STAGE OF LIFE       Share Your Story       Coupons       Education Resources
Sign Up Now!

Teen Challenges and Issues

Recommended Young Adult Books Centered on Teen Issues and Challenges...

Recommended YA Booksby Rebecca Thiegs
StageofLife.com Co-Founder

Teenagers face challenges. Some face more than others. Each year in my 11th grade American Literature class, our research project revolved around real teen issues. I called it "This American Teenage Life Research Project."

One aspect of the project required students to read a YA fiction (or memoir type book) about their chosen topic. We did this project in conjunction with our literature study of both The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

Because teenagers enjoy talking about what it is like to be a teenager, there are limitless possibilities to how you can engage them on the topic of teen challenges, but here are some ideas that you could use tomorrow...

NOTE:  The below YA book recommendations are tied to our Teen Challenges Trend Report - a summary of our past "Teen Challenges" writing contest.  We recommend you also explore that page to review the content from which these recommendations stem.

Video Summary - Recommended YA Books

Scroll down below to see all 80+ Young Adult book recommendations, but if you're looking for a quick overview, here's a short video featuring a handful of our favorite books that can engage teen readers and get them reading outside of class...



Idea #1:  Read Young Adult Novels or Memoirs that Feature Teens Overcoming Obstacles

Teen Challenges - Recommended YA BooksSome of your students haven’t read a book they liked in years.

Many of them have the same complaint, “we never read anything that applies to my life.”  However, even some of my most reluctant readers enjoyed books about teenagers facing real problems.

Here is the list of the books I owned or had access to for my students during their This American Teenage Life Research Project (BTW: because many of these books deal with sensitive topics, it’s a good idea to get parent approval for students to read these books. I NEVER had a parent upset that their student was reading a book - even if the subject material was mature, but it’s a good idea to get the approval just in case):

Recommended Young Adult Fiction tied to a Teen Issue or Challenge

With these recommended YA books below, you can have students do book talks, literature circles, research the teen obstacle in the book, contact that author, create websites for the books, create a class book blog, create a class book recommendation list, share best quotes, do projects, etc.

Recommended YA NovelsAny way that you can get your students sharing books in your classroom will help create a more literary atmosphere in your class...
  1. Cut by Patricia McCormick (cutting)
  2. Sold by Patricia McCormick (child prostitution)
  3. The Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (reputation, relationship issues)
  4. Sweethearts by Sara Zarr (relationships)
  5. Shooter by Walter Dean Myers (school violence)
  6. Slam by Walter Dean Myers (anger management, school sports)
  7. Handbook for Boys by Walter Dean Myers (coming of age)
  8. Summer Ball by Mike Lupicia (basketball, sports, pressure)
  9. Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser (school violence)
  10. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden (lesbian relationship)
  11. Bad by Jean Ferris (juvie hall for girls, violence, peer pressure)
  12. Smack by Melvin Burgess (drugs, teen pregnancy)
  13. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (death and reliving your last day)
  14. Inexcusable by Chris Lynch (date rape from the perspective of the guy)
  15. Crank by Ellen Hopkins (drugs, teen sex, struggles with family and relationships)
  16. Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
  17. Glass by Ellen Hopkins
  18. Burned by Ellen Hopkins
  19. After by Amy Efaw (teen pregnancy)
  20. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (depression)
  21. Hate List by Jennifer Brown (school violence)
  22. Before I Die by Jenny Downham (dealing with illness and death)
  23. Monster by Walter Dean Myers (prison, identity, violence)
  24. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chybosky (fitting in, peer pressure, abuse)
  25. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (dealing with cancer and identity)
  26. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (school violence)
  27. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult (date rape, family issues)
  28. Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen (dealing with death, teen pregnancy)
  29. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (relationships, family)
  30. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
  31. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (relationships)
  32. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (abusive relationship)
  33. Looking for Alaska by John Green (relationships, dealing with death)
  34. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (relationships)
  35. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (relationships, dealing with terminal illness)
  36. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (racial identity)
  37. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King (dealing with the suicide of a friend)
  38. Hold Still by Nina Lacour (dealing with the suicide of a friend)
  39. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (suicide and repercussions)
  40. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (anorexia and bulimia)
  41. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (date rape)
  42. Perfect by Natasha Friend (bulimia)
  43. Lush by Natasha Friend (dealing with alcoholic parents)
  44. Bounce by Natasha Friend (dealing with death, step parents)
  45. Honey, Baby Sweetheart by Deb Caletti (abusive relationship)
  46. Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn (anger management)
  47. WhaleTalk by Chris Crutcher (sports, family issues, relationships)
  48. Chinese Handcuffs by Chris Crutcher (death of a friend)
  49. If I Stay by Gayle Forman (dealing with death)
  50. Keesha’s House by Helen Frost (safe houses for teenagers dealing with struggles)
  51. Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper (sports, car crash, dealing with death)
  52. Jake, Reinvented by Gordon Korman (parties, love, popularity, acceptance)
  53. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (dealing with death, Asperger’s)
  54. Rooftop by Paul Volponi (brothers, drug treatment, racial issues)
  55. Bleachers by John Grisham (football, dealing with death)

