45 of the Best Books for a 13-Year-Old

The Best Books for a 13-year-old.
45 of the Best Books for a 13-Year-Old 47

Looking for the best books for a 13-year-old? We’ve got the perfect list for you!

Having raised 4 kids through this particular age, we are well-equipped to give suggestions for children with all kinds of book preferences. We’ve got suggestions for fantasy fans and non-fiction readers and every reader in between.

Below, you’ll find lots of great stories divided by category. Many of the books for a 13-year-old have links to book lists with even more recommendations, so be sure to poke around.

Table of Contents

Looking for more options? We’ve got tons of genre-specific lists of books for 13-year-olds!

*The best books for a 13 year old Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

Best Fantasy Books for a 13-Year-Old

the belles

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

I loved the first book. I finished it and immediately rushed into book 2. The people in the world of Orleans are devoid of natural beauty and need The Belles to use their magical treatments to be beautiful. The most powerful of the Belles is known as the favorite and works for the royal family to set trends and perform beauty treatments.

But what happens when a sick queen and a greedy princess have differing views on ruling the people of Orléans and The Belles of the world? The world-building in this YA Fantasy was wonderful and the descriptions of the elaborate beauty treatments painted a vivid picture. The characters were flawed but wonderfully constructed and the teacup pets were adorable.

Peter and the Starcatchers

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Berry

This Peter Pan retelling finds Peter aboard a ship of sailors. He and a bunch of other orphans aboard the ship have to protect a treasure locked in a chest hidden on the ship from pirate captain Black Stache.

Think of this as the origin story of Tinkerbell, her fairy dust, and how Peter gained his ability to fly. It’s one of our favorite fairy tale retellings and is the perfect book for a 13-year-old. We are sure that any age will love this YA fantasy novel.

Greenglass House and more family audiobooks for road trips

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

This middle-grade mystery reminded me of Harry Potter in some ways. A child is trying to uncover the secrets of Greenglass House, a hotel for smugglers and spies before the adults do.

We read this as a family read-aloud and it was wonderful. It’s one of the books for a 13-year-old that younger readers might struggle with.

For more fantasy books for 13-year-olds, check out our list of fantasy books for tweens.

Love Fantasy Books? We do too! That’s why we created a list of Books Like Harry Potter and Books Like Percy Jackson!

Mystery Books for 13-Year-Olds

the inheritance games

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I knew I had to read this YA mystery series after it was compared to one of my favorite middle-grade mystery books, The Westing Game.

In this story, Avery, a poor orphan is told she’s just inherited a billionaire’s fortune. His family is determined to get to the money, but Avery has bigger fish to fry – the riddles and puzzles the deceased Tobias Hawthorne left behind for her to solve. As she teams up with unlikely allies, she’s forced to figure out who is a friend or foe.

I flew through this story and can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the trilogy! This is one of my favorite books for 13-year-olds and one of the best mystery books for teens.

The sweetness at the bottom of the pie

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

This is the first book in the Flavia De Luce series. This 11-year-old aspiring chemist is a wonderful heroine. I love her- she is smart and precocious. This is one of the best historical mystery books for YA readers and does not have violence. 

It is 1950 and Flavia has a love of poisons. When she finds a man taking his last breath in a cucumber patch, she is not scared at all, rather, she delights in solving the mystery. The rest of this detective series is on my list of books to read. We also included this British mystery book on our list of Books for 13-year-olds and in our favorite books by Canadian Authors.

The Van Gogh Deception

The Van Gogh Deception by Deron R. Hicks

The first in a series of middle grade novels, this first story captured the attention of my D.C.-obsessed son. After all, it opens in the National Gallery when a boy wakes up with amnesia.

Described as Dan Brown meets Jason Bourne, it lives up to those clever titles. It’s a fast-paced art caper that will keep your tween fully engrossed. It’s the first in a must-read series of books for 13-year-olds.

For more books for a 13-year-old like these, check out our list of Mystery Books for Tweens

Best Family Books for a 13-Year-Old

little women

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I remember reading this coming-of-age novel with my grandmother when I was young. It features a family of four girls who are trying to support each other and their mother while their father is away at war.

The classic story by Alcott has survived for generations for a reason, the way she wonderfully encapsulates what it’s like to be in a family. The highs and lows of the personal and collective lives of Beth, Jo, Amy, and Meg are an endearing testimony to the bonds of sisters.

