Edgy stories for 11-14 year olds

Edgy fiction for 11-14 year olds

Edgy and contemporary stories, with middle-grade and early teen books about real-life situations, arresting dilemmas and thought-provoking issues.  This list contains 40+ mostly shorter, high-interest, high-impact books with bite to appeal to children, middle-grade readers and early teens who want an instant hit of thrilling storylines and gripping narratives, There’s a range of fiction, verse novels, true stories, graphic novels, and contemporary drama suitable for KS3 libraries, and independent reading in the classroom and at home. This list features books by Kwame Alexander, Malorie Blackman, Hilary McKay, Jason Rohan, Ele Fountain, Christopher Edge, Catherine Bruton, Derek Landy, Mary Cathleen May, Simon James Green, Sophie Cameron, Robert Muchamore, Anne Cassidy and more.

Edgy books for 11-14 year olds

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Edgy books with bite for children and teens aged 11-14 – our recommendations

Booked. Graphic Novel by Kwame AlexanderBooked: Graphic Novel by Kwame Alexander.
A Dangerous Game by Malorie BlackmanA Dangerous Game by Malorie Blackman.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen YangAmerican Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

The Wrong Wheels by C. L. TompsettThe Wrong Wheels by C. L. Tompsett.
21% Monster by P. j. Canning21% Monster by P. J. Canning.
The Wrong Shoes by Tom PercivalThe Wrong Shoes by Tom Percival.

Jodie by Hilary McKay

Feeling lonely and isolated on a school trip on the edge of a marsh, Jodie hears the sound of a barking dog. As she sets off to find it, the tide comes in and she finds herself trapped. Will she be able to find a way to safety, and is the rumour that the marshes are haunted true? ‘Jodie’ is a memorable and atmospheric middle-grade ghost story. A moving shorter text for less confident readers. Highly recommended.

Jodie by Hilary McKay

The After School Crime Club by Hayley WebsterThe After School Crime Club by Hayley Webster.
Girl on the Fly by Nansubuga Nagadya IsdahlGirl on the Fly by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl.
byNush and the Stolen Emerald by Jasbinder Bilan.

Wild by Ele Fountain

Jack is out of control, getting into trouble at school and pushing boundaries. He thinks his mum doesn’t notice until she invites him to join her on a surprise work trip, unexpectedly adventuring deep into the rainforest where real danger exists around every corner. Can Jack adjust and see what really matters in life? Covering themes of gang peer pressure, loss of a parent, attention-seeking behaviour and bravado, Wild is a book with bite – perfect for book club discussion and use as an impetus for creative writing.

Wild by Ele Fountain

Bird Boy by Catherine BrutonBird Boy by Catherine Bruton.
Black Hole Cinema Club by Christopher Edge, David DeanBlack Hole Cinema Club by Christopher Edge and David Dean.
Surprisingly Sarah by Terri LibensonSurprisingly Sarah by Terri Libenson.

Read, Scream, Repeat byRead, Scream, Repeat by Jennifer Killick.
Grounded by Aisha Saeed, S. K. Ali, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Huda Al-MarashiGrounded by Aisha Saeed, S. K. Ali, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Huda Al-Marashi.
Ravencave by Marcus SedgwickRavencave by Marcus Sedgwick.

The Den by Keith GrayThe Den by Keith Gray.
Deadline by Simon CheshireDeadline by Simon Cheshire.
The Tallman by Mary Cathleen MayThe Tallman by Mary Cathleen May.

Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci

Victoria, who changes her name to Egg, is a rebel. She shaves her head and colours her eyebrows, avoids people, and has no time at all for boys. But then she meets Max. Boy Proof is a book with a bite for more mature KS3 students.

Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci

The Storm Swimmer by Clare WezeThe Storm Swimmer by Clare Weze.
byThe Recruit by Robert Muchamore.
The Disconnect by Keren DavidThe Disconnect by Keren David.

Away With Words by Sophie Cameron

Exploring the power of language and the beauty of friendship this heartwarming story of self-discovery follows Gala and Natalie’s bond that transcends language barriers. Blending a compelling mystery with a deft and sensitive study of selective mutism, ‘Away With Words’ is an important book that will challenge perceptions and open young minds. Highly recommended for students in KS3.

Away With Words by Sophie Cameron

Bite Risk by S. J. WillsBite Risk by S. J. Wills.
S. T. E. A. L. T. H. : Access Denied by Jason Lokesh RohanS.T.E.A.L.T.H. : Access Denied by Jason Rohan.
The Drowning Day by Anne CassidyThe Drowning Day by Anne Cassidy.

