30 Read Alouds Your High School Students Will Love

30 Read Alouds Your High School Students Will Love

It’s easy to associate read-aloud time with small children sitting criss-cross applesauce on a brightly colored rug with a friendly librarian sharing a picture book with rapt audiences, but it’s far past time we start recognizing that all ages benefit from classroom read alouds. Teenagers especially love to hear books read out loud to them. Here’s a list of perfect high school read alouds to get you started.

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1. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom

by Lynda Blackmon Lowery and illustrated PJ Loughran

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom

Get it HERE.

Author Lynda Blackmon was the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. This is a short book that is an easy and engaging read aloud about the lifelong work of a civil rights activist who proved that young adults can indeed change the world.

2. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir 

by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Edel Rodriguez

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir

Get it HERE.

Margarita splits her time between Cuba and Los Angeles during the Cold War. Cuban revolution and the Bay of Pigs invasion cause Margarita’s two worlds to crash into each other. She fears for her family in Cuba and looks for ways to reconcile the two sides of her person in this memoir in verse.

3. American Panda

by Gloria Chao

American Panda 30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

Mei’s parents have the rest of her life planned – she will be a doctor and marry a wealthy and upstanding Taiwanese man. She finds herself a freshman at MIT at seventeen and feeling pretty squeamish about the medical field. She must muster up the courage to tell her parents she wants to follow her own path but feels deep guilt about rejecting the opportunities they have afforded her.

4. The Hobbit

by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit

Get it HERE.

The classic story of The Hobbit is popular for high school read alouds. It tells the tale of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who cherishes his quiet life and a good cup of tea. One night, thirteen dwarves and a wizard show up and convince Bilbo to go on a dangerous quest to steal the treasure of Smaug the dragon. It’s short length and adventurous plotline make this a quick and fun high school read aloud. 

5. I Am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick

I Am Malala _30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

Malala Yousafzai bravely decides to go to school in Taliban-controlled Pakistan. On her way home from school one day, she is shot point-blank and nearly dies. Against all odds, she survived and became one of the world’s biggest advocates for the right to be educated.

6. My Sister’s Keeper

by Jodi Picoult

My Sister's Keeper _30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

My Sister’s Keeper tackles medical ethics with compassion. In the book, thirteen-year-old Anna was conceived to be a bone marrow donor for her sister Kate, who has leukemia. As she comes of age, Anna decides to sue her parents for the medical rights to her own body. It’s a lengthy book, but its value as a read aloud comes from the discussions it will prompt.

7. Long Way Down

by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down_30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

This is one of the top fast and engaging high school read alouds. In it, a young boy decides to avenge his brother’s death after Shawn is killed in an episode of gang violence. Will finds his brother’s gun and gets in the elevator of his apartment building, heading to the street to find Shawn’s killer. The entire novel takes place during the 60-second elevator ride. The elevator stops at each floor and on gets a ghost from Will’s past. Soon the elevator car is filled with ghosts, all talking to Will about the repercussions of gun violence.

8. Punching the Air

by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Punching the Air

Get it HERE.

Just released in September 2020, this powerful novel in verse tells the story of Amal Shahid, who is wrongfully convicted and sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Zoboi is the bestselling author of Pride and American Street, and Salaam is one of the Exonerated Five and a prison reform activist. The two authors together have created a knockout of a book.

9. Tigers, Not Daughters

by Samantha Mabry

Tigers Not Daughters

Get it HERE.

Billed as a Little Women for our times by Julia Alvarez, Tigers, Not Daughters is the story of the four Torres sisters who dream of escaping their dreary portion of San Antonio. But when Ana dies after a tragic fall, the three remaining sisters give up on their dreams of leaving. Then, mysterious happenings lead the sisters to believe that Ana is haunting them, trying to send them a final message from beyond the grave.

10. The Black Flamingo

by Dean Atta

The Black Flamingo_30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

Michael is Black, Greek, and gay. He’s not quite sure where he fits in until he finds the Drag Society and creates the Black Flamingo. Black Flamingo is a novel in verse that explores issues of identity and acceptance in a way listeners will find relatable, perfect for high school read alouds.

