10 Best Books for Teens of 2021

Librarians nominated nearly 75 titles released this year. Then our panel of teen reviewers told us their favorites of the bunch.

An image of a teen girl reading on her bed.
Photo: Getty Images. Parents.
01 of 10

Not Here To Be Liked

not here to be liked book
Courtesy of HarperCollins

By Michelle Quach

Well-developed characters and a relatable setting drew our teen reviewers into this coming-of-age romance. "This book made me think about how you have to learn about all sides and viewpoints to really understand an issue," said our tenth-grade reviewer. "The main character dealt with double standards and, through that process, learned what it really meant to be a feminist." The ending had reviewers wishing for a sequel. Ages 13+

02 of 10

Gone to the Woods

gone to the woods book
Courtesy of Macmillan Books

By Gary Paulsen

One of the final works from the literary legend who wrote Hatchet (Paulsen passed away in October) spotlights his own story surviving a turbulent childhood. "Soft spoken in its language, even when harsh in its story of tragedy, Paulsen's story is equally heart-wrenching and enthralling," said our eleventh-grade reviewer. Ages 11+

03 of 10

Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales

Beasts and Beauty book
Courtesy of HarperCollins

Written by Soman Chainani, illustrated by Julia Iredale

Teens who grew up reading the author's The School for Good and Evil series will immensely enjoy his 12 trope-free reinventions of classic fairytales, ranging from Red Riding Hood to The Little Mermaid. "I love that Snow White is Black and Sleeping Beauty is male," said one teen reviewer. Ages 12+

04 of 10

Between Perfect and Real

between perfect and real book
Courtesy of Abrams Books / The Art of Books

By Ray Stoeve

A great pick for theatre fans, this first-person story focuses on Dean, a transgender teen who is cast in their school's production of Romeo & Juliet. "The scenes with Dean's family and friends truly allow the reader to see all parts of Dean's struggle," said one tenth-grade reviewer. Ages 13+

05 of 10

Black Birds in the Sky

black birds in the sky book
Courtesy of HarperCollins

By Brandy Colbert

"Vivid and informative," according to our eleventh-grade reviewer, this nonfiction book sheds light on the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the most horrific acts of racial violence in U.S. history. "I highly appreciated the amount of perspective-shifting detail included in the writing," said our reviewer. Ages 14+

06 of 10


blackout book
Courtesy of HarperCollins

By Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon

This collection of joyful stories from six award-winning Black authors connect to each other, giving them an element of cohesiveness. "As someone who usually isn't a fan of constantly changing points of view, I enjoyed this book and the stories that developed," said one teen reviewer. Ages 13+

07 of 10

Lost In The Never Woods

lost in the never woods book
Courtesy of Macmillan Books

By Aiden Thomas

The mysterious re-imagining of Peter Pan captivated our teen reviewers with its suspense and excitement. "The twist ending was amazing," said one teen reviewer. Ages 13+

08 of 10

Harry Potter: Chamber of Secrets, MinaLima Edition

harry potter chamber of secrets book
Courtesy of Scholastic Inc.

By J.K. Rowling

This stunning, artsy version of the second book in the series is designed and illustrated by the company responsible for the graphics for the Harry Potter films. There are flaps, wheels, and other paper wizardry. The Potterheads on our panel gasped at the pop-up of a Whomping Willow tree. Said one teen reviewer: "Being about to pull mandrakes from their pots made my day." All ages

09 of 10

Love Is A Revolution

love is a revolution book
Courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing

By Renée Watson

This story of an imperfect 17-year-old figuring out what's important to her is "a journey in self-love," according to a teen reviewer. They also liked the themes of body positivity and environmentalism. Ages 13+

10 of 10

Just Like That

just like that book
Courtesy of HarperCollins

By Gary D. Schmidt

After the main character's best friend dies in a car accident, she's sent to a boarding school. But she just can't get past that empty feeling she calls "the blank." Said one 13-year-old: "The characters and their experiences feel so genuine and personal. I have never been so emotionally moved."
Ages 10-15

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