Recommended Young Adult Non-fiction

  1. Beautiful Boy by Sheff (dealing with a drug addicted son)
  2. Comeback by Mia and Claire Fontaine (drugs, incest, rehab, mother daughter
  3. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (abuse, neglect)
  4. The Other Side of the Sky by (assimilation)
  5. A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer (abuse, neglect)
  6. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (mental illness and treatment)
  7. She Said Yes by Misty Bernall (violence in schools, faith)
  8. A Tribe Apart by Patricia Hersch (tons of teenage issues)
  9. It Gets Better (GLBT issues / national campaign)
  10. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (coming of age in Iran)
  11. Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robinson (dealing with Asperger’s)
  12. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs (dealing with alcoholic / abusive parents)
  13. Goat by Brad Land (abduction, fraternity hazing)
  14. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (how to be more successful)
  15. The Freedom Writers Diary (real stories from inner-city teens)
  16. Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter (foster homes, abuse)
  17. Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman (helping girls navigate the world of cliques, gossip, relationships, etc.)
  18. Committed by Dan Mathews (embracing life, choices, career paths)
  19. Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos (drug trafficking, jail time and bouncing back)
  20. Short: Walking Tall When You’re Not Tall at All by John Schwartz (society’s obsession with looks – in particular height)
  21. Tweak by Nic Sheff (the battle with Meth addiction)
  22. GLBTQ by Kelly Huegel (A survival guide for GLBT teens)
  23. Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke
  24. The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon (a teenager’s struggle with self inflicted harm and depression)
  25. The Little Back Book for Girlz: A book on healthy sexuality by Youth for Youth
  26. My Thirteenth Winter by Samantha Abeel (dealing with learning disabilities)
  27. It Happened to Nancy by Anonymous (rape, HIV)
  28. Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan (a girl’s struggle living in post-Taliban Afghanistan)
  29. The Step Child by Donna Ford (abuse by step parent)
  30. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose (civil rights)
  31. No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin (teenagers on death row)
  32. Unplugged by Ryan G. Van Cleave (video game addiction)

Idea #2: Reader Response Journal / 3-2-1

Visit Teen Challenges pae on StageofLife.comHave your students read over our Teen Challenges summary page, and click on one essay to read (one that sparks their interest). Then, have the students respond by coming up with 3 things that stuck with them, 2 questions they had, 1 connection to their own life that they read. This could be the launching point to a class discussion about Teen Challenges, possibly an introduction to a literature unit for a Coming of Age novel.

Idea #3:  Read an Essay, Comment on it.

Teens share their storiesRead An Essay / Comment on it - Have each student choose one essay from the Teen Challenges page (see link above) that sounds interesting, give them time to read it, and then each student should respond to the author of that essay by leaving a comment on the page.

Idea #4:  Class Discussion / Journal Response.

Have students respond to the question, “What was the most difficult thing you overcame this school year?” If it is still the beginning of the year, ask variations of the question (For example: “What was the most difficult thing you overcame so far in your teenage years?”).

Depending on the bravery of your students, you could do a board discussion (each student could write their response on the wipe boards in the room, on post it notes to stick around the room, etc.). This could be a great opening activity for students to write an extended narrative journal entry or even a personal narrative essay.


Contact StageofLife.comDo you have ideas for feedback on these Teacher Notes to share?  Please Contact Us!

View Stage of Life's Teen Challenges page.

