10 Classic Novels for Teens

These 10 classic novels for teens that are often taught in American high schools are 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 during high school. Give your teen a head start by checking out some of these classic novels for high school students. All of them are recommended for ages 14 and up.

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”. (Harperluxe, 2010. ISBN: 9780061980268)

An airplane evacuating school boys 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. (Riverside, 2003.  ISBN: 9781573226127)

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.  (Scribner, 2003. ISBN: 9780743253970)

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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, an escaped slave, 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. (Penguin Classics, 2002. ISBN: 9780142437179)

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. (Scribner, 1996. ISBN: 9780684830490)

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. (Penguin,  2002. ISBN: 9780142000670)

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. (Penguin Classics, 2003. ISBN: 9780142437261)

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The Great Gatsby

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. (Turtleback Books, 2004. ISBN: 9781417656639)

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. (Broadview Press, 2009. ISBN: 9781551118444)

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. (Addison-Wesley, Longman, 2003. ISBN: 9780582777316)

Article Updates

Edited 3/13/16 by Elizabeth Kennedy, About.com Children's Books Expert