The most recommended YA historical fiction

Who picked these books? Meet our 589 experts.

589 authors created a book list with a YA historical fiction book, and here are their favorites. 

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Book cover of Sugar

Melissa Hart Author Of Avenging the Owl

From my list on total family meltdowns.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I read constantly. After my beloved mother left my abusive father and came out as a lesbian, a homophobic judge took me and my siblings--one of whom has Down syndrome--away from her. Reading was an escape. I loved weekends when I could leave my father’s house near Los Angeles and visit my mother who had a backyard full of trees and gardens. My parents argued constantly but as long as I could grow plants and observe birds, I was okay. Eventually, I moved to Oregon and volunteered to care for owls. I wrote Avenging the Owl to show that in the middle of family meltdowns, kids can turn to the natural world for comfort and inspiration.

Melissa's book list on total family meltdowns

Melissa Hart Why did Melissa love this book?

Wow, I love this book. I read it out loud with my daughter when she was in seventh grade. It’s the story of a 10-year-old girl, Sugar, who works on a plantation with other Black laborers post-Civil War. She’s an orphan, witnessing first-hand the white plantation owner and his family in the midst of a total meltdown brought on by fear and greed. It’s an effective juxtaposition set against Sugar’s supportive and loving community which widens to include Chinese immigrants who arrive to help in the fields. At first, the Black and Chinese laborers regard each other with skepticism, but because of Sugar’s hope and optimism and kindness, they join forces. It’s a powerful historical novel that has stayed with me for years. 

By Jewell Parker Rhodes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sugar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Ten-year-old Sugar lives on the River Road sugar plantation along the banks of the Mississippi. Slavery is over, but laboring in the fields all day doesn't make her feel very free. Thankfully, Sugar has a knack for finding her own fun, especially when she joins forces with forbidden friend Billy, the white plantation owner's son.

Sugar has always yearned to learn more about the world, and she sees her chance when Chinese workers are brought in to help harvest the cane. The older River Road folks feel threatened, but Sugar is fascinated. As she befriends young Beau and elder Master…


Book cover of The Riddle of the Sands

Carol Newman Cronin Author Of Ferry to Cooperation Island

From my list on taking place on the coast.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a sailor and 2004 Olympian I am happiest on salt water, so that’s where most of my characters live their best lives. I write coastal fiction; stories with a happy ending that could only take place on or near the water. Boat rides are a bonus! As both a reader and an author, my tastes span across several traditional genres: from young adult time travel to literary fiction, with stops along the way for a light touch of romance. This list reflects that range. If you want to learn more about all the books (and boats) I enjoy, please subscribe to my Thursday blog, Where Books Meet Boats. Meanwhile, enjoy these five fantastic examples of coastal fiction!

Carol's book list on taking place on the coast

Carol Newman Cronin Why did Carol love this book?

The first time I read this book I was sailing through the Frisian Islands, where it takes place—though unlike its two main characters, I didn’t have to worry about German patrols or being arrested as a spy. A classic thriller, the remote and shifting islands of the area help to drive the plot. It could, quite simply, take place nowhere else. Great sailing scenes as well!

By Erskine Childers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Riddle of the Sands 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?

In spite of good prospects in the Foreign Office, sardonic civil servant, Carruthers, is finding it hard to endure the emptiness and boredom of his life in London. He accepts an invitation to join a friend on a sailing holiday in the Baltic, where they discover a German plot to invade England.


Book cover of Burning Bright

Carol M. Cram Author Of The Muse of Fire

From my list on when you’re in the mood for a spot of Shakespeare.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved the theater ever since I first stepped on stage in a high school production of You Can’t Take It With You. I had one line and was hooked! And as for Shakespeare–I fell in love with the Bard when I was 13 and saw Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. My best friend and I spent hours reciting the lines (I still remember whole speeches). So, when I was looking for an artsy subject (I love the arts) for my third novel, I naturally turned to the theater. I have a Master of Arts in Drama from the University of Toronto and when I’m not writing, I run Art In Fiction, a website showcasing 1700+ novels inspired by the arts.