Menu - Notes to the Teacher

Notes to the Teacher - Writing ExercisesVisit our special "Notes to the Teacher" pages below to get practical ideas on how to use the Stage of Life writing resources in your classroom tomorrow...
  1. Statistics on Teens
  2. Hero Concepts
  3. Inspirational Videos
  4. Recommended YA Books
  5. Mass Consumerism
  6. 10 Tips for Creating a Writing Centric Classroom
  7. Random Acts of Kindness Lesson Plan

View all our free Educational Resources on StageofLife.com

Educational Resources and Free Lesson Plans

Free Writing Resources for Students

The below Stage of Life teen writing contests, teen trend reports, etiquette Q&A, and teacher resources have been mentioned by...

Our writing contests mentioned by TIME.com
Our Teen Trend Report mentioned by MarketWatch Our etiquette resources mentioned by FOX Business Educator tips mentioned by Mashable

 

With over half a million teachers, professors, teens, college students, and parents visiting StageofLife.com each school year, we make it a priority to create the best free writing resources for students and teachers.  We are a grassroots writing initiative founded with a mission to get people of all ages writing, and in particular encouraging students to write outside of the classroom...

Teen Writing Contest

National Student Writing Contests

  • Encourage your students to enter our free, monthly national writing contest for high school students and college students.
  • Our essay winners have received mentions by the media including TIME.com, Mint Education, and more.
  • Essay contest topics deal with real-world issues.
  • Great practice for AP Test, SAT test, college essay writing, and more.
  • View Details, Summaries and more About Our Writing Contests
  • View Current Writing Contest
 
Enter Teen Writing Contest
  Contact Us with questions about our writing contests
 
Short Short Story writing contest on StageofLife.com and Twitter 

"Short Short Story" Writing Contest - Twitter

  • Don't have time to write a 500 word essay?  How creative can your students be in 127 characters?  StageofLife.com hosts a monthly writing contest on Twitter with real prizes each month.
  • Have your students take 5 minutes and try their best at this creative, but frustrating, writing contest exercise.
Enter Twitter Writing Contest on StageofLife.com
 
Word of the Day - Vocab Exercise
 

Word of the Day

  • We featured a new vocab word each day
  • Use our Word of the Day as inspiration for a personal essay or blog post on StageofLife.com
  • Teachers and educators can integrate the vocabulary in their classroom activities or ask the students to use the word in a free-write activity.
StageofLife.com's word of the day
 
Classroom writing exercises and ideas
 

Notes to the Teacher

Notes to the Teacher - Writing Exercises
 
 Homeschool Writing Resources

 Homeschooling Writing Resources

  • Our writing resources are great for the classroom, but if you're a homeschooling student or parent, check out our free, homeschooling writing resources.
  • Writing contests, educational resources, and homeschooling resources are updated here...
Homeschooling Writing Resources
 
 Free classroom poster

Get "Writer" Classroom Poster

  • We've created a 18" x 12" color poster for high school or college classrooms.
  • We only charge for the shipping and handling fee
  • We've sent out over 1000 posters to Language Arts, Creative Writing, and English Teachers!
Get free writing poster for your classroom

  Print mini-poster now
Questions about our poster?
 
Introduction to Blogging Lesson Plans

Introduction to Student Blogging

  • Get the 101 on blogging
  • Digital literacy - why blogging is important for the classroom
  • Our Blogging Lesson Plans include activities such as...
    1. Blogging Basics lesson plan
    2. Values & Beliefs lesson plan
    3. Reflection & Wisdom lesson plan
    4. Life stage interview lesson plan
    5. Food, Health & Writing lesson plan
    6. Heroes lesson plan
    7. Teen stress lesson plan
Blogging lesson plans on StageofLife.com
  Print blogging lesson plans Print Blogging Lesson Plans
Contact Us about our Student Blogging Resources
 
Mentor Texts and Essay Examples

Mentor Texts

  • Use our past student winners as good examples of essay writing, i.e. Mentor Texts
  • Our teen writing winners provide excellent essay examples of authentic voice and utilizing a stylistic point of view
  • Read past writing contest winners and finalists by visiting our Teen Trends reports
  • View Mentor Texts
Examples of good essay writing -- mentor texts
  Print Mentor Texts  Print Mentor Texts
  Contact Us with questions about our mentor texts
 
