The best books to relive those awkward teen years

Rob Shapiro Author Of The Book of Sam
By Rob Shapiro

Who am I?

I grew up on the movies of John Hughes and Cameron Crowe, the writing of Nora Ephron, and every YA, horror, and adventure novel I could devour. I’m a YA novelist and still heavily influenced by the stories that shaped my young brain and perspective. There is something about the teenage experience that compels me. Maybe it’s that everything we feel as teenagers is so visceral, exhilarating, and scary. If you’re a teen, these five books should help you feel more seen or give you that little bit of escape that you crave (and deserve). 


I wrote...

The Book of Sam

By Rob Shapiro,

Book cover of The Book of Sam

What is my book about?

The Book of Sam is the story of the unchosen one, a kid with no prophecy to fulfill who ventures to Hell, a fantastical world of falling cities and strange creatures, in search of his best friend.

The books I picked & why

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High School

By Sara Quin, Tegan Quin,

Book cover of High School

Why this book?

Tegan and Sara zero in on their high school years to perform an autopsy on that formative period where we find our passion, discover ourselves, and fall in love in sometimes unexpected ways. I’m around the same age as the authors and this book was like walking back in time to those weird years where everything was both exciting and scary. It skimps on the normal musician bio tropes to give an honest look at being a teenager in the 1990s. I also couldn’t help but think of My So-Called Life while reading High School. If you’re unfamiliar with this series, trust me, it’s a compliment. 


My Best Friend's Exorcism

By Grady Hendrix,

Book cover of My Best Friend's Exorcism

Why this book?

This fun tale of friendship is rife with 80’s inspired horror elements. The satanic panic, skinny dipping, big hair, and some chilling moments make this a solid pick for fans of the genre and era. I grew up on movies like The Lost Boys, Fright Night, and, of course, The Exorcist, and this scratched an itch that I have every day for these types of stories. There are also some awesome Spotify playlists to help set the mood while reading. 


City of Girls

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Book cover of City of Girls

Why this book?

I love this book. It’s a great reminder that young people have been feeling the same feelings and taking the same risks since forever. Set in New York City in the 1940s, Gilbert draws an exciting world of vice and art where you feel the bulb burning on every marquee on every playhouse. It’s the story of a young woman, Vivian Morris, who ditches school to pursue the big city life of independence. While reading the book, I worried about her, rooted for her, and couldn’t help but wonder what trouble she was going to get into next.  


The Giver

By Lois Lowry,

Book cover of The Giver

Why this book?

This might be an obvious one but stick with me here. YA dystopias are old news but the idea of a teenager evolving—and growing more dangerous to adults—by gaining knowledge of the world still holds up. In fact, in our post-truth age of misinformation, it might be more relevant than ever. If you’re sick of this type of story, remember that Lowry did it first and did it better. It also does a thorough job of building a compelling relationship between the two main characters, one that continuously drives the story forward. 

I wish this was mandatory reading when I was in high school. Discovering it as an adult was a pleasure, though, and reminded me that YA can be thoughtful and meditative.


Paper Girls, Volume 1

By Brian K. Vaughan,

Book cover of Paper Girls, Volume 1

Why this book?

I watch Stranger Things with total jealousy and this graphic novel came close to capturing the magic of the Duffer Brothers. Paper Girls takes place in the late ‘80s (clearly, I have a type) and has some serious Stand by Me vibes and layers of character-driven imagination on every page. There’s also a heartwarming love story at the center of this engrossing exploration of friendship. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in best friends, Manhattan, and Canada?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about best friends, Manhattan, and Canada.

Best Friends Explore 49 books about best friends
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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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