11. The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X

Get it HERE.

The Poet X is an award-winning novel in verse about Xiomara Batista, a girl who wants her voice to be heard but doesn’t know how to speak up. Xiomara’s mother expects her to be a good girl, follow the laws of the church, and focus on school. She does not approve of Xio’s interest in spoken word poetry, so Xio pursues it secretly.

12. Catalyst

by Laurie Halse Anderson


Get it HERE.

Kate Malone’s perfectly organized life is turned upside down her the neighbor’s house burns to the ground – the house where Kate’s nemesis Teri Litch lives. When Kate’s father invites Teri and her younger brother to move into their house temporarily, she is furious. But soon enough, Kate and Teri bury the hatchet and get to know each other, and Teri teaches Kate a lesson she will never forget. Fans of Anderson’s brilliant novel Speak will enjoy Catalyst as it’s set in the same school.

13. The Girl and the Goddess: Stories and Poems of Divine Justice

by Nikita Gill

The Girl and the Goddess: Stories and Poems of Divine Justice _30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

The Girl and the Goddess is a novel in verse about Hindu mythology. In it, Paro comes of age against the backdrop of Partition in India. Gill, who teens will likely be familiar with thanks to her Instagram platform, writes about finding empowerment through defining your identity.

14. Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip

by Jordan Sonnenblick

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip _30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

Peter Friedman is destined to be an all-star pitcher – until an accident one summer destroys his ability to pitch. Devastated, his entire identity wrapped around Pete the Athlete, he must figure out a way to rebuild his life.

15. The Indigo Girl

by Natasha Boyd

The Indigo Girl _30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

The Indigo Girl is historical fiction based on the life of Eliza Lucas Pinckney. In 1793, at 16, Eliza took over her father’s plantations, believing the estate’s salvation would come from planting indigo. When no one will help her understand the mysterious dye-making process, Eliza strikes a deal with a slave – she will teach her slaves to read if they, in exchange, will teach her to make the indigo dye.

16. The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

Get it HERE.

Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give is world-famous at this point. It’s a teen novel that honestly explores issues of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. In it, Starr Carter attends a party and leaves early with a friend. They are pulled over in a traffic stop, and her friend, Khalil, is shot to death by the police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Starr is the only witness to the shooting and must find a way to speak out.

17. Dumplin’

by Julie Murphy

Dumplin'_30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

Willowdean Dickson, called “Dumplin’” by her mom, enters a beauty contest in spite of being fat. Will is sassy and self-assured and a perfect challenge to beauty pageant stereotypes, but she falters when she starts crushing on a hot guy she works with named Bo. When Bo likes her back, Will starts to doubt herself, and she must find a way to get her confidence back.

18. Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

by Laura Ruby

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

Get it HERE.

This book is unique in a way that should be expected from the acclaimed author of the novel Bone Gap. It’s historical and narrated by two girls: Frankie is an orphan, abandoned by her father after her mother passes away, and Pearl is a ghost. The novel explores the difficulties facing families, and especially women, in the 1930s and 1940s.

19. The Downstairs Girl

by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl

Get it HERE.

Jo Kuan works as an unassuming maid, but she has a secret that no one would suspect. By night, she pens the advice column “Dear Miss Sweetie,” written for Southern ladies. When she openly questions public norms about race and gender, Jo is surprised by the backlash that appears. In the witch hunt to discover the real name of Miss Sweetie that follows, Jo delves into her own personal history to decide if she’s ready to share her identity with the world.

20. Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters

by Meredith Zeitlin

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters_30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

Kelsey Finkelstein’s freshman year of high school is fraught with hilarious and ridiculous scenarios. She deals with the normal chaos of being a freshman – experimenting with boys, going to parties, avoiding the soccer team captain’s wrath, and living down an embarrassing picture in the school paper. What makes this one of the great high school read alouds is how very relatable Kelsey’s mishaps are.

