The History of YA: World History Through YA Fiction

We’ve all been there. A teen visits your desk with a WWII request and when you hand them The Book Thief, you are met wide eyes and the question, “Do you have anything smaller?”  You think you’ve found the perfect book and hand them Number the Stars and this time you are met with a face of disgust and “I don’t like that cover; that looks old.” Where are all the historical fiction books that teens will want to read?  Your wishes have been granted because YA historical fiction has come a long way in recent years.  Authors are blending historical fiction with the paranormal, science fiction, Shakespeare, and assassin nuns.

Below is a list of historical fiction titles that will not only make teens do their own research, they will make you a reader’s advisory superstar!


336 BC

A reimagining of Alexander the Great where seven people have secrets and missions.


Hope’s mother has died and her father ships her off to an aunt she’s never met in Scotland.  After only a couple of hours in Scotland, Hope learns that she comes from a family of time travelers and she must help stop their nemesis.

Botille and her sisters are trying to live a quiet life in 13th century France when she helps a heretic fugitive with mythical powers.  With the church investigating the mythical stranger, Botille and her family have a difficult choice-believe or not believe in Dolssa.

Abandoned by her home, Wallachia and father, Lada and Radu fight for survival as they are raised by the Ottoman courts.  While set on revenge, Lada and Radu find love and friendship in Mehmen the future ruler of the empire they are trained to fight.

  • Grave Mercy by Robin Lefavers

Isme bears the mark of death and no man will have her except a disgusting man her father forces her to marry.  After escaping her abusive husband, Isme finds safety at a convent of assassin nuns where she learns about her mark and how to serve her true father, the God of Death.


Samantha Mather is a descendant of the Salem Witch hunters and when she moves to Salem Massachusetts, she becomes the classmate of the descendants of those who were accused and hanged for being witches.  In addition to her new classmates, Sam’s house is haunted by a ghost from the witch trials and she finds out she is cursed.  She must work with her classmates to break the curse.

What was Blackbeard, the pirate, like as a teenager?  Blackhearts imagines Blackbeard as a teen as he falls in love with Anne, his father’s bi-racial servant.

The day before Lady Helen is to be presented to the queen, her housemaid mysteriously disappears.  While trying to find her maid, Helen finds herself in the bowls of the London underground and it’s many supernatural beings.

Lee has a gift; she can sense gold.   When a family tragedy arises, Lee heads to California during the height of the gold rush.

During the midst of the American Civil War, Catrina finds an amnesic man in her fields.  After falling in love, Catrina and Stonefield want to escape the war torn south and her over protective brother but when Stonefield regains his memory, decisions must be made and sides must be taken.

Audrey is a respectable Victorian lady by day and a forensic scientist at night and when mutilated corpses begin to show up in her uncle’s lab, Audrey finds herself in the middle of England’s most notorious serial killer.


Thrown out of her private school and shunned by her father for painting nude boys, Vicky finds a new cause, help women attain the right to vote.

Hanalee, the daughter of a white mother, is mourning the death of her black father when his accused murderer is released from jail.  After claiming his innocence, Joe informs Hanalee that her father was murdered.  During her quest to find her father’s murderer, Hanalee must deal with her strange step father, the rise of the Klu Klux Klan, and her forbidden feelings for a white boy.

It’s near the end of WWII and four refugees travel on foot during January to board the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship bound for safety. This is the story of the lesser known tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

On the middle of the integrated south two girls, one white and one black, find themselves classmates and close friends.

Against her parent’s wishes, JJ interns as a songwriter instead of attending law school.  During the summer of ’63, midst civil unrest and the Kennedy Administration, she suddenly finds herself in a middle of a murder mystery.

1971-The Future

During the heatwave of the summer of ’77, Nora has major decisions to make-what to do with the rest of her life.  Her father has moved on to a better family, her brother is mentally declining, and she’s falling in love during the women’s rights movement, black power, and the summer of a serial killer-Sam Berkowitz.

Greta and her mother live on the communist side of the Berlin wall while her father and brother live on the west side and cannot return home.  When Greta’s father sends her a message to escape to the west side through a tunnel beneath the wall, Greta and her family must risk their lives to be reunited.

Maggie’s mother has remarried and moved  her family to Ireland.  A sudden death in her family encourages Maggie to drop everything and to go see Nirvana play one of their last performances in Rome.

The lives of three teens are forever affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks.

In a futuristic London, the printing press was never invented and therefore reproductions cannot be made.  Because the library has the only copy of every book ever made, a librarian is the most important job in the world.  Jess is gifted and goes to Alexandra to train to be a librarian.  Soon Jess finds himself in a war between knowledge an life.

Printable PDF of Booklist (11×17)

Dawn Abron is Currently Reading-A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

3 thoughts on “The History of YA: World History Through YA Fiction”

  1. Love this list! Could I also suggest an upper MG historical fiction, THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM (Sky Pony,August), about the life of 12 year old girl living in Hiroshima during last year of WWII and surviving the atomic bombing. It is based on my mother’s life. The cover is also pretty cool too.

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