If you have not read this book about motherhood from our list of literary classics, we highly recommend it. It’s also a good first classic book for 13-year-olds.

We were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I chose this as my pick for books with unreliable narrators and it did not disappoint.  I will not spoil and give too many details about it.

A group of four friends spends every summer together on a private island.  Money, family, love, and an accident lead to secrets and lies. 

This book was the perfect suspense which I did not expect.  Even though I knew that the narrator was unreliable, I still had no idea where this story was going.

Pay Attention Carter Jones

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

⁣My son adored Pay Attention, Carter Jones. He loved the premise of the butler coming over to teach Carter to play cricket. He liked how Carter learned about how to be a gentleman from the butler who is strict, but exactly what the family needs during their troubling time.⁣

He’s recommended it to a few of his friends already and my mom even read it and enjoyed it!⁣ It’s a heartfelt, thought-provoking read in all the best ways. It’s one of our favorite coming-of-age books for 13-year-olds.

Middle Grade Books for Tweens

Ultimate List of Middle Grade Books for Tweens

For even more books for a 13-year-old, this list has great picks across multiple genres.

Historical Fiction Books for 13-Year-Olds

The downstairs girl

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

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 the latter category for me. I was never able to fully get into the story of a lady’s maid turned advice columnist because the writing never drew me in.

I cared about what happened to Jo but I found myself bored throughout this Gilded Age book for teens.

stella by starlight

Stella and the Starlight by Sharon M Draper

This historical fiction book for 13-year-olds takes place in the Depression era. Stella lives in Bumblebee, North Carolina- the segregated south where the Klan still exists.

The book touches upon so many important concepts like depression, voting rights, racism, family, and finding your inner strength. The book has a realistic ending, not a happy one and that left my daughter begging to read more.

Alan Gratz Refugee

Refugee by Alan Gratz

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.

Best Audiobooks for a 13-Year-Old

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas soon to be a major motion picture.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

This fantastic and incredibly relevant young adult novel tackles the Black Lives Matter movement. Starr is straddling a line between two worlds. She attends a prestigious prep school where she is one of 2 black children in her grade but she lives in a poor neighborhood 40 minutes down the road.

She switches her personality so that she can fit in wherever she is, never truly being her whole self. When she witnesses her unarmed childhood best friend get killed by a policeman her entire life changes.

She needs to decide what to tell and to whom because her words can have dire consequences for her family and her community. It’s a truly wonderful coming-of-age story from thought-provoking books set in high school that all young adults should read.

far from the tree

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

This book is the winner of the National Book Award for good reason.  I adored this book.  I spent half of it crying and the other half smiling.  This is such a wonderful story about Grace who is adopted at birth. 

When she finds herself pregnant, she puts her daughter up for adoption.  This prompts her to look for her biological mother.  What she finds are two siblings that she never knew about. This is an amazing story told from multiple points of view.

Even though we included it in adult books that make you cry, it’s a book for 13-year-olds too.

The Parker Inheritance

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

The Parker Inheritance was such a fun listen! It reminded me of The Westing Game, which it references frequently and was clearly a source of inspiration in the best way.

Two new friends, both overcoming personal struggles, end up on a hunt to find a hidden fortune in the town of Lambert, South Carolina. Along the way, they encounter the racist past of the city and learned how the deep-rooted racism impacted Lambert long-term.

I loved the modern twist and more thought-provoking spin on the classic book trope of The Westing Game. It’s a must-listen and one of my favorite audiobooks for tweens!

For more books for 13-year-olds like these, check out our list of Family Friendly Audiobooks

Books for 13-Year-Olds Set at School

a study in charlotte

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

I really enjoyed the first book in the Charlotte Holmes Trilogy. I’ve mentioned before that I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan. This Sherlock Holmes retelling differs from the others because it occurs in modern times. The central characters are the teenage descendants of Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson. I love detective books that take a different look at a favorite character.

The adolescent angle leaves room for error in Holmes’ deductive reasoning skills. Watson is also a more fleshed-out character that has deductive reasoning skills of his own. The novel wraps up nicely and the characters solve the mystery leaving enough open ends to allow for a sequel.

