Books for Year 9 – the following list contains titles to appeal to children and young adults aged 13-14 in secondary school. There is a range of titles to cover all ability ranges including less-able and more-able pupils. This list of YA novels is revisited frequently and includes novels by Ravena Guron, Patrick Ness, Malorie Blackman, Gary Paulsen, Karen M. McManus, Kazuo Ishiguro, Judy Blume, Roddy Doyle, Mary Shelley and more.
Books for Year 9 – our recommendations
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 will appeal to fans of Gossip Girl and Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. Read our full review.
The Balloon Thief by Aneesa Marufu
When Khadija spots a hot air balloon about to break its moorings, she seizes a dangerous opportunity to flee from a life of arranged marriage. With warring factions, visceral violence, subjugation, shape-shifting magic and a compelling heroine, this is a heady tale of tested loyalties, moral dilemmas and redemption. It’s a compelling insight into a vividly drawn fantasy world, with characters who experience forms of discrimination that older teenagers will identify and empathise with.
Giften by Leyla Suzan
Ruthie is a ‘Giften’, born with the power to raise food from dead soil. But as she tries to protect her community, there’s a sinister regime that hunts people like her. Readers will relate to the prescient ecological themes and emphasise with the characters as they face danger and isolation. A clever post-apocalyptic dystopia, ‘Giften’ will challenge readers to think about survival, power, and how greed could destroy the world we live in. Perfect for KS3 book clubs.
Let’s Play Murder by Kesia Lupo
Set in ‘The Game’, a virtual reality mystery, Veronica joins players trapped in a creepy manor house with a murder to solve. As they get closer to the truth, they encounter glitches, strange NPCs and a mysterious figure. It all changes when real players start dying in real life and Veronica realises that this is the definition of a must-win game. With a binge-worthy blend of page-turning mystery and cutting-edge VR gameplay, readers will be fully locked in. Ideal for readers interested in technology.
You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus
Skipping school for one last time, three high school friends – Ivy, Mateo, and Cal – spot another student from Carlton High and follow him. The next thing they know, he’s dead! They are all hiding something – but what? This absorbing, fast-paced web of secrets and danger features a signature Karen M. McManus. A gripping YA crime thriller.
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
Part three of the Chaos Walking trilogy, Monsters of Men explores the effects of war. A fast-moving dystopian thriller set in a fantasy world war to end all wars. Todd and Viola have to fight, but what are they fighting for, and is it worth it? A modern classic and a great book for 13-year-olds.
Dystopia | Thriller
The Secrets Act by Alison Weatherby
This mesmerizing novel follows Pearl and Ellen, two teenagers who are working at the super-secret Bletchley Park during WW2. Ellen cracks codes and Pearl delivers messages, but both find themselves drawn together and thrust headlong into a world of intrigue, treachery and spies – a dangerous puzzle that they might not be able to solve in time. A fascinating and original historical novel for young adults, The Secrets Act is highly recommended for year 9 pupils.
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
In a quiet English village, everyone falls asleep unexpectedly. When they wake up a day later, all the women are inexplicably pregnant. It soon becomes apparent that the children have abilities and powers that are not normal, threatening the community. Brilliantly written, this unsettling story is ideal to spark philosophical debate and discussion. Recently adapted into a TV series by Sky, The Midwich Cuckoos is a classic work of science fiction that has renewed relevance in an age of conformity, information wars and distrust in political leadership.
Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson
When Lydia builds an AI friend to fill a void in her life, nothing can prepare her for what happens when Henry turns from a computer into an overprotective defender. This modern cyber-thriller catapults teens into a world of tech, AI and fear of the unknown. With a breakneck plot, it thrusts the reader into themes that are prescient but firmly rooted in today’s reality. A great book to discuss in year 9 book clubs.
Lionheart Girl by Yaba Badoe
Mysticism, fear and West African witchcraft are blended into this heady and lyrical potion of a modern fable that explores friendship and loyalty. When Sheba discovers her magic abilities, she uses them to uncover dark family secrets that threaten to untie all that binds her life together. Memorable and atmospheric, this novel would be a powerful and provocative read for KS3 book clubs.
Modern fable | Fantasy
Maladapted by Richard Kurti
A rocket-paced thriller set in a dystopian near future. The only survivor of a terrorist attack on a packed train, Cillian starts to wonder if and why he was spared. Soon he finds himself drawn into a web of deceit and mind-bending revelations. Ideal for reluctant teen readers in Year 9.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Margaret is convinced she isn’t normal. Her friends are more grown-up than her, she’s starting a new school and she’s unsure whether to follow her mother’s or her father’s religion. So she talks to God, with surprising results.
Friendship | Romance
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Brian, a streetwise teen who lives in the city, is left stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash – with only a hatchet to survive. Will he make it? This book will be popular with reluctant readers in Year 9. Some interesting teaching ideas can be found here.
The Call by Peadar O’Guilin
Set in a similar but realistic world that features myths and faeries, each teen needs to prepare for The Call – 3 minutes where they disappear with only a one in ten chance of returning alive. A dystopian, dark and addictive read that will resonate and linger in the subconscious. Could become a teen cult classic and will be a popular loan from your KS3/4 library.
The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer
A page-turning collection of six books (separately: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner and Midnight Sun) will appeal to young adults. Teen Isabella Swan starts at a new school and quickly has to tread a fine line between romance and dangerous vampires. All six stories are addictive reads.
