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Best Historical Fiction Books for Teens

Top 10 Teenagers Books on Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is a genre of literature that involves a story set in the past and is based on real people, events, or time periods. These stories are often a blend of factual and fictional elements, with the goal of creating a compelling narrative that immerses readers in a specific time and place.

Historical fiction can cover a wide range of time periods, from ancient civilizations to recent history, and can be set in any part of the world. The genre can also incorporate elements of other genres, such as romance, adventure, mystery, or war.

Many historical fiction books strive for authenticity and accuracy in their portrayal of historical events, customs, and social norms. However, authors often have to fill in gaps in the historical record with their own imagination, and some liberties may be taken to create a more engaging story.

Historical fiction can be a powerful way to learn about history and gain a better understanding of past events and societies, as well as a way to explore universal themes that transcend time and place. It can also be a source of entertainment and escapism, transporting readers to different worlds and time periods.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

“Between Shades of Gray” is a historical fiction novel by Ruta Sepetys that was published in 2011. The story is set during World War II and follows the life of a Lithuanian girl named Lina, who is deported to Siberia with her mother and younger brother by the Soviet Secret Police.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

The novel portrays the harsh reality of Stalin’s regime and the brutal treatment that the prisoners faced in the labor camps. Lina and her family are separated from their father and sent to a remote camp in Siberia, where they struggle to survive amidst extreme cold, hunger, and disease.

Throughout the story, Lina uses her artistic talents to draw and document the events happening around her, and her sketches become a means of communication between the prisoners. Lina’s courage and resilience help her survive the difficult circumstances, and she never loses hope of reuniting with her father and returning home.

“Between Shades of Gray” sheds light on a lesser-known aspect of World War II history and brings attention to the suffering of the Baltic people under Soviet occupation. The novel has received critical acclaim and has been translated into more than 30 languages.
Heroes by Robert Cormier

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

“Rebel Angels” is the second book in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, a young adult historical fantasy series by Libba Bray. It was published in 2005 and continues the story of Gemma Doyle, a sixteen-year-old girl attending a prestigious girls’ school in Victorian England.

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

The novel picks up where the first book, “A Great and Terrible Beauty,” left off, with Gemma and her friends Felicity and Ann being tormented by mysterious visions and supernatural occurrences. Gemma also discovers a diary belonging to her mother, which leads her to uncover more about her family’s past and the Order, a secret society that her mother was a part of.

As the girls navigate their way through their social and romantic lives at school, they also become embroiled in a dangerous battle against dark forces that threaten their world. Along the way, they encounter new characters, such as the eccentric and enigmatic Circe, and must unravel the mysteries surrounding them.

Throughout the novel, themes of power, identity, and independence are explored as Gemma and her friends navigate the expectations placed upon them by society while also trying to assert their own agency. The novel also delves deeper into the magical realm introduced in the first book and expands upon the mythology and lore of the Gemma Doyle universe.

“Rebel Angels” was well-received by critics and readers alike and was a finalist for the 2006 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book. It was followed by the final book in the trilogy, “The Sweet Far Thing,” in 2007.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

“Seraphina” is a young adult fantasy novel by Rachel Hartman, published in 2012. The story takes place in a medieval world where humans and dragons coexist, albeit uneasily, after a treaty was signed to end a long-standing war between the two species.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

The titular character, Seraphina Dombegh, is a young musician and talented court musician who has a dangerous secret: she is half-dragon, something that is considered taboo in the kingdom of Goredd. When a member of the royal family is murdered, Seraphina finds herself drawn into the investigation, which threatens to expose her true identity and the existence of other half-dragons.

As she navigates the dangerous political landscape of Goredd and grapples with her own identity, Seraphina forms an unlikely alliance with Prince Lucian Kiggs, who is leading the investigation into the murder. Together, they uncover a conspiracy that threatens the fragile peace between humans and dragons and must work to stop it before it’s too late.

“Seraphina” explores themes of identity, acceptance, and belonging, as well as the complexities of prejudice and discrimination. The novel also features intricate world-building, including a detailed exploration of dragon culture and society.

