Alternative Teen Fiction


Just as the books that we read in childhood help frame the way that we see the world, so too do the stories that we consume in our teenage years refine our ways of thinking.  Inside these books, whole worlds appear and disappear with the opening and closing of chapters and it is in these worlds that we are able to fight battles and travel across continents and find friends and endure an endless supply of challenges.

We all have books during those years that hooked us in and took us along for a wild ride and a lot of the time we see some of those epic stories transformed into films or tv shows. These great stories then become widely shared and even more people decide to visit the original world inside the book.

So there are series of books that everyone knows quite well thanks to the films that were based on them. The Hunger Games, The Divergent series, The Mortal Instruments, and Narnia are just a few exceptional examples of these popular teen fiction.

However as most bookstore fiends can attest to, we love to unearth lesser known titles in every genre because we believe that some of the most amazing things aren’t found on screens, they still reside unassumingly on the shelf and wait patiently for someone to pick them up.

Since we spend a fair share of our time having sneaky reads amongst the shelves, we usually stumble across some really unique stories. So here is a list of 5 lesser known titles to consider on your next trip to the bookstore.

Sophie’s World

Now in its 21st year of publication, this is the story of Sophie and her crash course in philosophy. It begins with Sophie, a 14-year old with an active but unassuming mind who begins correspondence with an unknown mentor through a series of postcards. Through letters, books, and videos, Sophie begins to learn the history of philosophy, its purpose and most importantly – how to think and how to question. But it seems that games are afoot as Sophie begins to question the true identity of her mentor and why she is receiving letters addressed to another girl.

The premise of this eccentric story makes it an incredibly fascinating read and perfect for the beginner philosopher in all of us. Though I was initially attracted to the idea of exploring varying schools of thought, in actuality it was a bit of a push to get through some repetitive lessons. It is something that I put down but then revisited after being tempted by the mystery of it all.

Recommended for strong readers in young adult.

The Apothecary

The Cold war, alchemy and nuclear disarmarment. The story begins with 14-year old Janie and her move to England as her parents, TV writers, leave the US to escape the McCarthy era’s communist hunt. The story follows Janie as she tries to fit in to the British way of life, dealing with the grey weather, a new school and her very first British friend, a strange and rebellious boy called Benjamin Burrows. The story soon takes an interesting turn as her and Benjamin discover the secret of his father – The Alchemist. Soon it is a race against time to discover the powers of alchemy, to harness it and to stop a nuclear blast.

The story touches on the politics and fears of the Cold War which, though common in a lot of popular culture, isn’t normally found so explicitly in young adult fiction. This feature of the novel is what makes this piece so interesting as it becomes the story of the cold war reimagined, where the ancient practise of alchemy is capable of changing the world.

This is the first book in the three-part series by Maile Meloy

Recommended for advanced children and all levels of young adult.

A few more to consider:

  1. The Lie Tree By Francis Hardinge
  2. We All Looked Up By Tommy Wallach
  3. Laurinda by Alice Pung


There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.

–Marcel Proust

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