21. The Night Gardener

by Jonathan Auxier

The Night Gardener_30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

The Night Gardener reads a lot like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It’s a Victorian ghost story that is just spine-tingling enough to engage teens but is still well within the bounds of crowd-pleasing read-aloud. In it, two Irish siblings are hired to work in a spooky mansion that they soon find out is afflicted with an ancient curse and haunted by the specter of the Night Gardener.

22. The Ocean At the End of the Lane

by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Get it HERE.

This short novel is about a middle aged man who travels to his childhood home for a funeral and a visit. While there, he recalls the fantastical stories he would spin with his friend Lettie, who claimed the pond down the way was actually an ocean. Gaiman explores childhood versus adulthood and the power of stories in our lives.

23. A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls_30 Engaging High School Read Alouds

Get it HERE.

Before her untimely death from cancer, author Siobhan Dowd shared her idea for this story. After her passing, her idea was taken up by author Patrick Ness and turned into this unforgettable book about an ancient monster who comes to visit young Conor, a boy who is struggling with his mother’s debilitating illness and bullies at school. It’s a rare book that is more audiences of all ages and contains some real wisdom about acceptance and grief that all readers can benefit from.

24. Tuesdays with Morrie

by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie

Get it HERE.

Author Mitch Albom identifies Morrie Schwartz as his greatest mentor. When he finds out that his beloved college professor has been diagnosed with ALS and doesn’t have long to live, he rekindles his relationship with Morrie, dropping by every Tuesday to continue learning what he can from his favorite teacher.

25. Ordinary Hazards

by Nikki Grimes

Ordinary Hazards

Get it HERE.

At six-years-old, Nikki Grimes discovered the power of writing, and she never stopped. Ordinary Hazards is her memoir about surviving childhood as the child of a schizophrenic mother, absent father, and surrounded by a host of adults who, at best, ignored her and at worst terrorized her.

26. Scythe

by Neal Shusterman


Get it HERE.

Death has been all but conquered in the world of Scythe, a trilogy teens are almost guaranteed to love. But, once death is conquered, the population soars, and so the scythe-dom is born. Scythes are sanctioned to be society’s only killers, tasked with officially “gleaning” the world’s population. In the first book in the trilogy, two teenagers, Citra and Rowan, find themselves apprenticed to a scythe, training to be killers.

27. Flowers in the Gutter: The True Story of the Edelweiss Pirates, Teenagers Who Resisted the Nazis

by K. R. Gaddy

Flowers in the Gutter: The True Story of the Edelweiss Pirates, Teenagers Who Resisted the Nazis

Get it HERE.

At the height of the Nazi regime, hundreds of teens participated in an underground resistance, distributing leaflets and graffitiing anti-Nazi messages around the country. As the war neared its end, some even participated in armed conflict. They were called the Edelweiss Pirates and were hunted and arrested by the Gestapo. This book focuses on three Edelweiss Pirates, teens Fritz, Gertrud, and Jean.

28. Watch Us Rise

by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

Watch Us Rise

Get it HERE.

Teens Jasmine and Chelsea start a women’s rights club in their New York City high school, posting their club’s videos and writings online. Soon they go viral, and with the publicity comes trolls. The principal shuts their club down, but Jasmine and Chelsea refuse to go back to a place where their voices aren’t heard.

29. Forward Me Back to You

by Mitali Perkins

Forward Me Back to You

Get it HERE.

Two teens, Robin and Kat, develop a friendship on a church trip to help survivors of human trafficking. Kat is a jujitsu champion and sexual assault survivor, while Robin is an orphan from India, searching for his roots. The two teens travel to India, Kat for the first time, and Robin returning to the country of his birth. The book focuses on the topic of trauma and how we might heal from it.

30. Accused!


by Larry Dame Brimner

Get it HERE.

This is the true story of the Scottsboro Boys, 9 young black men who, during the Great Depression era, were falsely accused of raping two white women. The Jim Crow South and its racist legal system and all-white juries combined to make the trials of these men one of the worst miscarriages of justice in the history of the United States. It took more than 80 years for them to be exonerated.

Other Book Lists From Amy’s Bookshelf You’ll Love:

30 Read Alouds Your High School Students Will Love

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Veteran Legend

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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