Looking for the best historical fiction books for teens? You’ve come to the right place! I’ve been a fan of historical fiction since my teenage years, but back then I had to just read adult HistFic.
Now, the market is booming with YA historical fiction stories for teenagers and young adults. It makes it so much easier for teens to relate to the time period when they are reading about characters who are their own age.
I wish I had been able to read all the books below when I was younger, but I’m enjoying reading them now! We hope you like the stories below too. Let us know if we are missing any of your favorites.
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Must-Read Young Adult Historical Fiction
The story alternates between Huey as a teenager grappling with his new life in the city at a prep school, and his childhood in the south during a summer in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement when he learned just how complicated it was to be a bi-racial child.
I was so drawn into Huey’s story that I lost track of time. When it was over and I craved more. This is a ya historical fiction story for adults to enjoy as well.
To compare this book to The Hate You Give is doing this book a disservice. The similarities exist in all the best ways, but I don’t want people to think they can read one or the other.
This book is set in 1992, in LA, during the Rodney King riots. Ashley is an affluent black girl at a private school, who is forced to reckon with what her blackness means to herself, her friends, and her family.
When I heard about the prequel to The Hate You Give, I was very nervous to pick it up. Eventually, I decided to listen, and WOW. I was blown away by this historical fiction book for teens. Again.
This is the story of Mav before he was a dad. Or rather, on the cusp of becoming a dad. We learn about his early life in his neighborhood, his high school years when he sold drugs, and the story behind the birth of his children.
As he struggles between gang life and the riches it brings, over the harder life of honest work, we go along for the ride. I loved learning what turned Mav, a favorite character from T.H.U.G., into the incredible father he became.
Classic YA Historical Fiction
My mother was the first person to read this middle grade book to me and I was immediately drawn to Anne. She was smart, precocious, and has a way of making everyone love her while simultaneously finding new ways to get into trouble.
I read this coming-of-age book again when I was a teenager and then again as an adult. I will be reading this to my daughter next. Every time I read it, I am able to capture more of the nuances that are hidden within the pages. This is a beautiful book about friendship and found family.
I am not sure if this realistic fiction book is more popular in Canada but, one day I hope to visit Prince Edward Island. This is one of my (Jackie) all-time favorite books.
This children’s story is the book that sparked my interest in witch books. It’s all about Kit Tyler, a child new to colonial America, who befriends a woman named Hannah Tupper.
But the townspeople believe that Hannah is a witch, and soon Kit is swept into a trial similar to the Salem Witch Trials. She has to prove her innocence or risk being killed like a witch. This is one of the best classic historical fiction books for teens.
Classic YA Historical Fiction Retellings
Sherwood is a young adult historical fiction retelling of Robin Hood with Maid Marian at the center. In this version, Robin died in the crusades and it’s actually Marian that is robbing the rich and giving to the poor.
I adored how this story puts a female at the center of one of the most known fairytales.
This was a fun little classic ya historical fiction retelling based on Oliver Twist. I found it to be a lovely little extension of the story.
The concept is that during all of Oliver Twist, Ollie was actually a girl in disguise so this story picks up where Oliver Twist ended. There is a romantic element (of course) but it’s also about accepting your past and staying true to yourself.
This Pride and Prejudice retelling is actually a murder mystery! In this version of the story, Mr. Bennett is a barrister and Lizzie is desperate to prove herself and be the first female barrister.
But while she offers to help Mr. Bingley find the real culprit of the murder he’s been accused of, she ends up butting heads with her rival, Mr. Darcy of Pemberley and Associates.
This delightful take on the classic story was a refreshing and fun historical mystery book. I look forward to reading the rest of the ya historical fiction retellings in this series.
Romance Historical Fiction Books for Teens
What a fun read! I was eager to start a new Historical fiction romance series and the cover of this one drew me right to it.
The Davenports is a Gilded Age story about a successful Chicago Black family who made a name for themselves after slavery was abolished. Now the talk of the season, the three Davenport children are all looking for their spouses and trying to buck societal norms in the process!
Be warned! This YA historical romance book ends on a cliffhanger and the book is perfect for our list of beach reads 2023.
This is an LGBTQ graphic novel that I read in a few hours. Prince Sebastian is a prince by day and Princess Crystallia by night. The only one who knows his secret is his seamstress who hopes to make a name for herself with her fashion.
My son read it twice because “I loved the message that it’s okay to be yourself”. I don’t normally read graphic novels, but, I loved it!!! What a wonderfully inclusive, feel-good story.
Gossip Girl meets Pride and Prejudice? YES, PLEASE! Georgianna is thrust into the world of the Regency elite in. Lower-class Georgianna is thrust into the elite circle of regency society, and it might just be her downfall.
