The best books about young people overcoming obstacles to survive

Nancy Blodgett Klein Author Of Torn Between Worlds: A Mexican Immigrant’s Journey to Find Herself
By Nancy Blodgett Klein

Who am I?

I pride myself on my independence and sense of adventure. I started traveling the world with my family when I was 3 and I haven’t stopped since. When you travel, you have to cope with new situations on a daily basis and navigate different obstacles to meet your needs. An interest in adventure and how people cope with new situations are the biggest reasons why I have a passion for books dealing with overcoming obstacles. Before I retired to Spain, I was a teacher of students between 10 and 15 years old. I chose two of the books I recommended to read to my students when I was a teacher. 


I wrote...

Torn Between Worlds: A Mexican Immigrant’s Journey to Find Herself

By Nancy Blodgett Klein,

Book cover of Torn Between Worlds: A Mexican Immigrant’s Journey to Find Herself

What is my book about?

Isabel is an undocumented and lonely Mexican girl in the US who has to adjust to a new culture and language without the emotional support of her mother who remains in Mexico. To cope, she writes a journal about her experiences from the time she is 12 until she is 15, sharing feelings and facts about her life in the US at the time of September 11, 2001, and beyond. Later on, she returns to Mexico to visit her politically active mother and finds herself caught up in turmoil there. Ultimately, she and her mother flee to Spain in hopes of a new beginning while still searching for a way to feel like she belongs somewhere. 

The books I picked & why

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Holes

By Louis Sachar,

Book cover of Holes

Why this book?

This is a funny, entertaining novel about a teenage boy named Stanley who is sent to a boys' detention camp in the middle of nowhere for allegedly stealing an expensive pair of gym shoes. There he and the other boys spend every day digging holes in search of buried treasure the evil camp warden is trying to find. I love the absurdity of this situation as the camp is huge and their likelihood of finding anything of value is slim to none. Later, Stanley and a friend escape the camp and must survive in the wilderness without having brought food or water. Stanley and his family are subject to a family curse and the author does a great job gradually revealing what caused the curse and how things are made right in the end. 

Holes

By Louis Sachar,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Holes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE NEWBERY MEDAL WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD SELECTED AS ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE'S 100 BEST YA BOOKS OF ALL TIME Stanley Yelnats' family has a history of bad luck, so when a miscarriage of justice sends him to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre (which isn't green and doesn't have a lake) he is not surprised. Every day he and the other inmates are told to dig a hole, five foot wide by five foot deep, reporting anything they find. Why? The evil warden claims that it's character building, but this is a lie. It's up…


Hatchet

By Gary Paulsen,

Book cover of Hatchet

Why this book?

This is a super-gripping novel that starts out with a young man named Brian on a small plane above the Canadian wilderness on the way to visit his father when the pilot has a heart attack. Brian has to crash land the plane in the wilderness and then survive on his own with only a hatchet to help him. I love survival stories and really enjoy reading about what people decide to do and what they think about to keep themselves alive until they are rescued. 

Hatchet

By Gary Paulsen,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Hatchet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This award-winning contemporary classic is the survival story with which all others are compared—and a page-turning, heart-stopping adventure, recipient of the Newbery Honor. Hatchet has also been nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.

Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson, haunted by his secret knowledge of his mother’s infidelity, is traveling by single-engine plane to visit his father for the first time since the divorce. When the plane crashes, killing the pilot, the sole survivor is Brian. He is alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother…


Esperanza Rising

By Pam Muñoz Ryan,

Book cover of Esperanza Rising

Why this book?

This is a great book about a young girl named Esperanza living a good life on a ranch in Mexico when she and her mother are forced to leave the country after family tragedy strikes. They go to the US during the Great Depression and have serious financial problems that they never had to deal with before. When she lived in Mexico, they had servants to do everything for them, so living in poverty in the US is a major adjustment. She doesn’t even know how to use a broom! This kind of detail makes for an interesting saga about a young lady overcoming obstacles to survive. 

Esperanza Rising

By Pam Muñoz Ryan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Esperanza Rising joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. Includes exclusive bonus content!

Esperanza thought she'd always live a privileged life on her family's ranch in Mexico. She'd always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home filled with servants, and Mama, Papa, and Abuelita to care for her. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard work, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick and a strike…


The Diary of Anne Frank

By Anne Frank,

Book cover of The Diary of Anne Frank

Why this book?

I liked this book because it was true and written in the form of a diary. This format made it especially interesting to me because you got a good idea about Ann’s thoughts and feelings while living in Amsterdam during Nazi occupation in World War II. She tries hard to overcome all kinds of obstacles to survive such as by not leaving the hidden attic and remaining quiet during the day. In her case, she doesn’t survive but knowing that Ann dies in a concentration camp makes the content of the book especially poignant. 

The Diary of Anne Frank

By Anne Frank,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Diary of Anne Frank as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1940, after Germany invaded the Netherlands, Anne and her family couldn't leave the country, so they decided to hide in a warehouse in an attempt to escape the persecution of Jews by the Nazis. For over two years, Anne wrote in her diary with an awareness that was extremely mature for her age. She detailed her experiences and insights while she and her family were in hiding, living in a constant fear of being arrested. The Diary of Anne Frank' is a record of her understanding of the war and showcases her incredible storytelling abilities in such horrific circumstances.…


Life as We Knew It

By Susan Beth Pfeffer,

Book cover of Life as We Knew It

Why this book?

This book captured me from start to finish. Like my book, this story is told in a gripping journal format. A meteor knocks the moon off its orbit and this causes catastrophic consequences on earth. Summer turns to a bitterly cold winter and Miranda and her two brothers and mother must figure out how they will survive in such harsh conditions. Having enough food to survive is a constant concern. This book helps us realize that when things get really awful, all that matters is food, water, staying warm, and remaining together as a family. All other concerns fall away. 

Life as We Knew It

By Susan Beth Pfeffer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Life as We Knew It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times bestseller! A heart-stopping post-apocalyptic thriller that's "absorbing from first to last page."*

When a meteor knocks the moon closer to earth, Miranda, a high school sophomore, takes shelter with her family.

Told in a year’s worth of journal entries, Life as We Knew It chronicles the human struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

As August turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, migrant workers, and Anne Frank?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about survival, migrant workers, and Anne Frank.

Survival Explore 134 books about survival
Migrant Workers Explore 8 books about migrant workers
Anne Frank Explore 11 books about Anne Frank

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Anne of Green Gables, The Book Thief, and A Wish After Midnight if you like this list.