Age 13 is such a precious spot — new to teenhood but still kinda, sorta a tween. These books for 13 year olds will help your kids keep their love of reading alive. For these picks, I focused on stories centering older protagonists with more mature themes like romance, sexual harassment, and neglectful parents. Still, you’ll find extra funny stories, relatable graphic novels, and heart-racing adventure stories. No matter what kinds of books your 13 year old enjoys, there’s a story for them on this list!
📚 Disclaimer in the books: Just so you know, Reading Middle Grade uses affiliate links. This means that when you shop via the links in our posts, we may earn a cent or two at no extra cost to you. Thanks for adding to our book buying fund.
Get a printable of this list to take to the library. Just pop your email into the form below and it’ll come right to your inbox!
Funny Books for 13 Year Olds
These funny books for 13 year olds include a story about an eating contest, a boy helping out at his family restaurant, and a girl who hurtles into the future after using a TikTok filter (a la 13 Going on 30).
Published: September 12, 2017
14-year-old David is a quintessential middle child. His sister Bridgette is in college and the family’s academic success story. Mal, his younger brother is on the autism spectrum, although his family prefers not to use the autism label. Mal is almost non-verbal and only says the word “okay.”
David has always has a large appetite and an interest in competitive eating, but after he accidentally leaves a $2000 bill on his mother’s credit card, he’s forced to join a pizza eating contest to win the grand prize of $5000.
In between finding his place in the family and trying not to ruin his internal organs by overeating, David also has to navigate the fact that his two oldest friends Cyn and HeyMan might be dating each other. Where does that leave him? As the third musketeer still, or an unwanted third wheel?
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
Published: May 16, 2017
Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?
For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe.
But this summer also includes Carmen, a poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of José Martí.
12 to 22: POV You Wake Up in the Future
Published: August 16, 2022
On her 12th half birthday, her parents surprisingly gift her their approval to post on social networks. Thrilled, Harper starts posting TikTok videos like her idol, Blake Riley. Her first video goes viral and brings her closer to the popular crew in her school who only befriend her so she can teach them her edits. Their interest in her creates a rift between Harper and her best friend Ava. In the midst of the chaos, Harper tries a TikTok filter, which combined with a wish to be 22 suddenly makes her 22!
Unfortunately, her future is much different than she imagined. Her little sister is now a teen (aww!). She’s now working for Blake Riley (yay) and so is popular girl Celia who she’s now friends with. But she and Ava have lost touch as have she and her childhood friend and crush. Is being 22 as great as she imagined? Or will she just want her old life back? And can she even get it back? Or is it too late?
Great Romance Books for 13 Year Olds
Who says tweens don’t like romance? If your middle schooler/new high schooler is looking for some tame romances, the books in this section will deliver. Meet a girl who moves to a new neighborhood and finds a new crush, a boy who meets his first love on a school trip to Europe, and two best friends with very different first love stories.
Pizza My Heart
Published: August 16, 2022
This book for 13 year olds follows young Maya Reynolds whose parents are moving from Brooklyn, New York to a small town in Pennsylvania to expand their soul pizza business, Soul Slice. Having grown up in Brooklyn, Maya is devastated to have to leave her best friend and life behind for the move.
In the new town, she gets off on the wrong foot with her first pizza delivery customer, who ends up being the son of her parents’ new interior decorator. Add a love for art, a new art exhibition she wants to join but may be unable to, new friends, and a potential new crush — Maya’s life quickly gets interesting.
A First Time for Everything
Published: February 28, 2023
A First Time for Everything is Dan Santat’s new graphic memoir about his school trip to Europe at the end of middle school. Middle school Dan is shy and socially awkward. He spends most of his time helping his mom, who has Lupus, and gets made fun of a bit by some girls in his grade. Thankfully, his parents are determined that he sees the world, and they support his Europe trip. As they visit Germany, France, Switzerland, and England, Dan is swept up in many, many firsts, making for a life-changing trip.
