Best Books For A 13 Year Old – 10 Young Adult Novels To Help Teens Understand The World

No matter how old you are, whether you are 13 or 31, there are always books out there that you can enjoy.

For young adults around the age of 13 there is a whole genre created for people of this age, young adult fiction.

10 Young Adult Novels To Help Teens Understand The World

Young adult fiction is specifically books for teenagers, but, equally, this doesn’t mean that adults can’t read them either.

Yes, while young adult fiction may exclude some nastier topics and depictions of things like sex, drugs, excessive violence,and more, that doesn’t mean they are boring, and buck doesn’t stop there with this genre.

Young adult fiction is more easily described as books that are purposefully created with teenagers in mind, appealing to the things that might matter to a 13 year old,and trying to avoid the things they may not understand yet.

The humor will be different, the elements of horror and thriller may be adjusted, even romance itself will be described slightly differently.

Beyond this, there are many books that are totally suitable for children aged 13 that aren’t necessarily made with them in mind, but are simply an everyman book and story that everyone can get their teeth into without worrying about content.

In this article we are going to suggest some of our favorite books that would be suitable for a 13 year old, many of which are good books in their own right.

Keep reading to find out what we chose, and what could be on your next reading list, or even provide some gift ideas for a budding reader! Find out below.

Books For Teenagers

Below is our list of young adult fiction and beyond that any 13 year old may enjoy.

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone (1997) By J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

This is the first book in the Harry Potter series, an everyman series that can be a really great read for basically any age, but is perhaps most ideal for teens around 13 to read.

The plot deals with the coming of age of Harry Potter into one of the most powerful wizards in the world, and this is the first stop on that journey.

Harry is an orphan who lives with his abusive aunt and uncle and their bullying and coddled son.

On Harry’s eleventh birthday a man, Hagrid, personally brings Harry an acceptance letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, revealing that Harry’s lost parents were wizards, destroyed by the omnipotent evil and dark wizard Voldemort.

Harry is escorted into a world of magic and spells, and meets his two close friends Hermione and Ron on the way, traveling with other young wizards to the school He meets his nemesis Draco Malfoy, and is sorted into the wizarding house of Gryffindor like his parents were.

Harry is soon embroiled in a conspiracy which seems to occur between master of potions Severus Snape and other potentially dark wizards who want to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone, a horcrux, in order to resurrect Voldemort’s body.

Harry and his friends turn into sleuthing detectives to unravel the mystery, as it seems there aren’t many they can trust.

The story deals with all teenage emotions at a new school, fear of making friends, standing up to bullies, doing what is morally right, eloping after school curfew, and ultimately orphans and missing your parents generally.

Everyone, old or young, can relate to Harry’s character, someone shy and partly damaged but always trying to do what he feels is right.

Any 13 year old will wonder and the fantastic beasts and has likely always wanted to be told they were secretly a wizard, all this and more comes true in Rowling’s well written story, that is the perfect long form novel for a 13 year old, or anyone frankly, to sek their teeth into.


  • No explicit content
  • Intoxicating setting and characters
  • Well written


  • Fantasy genre not for everyone

Percy Jackson And The Olympiads: The Lightning Thief (2006) By Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)

The Percy Jackson novels are a lot of fun and are ideal for anyone interested in Greek History.

They deal with lots of relatable themes that a 13 year old will instantly feel at home with, but also covers lots of Greek history meaning many readers will also learn some accurate depictions of history, as well as being entertained, and learning something from Percy’s story themselves.

The novel centers around Percy, a dyslexic 12 year old with ADHD. He struggles at school and his home life isn’t ideal, with him and his mother, Sally, escaping his abusive step-father.

A series of events occur in the ‘real world’ that put both of them at risk which ends with his mother going missing during an attack from a Minotaur.

Many people around Percy begin to reveal themselves as parts of Greek lore, his friend Grover is revealed as a Satyr, and his teacher Mr. Brunner the centaur Chiron.

