Historical Teens

by Lindsey A.

Recently I was talking with someone about youth lit. She told me she prefers middle grade to young adult because YA is “all about vampires.” That is so not true! I could tell this was someone who hasn’t looked at the genre in a while, because she’s about a decade late in terms of publishing trends. YA contains a vast range of subgenres, and is in fact one of the most dynamic and diverse genres being published today.

I’ll admit I don’t read as much YA as I used to. I’m 35 now and I better identify with adult characters. However, I still keep up with YA releases and have a great appreciation for the genre. Some of my favorite books for young adults are – surprise, surprise – historical fiction. One of the best books I read this year was The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. I’ve already gushed about it elsewhere so I’ll spare you, but it got me thinking about other historical YA books.

Historical fiction as a genre is a little different for young people. The 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall happened before they were born, so it isn’t surprising to find historical fiction based in the 1980s… whereas I was born in 1982, so that’s mind-boggling to me! It’s the way of the world, though. What’s new will eventually become old.

I’ve found that YA writers are really adept at making teens relatable no matter when they lived. Maybe it’s slightly anachronistic at times (which is certainly the case with The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, with its contemporary dialogue and brand of humor making it more accessible), but I don’t see the harm in that. There’s something universal about the experience of growing up, and writers of historical fiction for teens understand this so well.

I have many recommendations if you like historicals, but here are some of my recent favorites.

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9 responses to “Historical Teens”

  1. Jackie P. says:

    I’m thrilled to see Bloody Jack on the list. I actually have a hold on A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. My other recent teen reads have had a historical setting, but are really fantasy: The Traitor’s Kiss and Dread Nation. Dread Nation was especially good.

    • Lindsey A. says:

      A lot of YA historical fiction seems to be historical fantasy these days, which I can’t complain about because they still incorporate all those historical elements I love. One of my favorite YA historical fantasy series was Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy. And I love Bloody Jack! I still haven’t made it through the entire series, but it’s on my TBR, along with Dread Nation!

  2. Marta M. says:

    We need a “YA: So much more than vampires” list.

    One of my latest reads is the final book in Kate Elliot’s “Court of Fives” series has everything: politics, danger, adventure, romance, downtrodden fighting the powerful, and this intense, intricate parkour-style competition and mechanical spiders empowered by the soul of a deceased person.

    Start with Court of Fives at https://sno-isle.bibliocommons.com/item/show/959565121_court_of_fives

  3. dianajnoble says:

    Thank you for including my debut novel, Evangelina Takes Flight. I live in north Edmonds, and it’s lovely to know it’s being read and appreciated by my hometown community. Thank you Sno-Isle!

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