50 Must-Read​ Books for Ninth Graders

50 must-read books for 9th grade

Welcome to Amy’s Bookshelf! Here, teachers will find carefully curated book lists for each grade level from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Moving forward, new lists filled with book recommendations will be published weekly. Sometimes, these lists will be organized around a specific theme, like a holiday or seasonal event. Other times, they will feature rockstar books – books practically guaranteed to get your students reading. 

Before jumping into reading recommendations, a few words about how books are selected.

First, it is so important that teachers prioritize reading interest over reading level. Students will often choose to read well above or below their reading level if they are particularly interested in a book or topic. Teachers only hurt students by limiting them to a specific selection of titles grouped according to an arbitrary number or level. Think of the books on these lists as starting places for you and your students, but if a student wants to read up (or down), that is a-ok.

Also, please note that these lists lean heavily toward modern selections as opposed to the classics many teachers are familiar with. A true renaissance is happening in children’s literature today, and the books coming out are truly exciting. One of the factors that makes this such an exciting time for kid lit is how diverse the selections are in terms of genre, characters and subject matter. These lists will feature fiction and nonfiction selection as well as graphic novels, novels written in verse, and more.

Any book list or classroom library worth its salt includes books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, racially diverse characters, characters with disabilities, characters in the foster care system, characters from a wide variety of socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, and so on. Importantly, the diversity of the characters doesn’t always need to be the focus of the literature – in other words, a book featuring a black character or gay character doesn’t need to be about those individuals exploring their blackness or their gayness; those characters can have kid problems that apply to all children regardless of their race or sexual orientation. Similarly, students should be encouraged to read stories featuring people of diversity all year long – not just during a month set aside to celebrate a specific heritage.

One final note: today’s children’s literature does not shy away from frank discussions of gender, race, sex, sexuality, abuse, mental illness, and more – nor should it. I will not censor books from these lists based on these controversial areas. What books you recommend will depend on the specific district you work in and your clientele. I encourage you and your students to read widely without fear.

Ninth Grade

Ninth grade is when many students enter high school, and is generally the division between middle grade and young adult literature. Young adult literature features teens in the midst of adolescence. Often, they are facing greater challenges and have greater independence than protagonists in middle grade books. You’ll see that the books on this list begin to treat heavier topics, and authors often write candidly and with truth. 

Just so you know, Bored Teachers may get a small share of the sales made through the Amazon affiliate links on this page.

1. Speak

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson_50 Must-Read​ Books for Ninth Graders

Get it HERE.

Melinda got invited to THE high school party of the summer but the party got out of hand and she called the cops to break up the party. Now, she’s starting ninth grade as a social pariah. No one knows why Melinda calls the cops, but readers figure out pretty quickly that something traumatic happened at the party. The rest of the novel is about Melinda finding her voice to speak up about what happened. 

2. Long Way Down

by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds_50 Must-Read​ Books for Ninth Graders

Get it HERE.

Long Way Down is as good as young adult literature gets, it’s an absolute must read. Will’s brother Shawn has been killed by gang violence, so Will grabs a gun to avenge his brother, gets on an elevator, and begins a 60-second elevator ride down that will change his life. At each floor, the elevator stops and the ghost of someone in Will’s life who has been killed by gun violence gets on and talks to Will. It’s a novel in verse, and it’s powerful. 

3. Every Day

by David Levithan

Every Day by David Levithan_50 Must-Read​ Books for Ninth Graders

Get it HERE.

Narrator and genderless protagonist A wakes up every day in a different body. A lives a day in the life of that person, then wakes up the next day as someone else. A does everything A can to leave that day’s life unimpacted, until A meets Rhiannon, who A falls in love with. This is a remarkable exploration of the nature true love and how it exists outside of physical appearance and gender. 

4. Eleanor and Park

by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell_50 Must-Read​ Books for Ninth Graders

Get it HERE.

Eleanor and Park could not be more different, but the two become friends and fall in love on the bus ride to and from school. But whereas Park comes from a loving, safe family home, Eleanor’s homelife contains dark secrets that haunt her and her ability to believe she is deserving of love. 

5. Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Get it HERE.

Jade is an aspiring artist, and she tries to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along to help her find success. She commutes to an elite private school every day and is especially looking forward to a chance to go on the school’s study abroad trip this year when she is suddenly enrolled in a mentoriship program called Women to Women. Jade is positive she’s selected for this only because she is poor and black, and as a result she resents the placement.  

6. The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch

Get it HERE.

Miles O’Malley is obsessed with Rachel Carson and aspires to be a naturalist just like her. One night he is exploring the Puget Sound low tide and stumbles across a giant squid. Suddenly, Miles finds himself at the center of a media firestorm. Miles is just navigating the pitfalls of growing up, including his crush on his much-older babysitter and watching his parents’ marriage fall apart. The sea, which once was home, now offers as many questions as it gives answers. 