As they reach Long Island, it is revealed that Percy himself is a demi-god, that his father is Posiedon himself.

Percy is taken to Camp Half-Blood where he meets many other people his own age who are also demi-gods, such as Luke, son of Hermes, and Annabeth, child of Athena.

Here they attempt to train Percy’s skills and explain more to him about the nature of his birth.

What is eventually explained to Percy by Chiron is that it was forbidden for three eldest male Gods – Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades – to have children, who swore an oath not to.

Thalia, another girl at the camp who befriends Percy, is the daughter of Zeus, the first example of this oath being broken.

As it becomes known that Percy is the second violation of this Oath, Percy finds himself at the heart of a conspiracy against Mount Olympus, coupled with the fact that Zeus’ lightning bolt has also been stolen.

Percy, Luke, and Annabeth must locate Zeus’ lightning bolt by going to the underworld and locating Hades himself, the most likely culprit of this theft., with hope to locate his mother along the way.

The Percy Jackson series is another great one for teens of the age of 13, it again shows a story of a troubled youth’s true nature being revealed to him, and Percy must come of age, navigating romantic and platonic relationships, dangerous situations and more as the eponymous hero of this entertaining and epic book. This book is the first in a series!


  • Historically accurate for the most part
  • Ideal for teens who like history, particularly Greek
  • Lots of fast paced action


  • Some people won’t enjoy the historical parts

Skulduggery Pleasant (2007) By Derek Landy

Skulduggery Pleasant

The Skulduggery Pleasant novels are great for young teens who have that darker streak in their character, and enjoy magic and the spooky things like skeletons.

Moreover, if you are into detective stories this is very much a detective story you would enjoy, as the two main characters solve a crime.

The story’s main character is Stephanie Edgley, who lives in a quiet town in Ireland. Her quiet, and frankly boring life is broken one day as her horror novelist uncle passes unexpectedly.

Called into the will Stephanie attends its execution where it is read. Parts of her family are there, her parents, as well as a disguised and masked man.

It is read that Stephanie will actually be given her uncle’s whole estate, his mansion, including the royalties left behind by his long career in writing.

Stephanie and her mum go to the mansion, and end up stranded due to car issues.

Her mother leaves with the tow truck to sort things out and leaves Stephanie to spend time at the house. When alone, Stephanie receives a worrying and threatening phone call asking her for a key.

The threatening caller then breaks into the house, with Stephanie defenceless. When suddenly the masked man at the will reading comes out of nowhere and saves her by summoning a fireball from his fingertips.

During the fight his disguise falter’s and it is revealed the man named Skulduggery Pleasant who saved her is in fact a walking talking skeleton who is held together by magic.

He reveals that Stephanie’s uncle was indeed murdered, having unearthed an ancient relic used by sorcerers.

A whole underworld of magic is revealed, one which Stephanie is undoubtedly entangled in now, and she chooses to join Skulduggery to investigate what is really going on.

The novel proves a clever detective story and unearths a large conspiracy that spans the whole series. Both characters, particularly Skulduggery, are very compelling and written well.

The female main character epitomizes a youth taken from her boring life and injected into a world of magic and evil beings, something teens love to read about.


  • Ideal for those who like magic and sorcery
  • Detective plot at its heart
  • Funny and well written
  • Lots of cool action and dialogue


  • Heavy on the violence which can feel gratuitous

Artemis Fowl (2001) By Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl-Artemis Fowl, Book 1

The Artemis Fowl books are generally about magic, the conflict between good and evil and also that of greed.

The original book we are about to describe deceived favorable reviews as a young adult fiction book, and considered a modern fairytale. It builds on many Irish myths and fairytales.

Captain Holly Short is an elf police captain tracking a rogue troll that has managed to reach Earth after escaping from Haven City, an underground world.

Meanwhile, Artemis Fowl, the second, is a 12 year old prodigy who has dedicated his life to his family’s criminal empire, which he leads.

The novel starts with him believing he has found the truth that fairies exist, and live underground.

