Rad Reads

12 books to read before you graduate high school

Books are magical realms of possibility and a fantastic read can totally change your life. High school can be a tough time of unknowns and learning who you are. We've rounded up twelve books to read in high school that have changed real GL reader's lives and could turn your world upside down too. 

1. Turtles All the Way Down

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"Turtles All the Way Down was my first big insight into mental health and specifically anxiety. It helped me to deepen some of my relationships and also was a huge step towards my passion for mental health awareness."—Abigail A. 

Turtles All the Way Down,  by popular YA author John Green, follows Aza Holmes, a sixteen-year-old girl navigating the disappearance of a billionaire, friendship, and relationship drama and her own spiraling thoughts and anxieties. The novel is achingly relatable and a beautifully written look into mental illness in everyday life. 

2. Again but Better

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"Again but Better is what pushed me to apply to be a film major in college."—Hannah A. 

Shane is a picture-perfect college student. She's a pre-med with fantastic grades, but with no friends and a life of homework and classes, she needs a change. A semester abroad in London is *just* what she needs to live outside her bubble and figure out all that she's capable of. 

3. Normal People

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"Normal People paints a very real picture of relationships and their imperfections, something I really needed to see in high school."—Isabelle E. 

Connell and Marianne live two very different lives. Although people, possibilities and their social lives are constantly changing, the two are always drawn to one another. Normal People writes about the realities of first love, family and friendships in a work of sparse prose. 

4. Fangirl 

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"Cath reminded me a lot of myself. She's most comfortable with her books or writing fanfiction and seeing her start to tell her own story is what made me want to be a writer."—Anne A. 

Romance author Rainbow Rowell spins the sweetest tale of self-expression through big fangirl Cath who has to discover how to live her own life and write her own story by herself in college without her twin sister Wren always by her side. There's an *adorable* romance too of course. 

5. Magnus Chase 

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"Seeing diverse gender identities in the Magnus Chase series inspired me as a young non-binary person."—Emily F. 

Perfect for all lovers of the Percy Jackson series, Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase books explore the world of Norse mythology and a wonderful array of characters, complete with sarcastic and hilarious narrator Magnus Chase. (Cousin to our *fave* Annabeth Chase) 

6. Her Royal Highness 

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"Her Royal Highness is a really cheesy and cute rom-com between two girls which I loved because not many WLW books are like that."—June H. 

Scottish princess Flora and her American roommate Millie can't stand each other at first. (Did anyone say enemies to lovers!?) Until suddenly they're finding their own fairytale romance. Sweet and lighthearted, Her Royal Highness is a lovely LGBTQ+ read. 

7. Hoot 

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"Hoot is funny, but it also shows characters that follow what they believe is right and it's all about helping the environment."—Maya W. 

Roy Eberhardt moves to a new town and makes strange friends, a few enemies and most importantly, a plan to stop a construction project that will destroy the homes of a colony of burrowing owls. Funny and loveable, Hoot is a quick read that's great for all lovers of nature. 

8. South of Sunshine 

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"South of Sunshine made me feel less alone."—Bella G. 

Growing up in Sunshine, Tennesse, a small town whose biggest event is Friday night football, Kaycee Jean McCoy has learned to hide who she is. Until new girl, Bren shows up, cool and proud of who she is. The two girls get closer and Kaycee must decide how much she's willing to risk just to be herself. 

9. Us Against You 

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"Us Against You is heavy, but shows how loyalty, friendship, and even a sports team can carry a community through the darkest of times. It says a lot about the good that can always be found in humanity."—Lydia D. 

The heartwrenching sequel to Beartown, Us Against You is the story of a small hockey town recovering from tragedy. A new team of mismatched players forms and relationships are tested as Fredrik Backman delivers another stunning character-driven book. 

10. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing 

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"An Absolutely Remarkable Thing changed the way I think about social media and technology. It's a must-read commentary on fame and the power of media and identity."—Ella A. 

Mysterious and full of sci-fi charm, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing's sarcastic and loveable main character April May enters the world of overnight fame when she makes a video about the giant sculpture that shows up in NYC at 3 AM, that she nicknames "Carl". Thrown into the spotlight, April May is on a journey to find out just what the Carls are and how to deal with her new fame. 

11. The Alchemist 

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"The Alchemist is a great book because it teaches you to follow your dreams and that everyone has a gift and a purpose, which is perfect if you're feeling unsure of yourself in high school."—Elizabeth L. 

Enchanting and full of beautiful bits of wisdom, The Alchemist tells of a shepherd boy Santiago and his quest for buried treasure, where he meets a gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king and an alchemist along the way, all with different advice to lead him on his way. 

12. Have a Nice Day 

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"Have a Nice Day changed my life because it made me realize that my depression doesn't own me."—Caroline K. 

Anna Bloom has just come home from her stay in a mental hospital. She's ready to start getting back to "normal" life, whatever that may be. Real and true to life with her thoughts and concerns, Anna Bloom is a wonderful narrator for anyone searching to feel less alone in their experience with depression. Related: more mental health resources here. 

What book changed your life? Let us know on Twitter @girlslifemag!


by Abigail Adams | 3/4/2021