Teens can be a tricky crowd to shop for, and I dare say that kids are growing up much faster these days. So, we’ve bundled the pre-teens into this gift guide installment. On this list, you’ll find a mix of upper middle-grade books and young adult books for readers ages 12+ (although a few can be enjoyed by a younger audience). I’ll indicate which titles are better for older teens. We’re also recommending some crowd-pleasing, bookish gifts, many of which will appeal to adults! Happy shopping!
30+ Perfect Bookish Gifts for Teens (and Adults)!
Here are our top recommendations for books and bookish gifts for readers ages 12 and up:
Upper Middle Grade and Young YA Books Worth Gifting
If you have a preteen or younger teen who’s itching to read more grown-up stories, these are some excellent choices worth exploring:
The Winterton Deception: Final Word
Published: October 31, 2023
Meet 13-year-old twins Hope and Gordon. They’ve just discovered that their dad was Brandon Winterton (of the wealthy dictionary magnate family). Unfortunately, Hope can’t stand rich people, especially since the twins and their mom barely make ends meet and live in a motel. But their fortune is about to change. When Gordon enters the family into the Winterton Bee, they’re thrust into the midst of the family’s secrets, with a deadly enemy and a scavenger hunt set up by the family’s dead matriarch. This is a fast-paced mystery with plenty to gnaw on between the twin relationship, family drama, character development, and flashbacks that help readers learn more about the Winterton family. This one does touch a bit on addiction, and there’s a scene where the kids’ lives are in danger, but all ends well! Great for ages 10 and up.
Enemies in the Orchard
Published: September 12, 2023
Set in the 1940s, this debut historical verse novel delves into the lesser-known history of (prisoner-of-war) German soldiers brought to work in the United States during WWII. Claire’s brother Danny is off fighting the war while she’s working in their family’s Midwestern apple orchard, where her father has hired a bunch of POW soldiers, including one named Karl. Over time, Claire and Karl begin a tentative friendship, even as the presence of enemies in their orchard causes tensions in their community. Told from Karl and Claire’s perspective, this story, the history behind it, and the important themes it highlights will appeal to older middle schoolers ages 11 and up.
Published: July 18, 2023
Since her mom died during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been just Chloe and her dad. She worries about their finances, so when she has the chance to go on a school trip to Broadway, she’s hesitant to tell him. On a good note, there’s a boy she maybe likes? He works at a boba tea place in her neighborhood, and things are going well until an altercation at the shop ends with Chloe being banned from the boba tea place. What unfolds is a string of chaotic, surprising, and satisfying events, including a boba-making business, two lost lovers reuniting, and a new furry family member. This is a lighthearted, feel-good middle grade romance — the exact kind constantly sought out by kids in this age group. Great for readers ages 10 and older.
Gloria Buenrostro Is Not My Girlfriend
Published: June 27, 2023
Gary Vo is a Vietnamese-American soon-to-be junior high schooler. Gary and his friend Preston have been at the bottom of the social totem pole forever, and Preston is determined that this is the summer they rise up the ranks. So when two popular classmates approach them with an offer to join their group, the boys are all ears! The task is to steal a bracelet from Gloria Buenrostro (a popular, but mysterious A+ student) so the boys can add it to their collections of tokens from “the hottest girls” in school. Easy enough, no? That is until Gary Vo befriends Gloria and realizes there’s more to her than meets the eye. This is a richly layered, relatable teen novel about what it means to be a man and how to be a good friend. I’d hand this to readers ages 13 and up.
Graphic Novels & Memoirs
Graphic novels are still popular as kids get older, but graphic memoirs can be especially appealing — or even books that combine fictional elements with a memoir. Here are some choices to consider (and if you want more options, we have a whole post about graphic novels for teens).
Huda F Cares
Published: October 10, 2023
Huda and her sisters are back in this second installment of the Huda F series (if you haven’t already, check out book one first). This time around, they’re taking a family road trip to Disney World. But if you know Huda and her sisters, you know there’ll be plenty of hijinks, sisterly bonding, and of course, people with questions about her hijab and religion. This is a funny, relatable series, particularly for readers looking for Muslim rep in their stories. Great for readers ages 13+ who love graphic novels with some snarky humor.
Published: April 12, 2022
This is a FANTASTIC graphic memoir about Tyler Page’s life with ADHD. Early on, his parents realized that Tyler couldn’t seem to stay focused. He acts out in class, is impulsive, and often distracts his classmates. He can’t finish his work in time, even though he’s smart and creative. Most intriguing, he doesn’t actually want to cause trouble but can’t stop himself. Tyler is eventually diagnosed with ADHD and gets on medication for it. I loved seeing his depiction of the way ADHD affects his life and how the medication changes it. We also learn a lot about his family and how life as a teenager changes his relationship with his ADHD meds. The book also includes back matter at the end of every chapter, providing more information (in graphics still) about ADHD. Great for readers ages 12 and up.
