I have a huge fetish for historical fiction; it’s my favorite genre, which a lot of people think is weird but what can I say? History is fascinating, and historical fiction is MASSIVELY underrated. Here are some of my favorite historical fiction books written for YA/older middle grade, in the rough order of their featured time periods.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak– I feel like EVERYONE loves this book. It follows a young girl named Liesel, growing up in Nazi Germany, and the story is narrated by Death, which is a very unique approach. Liesel loves to read, frequently steals literature from book burnings, and this fascination is encouraged by Max, a Jewish man whom Liesel’s family takes into hiding. The ending of this book is VERY sad, so you will probably cry…
- The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley– Okay, this one is technically middle grade, not YA, but it’s pretty borderline. I had to read it in fifth grade for a Battle of the Books competition, and it was amazing. The story is about a girl named Ada living in London during WW2. Ada has a clubfoot, and her mother (who is seriously awful!) keeps her imprisoned in the house. When all the children in the city are evacuated during the Blitz, Ada sneaks out with her brother to escape.
- Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielson– It’s 1943, and 16-year-old Chaya is a Jewish girl living in Nazi-occupied Poland. She joins the Jewish resistance and finds herself in the middle of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Even if the resistance has no chance, Chaya knows she will go down fighting. I read this last summer, and I remember it being pretty depressing, but super action packed and emotionally impactful.
- The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine– The themes of this book are unfortunately reminiscient of current events, which makes it even more relevant of a read. The story take place in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958. It’s the year after the Little Rock Nine, and now Little Rock Central High School has been shut down to prevent integration. Marlee doesn’t have many opinions about who she goes to school with; she’s just trying to make it through middle school without calling too much attention to herself. When a new girl named Liz starts at Marlee’s school, they become instant friends. Marlee admires Liz’s confidence and boldness, and slowly begins to get over her paralyzing shyness. But when Liz disappears one day and rumors spread that she was actually African American, passing for white to get an education, Marlee is forced to confront the mounting racial prejudices in her community.
- A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielson– I read this to supplement my National History Day project in 8th grade, which was about the Berlin Wall. This might be the only historical fiction book I’ve read about this particular topic. It follows a 12-year-old girl named Gerta, whose family is split up overnight with the construction of the wall. Her father and brother are in West Berlin, while she and the rest of her family are stranded in the Soviet-controlled East. Soon, Gerta realizes her father has a plan to sneak her out of East Berlin, but it will mean digging an illicit tunnel underneath the wall. And the consequences for attempting an escape are deadly..
- The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt– ANYTHING by Gary D. Schmidt is great. The Wednesday Wars is about a boy named Holling, struggling to navigate school and life during the tumult of Vietnam, all while his teacher channels her apparent hatred towards him into forcing him to read Shakespeare after school. I loved the coming-of-age aspect of this story, and although I read it a long time ago I still remember the impact it had on me.
I have a ton of historical fiction on my TBR, so maybe I can write a part 2 to this post in the future! Thanks for reading!