We've often heard that these seven to eight years that we are teenagers will likely be the best of our lives. Many of us who are currently experiencing teenage life, however, may seriously disagree. Regardless of how we feel about it, though, we have to admit that our teenage years are definitely intriguing. During this period, we face the unpredictable storm that is high school, make great friends, change some friends, discover our interests and tangle with our parents, among a host of other crazy, distinctly teenage things. In the midst of such tumultuous yet exciting times, we tend to latch on to any source of enjoyment we can find. To quote Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, "I declare there is no enjoyment like reading!" Even if you don't agree, there is no denying that books have the ability to provide a different perspective; they give us a unique look at the real world, or even at a world of pure fiction. Books providing such perspectives cannot only be fun, but educational. Here are five books that will prove to be at least one of the two, if not both; even non-readers won't be able to put them down!
5. Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
This is a five-book series that can give every teenager a riveting look into the fantastical world of Percy Jackson, a teenager himself. The books come in the order of Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson and The Sea of Monsters, Percy Jackson and The Titan's Curse, Percy Jackson and The Battle of Labyrinth and Percy Jackson and The Last Olympian.
We follow Percy, a seemingly normal 12-year-old boy, who is faced with the sudden revelation that he is a demigod - a son of a powerful Greek god. As Percy grows through each novel, he faces new, shocking and dangerous adventures in the startling and very real world of mythological gods. With the aid of companions like Annabeth, Chase, Grover, Luke and others, New Yorker Percy shifts between the realms of humans and non-humans in the classic tale of a teenager discovering the world while trying to save it. Friends become foes, foes become friends, and the truth reveals nightmares in the wildly eventful series of Percy Jackson and The Olympians. It is guaranteed to have every teenage heart thrumming with excitement.
4. The 'Divergent' Trilogy - series by Veronica Roth
Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant follow the female protagonist Beatrice 'Tris' Prior as she weaves her way through a futuristic, dystopian world set in the city of Chicago. It is quite unlike today's Chicago, though, it being separated into five different factions distinguishable by the unique virtues associated with each faction. Individuals are born into a faction where they have no choice but to remain until the age of 16, after which they are allowed to migrate to another faction, if so desired. Deciding that she does not identify with the virtue of her faction, Tris triggers a series of events leading to the discovery of 'Divergents', individuals who defy the very nature of the harshly stratified society that characterises humanity's dim future.
Tris makes companions of other Divergents, her instructor, Four, being one of the most outstanding, as she challenges the very fabric of the jarringly dystopian reality that Veronica Roth creates in this thrilling trilogy. With a number of revelations and shocking twist and turns, the Divergent series ultimately depicts the nuances of struggle and triumph that mark the grand feat of individual discovery and self-assertion outside of the societal norm. As growing teenagers, it may not be too hard for us to relate to.
3. 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J.D. Salinger
This timeless classic is set in the late 1940s, guiding us over a three-day period through the mind of 17-year-old Holden Caulfield. The young man is eccentric, to say the least, giving readers a refreshingly unique yet relatable perspective on the life of a teenager, particularly on life in New York of the 1940s, fraught with rebellion, adventure, shades of socio-economic class and moral diversity. Holden may appear to be the typical, angsty teenager, 'up to no good' with a far imbalanced ratio of interest in school to interests in alcohol, smoking and teenage girls. However, our protagonist quickly proves to be rather profound in his strikingly honest and colourfully teenage observations of the world around him. For the majority of the book, he floats between a boarding school he deems oppressive, a home he tries to avoid, random hotels allowing illicit activity, and the ever-lively streets of New York. Along with Holden's own self-engaging thoughts, we have his interactions with a range of characters, such a Stradlater, Mr Antolini, Sally Hayes, Allie and Mr Spencer, to keep our own thoughts occupied and our minds entertained throughout the novel. The book's amusing quality is equalled only by the remarkably relatable and curiously profound perspective it presents on life, through the eyes of a teenager.
2. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
It is almost impossible to be a total stranger to this magnificent world of wizardry, given the success of the movies and plays, as well as the physical replica of the magical world in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks. However, it is safe to say that no by-product can top the original book series. We follow the journey of young Harry and the mystery surrounding the orphan boy through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and, finally, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Harry is thrust from his mundane and oppressive life in the muggle (human) world into the realm of witches and wizards centred at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There, Harry makes companions of unforgettable characters, such as Hermione Granger, headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, Professor Severus Snape, and Ron Weasley. These characters, among others, play intricate roles in the central battle between Harry and the infamous dark wizard; 'He who shall not be named'. If there is any book series that can shape a childhood with the all-encompassing wonders of fantasy, adventure, friendship, magic, mystery, rivalry and growth, it is undoubtedly Harry Potter. The thoroughly thrilling and well-written series is a must-read, especially for teenagers.
1. 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak
Though set within the period of World War II, this novel is quite unlike other work surrounding the era; the most atypical element being the detailed and sentient narration from 'Death'. The unorthodox narrator relays the story of a young girl, Liesel Huberman, as she lives what might have been the typical life of a child in Nazi Germany, were it not for her precarious book-stealing excursions.
As an orphan, unwillingly left by her mother, Liesel is taken in by the benevolent Hans Huberman and his irascible wife, Rosa. The girl learns to read from her Papa, her interest expanding with her illicit collection of random books. Liesel builds relationships with residents in her home area of Himmel Street, one of her more significant relationships existing with her cheeky, eccentric and endearing neighbour, Rudy Steiner. Liesel and Rudy embark on quite a few adventures in their day-to-day efforts to survive the rather bleak life on Himmel Street. The bleakness of World War II German society is brought to focus when Liesel and her family are confronted with the issue of Max, a Jew in need of refuge under the Führer's draconian regime. Through the curious, refreshing and extremely emotive story of young Liesel, the unforgettable novel provides intimate insight into the lives of the innocents of World War II Germany. Such strikingly intimate and eye-opening insight is comparable perhaps only to The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Both books should be on the 'must-read' list of every teenager.