Let’s be real. 12-years old is such an awkward age. Some who have hit that age may have already begun puberty and are starting to mature.
But at the same time, they are still very young. This makes 12-year-olds very hard to buy for, and that includes finding books that they will enjoy.
The good news, however, is that there are some really good books that are not only suitable but will keep them hooked from the first page to the last. And that’s exactly what this article will show you.
I will be running through several of them, providing the premise and one or two pros and cons of each as well, followed by a buying guide and FAQ section. Here goes!
26 Of The Best Books For A 12-Year-Old
Check out the book that sparked the most well-known modern movie series!
Most 12-year-olds these days have seen the first movie in the series at the very least, but I can assure you that reading the books is a very rich experience, and it features lots of quirky detail and subplots that are missing in the movies.
The first book sees orphan Harry joining a boarding school for kids with magical powers.
He makes friends, and enemies while learning to cast spells, interact with mysterious magical creatures, learn to predict the future, and more.
In this book, Harry and his friends discover that the sorcerer’s stone is near and that the evil Voldemort is up to no good.
- The start of an epic series that has become one of the most popular children’s books of all time
- If they’ve already seen the movies, they will already be aware of the characters and the plot
Now the subject of a full-length movie and a TV series, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman tells of a world where humans have animal familiars and where parallel universes are within reach.
It follows the story of the girl Lyra, who has a fierce determination to get to the bottom of what’s going on and rescues captured children from a terrible fate.
- The story continues with two more books!
- This is just the first book in His Dark Materials series, and you have to read the next two books to see how it all ends
This story features a remarkable central character by the name of Sheena, who is both kind and caring and also curious, wanting to get to the bottom of everything.
One day, when she was four, she saw an angel. But she forgot all about it until one day when she was 13 and witnessed a terrible accident and saw a supernatural being saving her father’s life.
Following a string of mysterious text messages and the arrival of a peculiar kid at her school, Sheen finds herself drawn out of her humdrum existence and towards her strange and elusive destiny.
- It’s just the first book in a series of 7 books, so the adventure continues after this initial installment!
- Some readers may not necessarily appreciate the religious aspects of the book
So good they made it into a major Netflix series, this is the story of a group of teens running a ghost-hunting agency.
One day, one of their cases goes horribly wrong, and they find themselves in one of the most haunted houses in England, where they must try to escape alive
- It’s the first in a series of 5 books, so there is even more action and adventure to come!
- If they’ve already seen the Netflix series, your 12-year-old will already be aware of the characters and the plot
This is such an entertaining bestselling book, it’s no wonder it got made into a movie!
The story follows the teenager Jacob as he finds himself at an abandoned orphanage on a mysterious island. The peculiar children there have very peculiar features and abilities.
Jacob must rescue Miss Peregrine who is stuck in bird form, but strangely, the entire home should have been demolished by a bomb back in 1940.
- It’s the first book in the series, so there is even more action and adventure to come!
- If they’ve already seen the movies, they will already be aware of the characters and the plot
This book sees the coming together of 4 unlikely friends, including a sweet nerd, the most popular girl in school, an outcast, and an artsy cartoonist.
After a mysterious traffic accident, they find they have superpowers.
One can change her eye color, one can teleport 4 inches to the left, one can read minds but only when they’re thinking about directions, and one has superhuman strength in his thumbs.
Together, they use their newfound abilities to get to the bottom of what actually happened during the accident.
- If your 12-year-old enjoys this book, there are another two more in the series, namely Against the Odds, and Odds and Ends
- There are occasional swear words in the book
This series is a dark comedy following the story of three charming, yet very unlucky children, the Baudelaire orphans, through a long series of unfortunate events.
In this first book, they encounter bad odors, a greedy and repulsive villain, a deadly serpent, a horrible fire, and a plot to steal their fortune.
- Teaches important life lessons
- If the 12-year-old likes this first book in the series, there are another 12 more to enjoy
- If they’ve already seen the movie or Netflix series, they will already be aware of the characters and the plot of the first three or four books in the series
This exciting tale sees a brother and sister enlisted by their librarian father to help steal a forbidden book.
Then their father gets captured, and the youngsters have to uncover the book’s secrets and track down the missing final page.
They end up unleashing a door to the dead, the power of immortality, and discovering a family of ghosts.
In their journey of great courage and magic, they must do everything in their power to stop the book of stolen dreams from falling into the wrong hands.