7. The Whisper

by Pamela Zagarenski

The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski

Get it HERE.

In this picture book about imagination, a girl borrows a book from her teacher but the words leak out on the way home (a helpful fox catches the words as he follows along behind). When the girl sits down to read the now-wordless story, she hears a whisper telling her to imagine the story however she’d like. 

8. Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition

by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly

Get it HERE.

Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were NASA’s human computers tasked with performing the difficult mathematical calculations needed to launch rockets into space. In spite of this intensely important work, the black women rarely received the respect they deserved. The civil rights movement and the gender equlity movement are both highlighted in this remarkable nonfiction work.

9. Moxie

by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Get it HERE.

Vivian Carter’s mom was a Riot Girl in the 90s punk era, but Vivian finds herself hard-pressed to stand up for herself, especially in the face of the sexism she notices at her school. She decides to start an anonymous feminist magazine she distributes at school. Pretty quickly, the zine catches on and the school finds its has a revolution on its hands. 

10. The Crossover

by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Get it HERE.

Narrator Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan are 12-year-old basketball superstars. Josh is also an aspiring rapper, so his story is told in verse. This is the story of their championship year, a year in their lives when basketball and relationships collide. A year of growing up.  

11. How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous

by Georgia Bragg and illustrated by Kevin O’ Malley

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous written by Georgia Bragg and illustrated by Kevin O' Malley

Get it HERE.

What could be a gross, gruesome book ends up being darkly humorous. As the title suggests, this is the nonfiction account of how 19 famous people met their demise, from Albert Einstein to King Tut. It’s morbid but entertaining. 

12. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Young Reader’s Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Young Reader's Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

Get it HERE.

William Kamkwamba lives in Malawi, and when a drought strikes his village, his family’s crops fail and they are left without a livelihood. William, a budding scientist, turns to the library for a solution and ends up constructing a windmill to bring electricity back to the family farm. It’s an incredible true story.

13. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Get it HERE.

In this memoir in verse, author Jacqueline Woodson shares how it felt to belong to two places growing up. Her time was split between New York and South Carolina, which were starkly different experiences during the civil rights movement. Brown Girl Dreaming won the National Book Award. 

14. American Born Chinese

by Gene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Get it HERE.

This graphic novel explores identity, nationality, and heritage as the central character, Jim Wang, just wants to be seen as an all-American boy, not as the Chinese-American student in his school. 

15. Boxers (and Saints)

by Gene Luen Yang 

Boxers (and Saints) by Gene Luen Yang

Get it HERE.

Boxers and Saints is a two-volume graphic novel. The companion books explore the Chinese Boxer Rebellion from opposite sides of the violent conflict. In Boxers, Little Bao leads an army of “boxers” (or kung fu-fighting commoners) against the enemy. 

16. I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Reader’s Edition)

by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Reader's Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick

Get it HERE.

Ten-year-old Malala Yousafzai watches her beloved Pakistan overtaken by the Taliban. She is suddenly told she is not allowed to go to school but defies this new order. She is shot point-blank in the head and, against all odds, survived. She is now a global advocate for education and women’s rights. 

17. Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card

by Sara Saedi

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

Get it HERE.

In this true account, Sara Saedi has lived in the United States since she was two years old, but it is only at age 13 that she discovers her family’s undocumented status. Now she has one more fear to add to her list of adolescent worries – being deported! This story grapples with big political issues like immigration and teen issues like acne and unibrows.

18. We Contain Multitudes

by Sarah Henstra

We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra

Get it HERE.

Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky are assigned to write letters to each other for an English class pen pal project. Their letter-writing turns into a secret love, which homophobia threatens to destroy.

19. Persepolis

by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Get it HERE.

This is the author’s graphic novel memoir about growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. The author gives readers a glimpse into the day-to-day life in Iran as well as the political conflict the country is embroiled in. 

20. Atlantia

by Ally Condie


Get it HERE.

Environmental devastation has driven the human race to construct an underwater city called Atlantia. Only select people are allowed to repopulate Above. Rio dreams about seeing the world outside of Atlantia, but her twin sister robs her of the opportunity. 

21. Love and First Sight

by Josh Sundquist

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

Get it HERE.

Will is blind, and at 16, this means his life looks a bit different than others teenagers. When he is given the chance to undergo an experimental surgery to give him sight, he takes the chance but soon discovers the sighted world is more complicated than he expected. 

22. Caraval

by Stephanie Garber

Get it HERE.