Carol's book list on when you’re in the mood for a spot of Shakespeare

Carol M. Cram Why did Carol love this book?

Tracy Chevalier writes the novels I want to write! I’ve read just about all of them and was particularly excited to discover Burning Bright. Chevalier’s depiction of London in the early 19th century is masterful, and hugely inspiring for me. Burning Bright is a coming-of-age story that centers around two children’s interactions with the great poet William Blake. I met Tracy Chevalier at the Historical Novel Society Conference in Oxford where she made my day by graciously agreeing to accept a copy of my first novel The Towers of Tuscany which was heavily inspired by her novels and even insisting that I sign it! 

By Tracy Chevalier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Burning Bright 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?

From the author of the international bestseller Girl With a Pearl Earring and At the Edge of the Orchard, comes a stirring eighteenth-century coming-of-age tale

In the waning days of eighteenth-century London, poet, artist, and printer William Blake works in obscurity as England is rocked by the shock waves of the French Revolution. Next door, the Kellaway family has just moved in, and country boy Jem Kellaway strikes up a tentative friendship with street-savvy Maggie Butterfield. As their stories intertwine with Blake's, the two children navigate the confusing and exhilarating path to adolescence, and inspire the poet to create the…


A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

Book cover of A School for Unusual Girls

Kathleen Baldwin Author Of Sanctuary for Seers: A Stranje House Novel

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Loves God Mother to Many Wilderness Adventurer History Enthusiast

Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A spy school for girls amidst Jane Austen’s high society.

Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit London society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where the headmistress trains these unusually gifted girls to enter the dangerous world of spies in the Napoleonic wars. #1 NYT bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this exciting historical series "completely original and totally engrossing."

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

What is this book about?

A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young…


Book cover of The Raging Quiet

Mandy Hager Author Of Singing Home The Whale

From my list on Aotearoa New Zealand's top writers for young adults.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love Aotearoa New Zealand books! Our writers are brave, feisty, original - and living in ‘the land of the long white cloud’ at the bottom of the globe gives us a unique take on the world that permeates through everything we write. But we struggle to get our voices heard internationally, so far from the rest of you! This is your chance to push out your boundaries and explore stories that derive from a culture very different from your own, while sharing the same human emotions that bring us all together. As one of these writers, I challenge you to check us out – you won’t be disappointed!

Mandy's book list on Aotearoa New Zealand's top writers for young adults

Mandy Hager Why did Mandy love this book?

A writer of predominantly fantasy and historical fiction, Sheryl Jordan’s books have heart and soul. The Raging Quiet, a fantasy novel, introduces us to outsider Marnie, a young widow living in an isolated medieval community. Her only friends are a priest and a weird, "mad" youth called Raven, who she realizes is not mad at all, but deaf. When she teaches him "hand words" they are both suspected of witchcraft and find themselves under attack. It’s a book that pierces your heart and stays with you for a long time afterward. 

By Sherryl Jordan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

OUTSIDERS
Widowed just two days after her unwilling marriage to a man twice her age, Marnie finds herself an outsider in the remote seaside village of Torcurra. Spurned by the townsfolk who suspect her involvement in her husband's death, she has only two friends: the local priest and the madman known as Raver, even more of an outcast than Marnie herself.
Marnie makes a remarkable discovers about Raver, whom she renames Raven, and the two forge a deep bond that begins to heal her own bruised heart. But the suspicious villagers see Raven's transformation as evidence of witchcraft, and suddenly…


Book cover of Out of the Easy

Veronica Fuxa Author Of What Is Normal?

From Veronica's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Teacher Cat lover

Veronica's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Veronica Fuxa Why did Veronica love this book?

I loved this book because it was a heartbreaking story. The author writes with a great voice and emotion for a teenage girl.