This is one of my favorite mystery books set in High school.

restart

Restart by Gordon Korman

My kids all read this realistic fiction book one after another. In fact, they passed it to each other to read so they could all discuss it.

Chase wakes up in the hospital after falling off a roof and doesn’t remember anything- including his name. When he gets back to school, he sees how the kids react to him. Some kids worship him and other kids are terrified of him.

The questions become, who he was and who he wants to be. This is one of the best books for 13-year-olds.

wonder

Wonder by R.J Palacio

A must-read for kids in middle school, this is an amazing book about embracing differences, kindness, and being yourself.  However, this would also be a wonderful read-aloud book for a younger audience. CW: This is one of the books that will make you cry.

August Pullman is a boy with an extraordinary facial difference.  He has been homeschooled his entire life and is starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep.  This book for 13-year-olds is amazing and has a lesson about love and acceptance that everyone needs to read.

Love Back to School Books? We do too! That’s why we created the School Hub with all things school.

Best Spy Books for a 13-Year-Old

code girls young

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy (YA EDITION)

I’m not generally a huge non-fiction reader unless the topic is of particular interest to me. Having seen the Imitation Game and read quite a few non-fiction books about coding in war times, I thought this one would be interesting.

It was a truly fascinating read! I loved finding out about the trials and tribulations of the real-life heroes of the war. I love the kids version of the same WWII non-fiction book too.

Mystery books for tweens

Greetings from Witness Protection! by Jake Burt

What a fun story about an orphan girl tasked by the U.S. Marshalls to keep a family alive. As she enters into witness protection with them, she puts her street smarts and pick-pocketing abilities to good use.

But can she keep her new family safe? Will she be able to hide from her own past? This is one of the best books for 13-year-olds.

city spies and other mystery books for tweens

City Spies by James Ponti

MI6 has recruited a bunch of kids to be their newest spy group – the City Spies. They attend boarding school while learning various spy tactics.

Soon they get to go on a mission to Paris to put what they learned into action. Subsequent books take place in San Francisco and Beijing. At this point, this series is on our pre-order series list.

For more books for 13-year-olds like this, check out our list of spy books for kids.

WWII Books for 13-Year-Olds

Briar Rose and more books by Jewish writers

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

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!

anne frank

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This is the quintessential book about the Holocaust written by Anne Frank, a Jewish girl in hiding during WWII.  Although she did not live to see freedom, her father survived as did the diary that she kept during her years of hiding. 

This is a powerful book that captures the neverending capacity for hope in the human spirit. After all, Anne said it best when she said “in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart”.

This is one of the non-fiction picks on the list of WWII books for kids.

the war that saved my life

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I read this book in a few hours and immediately ordered the sequel The War I Finally Won.  Ada is a 10-year-old girl who lives in a one-room world gazing at the world from one window.  She was born with a club foot and teaches herself to walk in secret.  When the children who lived in London were evacuated to go to the country at the start of WW2, Ada escapes her abusive mother and leaves London with her little brother.

There is so much depth to this book.  It is a Newbury Honor book and the Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award for middle grade. This middle grade historical fiction is a story of love and survival in the face of overwhelming obstacles.

Do not be fooled that it is written for middle grades. It is emotionally crafted and brilliantly written and is my favorite book for a 13-year-old.

For more books for 13 year olds like these, check out our list of WWII books for kids.

Feel Good Books for 13-Year-Olds

to Night Owl from Dogfish

To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

This tween book came so highly recommended that I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the hype. But, I loved it. Is it about two girls who could not be more different whose fathers fall in love and send them to camp together so they can meet before they all become a family.

It is told through emails sent back and forth between the girls, family, and friends as well. It is so well written and is ultimately a story about friendship and unconditional love. This middle grade book deals with really complicated issues like what makes a family in a completely approachable way. It is this reason that this book is found on our Book Lists for 13-Year-Olds.

THe goldfish boy

Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Another great read in middle grade books.  This story is about a boy named Matthew who has severe OCD and has trouble leaving his house due to his anxiety.

Matthew is the last person to have seen the toddler next door before the four-year-old disappeared.   I love the fact that this book looks at the world from Matthew’s point of view.  It is a very readable, eye-opening middle grade mystery book for 13-year-olds.