Scarlett and Tella live under the cruel thumb of their father, but when an invitation to Caraval arrives just before Scarlett’s arranged marriage, she risks everything to see the performance she has dreamed of since she was a child. The world of Caraval turns out to be more than Scarlett bargained for, and soon she is tangled in a web of intrigue. This is the first in a trilogy. 

23. Talking Leaves by Joseph Bruchac

Talking Leaves by Joseph Bruchac

Get it HERE.

Uwohali’s father Sequoyah can talk of nothing but the strange markings he has invented, making villagers talk of witchcraft. But Sequoyah has invented an alphabet and wishes to share this new knowledge with his people. This is a really interesting foray into historical fiction and the origins of the Cherokee alphabet.

24. The Secret History of Us

by Jessi Kirby

The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

Get it HERE.

After a horrific car accident, Olivia wakens with amnesia. She has no memory of anything that defines her, and this includes no memory of courtship with her boyfriend Matt. This is the story of Olivia trying to navigate through who she is now versus who everyone told her she was before the accident.  

25. Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time

by Tanya Lee Stone

Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone

Get it HERE.

Girl Rising is a global campaign for girl’s education. The Girl Rising campaign has produced a film and now this book with the same name. Each looks at barriers to women’s education in the world today, from sex trafficking to poverty. Each works to get girls an education and change the world. 

26. Does My Head Look Big in This?

by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Get it HERE.

At 16, Amal decides to start wearing a hijab, the headdress of her Muslim faith, full time. With this decision comes hatred and prejudice. Amal is not trying to stand out and would prefer to be noticed for other things beyond her hijab. 

27. The Upside of Unrequited

by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Get it HERE.

Molly is a self-proclaimed fat girl who has never been kissed. Or, more accurately, she’s never let a boy kiss her for fear of rejection. Two new boys enter her orbit – one, the handsome hipster type, and the other a chubby Tolkein fan, and Molly learns a thing or two about attraction. 

28. Landscape with Invisible Hand

by M.T. Anderson

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

Get it HERE.

An alien race called the vuvv lands on earth and offers up advanced technology and medicine for free. Ironically, the new tech means a lot of people on earth are out of work, including Adam’s parents. Adam and his girlfriend Chloe hatch a scheme to give the vuvv what they love, which is vintage earth culture. Together, they produce a pay-per-view TV show featuring their dates. One problem – they are growing apart. 

29. Beastly

by Alex Flinn

Beastly by Alex Flinn

Get it HERE.

The beast of Beauty and the Beast lore lives in modern day New York after a witch in his high school class cast a spell on him. Like the beast in the classic fairy tale, this beast must learn a few lessons before he can break the spell. This is the first book in the Kendra Chronicles. 

30. Cinder

by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Get it HERE.

Cinder is a cyborg on a futuristic earth. A plague moves through the human population just as Cinder becomes involved with Prince Kai. This Cinderella retelling is classic fairy tale meets science fiction. It’s the first in a series of books known as the Lunar Chronicles. 

31. Girl, Stolen

by April Henry

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Get it HERE.

Griffin steals a car, only to find 16-year-old Cheyenne Wilder sleeping in the backseat. While kidnapping hadn’t been on Griffin’s list of plans, when he finds out that Cheyenne’s parents are rich, his plans change. 

32. One of Us is Lying

by Karen M. McManus

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Get it HERE.

Four students in after-school detention witness the death of their classmate, Simon. When the police rule Simon’s death a homicide, the four teenagers find themselves in the middle of a murder investigation, and thanks to Simon’s gossip blog, all four of them have a motive. This story is told in the perspectives of each of the four suspects. 

33. Dumplin’

by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Get it HERE.

Willowdean, nicknamed Dumplin’ by her beauty queen mother, knows she’s a big girl, but she rocks her body with self-confidence. Until, that is, she starts crushing on Bo, who seems to like her back. Their budding relationship has Willowdean tangled up in self-doubt, so she decides to do something drastic to get her confidence back – she enters the local beauty pageant. 

34. Turbulent by T.L. Payne

Turbulent by T.L. Payne

Get it HERE.

An electromagnetic pulse wipes out communication devices across the nation. Maddie, an ultra-marathon runner, is in an airport when the EMP hits, and it’s a matter of time before chaos descends. She runs for her life along with a young orphaned girl. 

35. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle

A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle

Get it HERE.

Vicky’s family is spending their summer taking care of her terminally ill grandfather on the small island he calls home. Meanwhile, she finds herself with three boys competing for her interest, and she’s not sure she’s ready for what any of them are offering. This is a complex story about living in the face of death. 

36. The Bean Trees

by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees

Get it HERE.