She grows up in poverty and constantly takes care of other people she cares about, except herself. Despite not growing up like her, I related to a lot of the emotions and events she experiences in the story.

I kept wondering what would happen next to the heroine in the story as she always gets into trouble and has to figure out how to get out of her predicament. 

By Ruta Sepetys,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Out of the Easy 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?

Out of the Easy is set against the vivid backdrop of 1950s New Orleans. Written by New York Times bestselling author Ruth Sepetys, this novel has something for everyone: love, mystery, murder, blackmail and warmth.

Josie Moraine wants out of The Big Easy - she needs more than New Orleans can offer. Known locally as a brothel prostitute's daughter, she dreams of life at an elite college, far away from here.

But then a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie caught between her ambition and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans is luring Josie deeper in as she searches for…


Book cover of Crowfall

Sinéad O'Hart Author Of The Starspun Web

From my list on middle grade to sweep you into another world.

Why am I passionate about this?

All my books (I hope!) sweep the reader into another world – it’s one of my favourite themes in the books I love to read, as well as write. When I was about seven, I first read some of the books which would shape my life, including Elidor by Alan Garner and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l’Engle, which brought me right out of my own life and into worlds as varied as the frightening interstellar realm of Camazotz and the battlefields of Elidor. I’ve been trying to capture that sense of ‘being swept away’ in my own work ever since.

Sinéad's book list on middle grade to sweep you into another world

Sinéad O'Hart Why did Sinéad love this book?

All of Vashti Hardy’s books are brilliant, but I recommend Crowfall because Hardy creates an incredibly immersive world – the island of Ironhold – and characters including a mechanical sea monster, a pet robot, and a very brave boy named Orin. When Orin discovers his island is under threat, and ends up being put to sea in a rickety boat, how can he save his family and home? An unforgettable adventure.

By Vashti Hardy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Crowfall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A rip-roaring, island-hopping adventure - and unforgettable
ecological fable - from the award-winning author of Wildspark
and Brightstorm.
'Hardy has drunk from the same cup as Philip Reeve and Philip
Pullman.' - LITERARY REVIEW

Ironhold is an orderly place where "industry brings prosperity",
and where nature is pushed aside for progress. But when Orin Crowfall,
a lowly servant boy, learns that the island itself
is in grave danger, that knowledge makes him a target of
powerful forces.
He narrowly escapes on a small boat, but then faces a fight
for survival with his robot friend, Cody, in the stormy ocean,…


Book cover of The Skylarks' War

Eva Seyler Author Of The War in Our Hearts

From my list on historical fiction books about WWI.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved history and historical stories, but like the majority of people, didn’t really know very much about WWI. That changed in early 2017 when I read The Zimmermann Telegram by Barbara W Tuchman. I immediately fell into a vortex of further reading, resulting in my writing The War in Our Hearts at the end of that year--because although there is a lot of great non-fiction out there about WWI, there aren’t nearly as many novels that quite scratched the itch I had for fiction…so I wrote the book I wanted to read!

Eva's book list on historical fiction books about WWI

Eva Seyler Why did Eva love this book?

My absolute favourite WWI novel, this is the story of several English young people who come of age during the Great War. It gives glimpses into home front life as well as life at the front. As usual, McKay’s characters are vibrant, maddening, loveable, ridiculous--sometimes all at once. The prose is elegant, poetic, subtle, will smack you in the feels, and stay in your mind long after.

By Hilary McKay, Rebecca Green (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Skylarks' War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2018.

The Skylarks' War is a beautiful story following the loves and losses of a family growing up against the harsh backdrop of World War One, from the award-winning Hilary McKay.

Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert. But normal life resumes each September - boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer.

When Rupert goes…


Book cover of Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp

Rebecca Langston-George Author Of The Booth Brothers: Drama, Fame, and the Death of President Lincoln

From my list on little-known US history for children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught for more than 26 years in classes ranging from first grade through college. No matter the age of the students, I used children’s books to introduce topics in history. I never shied away from using a picture book with older students and often found they were more engaged in a picture book than in an article. I also used historical fiction as a hook to lure students into picking up a related non-fiction book. In fact, historical fiction was the gateway that taught this writer of 13 nonfiction children’s books to love non-fiction history. 