Dear Mothman by Robin Gow

When Noah’s best friend Lewis is killed in a tragic accident, he feels as if he has lost the only person who knows him as a trans boy. Reminiscing about Lewis’ fantasy stories about cryptids, Noah finds solace in writing letters to Mothman and, over time, feels compelled to find out if Mothman really exists. This is a memorable and indescribably powerful book for 11-14-year-olds.

Dear Mothman by Robin Gow

Hell Breaks Loose by Derek LandyHell Breaks Loose by Derek Landy.
The Double Life Of Ted Amos by Simon James GreenThe Double Life Of Ted Amos by Simon James Green.
byFallout by Lesley Parr.

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence ShenNothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen.
Drowning in My Bedroom by Steve ColeDrowning in My Bedroom by Steve Cole.
Echostar: A Gripping Teen Thriller about the Dark Underbelly of New Technologies by MELINDA. SALISBURYEchostar is Always Listening by Melinda Salisbury.

The Humiliations of Welton Blake by Alex WheatleThe Humiliations of Welton Blake by Alex Wheatle.
Date with Danger by Jo Browning WroeDate with Danger by Jo Browning Wroe.
Swimming on the Moon by Brian ConaghanSwimming on the Moon by Brian Conaghan.

Bad Influence by Tamsin WinterBad Influence by Tamsin Winter.
Treacle Town by Brian ConaghanTreacle Town by Brian Conaghan.
Kicked Out by A. M. DassuKicked Out by A. M. Dassu.

The Boy Lost in the Maze by Joseph Coelho

A gritty and innovative modern intertwining of Theseus and the Minotaur with a modern-day quest blends 20 chapters of dual narrative poetry with illustrator Kate Milner’s abstract forms and revitalised Greek motifs. Personal, accessible and memorable, Theo’s journey of self-discovery is highly relatable and will resonate. A landmark coming-of-age verse novel, The Boy Lost in the Maze is highly recommended for 14+ year-olds.

The Boy Lost in the Maze by Joseph Coehlo

Stitched Up by Joanne O'ConnellStitched Up by Joanne O’Connell.
Getting Away with It by Anne CassidyGetting Away with It by Anne Cassidy.
The Territory by Sarah GovettThe Territory by Sarah Govett.

This Book Kills by Ravena Guron

Jess Choudhary has always tried to be on her best behaviour. As one of only two scholarship students at the prestigious Heybuckle boarding school, she knows that her position is precarious. With a fast-paced plot and a satisfying ending, This Book Kills would appeal to students in Y9 and beyond.

This Book Kills by Ravena Guron

Uprising by Jennifer A. NielsenUprising by Jennifer A. Nielsen.
Afterglow by Tim JordanAfterglow by Tim Jordan.
What We Saw by Mary Downing HahnWhat We Saw by Mary Downing Hahn.

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Edgy fiction and high-interest books resources for teachers

  • This interesting piece from National Geographic explores how reading a wide variety of genres can affect and improve thinking skills.
  • The Scottish Book Trust provides useful tips for teachers who want to promote new and exciting literature in their classrooms and school libraries.
  • The academic study from the University of Iowa explores how using high-interest reading material can motivate struggling and
    reluctant readers.
  • This article from the National Library of New Zealand breaks down how to engage teens with reading, taking a particular look at the key findings of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) paper ‘Growing independence‘ from the Competent Learners @14 Project’
  • This article from Edutopia looks into strategies teachers and librarians can use to encourage children and teens who resist the idea of reading. It includes practical strategies for choosing appealing and interesting books.
  • This Newsround report explores why some children think reading is uncool and boring, and teachers can use these viewpoints to help frame and target their booktasters and library sessions with more precision.
  • The UK government’s Research evidence on reading for pleasure report from the education standards research team. This report and guidance notes are aimed at schools in England.
  • A useful piece of research from the Chartered College that looks at various academic theories related to motivating children and teens to read.


About Tom Tolkien

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Tom Tolkien is a highly qualified (BA Hons, PGCE, QTS) children's literature expert and teacher with over 25 years of experience. He has led inset courses, developed curriculum materials, spoken at conferences, advised on longlisting for several international children's literature literature awards and written for educational publishers including contributing to a BETT award-nominated app. Social profiles: Twitter | Linkedin

This booklist was last updated on June 9th, 2024 and first published in 2024.