Taylor Greer’s main goal in life is to get out of Kentucky without getting pregnant. As soon as high school is over, she heads west and along the way acquires a Cherokee child who she might just end up mothering. At its heart, this is a novel about realizing that your plans don’t mean an awful lot in the face of the universe. 

37. The Chocolate War

by Robert Cormier

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Get it HERE.

Jerry attends an all-boys prep school and makes the defiant decision to refuse to sell chocolate in the school fundraiser. This decision, this bucking of tradition, places Jerry squarely in front of a secret society, and it’s not long before an all-out war breaks lose. 

38. Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Get it HERE.

Moss’ father was killed by police, and now as a high school student, Moss finds that he and his friends are increasingly profiled by police and security guards at his school. The students decide to push back against police and profiling, and tensions rise to a breaking point. 

39. Spinning

by Tillie Walden

Spinning by Tillie Walden

Get it HERE.

Spinning is the author’s memoir in graphic novel form. In it, she remembers her tumultuous adolescence. She grew up questioning her sexuality while trying to conform to the strict behavior and dress codes of the figure skating teams she belonged to. She may have been a good skater, but she hated it, instead desiring to pursue art.

40. The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Get it HERE.

In a dystopian America, 12 districts each agree to send one boy and one girl to the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on national television. When Katniss Everdeen’s sister Prim is selected to compete, Katniss takes her place and, once at the Capitol, becomes an unstoppable force of rebellion. This is the first in a trilogy. 

41. Legend

by Marie Lu

Legend by Marie Lu

Get it HERE.

In this dystopian novel, America has become the Republic. June, raised to be an elite military solider, soon finds herself hunting Day, the prime suspect in her brother’s murder. This is the first in a trilogy. 

42. Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith

by Deborah Heiligman

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Get it HERE.

This biography of Charles Darwin explores the relationship between Darwin and his wife Emma. Emma was a woman of great Christian faith, and her husband’s theory of evolution by natural selection prompted much discussion in their marriage, just as it does in today’s public schools. 

43. A Northern Light

by Jennifer Donnelly

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Get it HERE.

Mattie works at a hotel, where one night a guest urges her to take a bundle of letters and burn them. The guest is dead by morning and Mattie realizes the letters could hold the key to her murder. 

44. The Night Gardener

by Jonathan Auxier

The Night Gardener

Get it HERE.

Two orphaned children wind up as servants at an Irish manor, and they quickly realize something spooky is happening. The house is cursed by the Night Gardener, who may appear to grant wishes when really the price of those wishes is quite hight. 

45. Wonder Woman: Warbringer

by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Get it HERE.

The DC Icons series takes DC superheroes and gives them teenaged backstories written by all-star young adult authors. The Wonder Woman installment features Diana Prince as an Amazon princess who breaks the rules and rescues a mortal from certain death. But supernatural interference is forbidden, and Diana has just made a huge mistake. 

46. The Afterlife of Holly Chase

by Cynthia Hand

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Get it HERE.

A Christmas Carol gets updated for the young adult set. Holly Chase is a modern-day Scrooge, or at least a teenage girl version. She’s spoiled and bratty and most certainly does not bask in the magic of the Christmas season. The three ghosts try to save her, but she won’t be saved. So she dies. And finds herself working for Project Scrooge, a supernatural organization that tries to save Scrooges around the world every Christmas. 

47. Uglies

by Scott Westerfield 

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Get it HERE.

Tally lives in a futuristic world where everyone undergoes an extreme makeover when they reach their sixteenth birthday, turning them from an “ugly” into a “pretty.” Everyone wants to be pretty, except Tally’s friend Shay. When Shay runs away, Tally goes after and finds that a dark underbelly exists in her seemingly perfect world. 

48. For Every One

by Jason Reynolds

For Every One by Jason Reynolds

Get it HERE.

This slim book by Jason Reynolds is a poem he originally read for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It’s an inspirational poem encouraging anyone who has dreams (all of us!) to keep pushing to achieve greatness. 

49. The Boy in Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Get ti HERE.

Bruno is the nine-year-old son of a man who runs a concentration camp. Bruno is never, ever to go near the fence surrounding the camp, but Bruno ignores these instructions because he plans to grow up to be an explorer. One day, he does approach the fence and soon begins developing a friendship with a young Jewish boy inside. This book is powerful and devastating. 

50. Undertow by Michael Buckley 

Undertow by Michael Buckley

Get it HERE.

The Alpha, a strange, ocean-dwelling race of creatures, emerges from the ocean onto Coney Island. Lyric is called upon to help the Alpha prince, Fathom, adjust to land life and they begin to develop a relationship. 

Other book lists from Amy’s bookshelf you’ll love: 

50 Must-Read​ Books for Ninth Graders

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I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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