Reading during the summer months can be an opportunity for high school aged children to read for fun. I know when I was in high school, I was always frustrated by having so much to read academically that there wasn’t time for what I wanted to read. Reading in the summer months can also afford those teens that need to build their college prep reading lists some extra time to do that without feeling the burden of other tasks.
It can be difficult to choose books or suggest books that might spark your teen’s interest. Here are some suggestions (both resume building and for fun) to help get your teen get set on a path of reading this summer. Please note that every child’s reading level varies, so some selections will be harder or easier. Of course, all books should be screened by a parent.
High School Summer Reading List
The Giver by Lois Lowry is a dystopian novel set in what first appears to be a utopian society, but throughout the story you realize it is really a dystopian one. (There are also three other books in this series: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte was first published in the 1800s and follows the experiences of the title character, Jane Eyre. From her young years with a cruel guardian to her days as a governess to Mr. Rochester, we follow Jane as she grows morally and spiritually.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak centers around the life of Liesel Meminger, a 9 year old girl living in Germany during World War II. Her experiences are narrated by Death who details both the beauty and destruction of this period in time. (If you like this time period, The Boy in Striped Pajamas may also be of interest.)
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Two teens, Grace and Augustus, meet at a cancer support group. We follow them on their journey of love and loss.
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher is a life changer. 13 Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah Baker's reasons for ending her life. Each is recorded onto 13 different tapes that she has sent out upon her death. Jay Asher does an unprecedented job of exposing the angst of teens and how you never know the impact of what you say or do.
Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth is set in post-apocalyptic Chicago. The society of the trilogy defines its citizens by their social and personality-related affiliation with five different factions, removing the threat of anyone exercising independent will and threatening the population's safety. Beatrice Prior (also known as Tris), must figure out her life as a Divergent while concealing her true nature and living with the danger of being killed.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Pip, an orphan boy, meets an escaped convict, a mentally unhinged rich woman, and a bewitching girl and is bestowed great expectations of wealth from a mysterious patron.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, Massachusetts and tells the story of Hester Prynne who conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games universe is a dystopia set in an unspecified time in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem. This is a country consisting of the wealthy Capitol and twelve districts in varying states of poverty. Every year, children are chosen to participate in a compulsory annual televised death match called The Hunger Games as a punishment for a past rebellion. Katniss Everdeen is the narrator who lives in District 12, the poorest region in Panem.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman combines comedy, adventure, fantasy, and romance to tell the tale of Buttercup and the farm hand, Westly. Westly soon leaves to seek his fortune and poor Buttercup realizes she loves him. Follow their crazy adventure with sword fights, castles, Snow Sand, a Fire Swamp, a 6 fingered man, and more.
As You Wish is written by Cary Elwes who played Westly in the movie adaptation of The Princess Bride. It is an interesting read, offering a first-person account and behind the scenes looks as the making of the film. (Reading The Princess Bride, watching the movie, and then reading this book make for great fun and an indepth look at the process of creating an intricate movie like this.)
13 Little Blue Envelopes & The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson tell the story of 17 year old Ginny who receives 13 envelopes from her deceased aunt. They begin with instructions to buy a plane ticket to London and then tell her to read each envelope one at a time, finishing each task before moving on. You never know where the envelopes might take her and what she will discover about herself, life, and her aunt along the way.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. See the world of high school (set in the early 1990s) through an introverted teenager known as Charlie who describes his experiences in series of letters to an anonymous stranger.
Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Follow Isabella “Bella” Swan as she moves to Forks, Washington and falls in love with Edward Cullen, a 104 year old vampire. (This series consists of 4 books: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.)
Positive: a life changing memoir by Paige Rawl. Paige has been HIV positive since birth, but growing up she never felt like it defined her. Everything changed when she disclosed her status to a friend in middle school. Next she was followed by endless bullying, until one night she contemplated suicide. This sends her on a journey to rise up and speak out against bullying.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This is a beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first. Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal.
I want to note that many of the titles here also have movie adaptations. It can be not only great fun, but a good learning experience to read the books and then watch the movies. Here is a free printable for comparing and contrasting a book and a movie.
About the Author
Heidi Ciravola has been married to her husband for over seventeen years. Together they have three children with whom they began their homeschooling journey with in 2006 when their oldest was beginning second grade. Heidi is a mother, taxi service, and homeschool parent by day and an avid reader and homeschool blogger whenever there is time left over. You can visit Heidi at her blog Starts at Eight where she blogs about homeschool products and unit studies, homeschool organization and general tips, and homeschooling high school, as well as many book reviews, lists, and unit studies.