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Top 20 Captivating Books for a Reluctant Teen Reader

Tornike Asatiani - Co-founder & COO of Edumentors

We’ve all seen it: kids glued to their phones at dinner, the confused look when gifted a book. In today’s tech-driven world, reading for pleasure might seem outdated. But books offer more than just vocabulary or cognitive boosts. They provide an escape, build empathy, and enhance critical thinking. And for students preparing for exams, the right book can support their studies. Check out this list of YA books to discover engaging books that might also give your teen an academic advantage.

Now, here are 20 YA books for a teen who does not like to read:

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

In a dystopian future, the Capitol demands tribute: one boy and one girl from each district to fight to the death in a televised spectacle. When Katniss Everdeen’s sister is selected, she volunteers in her stead. Facing impossible odds, Katniss’s survival skills are put to the ultimate test in this gripping tale of courage and resistance.

Relevance: Especially poignant for students studying themes of power and conflict in their GCSE English Literature.

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Discover the magical world of Harry Potter, an orphaned boy who learns on his eleventh birthday that he is a wizard. As he steps into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry unravels the mystery of his parents’ death, confronts dark forces, and realises the value of friendship and bravery.

Relevance: A delightful addition for GCSE English Literature students exploring themes of identity, heroism, and fantasy narratives.

The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

Unleash the gods of Olympus! Percy Jackson, upon discovering he’s the son of Poseidon, is thrust into a world filled with mythological monsters and legendary quests. As he navigates challenges thrown by ancient deities, Percy learns more about loyalty, friendship, and destiny.

Relevance: An engaging supplementary read for GCSE Classical Civilisation or for those exploring ancient myths in English.

The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner

The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner

Wake up in a maze with no memories, surrounded by monstrous creatures and the pressing weight of the unknown. This is Thomas’s reality. As he struggles to remember his past and find a way out, he realises that survival requires more than just physical strength; it demands wit, courage, and cooperation.

Relevance: Students studying dystopian literature in GCSE or A-Level English will find this modern take on the genre insightful.

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

In Nazi Germany, amidst the horrors of World War II, a young girl named Liesel discovers the power and solace of books, even as the world around her crumbles. Told from the unique perspective of Death, this novel delves deep into themes of love, loss, and the transformative magic of storytelling.

Relevance: Highly recommended for A-Level History students studying WWII or GCSE English Literature students delving into historical fiction.

“Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

After calling the police at a summer party, Melinda is outcasted by her peers. As she starts high school, she remains silent about the traumatic event that caused her to raise the alarm. Through her journey, Melinda confronts her trauma, learns the power of speaking out, and wrestles with the complexities of adolescence.

Relevance: Perfect for A-Level Psychology students studying trauma and its effects, as well as GCSE English Literature students exploring themes of personal growth and societal pressures.

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Two teens, Hazel and Gus, meet in a cancer support group and embark on a whirlwind journey of love, life, and the harsh realities of their conditions. Their heart-wrenching and, at times, humorous story offers a candid look into the unpredictability of life and the resilience of human spirit.

Relevance: A poignant supplementary read for A-Level Sociology or Psychology students exploring illness, relationships, and societal perspectives on life and death.

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Amidst the backdrop of a changing Afghanistan, two boys – Amir and Hassan – share a deep bond. Yet, a single event changes their lives forever, leading to betrayal, guilt, and a quest for redemption. The novel paints a vivid picture of personal struggle against the larger sociopolitical changes of Afghanistan.

Relevance: Essential for A-Level History and Literature students examining Middle Eastern conflicts and themes of loyalty, betrayal, and redemption.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Set in the racially charged American South of the 1930s, young Scout Finch navigates her childhood amidst injustice, prejudice, and societal norms. As her father, Atticus, defends a black man wrongly accused of ra*e, Scout confronts the harsh realities of racism and learns profound lessons about empathy and morality.

Relevance: A staple for GCSE and A-Level English Literature, this novel is pivotal for discussions on social inequality, justice, and moral growth.

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Holden Caulfield, disillusioned with the adult world’s perceived phoniness, recounts a few days of his life after being expelled from prep school. As he roams New York City, he grapples with the challenges of adolescence, the loss of innocence, and the quest for identity and connection.

Relevance: An excellent companion for A-Level English Literature students, this novel delves deep into the angst and challenges of teenage life, identity crises, and societal critiques.

“All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Violet and Finch, both struggling with personal traumas, meet at the edge of their school’s bell tower with dark thoughts in mind. Their unexpected encounter sparks a deep connection, leading them on adventures across their state, marking wonders of the world. This poignant story dives into the depths of mental health, love, and how two people can save each other.