Saga | Fantasy | Romance
The Amnesia Clinic by James Scudamore
Anti is best friends with his polar opposite – Fabian. Athletic and popular, Fabian wishes his mother was still alive. The two set off to find a strange clinic in search of Fabian’s mother – a clinic which no one is sure even exists.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
In the future, all society is overseen by the World Controllers. Everything is ordered and efficient. But Bernard has other ideas and wants to do more than ask questions. An ideal book for year nine book clubs.
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Pinkie is caught in the middle of a Brighton gang war. Living on the edge, he kills a man and believes he can carry on as if nothing happened. A gripping novel for year 9 pupils.
Classic | Crime
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
At the end of WW2, Yossarian thinks his life is in danger – not from the enemy, but from his own side. He tries to find any excuse to avoid an increasing number of dangerous missions.
Thief by Malorie Blackman
A captivating and fast-paced story about Lydia, who is desperate to fit in at a new school. When she’s accused of stealing, her life begins to spiral out of control until an unexpected and mind-bending opportunity arises to set things right. A real page-turner, with a savage twist ending, this is a great book for class reading or book clubs.
Thriller | Diverse
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Holden Caulfield is a teen who has just been kicked out of his fourth school. He has to grow up quickly in an adult world and work out who he can trust, and who is a ‘phony’. A more challenging book for year 9 pupils.
Philip Larkin – Collected Poems
Probably the most accessible verse collection by a modern poet. More likely than not to hook your teenager on poetry. A great poetry book for year 9 pupils.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
An epic page-turner of a novel, written in episodes. This is the classic fiction equivalent of a binge box set – a nineteenth-century ‘Breaking Bad’. Fuelled by revenge, Edmund Dantes seeks to get back everything he lost and stakes a claim to a lot more. Ideal for more advanced readers in Year 9.
Revenge | Classic
Dracula by Bram Stoker
A classic vampire tale following Dracula’s move from Transylvania to England, pursued by Abraham Van Helsing who is intent on exterminating him. Warning, this book may inspire your teen to wear black and visit Whitby. Ideal for discussion in Year 9.
Horror | Classic
Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard
Jim’s idyllic life in 1930s Shanghai takes an abrupt and horrifying turn with the Japanese invasion during WW2. The prep school choirboy finds himself interred in prison camps for four years. Gripping, moving and based on the author’s own life. A more advanced book for 13-year-olds.
Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green
Noah desperately wants to be like everyone else. But with a mother who works as an unconvincing Beyonce lookalike and a father who isn’t around, Noah is struggling with life. Laugh-out-loud moments of teenage angst with a twist. A valuable LGBT literature addition to the school library.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley’s gothic horror about a deranged scientist who wants to imagine his own living creation from dead bodies still has bite, shock value and complex themes. A well-written counterpoint to the myriad of recent zombie TV shows and computer games.
Horror | Classic
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
The scheming, brutal and dangerous world of Roman nobility is brought to life in this historical thriller. An intense and gripping novel.
Historical fiction | Classic
The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux
Allie Fox is a father who wants to change this world. He is on an unstoppable mission to bring ice and other inventions to the jungle, and a relentless pursuit of his dreams drives his wife and children to despair. After reading this, family holidays will never be the same. An interesting choice for a Year 9 book club.
Shakespeare: The World as a Stage by Bill Bryson
This book is ideal for adding humour to turgid GCSE Shakespeare exam schemes. It explores the myths, lies and reality of Shakespeare’s plays and brings to life the sixteenth-century acting world.
Funny | Biography
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
A classic and brilliantly written fable about an old fisherman, an ambitious boy and an epic battle to catch an enormous fish.
Classic | Modern fable
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
A horrifying and gripping account of life at a Soviet Gulag – isolated and stark. A tale of mental and physical survival. This would make an interesting choice for detention class reading. A more challenging book for year 9 students.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
McMurphy thinks he has escaped prison by being moved to a mental institution. Slowly he realises he is even more confined than before. A startling exploration of sanity and madness; and freedom vs control. Warning, some adult themes and a challenging read for 13 & 14-year-olds.
Contemporary | Mental health
Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha by Roddy Doyle
10-year-old Paddy Clarke is left to his own devices in an adult world – a world which, despite his best efforts, he finds impossible to understand. Cleverly written from a child’s perspective. A thought-provoking class reader book for Year 9.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The story of a butler who tries to devote himself to his profession despite the fact his master is a Nazi sympathiser. Deeply moving, this book explores class, love and longing. A more challenging book for pupils in year 9 – and ideal for discussion.
Historical fiction | Romance
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
The ambitious owner of The Daily Beast thinks he’s spotted the perfect hotshot journalist to cover a juicy African conflict. Things don’t go entirely to plan. Very funny, yet true to life and a good text to spark discussion about fake news.
Comedy | Adventure
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In this classic 1930s story, a black man is charged with raping a white girl and has to fight class, racial hatred and depression-era prejudice – as well as the courtroom. Atticus Finch, a white father, has the task of defending him. A great book for Year 9.
Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig
12-year-old Edgar grows wary of a Baron he meets on holiday in this period story from Hapsburg Germany. He begins to think something is amiss, and when he finds out what it is, he takes revenge in a shocking manner. Short, and tense.
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For even more books for 13-14-year-olds, see this list.