Mysteries & Thrillers
I love a good mystery or thriller and I think teens have the best picks of the genre. Here are some options for you (and there are more in this list of mystery books for teens).
Published: October 17, 2023
Emily Walters and 11 other contestants have been selected to compete abroad in a contest that could earn them a full college scholarship. But once they’re aboard the private jet taking them to Europe, it’s clear that Emily and the other contestants all have deep, dark secrets, and one of them is willing to do anything just to win — even killing. Before the flight lands, they must find the culprit before someone else dies. This is the perfect escape room mystery thriller with flawed characters that feel like real teens. Good for ages 14 and up.
Published: September 26, 2023
Ross Quest and her family are known for their stealing prowess. But when her mom is kidnapped on one of their missions, Ross is forced to enter the Thieves’ Gambit, a stealing contest, to pay the ransom. There, she encounters old frenemies, new first loves, and shocking revelations. This propulsive story feels more like a thriller with just a touch of mystery but is enjoyable regardless. Good for ages 15 and up for some gun violence and mature content.
Published: January 31, 2023
This book is FANTASTIC — and the audiobook is even better (a top-class full-cast audiobook that feels like a movie). When the principal of the Urban Promise Prep school is murdered in his office, three boys are high on the suspect list: J.B., Trey, and Ramon. They were either in the wrong place or have the wrong reputation or affiliation. Now they must join forces, along with their loved ones, to find the real killer. There’s some language in this one, so I’d hand this to readers ages 14 and up, especially if they loved One of Us Is Lying.
For the Teens Who Love a Good Romance
If your teen reader can’t get enough of romances, here are some options to gift them.
You Bet Your Heart
Published: May 30, 2023
Sasha Johnson-Sun and Ezra Davis-Goldberg became besties in third grade but lost their friendship after an explosive fight. Now they’re in the same high school and tied for valedictorian just months before their graduation. Sasha and Ezra decide to settle things by a best-of-three, winner-take-all academic bet. This book is a truly swoon-worthy romance with an enemies-to-lovers plot that is actually enjoyable. I loved all the family and friend connections in the story and the core theme about redefining what matters most. Hand these to teen overachievers who need a dash of fun in their lives. Heads up for infrequent profanity. Ages 14+
Reggie and Delilah’s Year of Falling
Published: January 31, 2023
I always enjoy Elise Bryant’s love stories and I loved Reggie and Delilah’s story. Delilah pretends to be a go-with-the-flow girl unaffected by everything while Reggie is a sensitive nerd who loves to play Dungeons and Dragons with his friends. After a first meeting on New Year’s Eve, the two continue to meet over the course of several holidays. As they grow in their personal lives, they finally find their way to each other too. The main characters deal with several health challenges including migraines, anxiety, and dyslexia, which makes this relatable for teens dealing with similar conditions and of course, for music and video game fans. Great for readers ages 14+
All Alone with You
Published: July 25, 2023
Eloise Deane is a sarcastic, unfriendly teenager who’s recently ditched her best friends and embraced the loner life after an incident the year before. Now she spends her time preparing for college and playing video games. But her escape plans develop a hitch when her school’s guidance counselor tells her she needs extracurricular activities on her application. Enter LifeCare, a volunteer agency that pairs teens with the elderly. Also, enter Austin Yang, the sunshine boy Eloise is paired with to visit a former rockstar, Marianne Landis. As Eloise reluctantly opens her heart to them both, she finds herself irrevocably changed. This book is totally absorbing, with a perfect teen voice and relatable depiction of anxiety and depression. Heads up for frequent profanity, good for ages 14+.
Heartfelt Science Fiction
This year, I fell in love with time travel books. I love how inventive, wholesome, and heartwarming the two books in this category are and if you have a teen who likes a touch of sci-fi, these are great choices.
The Space Between Here & Now
Published: October 31, 2023
Seventeen-year-old Aimee Roh has Sensory Time Warp Syndrome, a rare condition that causes her to time travel to a moment in her life when she smells something linked to that memory. Her dad is convinced she’ll simply grow out of it if she tries hard enough, but Aimee’s fear of vanishing at random has kept her from living a normal life. When she experiences an unusually long disappearance into a memory of her estranged mother, Aimee discovers that she might be missing a vital piece of her history with her mom. I love the way this story addresses mother-daughter relationships, the impact of chronic illness, and the value of community. There’s also a sweet romance subplot.
