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Historical Fiction for Middle Grade and YA Readers

Go back in time to see how tweens and teens lived and how they faced their challenges.

In this booklist:

Middle Grade Titles

Cover of Isla to Island

A wordless graphic novel in which twelve-year-old Marisol must adapt to a new life in 1960s Brooklyn after her parents send her to the United States from Cuba to keep her safe during Castro's regime.

Cover of Troublemaker

On the first night of rioting in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, Jordan's father leaves to check on the family store, spurring twelve-year-old Jordan and his friends to embark on a dangerous journey through South Central and Koreatown to come to his aid, encountering the racism within their community as they go.

Cover of Moonwalking
Zetta Elliott and
Lyn Miller-Lachmann

In 1980s Brooklyn, new student JJ Pankowski, an autistic, punk-rock-lover, befriends Pie Velez, an Afro-Latinx math geek and graffiti artist.

Cover of Mighty Inside
Sundee T.

The thought of starting high school is only making Melvin Robinson's stutter worse. His growing awareness that racism is everywhere-not just in the South where a boy his age has been brutally killed by two white men, but also in his own hometown of Spokane-is making him realize that he can't mutely stand by.

Cover of Elvis, Me, and the Lemonad

Truly Bateman sets out to prove that the deceased Elvis Presley is in fact alive and her neighbor, while finding sanctuary with a Salish woman over her neglectful mother.

Cover of How to Find What You're No

Middle schooler Ariel Goldberg must find her own voice and define her own beliefs after her big sister elopes with a young man from India following the Supreme Court decision that strikes down laws banning interracial marriage.

Cover of One True Way

Welcome to Daniel Boone Middle School in the 1970s, where teachers and coaches must hide who they are, and girls who like girls are forced to question their own choices. A heartening story of two girls who discover their friendship is something more. But how, among their backward town, will Sam and Allie face what they know is true about themselves?

Cover of The Lucky Ones
Linda Williams

Linda Williams Jackson pulls from her own childhood in the Mississippi Delta to tell the story of Ellis Earl, who dreams of a real house, food enough for the whole family-and to be someone.

Cover of The Street Belongs to Us
Karleen Pendleton
Gabriela Godoy

In 1984 Los Angeles, Alex is a tomboy who would rather wear her hair short and her older brother's hand-me-downs, and Wolf is a troubled kid who's been wearing the same soldier's uniform ever since his mom died. They temporarily set their worries aside when their street is torn up by digging machines and transformed into a muddy wonderland with endless possibilities.

Cover of Strong as Fire, Fierce as

In 1857 India, Meera escapes a life she has no say in-and certain death on her husband's funeral pyre-only to end up a servant to a British general in the East India Company. When a rebellion against British colonizers spreads, she must choose between relative safety in a British household or standing up for herself and her people.

Cover of Set Me Free
Ann Claire

When an old acquaintance summons Mary Lambert to an isolated manor house outside Boston to teach a young deaf girl to communicate, she agrees. With newfound purpose, Mary arrives only to discover that there is much more to the girl's story--and the circumstances of her confinement--than she ever could have imagined. Suddenly, teaching her and freeing her from the prison of her isolation, takes on much greater meaning, and peril.

Cover of Freewater

After fleeing the plantation where they were enslaved, siblings Ada and Homer discover the secret community of Freewater, and work with freeborn Sanzi to protect their new home from the encroaching dangers of the outside world.

Cover of Not Your All-American Girl
Wendy Wan-Long Shang and
Madelyn Rosenberg

Sixth-graders Lauren and Tara have always done everything together so it is only natural that they both try out for their middle school musical play, about an "all-American" girl in 1958; Tara gets the lead role, as usual, because in the teacher's mind Lauren, half-Jewish and half-Chinese, does not fit the image of all-American girl.

Cover of My Own Lightning

Several months after the tragic events set in motion by bully Betty Glengarry, Annabelle McBride is struck by lightning during a powerful summer storm, leaving her with heightened senses that give her a new understanding of animals and help her learn about compassion and forgiveness.

YA Titles

Cover of Iron River

When Manny Maldonado and his friends find a hobo's body near the train tracks that run through their tight-knit San Gabriel valley community, a police officer tries to pin the murder on them.

Cover of Freedom Swimmer

Two boys form a bond over evenings swims and shared dreams. A powerful story of friendship, bravery, and a desperate bid for freedom, inspired by true events. 

Cover of Walls

In the days before the treacherous overnight raising of the Berlin Wall, teenaged cousins Drew, an American army brat in West Berlin, and Matthias, a young communist in East Berlin, become wary friends on opposite sides of the Cold War.

Cover of Rima's Rebellion: Courage

In 1920s Cuba, Rima is bullied and shunned for her illegitimacy, but finds solace in riding her horse and forges unexpected friendships with others who share her dreams of freedom and suffrage.

Cover of A Million Quiet Revolution

Two seventeen-year-old trans boys in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, struggling to understand themselves and their love for each other, are inspired by an online story about trans soldiers who fell in love during the American Revolution.

Cover of My Contrary Mary
Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and
Jodi Meadows

Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and... queens? Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she's a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It's a secret that could cost her a head--or a tail.

Cover of Let Me Hear a Rhyme
Tiffany D.

Three Brooklyn teens plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he's still alive.

Cover of Soldiers Unknown
Rahsan Ekedal

The native Yurok people of Northern California have been untouched by the savage world war raging in Europe--until now. Three cousins are called to serve a nation that has given little but cruelty to their people. Thrust into battle on the Western Front, these young men struggle to preserve their humanity while facing the unspeakable horrors of the greatest military conflict ever known. (Graphic novel)

Cover of The Invincible Summer of J

It's the summer of 1955. For Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, race has always been a distant conversation. When he's sent to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, his blackness is suddenly front and center, and no one is shy about making it known he's not welcome there. Enter Juniper Jones. The town's resident oddball and free spirit, she's everything the townspeople aren't-open, kind, and accepting.

Cover of So Many Beginnings: A Litt
Bethany C.

At the Freedman's Colony of Roanoke Island, a haven for the recently emancipated, the four March sisters come into their own as independent young Black women together facing love, sickness, heartbreak, and new horizons.

Cover of Daughters of a Dead Empire
Carolyn Tara

A historical thriller about two girls from separate worlds flee across the Russian countryside at the height of the Russian Civil War.

Cover of The City Beautiful

Death lurks around every corner in this unforgettable Jewish historical fantasy about Chicago in 1893, a boy, and the shadows of the past that bind them both together.

Cover of Keeping Corner

In India in the 1940s, Leela's happy, spoiled childhood ends when her husband since age nine, whom she barely knows, dies, leaving her a widow whose only hope of happiness could come from Mahatma Ghandi's social and political reforms.

Cover of Gold Mountain
Betty G.

A Chinese girl disguises herself as a boy to work on the perilous construction of the transcontinental railroad in 1867.