Keep It Together, Keiko Carter
Published: May 5, 2020
Keiko is thrilled that her two BFFs, Jenna and Audrey, are reuniting with her after their first ever summer apart. But when Jenna returns from Texas, she’s doesn’t seem to fit back in seamlessly anymore — probably because they stopped texting each other after a while. It doesn’t help that Audrey seems boy-crazy and has never really gotten on too well with Jenna anyway.
As Jenna and Audrey’s friendship deteriorates over the fall, Keiko feels torn between both girls. She also rekindles some old friendships that threaten her relationship with Audrey. As a result, confrontation-averse, peace-making Keiko is forced to decide whether or not she will stand up for herself in her friendship with Audrey. On top of everything else, Keiko’s family seems to be changing: her mom is working later and later, and seems to be avoiding coming home — and her little sister seems to keeping a secret. Will Keiko keep it all together?
Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai
Published: August 3, 2021
Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai is the companion title to fan favorite, Keep It Together, Keiko Carter. Jenna and Keiko have remained BFFs after their fall out with Audrey. But Jenna is having a hard time with several life issues. For one, she and her boyfriend have just broken up (but she’s still stuck in the same school newspaper as he is) and now her parents are divorcing.
Jenna is coping by keeping her feelings shut in and brooding a lot — until she begins to write an investigative piece for the school newspaper contest. She also starts hanging out at a cute Broadway-themed Diner where she meets a schoolmate Rin Watanabe with whom she argues a lot but begins a tentative friendship. Can Jenna find time for all the things in her life, while addressing her hurt feelings and opening up to those who love her?
Mystery Books for 13 Year Olds
A good who-dun-it is the quickest way to get your 13 year old hooked on a story. Try these mystery books for 13 year olds. Meet a girl who won’t take no for an answer as she investigates a classmate’s social downturn, four boys who find an underground hideout, and a girl who maybe ran her new neighbor out of town and into space?
What Happened to Rachel Riley?
Published: January 10, 2023
When Anna Hunt moves from Chicago to Wisconsin for her mother’s new job, she soon realizes that something’s off about her new eighth-grade class. One student, Rachel Riley, who was once popular is now treated as a social pariah.
So when their English teacher assigns them an un-essay — which is an exploration of a topic in any other format besides an essay — Anna decides to investigate the question: What happened to Rachel Riley? Of course, the teacher rejects Anna’s topic despite her lawyer mom’s protests. But with some hesitant help from Rachel and some other schoolmates, Anna pieces together the mystery.
Published: June 28, 2022
Four eighth-grade buddies and a new tag-along (whom they’re reluctant to include) discover a posh underground bunker in the wake of a hurricane in their small town. CJ, Evan, Jason, Mitchell, and Ricky quickly begin to hang out at the fort for different reasons.
One of the boys is escaping an abusive step-parent, another is dodging his big brother and his bully of a friend, yet another loves to study there, while one just wants to stop hiding the hideout from his new girlfriend. When things get intense for the boys, their safe space becomes at risk of exposure — but maybe that’s the only way they can stay safe?
Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone
Published: April 26, 2022
This book for 13 year olds opens with new girl Jennifer Chan declared missing at her middle school. As whispers begin, her next-door neighbor Mallory Moss worries that Jennifer may have been abducted by aliens (which Jennifer believed existed).
Mallory reunites with two former friends begging them to help her find Jennifer following clues from her time with Jennifer and the diary Jennifer left behind. The story alternates between past and present as readers discover that Mallory’s search is also motivated by an ulterior motive: the need to prove that she and her popular friends didn’t run Jennifer Chan out of town with their bullying.
Fantasy Books for 13 Year Olds
Fantasy is not my strong suit, but I can share the stories I’ve read and loved. These three fantasy classics are perfect for 13 year olds. Better still, they’re all series, so you won’t have to think about a new book for a while.