Published: April 11, 2023
Sam and her mom Priscilla just can’t seem to get on the same page about anything. But things escalate when her grandmother falls into a coma. After a heated argument, Sam books a ride via a ride-hailing app and ends up in 1995 — as her mother’s classmate! There’s so much to love in this story about a Gen Z girl navigating 90s high school life and getting to know her mom years before she becomes her mom. I loved the insight into mother-daughter relationships, Korean-American culture, first-gen immigrant perspectives, and so much more. I adored this FUN, heartwarming, and oh-so-poignant release.
If your teen is a sucker for real-life stories, here are some unadulterated nonfiction picks!
Colin Kaepernick: Change the Game
Published: May 2, 2023
Change the Game is a graphic novel memoir by athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick. Despite being heavily scouted by Major League Baseball as a high school senior, Colin had no interest in pursuing a career in the sport! Colin followed his heart despite pressure from his parents, teachers, and coaches. This inspiring YA memoir is a perfect gift for any teen interested in sports or activism.
The Undefeated Athlete: How to be a Champion in Any Sport
Published: November 17, 2022
Written by a former collegiate baseball player, this book motivates young athletes to take their game to the next level by developing an “undefeated” mindset rather than relying solely on natural talent. This book shows readers how to create that mindset through setting actionable goals, developing transferable skills, and dealing with challenges. Teens will love the athletes’ stories and appreciate the author’s decidedly non-preachy guidance.
You: The Story: A Writer’s Guide to Craft Through Memory
Published: May 16, 2023
You: The Story is a powerful how-to book for aspiring writers that encourages you to look inward and excavate your own memories in order to discover the authentic voices and compelling details that are waiting to be put on the page. Masterfully weaving in humorous and heartfelt stories from her own life that illustrate an aspect of the craft of writing (such as plot, character development, or dialogue), Sepetys then inspires readers with a series of writing prompts and exercises. This one is perfect for your aspiring writer.
Akim Aliu: Dreamer
Published February 7, 2023
This graphic memoir tells the powerful story of Ukrainian-Nigerian-Canadian athlete Akim Aliu. Aliu describes what it was like to grow up as a prodigy but also one of the only Black children in both his Ukrainian community and in the ice hockey arena in Canada. A riveting glimpse into the daily life of someone whose geography and identity seems ripped from today’s headlines.
The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity
Published September 5, 2023
This compelling, suspenseful history will appeal to the true-crime readers out there. With less gristly details of modern murder mysteries but all the thrilling cliff-hangers, this will appeal to YA, middle-grade and, dare I say it, adult readers alike! Moving from the art heist of the century and back to the roots of Leonardo Da Vinci himself, this nonfiction book is a thrilling, cinematic read. Great for readers ages 10+
These Are the Words
Published: October 10, 2023
Young people who love poetry and young people who are introspective and thoughtful will cherish this collection of poetry through life’s seasons. Poems about first love, healing, finding family, body image – these precise, visceral words will sing in their veins.
Time for some fun budget-friendly reading accessories to interest you and the teens in your life.
I love how elegant this bookish enamel pin is. I can see teens and adults loving it.
WELL READ Pin
If you prefer something smaller and more obscure, this WELL READ pin is a fantastic choice.
Puzzles are always a great gift choice and this one that showcases some of the most popular young adult novels of all time is one of my favorites.
I recommended Anne Bogel’s kid’s reading journal for kids ages 9-11, but the adult version is perfect for teen and adult readers.
Got a teen reader who loves the classics? This Jane Austen mug is gorgeous.
Book Place Holder
This book placeholder is perfect for teens and tweens who want a cleaner, modern look. It is an excellent gift for the bedside table, where they can place books, glasses, or cell phones.
Vintage Book Kindle Covers
Got a teen with an old soul, who loves the wealth of books in new technology but misses the feel of a well-worn hardback? These Kindle covers that look like vintage, embossed hardcovers give them the best of both worlds.
Banned Books Coffee Mug
If your teen reader loves curling up with a book and a hot drink, gift them this banned books coffee mug. The mug showcases 22 of the world’s most famous controversial titles, printed in bold font against a sleek black background.
Personalized Book Page Woven Throw Blanket
Do you know your teen’s favorite classic book? If so, this personalized book page blanket makes such a thoughtful gift. You can choose from any book in the public domain (which most classics are!) to create a unique blanket for your reader.
And we’re finally at the end of this year’s bookish gift guides! If you’ve found them useful, please share with friends and others in your network. Hopefully, we’ve helped you find some gifts this year.
More Gift Guides
- Bookish gifts for babies and toddlers ages 0-5
- Great bookish gifts for kids ages 6-8
- Superb bookish gifts for readers ages 9-11