Hello Universe

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

This realistic fiction book for a 13-year-old was a Newberry Award winner for a reason. It gave the mom in me a bit of an anxiety attack when one of the characters fell down the well, but all’s well that ends well.

This tween book is a read that I’d recommend for all ages. In particular, I liked how it addressed bullying, being different, and overcoming shyness.

Classic Books for a 13-Year-Old

Anne of green Gables by LM Mongtogery and more great Canadian Novels by Canadian Authors

Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomeryir?source=bk&t=beyondth06 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=5c9b77d29546960eec62ffcf6e66c0aa& cb=1590237272404

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.

Peter Pan

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan is one of Kirsten’s favorite childhood stories. The magical world of Neverland with it’s pirates, mermaids, and natives is so engrossing.

The story of Peter Pan and his adventures with the Darling children have inspired countless spin-off books, movies, and theatrical productions for a reason. It’s a must-read for everyone. It’s one of the must-read books for a 13-year-old.

holes

Holes by Louis Sachar

A great middle grade book about camp (and yet another that was adapted into a movie!) Holes should be on every child’s list. And, if you are looking for bedtime stories for kids, this is a great read-aloud for a younger child that cannot read this themselves.

When a boy under a curse is sent to a detention camp he’s taught to behave by digging holes all day, every day.  It doesn’t take long for him to realize he’s digging for a reason – but what are the camp wardens looking to find?

I love this pick from our mystery books for tweens, it is one that be can enjoyed by adults as well.

Sports Books for a 13-Year-Old

Shoe Dog Young Reader

Shoe Dog: Young Readers Edition by Phil Knight

Phil Knight tells the story of the creation of his now-famous company, Nike. From his initial disappointment at being cut from the basketball team to the risks and setbacks of growing a global brand.

This is a wonderful story for budding entrepreneurs and sneaker addicts alike. This is one of the books for a 13-year-old that adults will love too – there is even an adult edition of the book.

ghost

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Ghost runs and has been running since he was a small child. He started running when his father chased him down to the street with a loaded gun and he has not stopped since.

Now, he has been chosen for an elite track team that could go to the junior Olympics if Ghost can get his act together. He has natural, raw talent that can send him all the way if he can stop his past from catching up to him. This Nationa Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature is the perfect book for a 13-year-old.

Dragon Hoops

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Gene does not like sports. He doesn’t like to play or watch but, the high school where he teaches is obsessed with their basketball team, the Dragons.

This graphic novel is one part memoir as the author tells about the current students and their quest for the state championship as well one part biography as we see the history of the team- including racism and sexism in the sport.

Coming of Age Books for 13-Year-Olds

linked

Linked by Gordon Korman

When someone sneaks into the local middle school and vandalizes it with a swastika, nobody can believe it. Dana is the only Jewish girl in the entire town and she starts to feel like more of an outsider than she had before.

Now, more swastikas start to appear and Dana, Michael, and Link begin to take a closer look at who might be doing this. Their investigation brings them closer to the answers as well as crimes of the past. This book for a 13 year old is a thought-provoking pick for adults too.

Long Way Down

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

This book for a 13-year-old takes place over the course of a 60-second elevator ride, 15-year-old Will is taking on his way to shoot his brother’s killer.

Visited by spirits at each level as he descends, he needs to decide if he should continue the cycle of street violence or let his brother’s death go unavenged. This moving book about grief is perfect for teens.

A kind of paradise

A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan

This is a best children’s book of 2019 for a reason. I read this as a read-aloud with both of my children (boys 6-8) even though it’s technically a middle grade book.

The story revolves around Jaime, who is being punished with community service hours at the library for the summer after she did something wrong in school. Jaime is reluctant to volunteer at first but quickly grows to love the staff and regulars at the library. I adored this charming tale and so did my kids. This is one of the books for 13-year-olds that adults will love too!

Graphic Novels for a 13-Year-Old

ghosts

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier has a unique way of incorporating sensitive subjects into her books without making them overwhelming or scary. In Ghosts, Cat’s younger sister, Maya, has Cystic Fibrosis. They have just moved to a new city where the air is easier for Maya to breathe.

Cat has given herself the role of protector of her younger sister and as the festival of Dia De Lost Meurtos draws closer, the two sisters each confront the idea of death in very different ways. Ghosts is really a story about connection to family.