The Hunger Games Book #1
Published: September 14, 2008
Winning means fame and fortune. Losing means certain death. The Hunger Games have begun. . . . In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts.
The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Published: May 2, 2011
This dystopian series set in a futuristic Chicago has captured the hearts of millions of teen and adult readers. Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games and Maze Runner series, Divergent and its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant, are the gripping story of a dystopian world transformed by courage, self-sacrifice, and love.
Fans of the Divergent movie will find the book packed with just as much emotional depth and exhilarating action as the film, all told in beautiful, rich language. One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).
Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous. Supports the Common Core State Standards.
Published: August 26, 2014
It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again.
Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves.
Realistic Fiction for 13 Year Olds
If your kids love stories set firmly in the real world, they’ll love these contemporary realistic fiction books for 13 year olds. A boy is caught between his family’s dreams and his theater dreams, best friends have a life-changing summer, a girl grieves the loss of her mother and her country’s divide, and two girls meet the dad they’ve been yearning for.
Published: April 5, 2022
14-year-old Karthik Raghavan is spending his last summer of middle school delivering groceries for his father’s Indian grocery store. When he’s not playing delivery boy, he’s hanging out with his best friends and sneaking glances at his crush whenever he runs into her.
It’s the early 2000s in Boston, Massachusetts, and the recession is causing store closures. Karthik’s father’s store becomes at greater risk of closure when Juhi’s family opens an Indian restaurant (also selling pre-packaged ready-to-cook items). But the most interesting part of Karthik’s summer? A university student wants him to act as Leonard Bernstein in her play. Can Karthik deliver?
Published: September 15, 2020
In Turning Point, we reunite with the Pirates Cove gang (minus a few) — mostly Mila, Mo, Sheeda, and Tai. This book focuses on Monique (Mo) and Rasheeda (Sheeda)’s friendship and how it changes over a summer when both girls are drawn into different pursuits. Mo is off at a ballet intensive with Mila, while Sheeda is stuck at church (with her church “friends”) feeling like she has no life.
At the ballet intensive, Mo comes face to face with her competitive attitude which is fueled by feelings of not “fitting in” with the mostly white, skinny ballet dancers. Even though she makes a couple of friends (who basically lovingly force her to befriend them), she’s insecure at times, afraid to be vulnerable because everything feels so different. On the other hand, Sheeda is desperate for something new. Unfortunately, she falls into a risky situation with Mo’s brother whom she happens to have a crush on.
Will Mo and Sheeda’s friendship survive the summer?
The Night Diary
Published: March 6, 2018
It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.
Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.
Told through Nisha’s letters to her mother, The Night Diary is a heartfelt story of one girl’s search for home, for her own identity…and for a hopeful future.
Best Friends, Bikinis, and Other Summer Catastrophes
Published: May 17, 2022
Alex is looking forward to spending the summer (as she’s always done) with her best friend, Will. Will’s mother runs the concession stand at their community pool, and both kids have spent several summers playing games at the pool. This summer, though, a schoolmate named Rebekah has eyes for Will — and him for her!
As Rebekah and Will begin a tentative crush-friendship, Alex feels threatened and ropes Will into a big summer project (building their treehouse), for which they’ll need several summer jobs to afford building supplies. Surprisingly to Alex, Rebekah also wants to be her friend too. Can Alex get over her jealousy and other issues in her life to figure out this summer friendship drama?
Published: August 16, 2022
12-year-old Addie lives with her pregnant mom and stepdad. Her stepdad wants to adopt her (but only if she wants) and Addie loves him but can’t shake the curiosity about her biological father, especially because her mom is so hush-hush about it.
While investigating, she discovers that her father is part of a famous wrestling family living on a nearby New Mexico ranch. As Addy gets to know her father, Manny, her cousins, grandparents, and uncles, she learns that family can be complicated.