Artemis uncovers the secrets of the fairies and is led eventually to Holly herself, being able to kidnap her with his own high tech gadgets.

He chooses to hold her ransom and restore his family’s name by gaining power over the fairies in this underworld of Haven City.

But he may have underestimated the power of the fairies and could be about to trigger a war between this hidden world and his own.

The novel deals with a lot of themes of greed and the conflict that can occur as a result of it but tells this age-old battle in a way that teens can really understand.

The book proves to be a clever work about good and evil itself, how they combat each other and does well to shrink quite a complex idea down for teens in a consumable way.

It’s interesting to read as the main character, and child prodigy, is actually potentially the bad character here which presents a unique moral conundrum for the teens reading.


  • Complex moral conundrums
  • Very entertaining and intoxicating settings
  • Doesn’t even come across as YA, but is without explicit content.


  • With Artemis actually being the ‘baddie’ in this story, some teens may not relate to him

Mongrels (2017) By Stephen Graham Jones

Mongrels: A Novel

This is an interesting book within the werewolf genre (for more werewolf books, check out our favorite here – most of these are for older readers though). It tells the coming of age story of a boy growing up among werewolves. The boy is mixed blood, part werewolf, part human.

Interestingly, the novel mainly centers around whether the main character will actually turn as the rest of his family has or if he is simply just a human destined to live in normalcy.

Throughout the novel the unnamed narrator, the boy, has multiple identity crises as he awaits to see if he is a werewolf, like any normal pubescent boy, alternating between phases.

The book is humorous at points, and at others describes being a teenager perfectly well!

The novel is fun and teens will love the werewolf narrative which in this case is a vehicle for a wider message about finding identity as a teenager.

Graham Jones himself is Native American, which he attributes also to his main character, and the novel is a clear expression of his own diaspora navigating his race in the US, so can teach teens about racial diaspora, as well as being relatable to other teens who suffer from this themselves.

Graham Jones creates his own lore surrounding werewolves that is in part humorous in its nature, which teens will enjoy.

This makes the novel unique with its own inside jokes that are emblematic of the teenager who narrates them, exactly the kind of thing a teenager enjoys and relates to.

The novel from Graham Jones is a unique presentation of a coming of age story, that is about much more than fantasy werewolves, but about race and otherness itself.

There’s plenty of stuff in the novel for teens to enjoy and relate to equally.


  • Uses the werewolf genre to tell a wider story
  • Coming of age story
  • Humorous and ironic


  • If you don’t like the author’s voice then the story doesn’t hit home as well.

Stormbreaker (2000) By Anothony Horowitz

Stormbreaker (Alex Rider)

This is the ideal purchase for a teen who enjoys James Bond films, having been enlisted to write the newest James Bond novels, as well as being a truly stellar writer, Anthony Horowitz has mastered both children, young adult, and high art fiction.

The Alex Rider series is ideal for younger males who like spy fiction and action.

Imagine James Bond reinvented for younger audiences, you will land on Alex Rider, the titular character of this series. Alex Rider is cool and young and willing to put his life on the line for his country and family.

The whole series follows him as he becomes a teenage spy for MI6, becoming a man of international mystery himself.

Stormbreaker, the first in the series, follows Alex as he investigates the mysterious death of his uncle, which sets him initially on his path to become a teenage spy.

He is sent undercover to Cornwall as a spy. There he uncovers a conspiracy of the Stormbreaker computer factory.

A plot where millions of computers are filled with biological weapons which would give smallpox to its users. The aim being to kill thousands of British children.

The novel both gets to the heart of being a teenager well, and also how teenagers deal with responsibility.

Ultimately, at its heart, this is a crime novel and a spy thriller of which Horowitz generally writes well.

Some people do find the plot a little unbelievable but teens generally don’t question this. For anyone into spy films or books this is a must read series.


  • Serious material, albeit not explicit
  • Lots of action
  • Written well


  • Slightly unbelievable plot
  • Can feel a little dated to a modern reader.