- A real page-turner with a strong moral compass
- Perfect for fans of Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy
- Some readers have found the plot to be too abstract
So popular it’s been made into a movie not just once, but twice, this story is a fun romp where five children win the opportunity to go to a magical chocolate factory. But when they get there, things aren’t at all as nice as they first seem.
There’s chocolate and candy everywhere – including a chocolate river that they row along.
Charlie is a good and deserving kid, but the other 4 winners have character flaws. One by one, the other children disappear, leaving only Charlie.
- It’s a great book for life lessons, showing how kids who aren’t well-behaved will get their comeuppance
- If they’ve already seen the movies, they will already be aware of the characters and the plot
This classic novel by Gary Paulsen has been nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels.
It is a survival story featuring a 13-year-old boy, Brian, on his way to see his father following his parents’ divorce, whose plane suddenly crashes in the wilderness, leaving him the sole survivor.
Left with no adult, no food, and only his clothing and a hatchet, he just doesn’t know how he’s going to get rescued, or even survive, or even if he wants to survive.
At first, as you may imagine, he is filled with utter despair. However, he teaches himself how to survive in the wild, foraging, fishing, making shelter, and even starting all over again from scratch when his campsite gets ravaged.
- Teaches important life lessons about the power of hope, patience, and perseverance
- It deals with some themes that not all 12-year-olds may be able to handle
This modern classic has won numerous awards and is considered one of the best YA books of all time. It was even made into a movie.
Young Stanley is falsely accused of stealing famous shoes from charity and is sent to a correctional camp, where he is expected to dig holes in the Texan desert in terrible conditions.
At the same time, he wants to free himself from his family’s curse.
But it is only after Stanley learns that his friend Zero was to blame for his arrest, and helps carry him to water on top of a mountain, that Stanley unwittingly lifts his family’s curse
- Features such themes as the consequence of choices and the importance of forgiveness and friendship
- If they’ve already seen the movie, they will already be aware of the characters and the plot
Although this classic tale was dreamed up as long ago as 1876, the adventures of this young boy are still relevant today.
Tom Sawyer gets into fights, gets others to want to do things he considers punishment, falls in love with a girl who then breaks his heart, runs away for a while, and even bears witness to a murder with his good friend Huckleberry Finn.
- This book is something of a rollercoaster ride, which helps prepare youngsters for the sorts of emotions they may go through as they progress through puberty
- It’s not a modern story, and some of the language used may be unfamiliar to today’s kids
So good they made it into a Netflix show, this book follows the story of Bronwyn the brain, Addy the beauty, Nate the criminal, Cooper the athlete, and Simon the outcast.
They all find themselves in detention one day, and Simon doesn’t make it out alive, and investigators declare that it was not an accident, which means that the remaining four are all suspects.
It turns out that Simon had planned to reveal shocking details of these four classmates the day after his passing.
The characters endeavor to protect their secrets, and at the same time try to decipher who the murderer was.
- It’s a prominent bestseller with online retailers across three teen and young adult book categories, namely mysteries, friendship, and thrillers
- If your 12-year-old likes this book, the fun does not stop there – there are more books in the series!
- It’s an excellent book for 12-year-olds because it’s set in high school with all its various cliques
- If they’ve already seen the movie or Netflix series, they will already be aware of the characters and the plot
This classic book is about a boy who has autism, and although he can excel at a great many things, there are also things that don’t really make sense to him, and things that he finds difficult to do or process.
The story begins when he decides to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog, and his quest feels really perilous to him because he has to do the sort of things that he can’t stand doing.
- Teachers readers about the developmental disorder autism and what it’s like to have less common ailments and abilities
- Some people found some of the aspects of the story saddening
This is a super fun book! It features rule follower Felix and rule bender Benji, who find the wallet of tech billionaire Laura. But, before they return it, Benji “borrows” $20 to buy hot dogs.
Benjie argues that $20 is like a penny to a billionaire, so Laura challenges the boys to spend a penny doubled every day for 30 days, but they are not allowed to tell anyone.
And if they succeed, they each get 10 million dollars to spend however they like.
Of course, they accept the challenge, and begin renting cool cars and going to Disney World. But, money can’t fix everything, and the boys learn many lessons along the way.
- This is a thought-provoking story that teaches readers about friendship, privilege, and the value of a penny.
