10 Classic Novels for Teens

A Great Reading List for Junior High and High School Students

These 10 classic novels for teens are often taught in American high schools, and they're ones you'll want to share with your teenager. Just before they enter high school is a great time to introduce teens to some classic novels and prepare them for the books they may be studying in school. Give your teen a head start by checking out some of these classic novels for high school students. They are all recommended for ages 14 and up.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

Actors Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson in the film 'To Kill a Mockingbird', 1962
Actors Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson in the film 'To Kill a Mockingbird', 1962. ​ 

This beloved American classic set in Macomb County, Alabama during the Depression is a story about a small town dealing with the issues of class and prejudice. Scout Finch, 8, and her brother Jem, 10, learn lessons about love and humanity from their father Atticus and from other memorable characters. Written in 1960 by Harper Lee, ​"To Kill a Mockingbird" has won numerous awards including the 1961 Pulitzer Prize and has been listed by the Library School Journal as one of the Best Books of the 20th Century.

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Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies Book Cover
Lord of the Flies Book Cover.

An airplane evacuating schoolboys from Britain during World War II is shot down over a remote tropical area. Two boys, Ralph and Piggy, find the other surviving boys and begin to organize the group. As time passes rivalries are formed, rules are broken and civilized behavior has turned savage. "Lord of the Flies" is a classic study on human nature, adolescence, and competition by William Golding.

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A Separate Peace

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles.

A friendship forms between two boys attending a New England boarding school during World War II. Gene, smart and socially awkward, draws the attention of Phineas, a handsome, athletic and outgoing boy. The two become friends, but war and rivalry lead to a tragic accident. John Knowles is the author of "A Separate Peace," a classic story about friendship and adolescence.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim telling the story of Sollermun.
duncan1890 / Getty Images

Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer’s best friend, stakes out his own adventure in this classic coming of age tale. Tired of trying to be good and fearful of his drunken father, Huck Finn runs away and takes Jim, a man who has escaped enslavement, with him. Together they sail down the Mississippi River on a raft and experience dangerous as well a comical adventures along the way. ​"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is an enduring classic.

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The Old Man and the Sea

the old man and the sea book cover


Using only 27,000 words, Ernest Hemingway’s shortest novel depicts the classic struggle of an old Cuban fisherman who hasn’t caught a fish in 84 days. With courage and determination, the elderly man goes out on his small boat one more time. Although simple in its telling, "The Old Man and the Sea" is a story of never giving up and living life to the fullest.

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Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men. Penguin

Best friends Lennie and George travel from farm to farm in California looking for work while trying to avoid trouble.  Although both men are good workers and have dreams of owning their own farm, they never stay at one job long because of Lennie. Lennie is a simple-minded gentle giant who doesn’t know his own strength and often gets into trouble. When tragedy strikes, George must make an awful decision that will alter the plans he and Lennie have made for their future. "Of Mice and Men" is a classic John Steinbeck story about migrant workers and the downtrodden surviving the Great Depression.

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The Scarlet Letter

'The Scarlet Letter' Film Still
Donaldson Collection / Getty Images

Set in 17th century Massachusetts, a young married woman living in a Puritan colony becomes pregnant and refuses to name the father. Hester Prynne, the strong heroine of this American classic by Nathaniel Hawthorne, must endure prejudice and hypocrisy from a society who demands she be punished by wearing a scarlet letter "A" upon her dress. ​"The Scarlet Letter" is an in-depth look at morality, guilt, and sin and is a must read for every high school student.

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The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby could very well be the "great American novel". The classic is now playing on stage at the IRT. Photo by Tiffany Dailey.

James Gatz from North Dakota reinvents himself as the self-assured and wealthy Jay Gatsby as he tries to win the love of his childhood sweetheart Daisy Buchanan. Set in the Jazz Age of the 1920s, Gatsby and his friends are blinded by the glitz and glamour of wealth and learn too late of its inability to bring them true happiness. ​"The Great Gatsby" is author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s greatest novel is a classic study of the Gilded Age and one man’s corrupted view of the American dream.

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The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild

Buck, part St. Bernard part Scotch Shepherd, is abducted from his comfortable life in California and forced to endure the arctic cold of the Yukon territory as a sled dog. Set in the midst of the Alaskan gold rush, ​"The Call of the Wild" by Jack London is the story of one dog’s survival of beatings, starvation, and frigid temperatures.

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George Orwell's 1984
George Orwell's 1984. .bandit

Big Brother is watching. This classic, written in 1948 by George Orwell, is about a dystopian society ruled by a controlling government. When Winston Smith attempts to retain his humanity and secretly thwart the government, he discovers who is a friend and who is an enemy.  The novel ​"​1984" is a fascinating and disturbing look at society and government.​

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Kendall, Jennifer. "10 Classic Novels for Teens." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/classic-novels-for-teens-626712. Kendall, Jennifer. (2023, April 5). 10 Classic Novels for Teens. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/classic-novels-for-teens-626712 Kendall, Jennifer. "10 Classic Novels for Teens." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/classic-novels-for-teens-626712 (accessed June 6, 2023).