Teens are tricky, and sometimes finding common ground is even trickier.
As a former high school teacher, I have definitely experienced the high and low points of teenagerhood — from a third-party perspective, at least. One thing I learned very early on in my career is that finding things to talk about, especially things you’re mutually passionate about, can really be a challenge.
So, when I recently stumbled on a book that was a perfect mix of drama for teenagers and their parents, I knew I had to read it.
As it turns out, there is a whole genre of young adult dystopian/romance novels that can scratch anyone’s literary itch — all while sharing a love of reading. If you’ve ever fantasized about having your own family book club, this list is for you.
I went down a (not insignificant) rabbit hole and have read all of these books.
Below, you will find my personal summaries of them, but I do urge you to read them first and see if they’re the right fit for your family. Because they’re “young adult” novels, most of them do contain elements of romance, rebellion, mild violence, and sex.
And I would caution that by “teen,” I am referencing “older” high school aged teenagers. In my home, personally, I would recommend these books for ages 15+.
This series is rather extensive and contains five full-length novels, along with several novellas. It’s detailed and alluring and is an excellent series. Generally speaking, the drama is centered around “the selection” — a process in which the heirs of the royal family choose their spouses. Meanwhile, the kingdom is divided, and rebels are trying to end the monarchy.
As a standalone novel, the plotline is very engaging and fairly harmless, content wise. Based on an old fairy tale, a “siren” is a young woman who serves the ocean by sinking a ship once per year with her song. After one siren meets her soulmate, they both become ill and have to find their way back to each other.
This trilogy is captivating, suspenseful, and beautifully written. At the center of the plot is a group of young women with ancient magical powers that are collected, trained, and later purchased to produce heirs for the royalty. They must learn the true roots of their powers in order to free themselves and their island as a whole.
Another standalone, this is a longer novel that takes place in a society that “forgets” everything every 12 years. Everyone must write in a journal and keep track of their lives in detail in order to remain connected to themselves and their pasts. When a girl who doesn’t forget starts searching for answers, she finds that things are more complex than she could ever imagine.
I highly recommend listening to this series via audiobook, because it’s beautifully performed by Sarah Drew (aka April from “Grey’s Anatomy”). Overall, the trilogy takes place after “love” is declared a disease, and everybody over the age of 18 is required to have “the cure” to make them devoid of all emotion. When the protagonist discovers a group of rebels who have not been “cured,” she joins them in trying to restore free will and love.
I appreciate this series largely because of its unpredictability and genuine plot twists. Molded into obedient, pleasant, and beautiful young women, the main character and her friends live a sheltered, harsh, and controlled existence. When they begin to discover who they are and what they’re really capable of, they try to take down the whole system.