- The book features rule-breaking, which some parents may not approve of
This is the heartwarming story of 10-year-old August Pullman, who has a facial disfigurement that makes him an outcast and the target of bullies.
But he learns to navigate his life in a new school and graduates with a solid group of friends.
- Teaches readers about self-esteem and the power of kindness
- This book is a prominent bestseller across three categories of children’s books, namely on disabilities, diseases, and self-esteem
- Some readers feel that the book was overhyped and overrated
In the world of this story, people are viewed in the categories of noughts and crosses, according to their skin color. Crosses live lives of privilege and power, while noughts are considered nothing.
This is the love story of Sephy and Callum, a cross and naught, who have been friends since childhood. But because of their categories, trying to be together can be really dangerous
- This book highlights the injustice of racism and just how shockingly awful it can be
- Some readers felt that this book had a lot of unnecessary drama
Coming from the prominent bestselling author James Patterson, this book follows the story of Ali Cross, the son of Alex Cross from Patterson’s famous Alex Cross series.
Ali’s friend Gabe has gone missing and Ali’s dad is falsely accused of murder. Meanwhile, someone has broken into their house and stolen a weapon. Ali then endeavors to fix everything.
- It’s written by none other than James Patterson!
- If your 12-year-old likes this book, the fun does not stop there – there are more books in the series, namely Ali Cross: Like Father, Like Son, and Ali Cross: The Secret Detective
- Some readers found this book slow while others found it predictable
This is an amazing book – it’s kinda a cross between Dan Brown and Jason Bourne, but for middle graders!
It starts with the discovery of a small boy who doesn’t remember who he is in Washington, DC’s National Gallery, who then tries to piece together all sorts of disjointed clues about his identity – and at the same time stop one of the biggest art frauds of all time.
- This story is interactive – the readers can scan QR codes scattered throughout the book, bringing the gallery’s famous paintings directly to the reader!
- It’s part of a 3-book series, also featuring The Rembrandt Conspiracy and The Crown Heist
- The constant action will keep even those with shorter attention spans fully engrossed
- A great way to introduce kids to both art and history
- The 12-year-old won’t have as much fun with it if they can’t scan the QR codes
This story features the young female, genius, and thief Charlie Thorne.
The story revolves around the Pandora equation, devised by Einstein, that can either benefit all life on earth or destroy it completely.
A diabolical group known as the Furies is closing in on its location, and the CIA enlists Charlie to crack a complex code to find the equation before they can lay their hands on it.
No one can be trusted, and even if Charlie’s life is at stake, the equation must be protected above all else.
- A fast-paced, action-packed adventure
- If your 12-year-old enjoys this book, there are another two more in the series, namely Charlie Thorne and the Lost City, and Charlie Thorne and the Cleopatra Curse
- Some readers found the central character too perfect to be realistic
This is the story of Mac, who opens a school book called The Devil’s Arithmetic, to find that many of the words have been blacked out.
With some friends, he discovers what the missing words are, and he’s outraged that someone is preventing the kids from reading the full story. He wants to speak about it, but the adults just aren’t listening.
- Tackles issues such as censorship and intolerance
- Excellent coming-of-age novel
- Some readers felt that the author had a Leftist agenda in writing the book
Set in Pakistan, young Omar is awarded a scholarship to an elite school.
But he’s saddened to find that the system is broken and that people with his poor background are required to get higher grades and fee-paying kids, aren’t allowed to join clubs or teams and have to do menial chores.
But Omar does not accept this fate, and with the help of his friend, they fight to change the system.
- This is a relatable story for 12-year-olds
- This coming-of-age story is about believing in yourself and fighting for justice
- Younger readers may struggle with some of the terminologies
Set in the not-too-distant past, this well-written story takes place in Germany during the Nazi era. And even more, interestingly, the narrator of this story is Death.
It follows the story of young Liesel, whose foster father is hiding a Jewish man away from the Nazis in their basement. Liesel is intrigued by books, learns to read, and begins stealing banned Jewish books.
When there are bomb raids, she seeks shelter with her neighbors and relates the stories she has learned.
Eventually, she learns to craft her own story, demonstrating the true power of books and stories to feed the soul even in the darkest of times.