The novel was a critical and commercial success, and it won several awards, including the 2013 William C. Morris Award for best debut young adult novel. It was followed by a sequel, “Shadow Scale,” in 2015.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

“The Impossible Knife of Memory” is a young adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, published in 2014. The story follows the life of a high school senior named Hayley Kincain, who has spent most of her life on the road with her father, an Army veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

After years of homeschooling and constant travel, Hayley convinces her father to settle down in their hometown so she can attend a traditional high school. However, Hayley soon finds that adjusting to a normal life is difficult, and she struggles to cope with her father’s worsening PTSD and her own trauma from growing up with a parent suffering from the disorder.

As Hayley’s life becomes more chaotic and her father’s condition deteriorates, she finds solace in a new friend, Gracie, and a potential love interest, Finn. However, she must also confront the painful truth of her family’s past and learn to confront her own demons in order to move forward.

“The Impossible Knife of Memory” is a poignant and raw exploration of the effects of PTSD on individuals and their families. The novel delves deep into the complexities of mental illness, trauma, and the lasting impact of war on soldiers and their loved ones. It also highlights the importance of friendship, community, and seeking help in times of need.

The novel received critical acclaim and was a finalist for the 2015 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

“Shadow Scale” is the sequel to the young adult fantasy novel “Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman. It was published in 2015 and continues the story of the half-dragon musician Seraphina Dombegh.

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

In “Shadow Scale,” Seraphina embarks on a journey to search for the other half-dragons like herself, who possess unique powers to enter into the minds of others and see their mental landscapes. As she travels through different kingdoms, she discovers a conspiracy to eradicate all half-dragons and must rally her newfound allies to stop it.

As she uncovers more about the conspiracy, Seraphina also grapples with her own identity and her relationship with her dragon mother, whom she had long believed to be dead. The novel also delves deeper into the mythology and history of the world created in “Seraphina” and introduces new characters and settings.

“Shadow Scale” continues to explore themes of identity, belonging, and prejudice, and adds a new layer of political intrigue and high-stakes action. It also features Hartman’s signature intricate world-building and lyrical prose.

The novel received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising its imaginative world-building and emotional resonance, while others criticized its convoluted plot and uneven pacing. Despite this, “Shadow Scale” remains a must-read for fans of “Seraphina” and Hartman’s unique brand of fantasy storytelling.

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

“The Wrath & the Dawn” is a young adult fantasy novel by Renée Ahdieh, published in 2015. The story is a retelling of the classic Middle Eastern folktale “One Thousand and One Nights,” also known as “The Arabian Nights.”

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

The novel follows the story of Shahrzad, a teenage girl who volunteers to marry the Caliph of Khorasan, Khalid, despite his reputation for marrying a new bride each night and executing her at dawn. Shahrzad is determined to avenge the death of her best friend, who was one of Khalid’s previous brides.

As she spends more time with Khalid, Shahrzad begins to see a different side to him and starts to unravel the secrets of his past. Meanwhile, she also becomes embroiled in a web of political intrigue and discovers a conspiracy that threatens not only her own life but also the fate of the kingdom of Khorasan.

Through its lush descriptions and evocative storytelling, “The Wrath & the Dawn” explores themes of love, betrayal, and the power of storytelling. The novel also features a diverse cast of characters and pays homage to the rich cultural heritage of the Middle East.

The novel was a commercial and critical success, and it spawned a sequel, “The Rose & the Dagger,” as well as a companion novel, “The Mirror & the Maze.” It has been praised for its intricate plot, engaging characters, and beautiful prose, and has become a beloved addition to the canon of young adult fantasy.

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

“Anna and the Swallow Man” is a young adult novel by Gavriel Savit, published in 2016. The story is set in Poland during World War II and follows the journey of Anna, a seven-year-old girl, who is left alone after her father, a linguistics professor, is arrested by the Nazis.

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

As she wanders the streets of Krakow, Anna encounters a mysterious man who speaks multiple languages and possesses a unique ability to communicate with birds. The man, known as the Swallow Man, takes Anna under his wing and they embark on a journey through the countryside, trying to avoid the dangers of the war.

As they travel, Anna learns more about the Swallow Man’s past and his connection to the natural world. She also discovers her own strength and resilience as she navigates the dangers of a world torn apart by war.