This bitchy, riotous take on the regency era had me gasping with shock and flipping the pages at the speed of light. I would love to see this story adapted to the big (or small) screen like the Bridgerton book series.
Young Adult Historical Fiction Celebrity Book Club Picks
Some YA historical fiction books are incredibly appealing to adult readers, and other YA stories fall flat.
Unfortunately, the latest Reese’s Book Club pick falls into
I cared about what happened to Jo but I found myself bored throughout this Gilded Age book for teens.
This gothic YA historical fiction is centered around Hazel, a 16-year-old woman who lives in Edinburgh Scotland with her mother and younger brother. She has always had an obsession with anatomy and wants to be a surgeon despite the fact that no women are allowed to study to become doctors.
In order to study and pass her exam, she must have dead bodies to look at. Enter Jack, who earns extra money by taking bodies from their graves at night.
This was such a quick read with amazing details to keep the story moving. There were some surprise details that really added to the story. The ending, however, felt very rushed to me- especially when compared to the rest of the book. This is such an original thriller horror book.
YA Historical Fiction Books about War
Three tales in one, this realistic fiction story is told in alternating chapters by three narrators. The stories feature Josef, a Jewish refugee fleeing WWII Germany, Isabel a Cuban girl on her way to Miami in 1994, and Mahmoud a Syrian refugee seeking asylum in Germany in 2015. The chapters rotate between the three characters and their stories do connect at the end in a meaningful and moving way.
The characters are all about 13-years-old but shoulder burdens that would be hard for an adult to handle. Gratz accurately portrays each child’s struggle with both grace and clarity – not shying away from difficult emotions and even death. If you love this YA historical fiction book, we have a list of Powerful WWII Books for Kids.
This book’s premise had me a little skeptical, Greek Gods telling a love story set in WWI? I didn’t think it was up my alley. I must have had it recommended to me almost a dozen times now, and now I’m the one recommending this young adult fantasy novel.
It was two, sort of three, love stories in one historical romance book, but it touched on racism, PTSD, and the sacrifices of war. It was so well handled that I was sad to see it end.
This historical fiction book for teens was such an unexpected beauty for me. Books about the Holocaust are most often inherently extremely heavy. I love the way this book is a fairy tale retelling of Briar Rose (AKA Sleeping Beauty) that turns it into a story about the Holocaust.
It does not trivialize the atrocities of that time but rather, it makes the subject more approachable to a younger audience. Beautifully written and well done. This is one of the books for a 13-year-old that adults will love and a must-read from WWII books for kids!
This is a magical realism book that is narrated by Death. And in this haunting magical realism book, he tells the story of Liesel, a young girl in Nazi Germany in 1939. Liesel is living with her foster parents and learning to read from stolen books.
She also shares these books with the Jewish man who is hiding in her basement. This book is brilliant, powerful, poignant, and unforgettable. While technically a YA historical fiction book, this book is fiction at its finest and is a must-read from our list of WWII books for kids. This is one of my favorite thought-provoking books.
YA Historical Fantasy Books
I listened to the audible version of this young adult historical fiction book and I was hysterical. It is a twist on the historical tale of Lady Jane Grey the 9 Days Queen.
Instead of Catholics and Protestants, this book gave us people who could transform into animals and those who could not. It was ridiculous but funny and the authors cleverly wove in historical details and sayings attributing them to the characters.
Louise Le Blanche is a witch, Reid Diggory is a witch hunter, but when they are forced to be married Lou has to keep her identity a secret and try not to fall for her handsome husband. Could you ask for anything more from enemies-to-lovers books?
Set in the pre-industrial age in Paris, France, this historical fantasy book is perfect for lovers of YA! It’s got funny, fierce heroines, a steamy love story, and a cast that is actually diverse! I devoured all three witch books in this YA fantasy series of books set in Paris.
Camille is an orphan who must use magic to transform pieces of metal into money in order to buy food for her sister. But when the magic starts to fail, Camille must use dark magic to transform herself into a baroness in the court of Louis the 16th. The magic is beautiful in this young adult fantasy novel.
Soon, the dark magic takes its toll and Camille must make a choice between reality and magic. When revolution erupts, Camille must determine how to survive. This YA historical fiction is a great one.
The latest book by this writing trio is another historical fantasy with a twist. This time it’s Mary Queen of Scots’s story that gets the magic treatment.
Mary can transform at will into a mouse, but she needs to keep it a secret as shape-shifting is frowned upon. Can she be the Queen the country needs, win Francis’s heart, and keep her secret? This is such a fun historical fiction book for teens and a great YA pick from books about Scotland!