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid (2007) By Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #1) (Volume 1)

This is the ideal purchase for a teen who doesn’t read much or perhaps struggles to read.

The book is partly illustrated which some younger audiences will love but as a result has an interesting literary form as a novel – its original front cover reads ‘ a novel in cartoons’.

It has been syndicated for being a great book for teens who struggle to read and is an interesting literary work.

The novel basically follows Greg Heffney, a middle schooler who hates school and wants to be popular.

The diary style writing shows Greg observing the social goings on at his school, the popular teens, and the unpopular teens, and where he lies within that.

We follow Greg as he navigates school life and tussles with how he can be popular, and what being popular actually means.

While Greg hates books and writing, he is writing the journal, not a dairy, as he tells us, for ‘when he is famous’.

There is a line up of relatable and funny characters such as his brother Rodrick who picks on him, his younger brother Manny who gets everything he wants, as well as his best friend Rowley.

The novel covers a lot of relatable topics for school age children, being popular, having friends, being responsible, and ultimately shows the strength of having a diary, writing, and books themselves.

The Wimpy Kid series is ongoing and there are plenty of novels that focus on various parts of school as Greg grows up.

Those troubled teens who don’t enjoy reading and feel left out of the social life at school will find the novel quite relatable, and is ideal to get certain teens into reading, while other teens may actually find the novel quite simplistic and boring.

The novel is very realistic so those who enjoy fantasy genres and other less realistic genres may not enjoy it.


  • Great for teens who struggle with reading
  • Has pictures for teens who struggle with language
  • Very relatable for certain teens at school


  • Simplistic story
  • Some teens will find it a bit boring if they enjoy more fantastical tales.

The Hunger Games (2008) By Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (Book 1)

In The Hunger Games civilization has collapsed, with Panem being the only habitable area on the planet, leading to the dystopian government that creates the titular spectacle in which the main trilogy centers around.

The spectacle draws the name of one person in each ‘district’ of Panem and that person is ‘tribute’ for their district

The female lead in the novel is Katniss Everdeen, a strong female character who ends up volunteering for the Hunger Games in place of her sister Primrose, who would surely die.

Katniss is particularly good at using a bow and is also naturally strong so makes a good candidate to win.

As she enters The Hunger Games she sees behind the curtain at what is occurring in the Capitol as well as the true nature of the games themselves.

For those teens who enjoy the dystopian and science fiction genres will enjoy the Hunger Games as a well written novel that documents Katniss growing up quickly, snatched from her home, in this strange spectacle she has to take part in to defend her own life.

There are lots of relatable characters, and if nothing else, the story is very well written and is thrilling and tense from the get go.

The novel particularly appeals to teen girls as Katniss is a really well written female lead.

While the novel is certainly young adult fiction it does deal with some quite serious topics as is the nature of its plot, but in terms of explicit content there isn’t too much beyond descriptions of violence.


  • Thrilling from the get go
  • Lots of action
  • Strong female lead


  • Can be a bit too dark for some readers.

The Fault In Our Stars (2012) By John Green

The Fault in Our Stars

This is a novel that fundamentally helps young people rationalize and deal with death through the characters in the book.

A gripping read, the story is narrated by Hazel Lancaster, a 16 year old with thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs. She attends a cancer support group after being basically forced by her mother.

Yet, through attending these meetings she meets Augustus Waters, a recovering cancer patient who lost his leg to cancer.

The two share a connection and fall in love, they trade novels that deal with death as a subject matter, but one book that is given to Augustus he doesn’t enjoy the ending of as it is abrupt.

They get to meet the author and discover he is an alcoholic with hostile behavior. While in Amsterdam Augustus and Hazel confess their mutual love for eachother.

The rest of the plot deals with their changing relationship and illnesses.

The novel is certainly dark and deals with dark topics such as death and even has some descriptions of sex, albeit they are tender and not excessive.

Many were upset with the label of young adult fiction that the novel gets but the novel’s author suggests that people are underestimating teenagers’ ability to understand these topics.