Teen Trends 

Teen Trend Reports

  • Over 400,000 teenagers, college students, and teachers visit StageofLife.com each year to either read or submit an essay.
  • Because of these visits, we are able to pull together full teen trend reports from our national writing contests and survey results on topics ranging from sports to politics to nature to bullying and more.
  • You'll also find in each report links to the relevant student essays, all grouped by topic.
  • View Teen Trends

  View StageofLife.com Teen Trend Reports
  Contact Us for more information about our monthly teen trend reports
 
Teen Writing Workshops

Writing Conferences and Workshops for Teenagers


  Teen writing conferences and workshops
Contact Us to add your Writing Conferences or Workshop to our list
 

 Essay Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts

  • Are you looking for ideas on though-provoking writing prompts for your Creative Writing, English or Language Arts classes?
  • We have scores of writing prompts that deal with real-world issues important to teens
  • Each prompt came from one of the previous Stage of Life national student essay contests
  • Mentor texts, lesson plans and summary pages are provided as appropriate
  • View Writing Prompts
Ideas for writing prompts
  Print Writing Prompts  Print Writing Prompts   Contact Us to submit writing prompts
 
Library Resources on StageofLife.com 

Library Resources

  • As a free literacy initiative, Stage of Life features blogs, articles, statistics, trends, resources and information about libraries
  • View our Library Resources
   Library Resources on StageofLife.com Contact Stage of Life Contact Us about our Library Resources
 
 Common Core State Standards

English and Language Arts Common Core State Standards

  • Stage of Life mapped its digital literacy activities to the Common Core State Standards
  • Get ideas on how Stage of Life fits many of the Language Arts State Standards, both for those states using the Common Core State Standards and those using their own.
  • View the Stage of Life and Language Arts State Standards Mapping

   Common Core mapping on StageofLife.com Contact Stage of Life Contact Us about our Common Core and State Standards mapping
 
New Journalism - Use Blogging to Conduct Interviews 

Interviews - Students Use Blogging as Form of New Journalism

  • Interviewing a professor or teacher, celebrity, band, government official, or really anyone for that matter, is a great way for students to use blogging to explore "new journalism" formats and techniques
  • View our blog interview example
Example of Blog Interview - StageofLife.com
 

How Would Teens Improve Education

 

How Would Students Improve Education?

How would teens improve education?
  Print Free Goal Setting Worksheet  Print Teens and Education press release   Contact Us with comments about how students can improve their schools
 
 Student goal setting

Goal Setting Worksheet

  • Help your students set goals
  • Our Stage of Life Goal Setting Worksheet can be used as an in-class activity or as a take-home assignment
  • Educators are encouraged to use it themselves as a personal or professional tool too
  • View Goal Setting Worksheet
Goal setting worksheet
  Print Free Goal Setting WorksheetPrint Goal Setting Worksheet
  Contact Us with questions about our free goal setting worksheet
 
 Teacher Appreciation

Teacher Appreciation

  • View over 180 positive essays written by teens about their teachers
  • Read the five positive relationship benefits good teachers bring to their students
  • Get the latest trends on teens and how they communicate
  • View Teacher Appreciation page
Teacher Appreciation
  How do teens communicate? Print Teen Communication Trends
  Contact Us about our Teacher Appreciation efforts
 
 

Teens Making the World a Better Place

  • Utilize our "Making the World a Better Place" writing prompt to get students thinking and writing about how they can change the world and make a difference
  • Read past student essays about making the world a better place
  • Ask your class to explore the list of student-nominated, "making a difference" organizations by our teen bloggers and writers - maybe they have their own cause to add to the list?
  • View Making the World a Better Place
Making the world a better place on StageofLife.com
  Be The Change lessonPrint press release
  Contact Us with questions about our Making the World a Better Place initiative
 
 

Inspirational Videos

  • Watch our collection of inspirational videos sourced from YouTube
  • After watching the videos, ask your students blog on StageofLife.com about how they intend to change the world or be a positive change in the world.
  • View Inspirational Videos

  Inspirational videos for teachers to use in the classroom
  Contact Us with an inspirational video for teens or teachers
 