The First Magnificent Summer
Published: May 30, 2023
Twelve-year-old Victoria Reeves is all set for her “First Magnificent Summer with Dad,” even though it’s been more than two years since she last saw him. She’s ready to impress him with her wit, her maturity, and her smarts—at least until he shows up for the long road trip to Ohio with his new family, The Replacements, in tow.
But that’s not the only unpleasant surprise in store for Victoria. There are some smaller disappointments, like being forced to eat bologna even though it’s her least favorite food in the world. And then there’s having to sleep outside in a tent while The Replacements rest comfortably inside the family RV. But the worst thing Victoria grapples with is when she begins to suspect that part of the reason Dad always treats her as “less than” is for one simple reason: she’s female.
As Victoria captures every moment of her less than magnificent summer in her journal, she discovers that the odds are stacked against her in the contest-no-one-knows-is-a-contest: Not only does her wit begin to crumble around Dad’s multiple shaming jabs, but she gets her first period. And when Dad does the worst thing yet, she realizes she has a decision to make: will she let a man define her?
Adventure & Thriller Books for 13 Year Olds
Break out of boring daily life with these kids living life on the edge as spies. This section is perfect for 13 year olds who love adventure and a splash of danger in their stories.
Published: October 11, 2022
In her debut for younger readers, Aya de León pits a teen spy against the ominous workings of a white nationalist. Fourteen-year-old Andréa Hernández-Baldoquín hails from a family of spies working for the Factory, an international organization dedicated to protecting people of color.
For her first solo mission, Andréa straightens her hair and goes undercover as Andrea Burke, a white girl, to befriend the estranged son of a dangerous white supremacist. In addition to her Factory training, the assignment calls for a deep dive into the son’s interests—comic books and gaming—all while taking care not to speak Spanish and blow her family’s cover.
But it’s hard to hide who you really are, especially when you develop a crush on your target’s Latino best friend. Can Andréa keep her head, her geek cred, and her code-switching on track to trap a terrorist? Smart, entertaining, and politically astute, this is fast-paced upper-middle-grade fare from an established author of heist and espionage novels for adults.
Published: October 19, 2021
12-year-old Katrina has had a long line of names beginning with letters of the alphabet A-K so far. Her last two names were Ivette and then Joanna. Her whole life as she remembers, her parents have been moving her from city to city and changing their names after every move.
When they move this time, Katrina finds a new friend named Parker and a slip-up on her part leads to both her parents being kidnapped, leaving her to fend for herself with Parker’s help. Things begin to unravel when she discovers that her parents are not in the Witness Protection Program like they claimed to be, but rather that they’re on the run.
Published: March 10, 2020
Twelve-year old Sara Martinez is a hacker bouncing from foster home to foster home in Brooklyn, New York. After getting arrested for hacking into the NYC foster care system to expose her foster parents as criminals, she meets a man named Mother who is not a lawyer but convinces her to take on her case. Mother somehow wins and Sara gets released only to join a team of kid spies operating out of a base in Scotland.
The kids get codenames (they’re basically renamed) to match their city of origin. On the team are five kids: a Black boy named Paris, a girl named Sydney, Brooklyn (formerly called Sara), a boy named Rio, and a girl named Kat (for a city in Nepal). As Sara adjusts, the team prepares for their first mission in Paris, France, even as Mother is working hard to find his two kids lost as a consequence of a previous mission.
Sports Books for 13 Year Olds
Sports are just as fun to play as they are to read about. The kids in these books play a variety of sports while dealing with real-life challenges.
Nikki on the Line
Published: March 5, 2019
13-year-old Nikki Doyle feels one step closer to her pro basketball player dreams when she gets signed on to an elite-level club team. But her mother doesn’t have enough to pay for the club, and so Nikki offers to watch her little brother after school so they can save on daycare money. Unfortunately, playing for the club isn’t nearly as easy as Nikki expects.