Relevance: An enlightening read for A-Level Psychology students, exploring the complexities of mental health, as well as GCSE English Literature students studying character relationships and development.

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Junior, a witty Native American teenager, decides to leave his reservation school to attend an all-white high school in the nearby town. Illustrated with Junior’s cartoon drawings, the book offers a humorous yet profound look at the challenges of navigating two contrasting worlds, addressing themes of identity, poverty, and the adolescent experience.

Relevance: A recommended read for GCSE History students studying indigenous cultures or A-Level Sociology students examining social structures and identity.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Narrated through letters written to an anonymous friend, Charlie’s freshman year of high school is a roller-coaster of emotions. He navigates the ups and downs of friendships, love, family trauma, and the pains of growing up. The story provides a raw, intimate view of adolescence and the search for one’s place in the world.

Relevance: This novel beautifully complements A-Level English Literature courses focused on coming-of-age narratives and character introspection.

“The Martian” by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

Stranded on Mars after a dust storm forces his crew to evacuate, astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead. With limited resources, Watney must rely on his wit, scientific knowledge, and relentless spirit to survive and signal Earth that he’s alive. The story is a thrilling blend of science, problem-solving, and human perseverance.

Relevance: A riveting supplement for GCSE and A-Level Physics or Chemistry students, offering practical applications of scientific concepts.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

When journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a young woman from one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, he’s paired with Lisbeth Salander, an unconventional hacker. Together, they unravel a tapestry of family secrets, corruption, and intrigue. This thrilling mystery delves into the dark corners of society and the human psyche.

Relevance: A captivating read for A-Level Sociology or Psychology students exploring themes of societal structure, personal traumas, and the dynamics of power and gender.

“A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Young Conor is haunted nightly by a monster – a yew tree from his backyard that comes alive. But this monster doesn’t seek to scare; instead, it narrates tales that intertwine with Conor’s personal struggle as he grapples with his mother’s terminal illness and bullying at school.

Relevance: An insightful read for GCSE English Literature students analysing themes of grief, denial, and acceptance, and A-Level Psychology students examining coping mechanisms in children.

“Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A deadly flu wipes out most of the world’s population, leading to societal collapse. The novel moves back and forth in time, presenting a pre- and post-apocalyptic world while following a troupe of actors and musicians known as the “Traveling Symphony.” Themes of memory, survival, and the power of art prevail.

Relevance: Ideal for A-Level Sociology students studying post-apocalyptic societies and GCSE Drama students exploring performance art as a reflection of society.

“Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell

"Eleanor & Park" by Rainbow Rowell

Set over the course of one school year in the 1980s, this novel tells the story of two star-crossed misfits – Eleanor and Park – who fall in love over shared comics and mixtapes. It beautifully captures the vulnerability and starry-eyed optimism of first love.

Relevance: A heartwarming addition for GCSE English Literature students exploring character dynamics, relationship development, and the intricacies of young love.

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Following a family tragedy, Jacob discovers the ruins of Miss Peregrine’s orphanage and learns that the children who lived there may have been more than just peculiar – they may have been dangerous. And, incredibly, they may still be alive. The book is punctuated with haunting vintage photographs.

Relevance: Suitable for GCSE Art and Design students focusing on the integration of multimedia in storytelling and A-Level Literature students analysing fantastical and mysterious narratives.

“Noughts & Crosses” by Malorie Blackman

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

In an alternative society, the dark-skinned Crosses rule over the white-skinned Noughts. Sephy, a Cross, and Callum, a Nought, have been friends since childhood. But as they grow older, they must confront the societal prejudices that aim to tear them apart. The story addresses racism, love, and justice in a world divided by colour.

Relevance: A vital read for GCSE History students studying civil rights movements and A-Level Sociology students dissecting racial structures and social injustices.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the teen years is a journey filled with challenges and opportunities alike. Books, timeless in their appeal, offer a treasure trove of worlds to explore, experiences to understand, and characters to relate to. They act as silent mentors, guiding young minds through the myriad landscapes of emotions, cultures, and ideas.

Beyond this organic learning, today’s digital age also brings tailored academic support platforms to the forefront. Edumentors, for instance, stands out as an online tutoring platform dedicated to enhancing individual learning experiences. When parents pair the richness of a well-chosen book with specialised tutoring, they’re not only bolstering their teen’s academic strengths but also kindling a flame of curiosity and love for knowledge that can burn bright for years to come.


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