I grew up reading historical fiction so I have an insurmountable love for it. It always brings back memories, you know?! Glorious memories of a childhood spent between book pages…and in tears because, let’s face it: WWII books are ALWAYS devastating. Actually history in general can be altogether nasty. But it makes such good stories.
And today’s list is about my top YA historical fiction picks. They’ll probably all make you cry. I’m not even sorry for recommending them.
H I S T O R I C A L F I C T I O N
- CODE NAME VERITY: This book had me absolutely sobbing. It is such a powerful story of two girls blazing paths of feministic glory in WWII. One is a pilot. The other is a spy. It will probably break your heart. (Just warning you.) But must be, without a doubt, one of the best books I’ve ever read.
- ROSE UNDER FIRE: This is a companion novel to the above, but can be read alone! It’s a little quicker in pacing and focuses on Rose, a WWII pilot, who gets caught by the Germans and put in a concentration camp. Again: tears. It’s so beautifully and emotionally written.
- I AM DAVID: This is a bit of an old book, but still a story that absolutely sticks to my soul. David was born in a concentration camp, so when he escapes he has basically ZERO social skills or understanding of the world. It is so sad/sweet to see him struggling to fit into society and also find a home. BREAK MY HEART WHY DON’T YOU, WWII STORIES.
- PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG: Another WWII story, but this one is by the point of view of a German girl who knows Hitler. It’s extremely interesting to read the story from this angle and see how a teenage girl reacts. Plus it shows a more human side to Hitler which is chilling.
- UNDER A PAINTED SKY: Now let’s zoom backwards to the Gold Rush era! This book just wins for diversity because it features a Chinese protagonist (who’s also a violinist) who is on the run to the gold fields with an escaped slave. Another female friendship that is totally awesome!
- WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER: Another goldrush book! But this one has a hint of magical fantasy in it too, since Lee can magically “detect gold”. Talk about handy right? Until it gets your family killed. Ahem. This is more about the journey towards California, but the writing is just ridiculously beautiful.
- A MAD AND WICKED FOLLY: Time for Women’s Rights! HUZZAH! This is about the suffragette movement…and Victoria’s quest to be a painter and artist and not just get shuffled off to be married to some guy.
- LIES WE TELL OURSELVES: This is set in 1959, where a group of black students are attending an all-white highschool. It talks honestly and brutally about the racism of that time…and oh gosh, people’s actions just made me so sick. It’s definitely a very important story to be told.
- THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH: This is a slightly paranormal twist on the early 1900s, where Love and Death are personified people and have this “game” where they see if two unlikely people will get together. (Death trying to break them up; Love getting them together.) It’s a romance between an African-American musician and a white orphan boy…and in that era the odds are pretty much not in their favour. And oh is this book incredible!