a Dr. Hardy, who with sinister intentions, drugs her and keeps her locked up. Henrietta finds refuge in the eerie Nightingale Wood – and more importantly, its strangest inhabitant, who seems, in some mysterious way, to be connected to their house. As Henrietta slowly reveals the secrets of Hope House, can she, with the help of the lady in the woods, conjure up the bravery to save her family from their current nightmare.
The Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray
One grey morning, after the tide had retreated, a whale was found on the rooftop of a partly submerged city. As they cut into the whale’s stomach to prevent a build up of gas, unbelievably a boy falls out. And he’s alive! The authorities believe he is the Enemy, the god who put their world in its watery grave, and so they drag the boy into prison and sentence him to death. Only Ellie, a young inventor, is convinced of his innocence and sets out on a mission to save him. But at what cost to her own life?
And that’s it for the 10 to young adult section. Hope you’ve found some inspiration. Look out for my next blog post with recommendations for ages 3 to 10 – coming soon!