All of Raina Telegemeier’s books can be put in this list of best graphic novels of all time! This is one of the books for 13-year-olds that adults will love too!

New Kid and other Back-to-School Books

New Kid by Jerry Craft

This graphic novel has won numerous awards and for good reason. This is a thought-provoking story of a 7th-grade boy who wants to pursue his dream of becoming an artist.

Instead, his parents send him to a prestigious private school where he is one of the few diverse students. He can’t seem to figure out where he fits in at home or at school. This is a good one for kids who aren’t yet ready for Angie Thomas’s books.

The Witch Boy

The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag

Boys grow up to be shapeshifters and girls become witches.  But, what if you are a boy who loves witchery? Would you show your talents if it meant you would be exiled? 

This Middle grade challenges gender stereotypes and is a perfect witch book for any middle-grade fantasy reader. Not only is the story great and the illustrations gorgeous, but the message of this book made it a must for best graphic novels of all time. This is one of the books for a 13-year-old that every child should read!

Non-fiction Books for a 13 Year Old

Just mercy young adult 1

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (Young Readers Edition)

Stevenson’s memoir about his early career is truly eye-opening. I had no idea about the scope of injustice toward black men in the criminal justice system.

The stories of the inmates on death row who were falsely accused broke my heart. I can’t believe our country doesn’t have more reform in this area. Stevenson’s career is truly incredible and one that should be commended. This book for a 13-year-old is the YA version for kids.

Boys in the boat YA

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

I was enthralled by the heroics of the team. The sheer force of will and strength it takes to get in that boat and win. I thought I would be bored by the minutia of rowing, but I wasn’t.

The mechanical part of it, the precision, just made me appreciate the skill of rowing even more. The Olympic games gave me such a heightened sense of American pride. I was rooting for the team and cheering them on the whole time. This book for a 13-year-old has an adult version too!

Hidden Figures and more books for an 11-year-old

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Woman Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

This true and amazing story of the black mathematicians and their role in the space race reads like a fiction novel.

So many people know this story because of the movie but, the book gives so many more details- as is usually the case with adaptations. This is one of the books for a 13-year-old that adults will love too!

Did you find any books for a 13-year-old to add to your home library? For more suggestions, check out our list of books for 12-year-olds, or age up your search and check out YA books.

Copy of headers 10 1

Book Lists for 13-Year-Olds

For more of the best books for 13 year olds, check out this list.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for writing this it was very extremely helpful now i have way more options of books to read, you probably won’t get this and I dont know what year you made this but it has helped me so much and again thank you so much!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that it helped! We wrote it in 2022, but we update it all the time. 😊 Let us know if you find anything you like!

  2. I am happy I came across your blog (better late than never). I am always encouraging my son to read as much as possible – all genres. Recently, he has been dealing with some issues at school and feeling like he doesn’t really fit in so I have been on the hunt for some feel good “relatable” books that might make him feel better and something we can discuss together. I have found in the past that books really allow us to start a dialogue about some trickier subjects. I am going to keep browsing through your YA recommendations because I am sure I will find a lot to work with. I wanted to recommend a book to you (and other mothers) who may be in a similar situation as myself called “Mentors and Tormentors” by Tim Jones. This book follows a 14-year-old boy, Wendall. It is written as fiction (so it definitely kept my son’s interest) but it covers a lot of really important subjects: bullying, depression, self-respect, etc. Wendall meets a variety of different characters (good and bad) who teach him a variety of lessons along the way. I highly recommend this book for pre-teens and teens. Thanks again!

  3. With a 13 year old girl we are having conversations that her dad or i did not have till high school with our parents. Thank you for this feedback and review so that we can choose books that are helping us have these conversations on her level and not where we were at her age. Keep up the great work.

    1. Thank you! I think books open up a world of discussion which can be helpful to initiate tough talks. I’m with you on this parenting thing. It’s hard and if we can make even one part of parenting easier, we are thrilled to be able to do so!

  4. Hi! I’m thirteen and I read continually. I’ve wanted to know if I’m advanced in my reading or not. Most books are either too short or too easy, and I want to read the proper level of books. I read lots of the books in this list when I was 8-9, so I don’t feel it’s quite right for me. I love reading books that are a challenge, and that love caused me to read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy before I was out of elementary school. If you know any books would help me out of my reading predicament, then I would love to hear suggestion.