12 Best YA Novels To Help Teens Process (Or Forget) The Pandemic

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Books can help teens process their thoughts and experiences, make sense of what is happening around them - or simply provide some escapism away from our everyday lives.

Teens can be resistant to help from outside, but they can disappear off to their bedroom to read a book that can help them navigate how to process the unusual world they are living in. Here's our pick of our favourite YA books that champion some of the best qualities needed during the pandemic.

And if they simply want to have a laugh, or enter a fantasy world, we've got that covered too. If you need more ideas for teens, check out Kidadl's science projects and mindfulness activities.

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Responding To A Crisis

Many teenagers will have little experience of dealing with a crisis, and with the uncertainty of the world at the moment, they may be worried about how they would cope. Discovering how fictional characters in the best young adult books respond to a crisis can be a useful way to unlock their own abilities and initiative.

Dear Martin - Nic Stone

Age range: 13+

Justyce McAllister has used his brains to escape the rough neighbourhood he grew up in. He's top of his class at high school and has an Ivy League college in his sights, but now he doesn't fit in anywhere - with his old friends or his new classmates. Can the teachings of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, help him find answers? But when he and his friend have a run-in with an off-duty white policeman, none of that matters. The incident turns violent as shots are fired, but it is Justyce that comes under fire in the media.

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly - Danielle Jawando

Age range: 14+

This debut book from Danielle Jawando is a tale of love and loss. When 15-year-old  Nathan discovers that his older brother Al has committed suicide, he refuses to believe it. Instead, he sets out on a mission, helped by Megam, Al's former classmate, to discover the truth.  The pair retrace Al's final few days to find out what really happened, but will Nathan be able to handle the truth? Set in Manchester, this is a sensitive novel that covers some difficult topics

The Fault In Our Stars - John Green

Age range: 14+

Hazel is 16. She also has lung cancer. When she goes to a cancer support group, she meets Augustus Waters, a boy who has a rare bone cancer. Augustus is quirky and charismatic and tells Hazel about a book he has been reading, whose central character also has the disease. When he realises the book ends mid-sentence, never revealing whether the girl lives or dies, the pair embark on an adventure to find the author, but they also find love. Then they get news that means that they may not get their happy ever after... A book that will make you laugh, cry and break your heart.

person reading book outside

Dystopia

Fans of Katniss Everdeen and the Hunger Games will be familiar with dystopian fiction. The characters find themselves in a strange world, where they have to fight to overcome the rules (sounds like our house!), so it's obvious why teens like them so much. As our teens have woken up in a whole new world, with strange and different rules, reading a dystopian novel is bound to resonate with them.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

In Tris Prior's world, everyone is divided into one of five factions and as you reach adulthood, you must choose the one you will belong to.  Tris can choose from  Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the kind), Erudite (the intelligent), Abnegation (the selfless), and Candor (the honest). She chooses Dauntless - but when she undergoes initiation she discovers that she is a Divergent - and can never fit into one 'box'.  Her discovery also reveals a looming war between the Dauntless and the Abnegation. With the central theme of fitting in, this is a story that many teenagers will identify with. The other two books are called Insurgent and Allegiant. Reluctant readers can binge-watch the three films instead.

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

Age range: 13+

In this sci-fi book, you're considered 'ugly' until you turn 16 and undergo plastic surgery. Then you become 'pretty'. As Tally Youngblood hits the magical age, she has her eyes opened to the downfalls of becoming 'pretty'. Will she follow her friend Shay, rebel against conformity and refuse the surgery, which makes skin perfect, eyes bigger and alters bone structure.  Will she join the legendary band of outsiders, or will she bow to pressure, betray her friend and join the Pretties? A fitting book for teens who live in a world of social media influencers and Instagram. This is the first in a series of four books.