“Anna and the Swallow Man” is a poignant and poetic exploration of the human condition during wartime, and the power of language and communication to connect people from different cultures and backgrounds. It is a story of survival, love, and the enduring bond between a child and a mentor.

The novel was well-received by critics, who praised its lyrical prose, vivid descriptions, and emotional depth. It has been compared to classics such as “The Book Thief” and “All the Light We Cannot See” for its powerful portrayal of the human experience during one of the darkest periods of history.

The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

“The Rose & the Dagger” is the sequel to the young adult fantasy novel “The Wrath & the Dawn” by Renée Ahdieh. It was published in 2016 and continues the story of Shahrzad and Khalid, set in a reimagined ancient Middle East.

The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

In this novel, Shahrzad is still reeling from the events of the previous book, which left her separated from Khalid and struggling to come to terms with her new powers. Meanwhile, Khalid is facing a rebellion against his rule, and must navigate the treacherous political landscape of Khorasan.

As they work to uncover the truth behind the rebellion, Shahrzad and Khalid must also confront their own feelings for each other and the challenges that come with their different backgrounds and responsibilities. Along the way, they encounter new allies and enemies, and must make difficult choices that will determine the fate of their kingdom.

“The Rose & the Dagger” builds on the themes of love, sacrifice, and political intrigue from the first book, and also delves deeper into the magical elements of the story. It features Ahdieh’s trademark lush descriptions and evocative writing style, and is a fitting conclusion to the story of Shahrzad and Khalid.

The novel received positive reviews from critics, who praised its strong character development and intricate plotting, as well as its exploration of themes such as forgiveness and redemption. It is a must-read for fans of “The Wrath & the Dawn” and a satisfying conclusion to the duology.

And I Darken by Kiersten White

“And I Darken” is a young adult historical fiction novel by Kiersten White, published in 2016. The book is the first in the “Conqueror’s Saga” trilogy and reimagines the life of Vlad the Impaler, a medieval prince of Wallachia who inspired the legend of Dracula.

And I Darken by Kiersten White

In the book, Vlad is reimagined as Lada Dragwlya, a fierce and ambitious young woman who is determined to take back her homeland from the Ottoman Empire. Along with her brother Radu, she is sent to the Ottoman court as a hostage to ensure her father’s loyalty.

As they grow up in the palace, Lada and Radu form complex relationships with the Ottoman prince Mehmed, who becomes their friend and eventual love interest. Lada, however, is more interested in securing power and is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her goals, even if it means betraying those closest to her.

The novel is a captivating blend of historical fiction and alternate history, weaving together real-life events and people with fictional elements. It explores themes of power, identity, and loyalty, and challenges traditional gender roles by featuring a female protagonist who is ruthless and unapologetic in her pursuit of power.

“And I Darken” received critical acclaim for its vivid world-building, well-developed characters, and engaging plot. It has been described as a “feminist Game of Thrones” and a “gritty retelling of Dracula,” and has been praised for its portrayal of complex relationships and its nuanced exploration of the nature of power.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

“The Downstairs Girl” is a young adult historical fiction novel by Stacey Lee, published in 2019. The book is set in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1890, and follows the story of a Chinese American girl named Jo Kuan.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Jo works as a lady’s maid for a wealthy white family, but secretly she is also a talented writer who publishes an advice column in the local newspaper under the pseudonym “Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes popular, Jo uses it as a platform to raise awareness about issues affecting the Chinese American community, and to challenge the racial and gender norms of the time.

As Jo becomes more involved in the suffragist and abolitionist movements of the day, she also uncovers secrets about her own past and the identity of her biological parents. Along the way, she forms relationships with a diverse cast of characters, including her best friend and fellow maid, a blacksmith’s apprentice, and a young journalist.

“The Downstairs Girl” is a powerful exploration of identity, race, and social justice in America’s history. It tackles issues such as discrimination, gender inequality, and the struggle for civil rights in a nuanced and sensitive way, while also providing a compelling and entertaining story. The novel has been praised for its strong characters, richly detailed setting, and timely themes, and has been described as “a joy to read from beginning to end” by reviewers.