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Young Adult Literature

100 Must-Read YA Historical Novels

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Tirzah Price

Senior Contributing Editor

Most of Tirzah Price's life decisions have been motivated by a desire to read as many books as humanly possible. Tirzah holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and has worked as an independent bookseller and librarian. She’s also the author of the Jane Austen Murder Mysteries, published by HarperTeen, and Bibliologist at TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations. Follow her on Twitter @TirzahPrice.

My love for historical fiction began when I was a tiny budding reader and my mom read the Little House on the Prairie books to me (problematic, I know, as Rioter Kelly has written about, but it was what I had). As soon as I could read myself, I devoured every historical novel I could get my hands on. I love the genre because not only is it incredibly varied, but it often focuses on characters and people you don’t always see in the history texts–girls, for example. YA historical fiction offers even more exciting perspectives and experiences from all over the world, dating back many centuries.

For the purposes of keeping this list manageable, I’ve defined historical fiction here as a novel that explores the experiences of teen characters pre-1980. (Yeah, we can make an argument that books set 1980-2000 are technically historical fiction, but I choose not to here because that makes me feel old.) I’ve also focused on realistic historical fiction (i.e. you won’t see Libba Bray on this list, even though she writes some pretty awesome historical fantasy), but I’ve made exceptions for magical realism and instances of magical thinking. I’ve also excluded alternative history, but I’ve included books that insert fictional characters into significant historical events. I did include books that allow for some anachronisms for the sake of story, as long as the book stayed true to the spirit of the era.

Finally, books that are the first in a series are denoted with a +!

All right! Buckle up, readers! We’re going back in time!

  1. Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson
  2. Annie, Between the States by L.M. Elliot
  3. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson+Audacity
  4. Audacity by Melanie Crowder
  5. Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
  6. Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
  7. Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
  8. Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
  9. A Big Dose of Lucky by Marthe Jocelyn
  10. Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
  11. Blood Secret by Kathryn Lasky
  12. Bloodline by Katy Moran
  13. Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer+
  14. Boston Jane by Jennifer L. Holm+
  15. A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi
  16. A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper+burn baby burn
  17. Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
  18. Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein
  19. Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed+
  20. Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter
  21. Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
  22. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  23. Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac
  24. Copper Son by Sharon Draper
  25. Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter
  26. The Darkest Hour by Caroline T. Richmond
  27. Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang
  28. Daughters Unto Devils by Amy LukavicsA Death-Struck Year
  29. A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier
  30. Deadly by Julie Chibarro
  31. Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia
  32. The Evolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
  33. Faithful by Janet Fox+
  34. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  35. Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
  36. Finding My Place by Traci L. Jones
  37. Fire from the Rock by Sharon Draper
  38. The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman
  39. Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
  40. Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
  41. The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
  42. A Golden Web by Barbara Quick
  43. Good Fortune by Noni Carter
  44. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
  45. honey-girlHoney Girl by Lisa Freeman
  46. Hush by Donna Jo Napoli
  47. In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap
  48. Invasion by Walter Dean Myers
  49. Jazmin’s Notebook by Nikki Grimes
  50. Josephine by Beverly Jenkins
  51. The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
  52. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
  53. The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle
  54. Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath
  55. Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore+Mare's War by Tanita S Davis
  56. Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis
  57. Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
  58. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
  59. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
  60. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
  61. Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
  62. Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott
  63. Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
  64. Pharaoh’s Daughter by Julius Lester
  65. Pirates! by Celia Rees
  66. Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankmen+
  67. Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan
  68. The Queen’s Daughter by Susan Coventry
  69. The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
  70. Riot by Walter Dean MyersThe Rock and the River
  71. The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon+
  72. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
  73. Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman+
  74. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  75. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  76. Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin
  77. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock
  78. A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson
  79. A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee+
  80. StarCrossed by Linda Collison+
  81. Strings Attached by Judy Blundell
  82. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green+
  83. Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
  84. Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
  85. a-time-to-danceA Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
  86. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
  87. Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards
  88. True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
  89. A Tyranny of Petticoats, ed. by Jessica Spotswood
  90. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
  91. Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown
  92. Vengeance Road by Erin BowmanA Western Novel For Every Occasion: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
  93. Violins of Autumn by Amy McAuley
  94. What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
  95. What We Hide by Marthe Jocelyn
  96. Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
  97. Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin
  98. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  99. X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
  100. The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coates