The best books with realistic teen characters

Who am I?

Human psychology has always fascinated me, and studying what drives human behavior is necessary in writing realistic characters. I bring psychological studies into every novel I write, and realistic characters, often flawed, always receive top billing. One of my hallmarks is presenting a story’s setting as a supporting character, as well—much like the books I’ve recommended. I have written and published seventeen titles, chock full of the many facets of the human condition, whether I’m writing for teens (as Sasha Dawn) or adults (as Brandi Reeds). The books on my list inspire, entertain, and perhaps most importantly feel. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.


I wrote...

Blink

By Sasha Dawn,

Book cover of Blink

What is my book about?

When Josh was four, a little girl named Rachel was abducted and never found. Twelve years later, the mysterious Chatham Claiborne appears in town, apparently on the hunt for her runaway sister. Josh suspects she knows things she’s not telling—things about the missing girl.

No sooner than she begins to open up to him, Chatham disappears. Finding her means more than simply saving her. It could also be the key to the town’s longest unsolved mystery. Josh is determined to find her and untangle the web of lies she spun. But who is Chatham really? And what is her connection to the crime committed long ago? Blink is as a 2019 Edgar Award finalist.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Between

Sasha Dawn Why did I love this book?

Jessica Warman’s Between is a marvelous study in flawed characters, who, by their very nature, are at times unlikeable. Ironically, I love unlikeable characters—because they’re written realistically and with plenty of potential for growth. Because I prefer to write characters with realistic attributes, and those in my own book are no exception, I love reading their points of view. Additionally, it’s always interesting when these characters are dropped into situations requiring suspension of disbelief, and it’s even better when protagonists lead a cast of such characters. Between checks all of these boxes. It’s delicious!

By Jessica Warman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Between as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Elizabeth Valchar-pretty, popular, perfect- wakes up after spending her eighteenth birthday party on her family's yacht to investigate a thumping noise. What she finds will change everything she thought she knew about her life, her friends, and everything in between. As Liz begins to unravel the circumstances surrounding her birthday night, she will find that no one around her, least of all Liz herself, was perfect-or innocent.


Book cover of Exit Here.

Sasha Dawn Why did I love this book?

Exit Here. was one of the first exhibits of teen literature I studied on my journey to publishing. Jason Myers portrays college-age Travis with the weight of traumatic experiences and the loft of the future spinning in his head. Readers are brought immediately into Travis’ headspace, wherein they feel all the trauma, excitement, and uncertainty Travis experiences. Because I wrote my Edgar finalist book from the male point of view, I reread Myers shortly before drafting. It’s a great example of human fallibility.

By Jason Myers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Exit Here. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Exit here. Enter apathy. Jason Myers pushes the limits of teen fiction with this tale of love, addiction, and wrong choices.

Travis is back from college for the summer, and he's just starting to settle in to the usual pattern at home: drinking, drugging, watching porn, and hooking up.

But Travis isn't settling in like he used to; something isn't right. Maybe it's that deadly debauch in Hawaii, the memories of which Travis can't quite shake. Maybe it's Laura, Travis's ex, who reappears on the scene after a messy breakup and seems to want to get together -- or not.…


Book cover of The Carnival at Bray

Sasha Dawn Why did I love this book?

Foley depicts a struggle of finding oneself and learning where one belongs, and holding onto the everchanging definition especially when the geography surrounding us suddenly changes. Maggie and her family migrate from Chicago to Ireland, leaving behind her favorite uncle, and musical influence, the wayward Kevin. Add to this the backdrop of the anticipation of attending a Nirvana concert and you have all the fixings for a well-rounded tale of love, loss, and living. Having had the pleasure of meeting Foley a time or two, I can attest that her sense of setting is as apparent in her identity as an Irish Chicago resident as ever, and this comes through in her characters, who illustrate the same.

By Jessie Ann Foley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Carnival at Bray as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

ALA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults
Chicago Weekly Best Books of 2014
A Michael L. Printz Honor Award Winner
Winner, 2014 Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014
Finalist, William C. Morris Award

It's 1993, and Generation X pulses to the beat of Kurt Cobain and the grunge movement. Sixteen-year-old Maggie Lynch is uprooted from big-city Chicago to a windswept town on the Irish Sea. Surviving on care packages of Spin magazine and Twizzlers from her rocker uncle Kevin, she wonders if she'll ever find her place in this new world. When first…


Book cover of Calling My Name

Sasha Dawn Why did I love this book?

What can I say about Liara Tamani’s beautiful tale of coming of age? The novel carries Taja from middle school through high school, the span of time in which Taja learns her place in her family and the world around her. One of the things I love about this gem is the method in which the story unfolds—in short chapters, reminiscent of the ever-changing whims of the teenage mind. As such, Taja feels as real and breathing as any living soul. Perhaps even more pertinent is the setting of Houston, Texas. While some novels set in fictitious towns do their diligence in supporting realistic characters, Tamani’s decision to drop Taja into Houston only adds to the realism.

By Liara Tamani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Calling My Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

“Calling My Name is a treasure.”—Nic Stone, New York Times–bestselling author of Dear Martin

Calling My Name is a striking, luminous, and literary exploration of family, spirituality, and self—ideal for readers of Jacqueline Woodson, Jandy Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Sandra Cisneros.

This unforgettable novel tells a universal coming-of-age story about Taja Brown, a young African American girl growing up in Houston, Texas, and deftly and beautifully explores the universal struggles of growing up, battling family expectations, discovering a sense of self, and finding a unique voice and purpose.

Told in fifty-three short, episodic, moving, and iridescent chapters, Calling My…


Book cover of Ordinary People

Sasha Dawn Why did I love this book?

This classic novel is set in the north shore suburbs of Chicago, where I live. It’s the story of a family on the cusp of deterioration after the devastation of loss. Conrad Jarrett breathes on the pages of this book, struggling with who he was before tragedy, who he is becoming in the aftermath, and the reconciliation of both definitions of self. Furthermore, Guest (who studied psychology in college) depicts Conrad as a son, brother, student, athlete, and friend, proving each of us has unlimited facets, which is the basis of the realistic character.

By Judith Guest,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Ordinary People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the great bestseller of our time: the novel that inspired Robert Redford's Oscar-winning film starring Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore

In Ordinary People, Judith Guest's remarkable first novel, the Jarrets are a typical American family. Calvin is a determined, successful provider and Beth an organized, efficient wife. They had two sons, Conrad and Buck, but now they have one. In this memorable, moving novel, Judith Guest takes the reader into their lives to share their misunderstandings, pain, and ultimate healing. Ordinary People is an extraordinary novel about an "ordinary" family divided by pain, yet bound by their…


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She Refused to Bow

By Farida Manekshah,

Book cover of She Refused to Bow

Farida Manekshah

New book alert!

What is my book about?

A personal memoir which introduces the supernatural in the most natural way.

A message which came in a dream and brought you wealth. A sadhu's warning. The presence you feel as you pray at a grave. A well that dries up. The vision you see as you peer out of the window of your cabin. A jinni. An ancient religion. When everything you say and do has consequence. Because nothing that is done can be undone.

She Refused to Bow

By Farida Manekshah,

What is this book about?

A personal memoir which introduces the supernatural in the most natural way.

A message which came in a dream and brought you wealth. A sadhu's warning. The presence you feel as you pray at a grave. A well that dries up. The vision you see as you peer out of the window of your cabin. A jinni. An ancient religion. When everything you say and do has consequence. Because nothing that is done can be undone.


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