National Book Lovers Day is here! Here are 3 classic novels that every teen should read.
To Kill A Mockingbird (1960)
“Real courage…it’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
Set during a period of the Great Depression (1933-1935), To Kill A Mockingbird is a classic novel with a number of compelling characters, subplots, and themes. Scout Finch and her brother Jem live in a small Alabama town with their widowed father, Atticus – a highly respected lawyer.
In an era well before the Civil Rights Movement, Atticus takes on a particularly controversial case due to the fact that the man he will be defending is an African-American individual (Tom Robinson). Atticus knows that Tom has been wrongly accused and is completely innocent, yet his decision to take the case exposes many of the harsh realities of racial prejudice that are still being addressed today.
To Kill A Mockingbird explores themes like judgment, morality, and what it means to be a true hero.
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”
Nineteen Eighty-Four (often published as 1984) has had such an impact on cultural history that many teens may not even realize they are already familiar with some of its content. Terms like “Big Brother” were popularized by Orwell, and the very term “Orwellian” is now used to refer to dystopian-like realities where people are constantly watched, monitored, and fed propaganda by a totalitarian government.
1984 is a horrifying view of an alternate future – one in which personal liberty no longer exists and freedom of thought is forbidden. Written just after World War II, 1984 explores complex themes surrounding liberty, censorship, and technology’s role in modern societies.
The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
J. D. Salinger
“I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.”
No list of essential teen novels would be complete without this classic from J. D. Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye is narrated by Holden Caulfield, a well-off teenager attending prep school. Holden is an extremely controversial character who is dealing with mental struggles. The Catcher in the Rye explores a number of complex human themes including depression, loss, sexuality, trauma, and peer pressure.
It has been said that Salinger’s depiction of teenage angst through Holden Caulfield is so well done that the reader’s perspective of him will change depending on their age. From a younger reader’s perspective, Holden’s rebellious nature and “edgy” views can be relatable. On the flip side, adults tend to see Holden as a pretentious and cynical teen who desperately needs help.
While The Catcher in the Rye is certainly no stranger to controversy, there is a reason the novel is frequently included on “must-read” lists. This read may be more suitable for older teens due to mature themes and some adult language.