Shorter than her teammates and suddenly no longer point guard on the new team, she feels out of place. What’s more, her new busy schedule means she can’t hang out with the team as much as she’d like. On top of that, a new genetics project at school reminds Nikki that her biological father was a sperm donor. Between juggling all her responsibilities and proving herself a valuable member of the team, it feels like everything is on the line for Nikki.
Up for Air
Published: May 7, 2019
Annabelle is a fantastic swimmer who happens to have learning difficulties. She’s happy to finally be getting something right when she’s moved up to the high school team in the summer. However, things get a bit complicated when an older boy starts showing her attention and her estranged father seems to want to return to her life.
Fox Point’s Own Gemma Hopper
Published: April 11, 2023
In their tiny corner of Fox Point, Rhode Island, Gemma Hopper’s older brother, Teddy, is a baseball god, destined to become a Major League star. Gemma loves playing baseball, but with her mom gone and her dad working endless overtime, it’s up to her to keep the house running. She’s too busy folding laundry, making lunches, getting her younger twin brothers to do their homework, and navigating the perils of middle-school friendships to take baseball seriously.
But every afternoon, Gemma picks up her baseball glove to pitch to Teddy during his batting practice–throwing sliders down and away, fastballs right over the middle (not too fast or he’ll get mad), and hanging curveballs high and tight.
Could baseball be Gemma’s ticket to the big leagues or will it mean the end of her family as she knows it?
Historical Fiction for 13 Year Olds
Does your 13 year old love history? Then they’ll love these historical fiction books for 13 year olds. Travel from Ukraine to the US to Mexico with this section’s picks.
The Lost Year
Published: January 17, 2023
Thirteen-year-old Matthew is miserable. His journalist dad is stuck overseas indefinitely, and his mom has moved in his one-hundred-year-old great-grandmother to ride out the pandemic, adding to his stress and isolation.
But when Matthew finds a tattered black-and-white photo in his great-grandmother’s belongings, he discovers a clue to a hidden chapter of her past, one that will lead to a life-shattering family secret. Set in alternating timelines that connect the present-day to the 1930s and the US to the USSR, Katherine Marsh’s latest novel sheds fresh light on the Holodomor – the horrific famine that killed millions of Ukrainians, and which the Soviet government covered up for decades.
Bea and the New Deal Horse
Published: March 28, 2023
Bea wakes to Daddy’s note in a hayloft, where he abandoned her with her little sister after the stock market crash took everything: Daddy’s job at the bank, their home, Mama’s health and life.
How is Bea supposed to convince the imposing Mrs. Scott to take in two stray children? Mrs. Scott’s money and Virginia farm are drying up in a drought and the Great Depression, too. She might have to sell her beautiful horses, starting with a dangerous chestnut that has caused tragedy in the past and injures her stableman shortly after Bea arrives.
But wrestling with her own hurts and fears, Bea understands the chestnut’s skittish distrust. She sees hope in the powerful jumper—if he can compete at horse shows, they might save the farm, and maybe Bea can even win a place in Mrs. Scott’s heart.
Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna
Published: September 14, 2021
It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Petra Luna’s mama has died while the Revolution rages in Mexico. Before her papa is dragged away by soldiers, Petra vows to him that she will care for the family she has left—her abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito—until they can be reunited. They flee north through the unforgiving desert as their town burns, searching for safe harbor in a world that offers none.
Each night when Petra closes her eyes, she holds her dreams close, especially her long-held desire to learn to read. Abuelita calls these barefoot dreams: “They’re like us barefoot peasants and indios—they’re not meant to go far.” But Petra refuses to listen. Through battlefields and deserts, hunger and fear, Petra will stop at nothing to keep her family safe and lead them to a better life across the U.S. border—a life where her barefoot dreams could finally become reality.
Get a printable of this list to take to the library. Just pop your email into the form below and it’ll come right to your inbox!
There they are: 25+ of my best books for 13 year olds! Which of these books have you read? Which ones did I miss?
Tracy Abell says
I’ve read some of these and you just helped me put more on my library For Later shelf. Thank you!