Rebecca's book list on little-known US history for children

Rebecca Langston-George Why did Rebecca love this book?

This nonfiction book is not only dear to my heart, I can also honestly say it changed my life.

It’s about the only Federal Emergency School ever created. Built for the children of farm workers displaced by the Dust Bowl in 1940, it tells of School Superintendent Leo B. Hart’s ingenuity and steadfast devotion to children who faced seemingly insurmountable hardships and discrimination as occupants of the migrant camp outside Bakersfield, California that inspired John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

I taught at this school, now known as Sunset, for many years, and I kept a note in my lesson planner that read What would Leo B. Hart do? 

By Jerry Stanley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Children of the Dust Bowl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Illus. with photographs from the Dust Bowl era. This true story took place at the emergency farm-labor camp immortalized in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Ostracized as "dumb Okies," the children of Dust Bowl migrant laborers went without school--until Superintendent Leo Hart and 50 Okie kids built their own school in a nearby field.


Book cover of The Portal

Shelby King Author Of Forest of Realms

From my list on that transport you to another realm.

Why am I passionate about this?

My love of realms and fantastic imagination comes from growing up in the backwoods of Alabama. The woods inspired me and beckoned me to dance and build and imagine among the trees. I created characters and worlds and could be a witch, a fairy, a troll, or a girl lost in time. I owe my love of creating characters to the woods that built me and one day I will go back and thank them for the beautiful life they gave me.

Shelby's book list on that transport you to another realm

Shelby King Why did Shelby love this book?

This series is so enthralling! A perfect series to inspire and transport you. A young girl finds herself taken from her time and flung into servitude 500 years ago. So many twists and turns and truly enchanting moments. I finished this series in a day. It is that good! I also now want to own a greenhouse. You will understand why. 

By Kathryn Lasky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Portal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

"Kathryn Lasky's latest is a sleight-of-hand that will have you clapping your hands. With the brio and big-heart that characterizes all of Lasky's work, this opening salvo of a new series can be heralded with trumpet fanfares and clouds of rose petals." -Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Egg & Spoon

For fans of the Royal Diaries series and Gail Carson Levine, Newbery Honor-winning author Kathryn Lasky delivers the first enchanting adventure in a compelling new middle grade series about a newly orphaned girl who finds herself time-travelling between the present day and the court of the two most memorable…


Book cover of Mary Poppins

Kathryn Leo Author Of Witch's Apprentice and Argon's Labyrinth

From my list on exploring the imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by fantasy as a young adult reading Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Never Ending Story. I find fantasy interesting because it explores the imagination and lets us escape. I also enjoy fantasy movies such as Avatar. It's full of adventure and the film is full of special effects. I studied science when I left school but my heart was into writing.

Kathryn's book list on exploring the imagination

Kathryn Leo Why did Kathryn love this book?

Mary Poppins explores self-discovery and captures the imagination of the use of magic.

I love Mary Poppin because it’s the best feel-good story for children. I find the characters sweet and Mary Poppins is so energetic and with strong values. I found it inspiring to help me write my own book. I think it has inspired a few classics.

By P. L. Travers, Mary Shepard (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary Poppins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Discover the joy and wonder of Mary Poppins in the classic adventures!

The original best-loved classic about the world's most famous nanny - Mary Poppins.

When the Banks family advertise for a nanny, Mary Poppins and her talking umbrella appear out of the sky, ready to take the children on extraordinary adventures.

Mary Poppins is strict but fair, and soon Michael and Jane are whisked off to a funfair inside a pavement picture and on many more outings with their wonderful new nanny!

Needless to say, when at last 'the wind changes' and she flies away, the children are devastated.…