- It’s a very moving tail that is aimed at teens and children, and although it’s set during the Nazi holocaust, it does not provide details of the holocaust itself
- If they don’t know already, the 12-year-old is going to as why the Jews had to hide from the Nazis
Milo is always bored, that is until a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room. He decides to go through and finds that he’s somewhere rather different than he was before…
He finds himself in the once prosperous Kingdom of Reason, jumps to the Island of Conclusions, gets into a fight at the Word Market, gets arrested and put in jail, dodges the Demons of Ignorance, and begins a quest to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason
- This is a very entertaining work of literature, with many a valuable life lessons to teach
- At times, it can feel too nonsensical to young readers
Best Non-Fiction Books For A 12-Year-Old
Not all worthy stories are fictional, and true stories are often particularly inspiring, as your 12-year-old is sure to find if they were to read either or perhaps both of these two books.
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley of Pakistan, they endeavored to halt all education for females. But…
There was one girl who decided to fight for her right to an education.
And she almost paid the ultimate price – on Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she was shot in the head at point-blank range on the school bus, and few expected her to survive.
By age 16 she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
It is a story of fierce love, exceptional parenting, bravery, and the power of just one person to inspire change in the world.
- This true story is told by a remarkable young woman, who is right to have her voice heard, and it encourages young girls and women to fight for what is right
- This is a very modern book telling of events in 2012
- The story takes place in Pakistan, under the control of the Taliban, which doesn’t always make for pleasant or tasteful reading
Who among us these days hasn’t heard of Greta Thunberg?
She may still be young, but she is hands down one of the most well-known climate crisis activists of our time, with her face recognizable across the globe.
She speaks with such passion about the state that the world has gotten into over the last few years through human hands.
She tries to shake people up to listen because if we don’t act to stop climate change today, then we have already lost tomorrow.
As a result of her call to action, millions of students were inspired to protest against government inaction. She, too, has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
- Teaches an important lesson that we must all wake up and fight to protect the living planet, no matter how powerless we feel, because, after all, no one is too small to make a difference
- Much of the book is a collection of speeches she has already made, which may be available to view for free on YouTube and such
How To Choose A Book For A 12-Year-Old
Let me walk you through some key points to consider when choosing a book for a 12-year-old.
Age And Reading Grade Appropriate
Many of the books aimed at teens are not suitable for 12-year-olds. And no 12-year-old wants to struggle with a book that they find too difficult to read.
If a book falls into a genre that the 12-year-old likes, they are more likely to stick with it to the end.
Relatable Central Character
It’s best to find books where your 12-year-old can really relate to the central character. For example, through being the same gender or through having the same sorts of anxiety or differences.
Life lessons learned in a book are also a very valuable bonus, particularly when the character demonstrates real courage in adversity.
Familiarity Versus Novelty
If your 12-year-old has already seen screen adaptations for any of these books, this may encourage them to read them. Or alternatively, they may prefer the novelty of a new story that they haven’t heard of before.
I hope you’ve enjoyed scrolling through my shortlist of the best books out there for 12-year-olds. There are certainly some excellent options to choose from, and there are themes and tropes for every taste…
Action and adventure, parallel worlds, ghosts, angels, historical, contemporary, and even non-fiction books as well. Not to mention coming-of-age tropes, and stories that can impart some truly valuable life lessons…
With any luck, by learning these valuable life lessons the easy way they can move forward in their lives with a higher degree of confidence, doing the right thing, and doing so with courage, all the while avoiding the wrong things.
Reading is one of the most valuable skills your child can have. It is recommended that 12-year-olds read for at least 15 to 20 minutes every day.
But this can be hard to achieve as parents if the child doesn’t feel sufficiently motivated.
It’s worth it’s taking the time to figure out what sorts of books your child is the most likely to enjoy and be enthralled by.
The key is not to worry too much about what your child reads, so long as they are reading something, and it’s age appropriate. Enjoyment of the story is paramount to developing a love of reading.
Just be sure to ask your 12-year-old questions about the books, in order to make sure that they are properly comprehending the story and taking it in.
Pick as many or as few books as you like. And whichever book you get for them, they’re sure to get something out of it, whether it’s simply escapism, or perhaps an inspirational role model, whether real or fictional.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Books For 12-Year-Olds Called?
Books for 12-year-olds are generally referred to as juvenile books.
What Type Of Books Should A 12-Year-Old Read?
12-year-olds are kinda straddling middle grade topics and young adult ones. And as such the best themes their books should focus on are ones surrounding friendships, family, body image, mental health, and growing up.
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