Empowering Teen Voices: Books That Inspire and Uplift Teens

Confident young woman flexing her arm muscles, wearing yellow headphones and a mustard top, against a vibrant yellow wall

The teenage years are not easy by a long shot – for teenagers or their parents! It’s a period in our lives that is full of big questions and even bigger emotions. Who am I? Where do I fit in? And why does everything feel like the end of the world? We think if young adulthood came with a trusty manual, it would definitely be in the form of books.

Books have the power to offer new perspectives, moments of inspiration, a shared experience, a laugh, and an uh-oh moment, to name a few. YA books, through their wonderful stories, have the ability to both inspire and uplift teens.

We are so excited to share some of our favorites. Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes can change how you look at yours!

Inspirational Books for Teens

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

This compelling historical novel shares the experiences of fourteen Japanese American teenagers living in San Francisco during World War II. These teens' lives are uprooted as they find themselves placed in internment camps as part of the government's sweeping and unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans.

Through the teens’ voices and perspectives, We Are Not Free gives you profound insights into the struggles, resilience, and bonds that can form in the face of adversity. It brilliantly showcases the strength of community, the importance of standing up for your rights, and the power that young people possess to persevere through unimaginable challenges.

OUABC Book subscription box featuring This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke

This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke

This Rebel Heart is a historical fantasy novel set in 1956 Budapest, Hungary, amidst the backdrop of the Hungarian Revolution. The story follows Csilla, a teen whose family was killed during the Stalinist purges. As she navigates a city on the brink of rebellion, Csilla discovers a magical connection to the Danube River, which grants her the power to protect her friends, her city, and herself.

This novel is a blend of history, magic, and the quest for freedom, perfectly illustrating the courage it takes to stand against oppression. We loved how this beautifully written story demonstrates the power of resilience, the importance of fighting for what is right, and the unbreakable spirit of those who dare to challenge the status quo. It is a testament to the strength found in love and solidarity in the darkest of times.

Order your copy now! Our Light in The Dark ready-to-ship book box is the perfect addition to your YA collection. Featuring This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke plus 3 surprise gifts – bringing books to life the Once Upon a Book Club way!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Whew, this is a powerful and moving novel that dives into the life of Starr Carter, a 16-year-old girl who finds herself in the middle of a national controversy after witnessing the police shooting of her unarmed best friend. Navigating two worlds - the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends - Starr must find her voice and stand up for what's right.

The Hate U Give tackles themes of racism, police brutality, and activism and offers a raw and honest look at societal issues. This book is an important reminder of the importance of speaking out against injustice, the power of community and activism, and the courage it takes to be true to oneself. It is a call to action and empathy, showing young adults the impact of their voices and choices.

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

This gripping historical novel is set in 1989 Romania, under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu. It tells the story of Cristian Florescu, a 17-year-old who is blackmailed into becoming an informer for the secret police. As he navigates a life filled with fear, betrayal, and the struggle for freedom, Cristian uncovers truths about his own family and the power of resistance.

This novel offers a stark look at the realities of living under oppression and the difficult choices you have to make for survival and justice. I Must Betray You is all about the resilience of the human spirit, the importance of fighting for freedom, and the transformative power of truth and solidarity – an important reminder of history's lessons and the enduring strength of hope.

Self-Growth Books for Teens

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

We loved this heartwarming coming-of-age novel about Cath, a fanfiction writer with a huge online following. As she starts college, Cath struggles with leaving her comfort zone, dealing with her twin sister wanting a different life, and navigating her own path without her father's direct oversight.

Through her journey, Cath explores issues of identity, love, and the transition from adolescence to adulthood. This book perfectly depicts the challenges of growing up and finding your place in the world. It celebrates the passion and creativity of fandom communities, the importance of mental health, and the power of writing as a form of self-expression. Fangirl lets you know that it's okay to be passionate about what you love and that everyone goes through the process of finding their voice.

OUABC Book Subscription Box featuring Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest

Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest

This is a story of self-discovery and the pursuit of dreams against the backdrop of societal expectations and personal challenges. Join Effie as she navigates the complexities of young adulthood, including friendships, career aspirations, and personal identity.

Set against the relatable landscape of facing the future, Where You See Yourself offers a nuanced look at the pressures teens face today. We loved how it highlights the importance of self-belief, the value of pursuing one's passions, and the strength that comes from embracing one's unique path.

This fabulous story reminds us that the future is full of possibilities and that true happiness comes from following one's heart and dreams.

Personal Growth Books for Teens

Finding personal growth books for your teens may seem overwhelming but we find that any book that makes you think falls into this category. It doesn’t matter what age you are, being exposed to new ideas, different perspectives, and new experiences all add to your personal growth.

We often refer to books being powerful and they are! Where else could you be thrust into an internment camp facing injustice, discovering the power to protect or experience someone else’s daily battle than through the wonderful world of books.

Each book offers us an opportunity to learn how other people see the world and to reflect on our own world, our choices and how they have impacted our lives and those of others. Sometimes we find that lightbulb moment in the most unexpected of places. Each book is a window into someone else’s world and isn’t it amazing how we find ourselves standing by their side, rooting for them to win, horrified by the injustices they face. And if it wasn’t for books, our worlds would be very small!!

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