Noughts & Crosses - Malorie Blackman

Now a hit on Netflix, Malorie Blackman's book is set in an alternate world where Africans colonised Europe, and Europeans were slaves. Set in 21st century Britain,  slavery has been abolished, but segregation is still practised in a bid to keep the Crosses (dark skins) in power over the Noughts (light skins). The book tells its story from two different perspectives - Callum and Sephy (Persephone) take it in turns chapter by chapter. If your young adult likes this book, there are four more in the series - Knife Edge, Checkmate, Double Cross and Crossfire.

open book with fairy lights inside

Resilience

Resilience is one of the main tenets of growth mindset, and is a valuable life skill. These novels can be used to help teens discover how to learn from loss and overcome adversity. They champion process and progress over perfectionism and make it clear that we can all learn from our mistakes.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus - Dusty Bowling

Age range: 11+

Aven is 13 and has no arms - she likes to tell people she lost her arms wrestling alligators, but in actual fact, she was born without them. She has learned to do most things without arms, but when she and her parents move to a Western theme park in Arizona, she leaves everything she has known behind - and worse, has to face up to a whole new lot of unwanted attention at her new school. That's when she meets Connor, who is struggling to come to terms with Tourette's Syndrome. The friends explore Aven's new home - can they solve the mystery of the owner who disappeared, and what is it with the tarantulas that live there? They are about to discover a shocking secret, and Aven is about to find out just what she is capable of.

Fast Talk on a Slow Track - Rita Williams-Garcia

Age range: 12+

Straight-A student Denzel Watson has had an illustrious school career and is set to go to Princeton. But when he goes to a summer session for minority students at the university, he has his first taste of failure. Confused and scared by this alien experience, he plunges feet-first into a door-to-door salesman job, where he sets his sights on beating fellow salesman Carmello. Carmello is streetwise and illiterate, and Denzel realises that he is in fact, trying to compete with part of himself. The novel teaches an important lesson about self-discovery and learning from your failures.

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

Age range: 14+

Twins Cath and Wren are huge fans of the Simon Snow book series - it helped them get through the time when their mother left home. They write Simon Snow fan fiction, dress up like the book characters and hang out with other fans online. But now they are 18 and heading off to college. For Wren, it is the start of a new chapter, and she is leaving her fangirl self behind. But for Cath, being a fangirl is her life. And worse, Wren doesn't want to be roommates with her twin.  Can Cath manage on her own? Can she let go of Simon Snow and her life as a fangirl? Can she step outside her comfort zone?

teenage girl lying on bed holding book

A Bit Of Light Relief

The joy of reading a novel is that you can escape to another world without even leaving the house (a very useful skill at the moment). And if it's escapism your teen needs - to help them forget about the scary developments in the outside world - then escapism they shall have.

Diary of a Wimpy Vampire by Tim Collins

Age range: 11+

For teens who loved the Wimpy Kids books as tweenagers, this is the ideal young adult title. Nigel Mullet's tale is a cross between Twilight and Adrian Mole. Unlike the stunningly handsome Edward Cullen, poor Nigel became a vampire at the awkward age of 15 - and is condemned to a lifetime of acne, a breaking voice and a complete lack of charm when it comes to girls. In his diary, Nigel documents his sadly desperate attempts to attract the attention of Della Sparrow, the umpteen ways in which his vampire parents embarrass him daily, and the horrific prospect of being a teenager for all eternity.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Age range: 11+

Enter this fantasy world set in the Endless Woods. The trilogy documents the adventures of best friends Sophie and Agatha at the School for Good and Evil. At this magical institution, the students are trained to become fairytale heroes or villains. The best friends have always dreamed of going - Sophie, a pink-wearing princess, to the School of Good and Agatha, who has few friends and loves sporting black, to the School for Evil. Of course, they end up in the 'wrong' schools. They must learn how to survive and find their way home through their own fairytale.

Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan

Age range: 11+

In the words of Freddie, is this the real-life or is this just fantasy? Author Darren Shan blurs the lines in the first novel in a long series. Darren and his best friend Steve 'Leopard' Leonard, grew up reading horror comics, so when they come across a flyer for The Cirque Du Freak they must go. The show is mesmerising and disturbing - particularly Mr Crepsley and his giant venomous spider Madam Octa. Darren, who has always been fascinated by arachnids, steals the spider, gets bitten by her and is forced into a deal with Mr Crepsley to get the antidote. Darren must become a half-vampire...

magical open book