Captain Hook? Long John Silver? Blackbeard? If any of these names ring a bell, then you know a thing or two about pirates. Growing up, I spent a fair amount of time perusing a coloring book that was all about pirates. Beneath each black and white sketch was a sentence or two about the character pictured. It was in this book that I discovered the existence of famed female pirates like Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Soon after, my younger sister won an award for best scarecrow at a county fair. Her scarecrow? A rather bloodthirsty looking pirate. During the following summers, my cousins and I became obsessed with the Pirates of the Caribbean films (particularly At World’s End’s soundtrack, along with the idea that one cousin had a crush on Elizabeth Swann). My childhood was filled with all sorts of references to pirates and other seafaring adventurers. So now, I guess it’s no wonder that I still find joy in reading YA books about pirates of all sorts.
If you’re anything like me — or are very interested in being introduced to pirates at this point in life — then I have eight recommendations for books about teens, pirates, and all the magic the ocean conceals.
The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
It feels right to start off a list of YA books about pirates with Heidi Heilig’s debut. Nix has had an unusual childhood, to say the least. Raised on her father’s time-traveling pirate ship, she’s visited countless countries and time periods. But the one place her father desperately wants to get to is the place where he can be reunited with Nix’s now-deceased mother. What happens when timelines are crossed? Can Nix continue to exist if something changes between her parents?
The Sea Knows My Name by Laura Brooke Robson
Thea is the daughter of one of the fiercest and most feared pirates on the sea, Clementine Fowler. Sometimes it is very clear that the two are related. They love science, the sea, and find it incredibly frustrating to live as strong women in a man’s world. But when unspeakable tragedy leaves Thea and Clementine unexpectedly alone, she begins to wonder just how much they have in common. The threads tying the two together begin to unravel and Thea looks for an escape. But then she has a choice to make: is her mother even worth saving?
Ballad & Dagger by Daniel José Older
Mateo is in love with music. Drawn to the peace found in each melody, he believes it is music that will save him from a life in the shadows. But one night changes everything: Mateo finds out he is the descendant of an ancient god. Mateo — along with the help of unlikely allies — holds the power to restore his people to their homeland of San Madrigal. San Madrigal was once home to Sephardic Jews, Cuban Santeros, and pirates, so it should be no surprise that the road leading there is treacherous.
Fable by Adrienne Young
The world is a cruel place. Fable understands this firsthand. After her father deserts her on an island after the devastating death of her mother, Fable is left to fend for herself amongst greedy fisherman and scavengers. She has a plan though: soon she’ll be able to afford to leave the island and find her father. And when she finds him, there will be hell to pay. Throw in a secretive boy she cannot deny, and the danger dogging her father’s footsteps and Fable is in for the ride of her life.
Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
An all-female crew? A teenage captain? A revenge mission? Yes please to all of the above. Caledonia’s life was forever changed when a wicked warlord destroyed her family. Now, she leads a fearless crew with the goal of destroying the warlord himself. But she’s waylaid from her set course when a boy is brought on board. Can he actually help bring justice about? Or is there something more sinister behind his presence?
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
Creeper is a wily young thief living in the bowels of New Orleans. Her tiny little secret? There’s a god guiding her every move. When Creeper sees the chance to take to the skies with an airship pirate, she takes it. But when the god inside her head finally calls for payment, what will it cost her? If mythology meets alternate history is your thing, pick this book up!
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
It’s the 18th century and Monty can often be found solemnly up to no good. He lives for drinking, gambling, and pursuing whoever catches his eye…Including his beloved, steadfast best friend Percy. Monty’s parents want him to act more maturely and step into his father’s footsteps in the family business. When one of Monty’s rash mistakes lands the pair in hot water, they have no choice but to cross Europe and cross paths with pirates.
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Alosa may be young in the eyes of everyone else on the open ocean, but captaining a pirate ship is what she was born to do. Time and time again, she fights her way out of impossible situations. But when she is tasked with finding an ancient artifact for her father, matters become more complicated. Her enemies are not all that they seem at first, and there just might be more to the old map than she was promised.
Interested in checking out even more YA books about pirates? Take a quiz to find out which YA pirate book you should read next! Want to dive into books about teens surrounded by magic? Check out 8 New YA Fantasy Series From Your Favorite Authors.