At the heart of it the novel is a particularly good read that is well written and many find it very appropriate for teenagers.

Fundamentally, if you are a teen looking for a romance book, this is truly a good example of a teen romance novel.

There are indeed discussions of death in the novel, as well as sex at one point, but the novel is unarguably for teenagers.


  • Extremely poignant musing on death, and life.
  • Romance novel for teens
  • Gripping thanks to well written characters


  • Can be considered dark
  • Is some minor explicit content although it is expressed in a responsible way.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (1999) By Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This is another quite dark novel but at its core is not anything if not a story made for teenagers.

The story is an epistolary novel, one written in letters, and details the life of a boy named Charlie as he navigates life from adolescence into adulthood.

Charlie is not mentally okay and this is indicated in his unconventional thoughts recorded in these letters and deals with topics centering around mental health.

Charlie is 15 and the letters he writes are to his best friend from his previous school who took his own life.

This, as well as the death of Charlie’s aunt Helen, are two of the things that color his narration and ultimately how he views relationships with others in his new school.

Charlie has a passion for reading and writing and his main friend at the beginning of the story is his English teacher who acts as his mentor.

The main events of the novel surround Charlie and two seniors who take him under their wing – Sam and Patrick, a girl and a boy.

They share many experiences together and help Charlie let loose and act like the teenager he should.

Although this sometimes goes too far and Charlie’s traumatic experiences rise to the surface again.

While the novel discusses lots of dark and explicit material, it is fundamentally a coming of age story that is meant to help teenagers navigate the moer taboo elements of this teenage life such as drugs, trauma, violence, sexuality, mental health and more.

While dark, it is nothing if not a work of young adult fiction and its audience is certainly teenagers.

For anyone skeptical about reading or buying it for others the material is very tender and not explained irresponsibly, but with the goal of helping teens to rationalize and understand these topics better, topics they will invariably run into.


  • Deals with explicit content with candor and nuance
  • Gripping and emotional
  • Coming of age story


  • Trigger warnings necessary
  • Adults can find it overly dramatic

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the young adult fiction genre is very broad and the books that fall in this category are not necessarily well defined and also dip into many other genres such as science fiction, romance, and more.

Many consider young adult fiction to be novels that are washed clean of explicit material, but this is not the case.

Many of these books are free of explicit content, but some of them are not and that’s okay.

The main idea here is that the author is creating a fictional world within which a teenager can come to understand these topics with nuance and complexity.

By experience things in the book are depicted in a way that skirts the edges of what is extreme.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do We Classify What Is Considered Young Adult Fiction?

It’s very hard to say what is classed as young adult fiction, and many people have their own definitions of what is appropriate for teenagers.

Lot’s people think that young adult fiction is absent of explicit content, being appropriate for teenagers, but it is not this simple.

Fundamentally, we think that young adult fiction, or books for teenagers, are those with main goal of being a place where teenagers can rationalize and understand topics and ideas that are important to them: this can simply be something like popularity in school, or the concept of good and evil, but can also be darker topics like suicide, death or drugs.

The best kind of books are the ones that help us understand things about ourselves and others that we didn’t have the faculty to really understand previously.

Of course, teenagers are impressionable, so young adult fiction is purposefully not graphic and is not the kind of place for gratuitous discussion of explicit topics.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower while explicit in its content is fundamentally created with teenagers in mind helping them rationalize and process the explicit content.

American Psycho on the other hand is not suitable for teenagers due to the narration and style of the novel, which would be bad for someone who is impressionable.

Put simply, there is no governing body that decides what is appropriate for young adults and what is not, it’s mainly to do with the audience and who the message is for.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a bit pointless for an adult to read, for example, yet an adult could still enjoy the novel, its message is simply not for them.

If the book’s goal and message is to help teenagers understand a concept, it is likely what we would call young adult fiction, and this is the kind of conceptual coddling that adults don’t enjoy in normal adult novels.

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Anna Davis