Digital Literacy

Digital Literacy - Using Blogs in the Classroom

  • Hear from our panel of experts who use blogging in the classroom
  • Get tips on how to increase your students' digital literacy by incorporating technology into the classroom
  • View Digital Literacy experts
  • View latest trends on Teen Communication

  Digital Literacy
  Contact Us about Digital Literacy
 
Health effects of writing

Health and Writing

  • Read about the positive health effects of blogging and writing
  • Help your students reduce teen stress through journaling, blogging or writing
  • View Writing is Healthy

  Writing is healthy
  Contact Us to add resources about how writing is healthy
 
 

Why Educators Use Stage of Life®

  • Six Reasons Educators Use StageofLife.com in the Classroom...
    1. Free
    2. Unlimited essay storage
    3. Interactive blog platform
    4. It's about the writing
    5. Customized for teachers
    6. Real World writing prompts
  • View our Educational Resources Overview
Six reasons to use StageofLife.com
 

Authors & Celebrities 

  • Authors and Celebrities share their stories with Stage of Life regarding advice for teen writers
    • Susan Woolridge, author of Poemcrazy
    • Michael Patrick Walker, songwriter and co-author of "Alter Boyz"
    • James Kristofic, author of Navajos Wear Nikes: A Reservation Life

   Writers and Poets on StageofLife.com  Contact Us if you know an author or celebrity who has writing advice for teens
 
 Susan Wooldridge

Poem Writing Tips

  • Tips for writing poetry from author of Poemcrazy, Susan Wooldridge
  • View Poem Writing Tips

 
Poem writing tips from StageofLife.com
 Contact Us to add poem writing resources
 
Education partnerships 

Education Resource Partners

Stage of Life has been fortunate to either work directly with or referenced by influencial organizations, schools, non-profits and programs who see a value in our mission to improve digital literacy and have a like-minded mission to support students, teachers and educational initiatives.

A few examples of our educational partnerships or features...
  • NCTE - Stage of Life was an exhibitor at the 2013 NCTE Annual Convention in Boston.  Hundreds of high school Language Arts teachers and college English professors stopped by to meet our VP of Education, Rebecca Thiegs, and pick up our classroom writing contest poster.
  • Teach.com - inspirational resource for anyone currently teaching or thinking about becoming a teacher.  Our very own Stage of Life education consultant, Rebecca, was featured on the Teach.com blog.
  • Mint Education - helping teach students about financial literacy.  Mint featured several of our Stage of Life student blogs about money.
  • Lancaster Museum of Art - Stage of Life CEO, Eric Thiegs, was invited by the LMAPA to present a seminar to teens on the power of writing and artistic collaboration.
  • Tech.IT.U - Stage of Life CEO, Eric Thiegs, was a featured speaker on "the Benefits of Teen Blogging" at the Penn State York sponsored Tech.It.U conference.
  • PCTELA - "Voices of Literacy" Conference - Stage of Life co-Founders, Eric & Rebecca Thiegs, were featured session speakers on "Extending Writing Outside the Classroom Through Blogging" at the 2012 PCTELA conference (Pennsylvania Council of Teachers for English and Language Arts).
 
Coupons for Teachers

Up to 50% Off Discounts for Teachers

Because of the generous support of our national education sponsors, our Stage of Life members can save up to 50% off at many top brands and retailers.  Check out Stage of Life's free My Life Rewards® program to find great coupons and discounts for teachers to save money inside the classroom and out!

     

   Discounts and coupons for teachers  Contact Us about our discounts and coupons for teachers

Contact UsPlease check back often: these pages are regularly updated with new material and ideas.  Our door at Stage of Life is always open: if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to contact us!

Find Us on Facebook      Follow Us on Twitter     Read our Founder's Blog

StageofLife.com is an education-based, grassroots, non-partisan, free blogging community with a mission support digital literacy by making the world a better place, one story, essay, and blog at a time.  Stage of Life users (teens, college students, Millennials, Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers) can share and archive their life stories via their Stage of Life profile page.  Specialized content includes literacy resources, free lesson plans, writing prompts for Language Arts teachers, monthly writing contests for high school students (and older generations), student blogging initiatives, blog directories, and financial literacy tools - including Life Rewards® - our free discount program for all Stage of Life users, readers and writers dedicated to providing printable coupons and coupon codes tailored towards each stage of life.

Terms of Service and Privacy