9 Realistic Young Adult Books With Relatable Protagonists

Reading can be a way to escape into fantastical worlds, but it can also be a gateway into the perspectives of more realistic protagonists. When young readers are immersed in the lives of characters they can relate to, it helps them to better understand and appreciate their own lives. If you're a fan of YA literature, check out the nine well-written works of realistic fiction listed here. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

YA Books About Real Life: Our 9 Picks

Title Author
1. The Secret to Lying Todd Mitchell
2. The Duke of Bannerman Prep Katie A. Nelson
3. Edna in the Desert Maddy Lederman
4. The Calculus of Change Jessie Hilb
5. How It Ends Catherine Lo
6. Populatti Jackie Nastri Bardenwerper
7. The Mess of Me Chantelle Atkins
8. The Boy Who Steals Houses C.G. Drews
9. The Moment Before Suzy Vitello

Literary Charities

If you want to spread your love of YA literature with those in need, then you should consider looking into these non-profit organizations that help kids and teens get access to books and high-quality education.

Young Adult Lit Belongs to Everyone

In Depth

Not every book written for young people involves dragons or superheroes or zombies. Some involve realistic situations and characters with the types of problems every teen faces. No matter who you are, or were, as a teenager, you're likely to see pieces of yourself within these pages. In no particular order, here are nine young adult titles with protagonists readers can relate to.

First off at #1 is "The Secret to Lying" by Todd Mitchell. James has always blended into the background, but that's all about to change. When he gets accepted into boarding school, he decides to become a different person. Most of his classmates are math nerds or science geeks, but James' new persona is a rebel who pulls pranks and gets into street fights. As James' lies about his past accumulate, he begins having nightmares about a city filled with demons. Soon, he's having trouble discerning the difference between these dreams and reality.

In spot #2 is "The Duke of Bannerman Prep" by Katie A. Nelson. In this modern-day retelling of "The Great Gatsby," Tanner is recruited to Bannerman Prep for his debate skills. They want him to help them win championships like he did at his old public school. For Tanner, debate means escaping his current life and having a chance to start over. The problem is, he gets paired with the Duke, a student infamously known for his parties and favors. Tanner quickly falls for the Duke's charm and privileged lifestyle, but everything is not as it seems.

The problem is, he gets paired with the Duke, a student infamously known for his parties and favors.

Book #3 is "Edna in the Desert" by Maddy Lederman. Edna is a rebellious thirteen year old. Her therapist wants to prescribe medication, but her parents send her to live with her grandparents instead. This means spending her entire summer in the desert with no modern technology. At first, this makes Edna want to rebel more. Then she meets a boy much older than herself and begins to fall in love.

At #4 is "The Calculus of Change" by Jessie Hilb. It's Aden's senior year, and she has her hands full trying to deal with other people's problems. She isn't looking for more complications, but then she meets a boy named Tate in Calculus. The two quickly become the kind of friends who can talk about anything, and their discussions about spirituality bring back fond memories of Aden's mother who passed years ago. Aden finds herself falling for Tate, but will Tate reciprocate her feelings?

#5 is "How it Ends" by Catherine Lo, which presents two sides of a dying friendship. Jessie and Annie are polar opposites. Annie, who is popular and confident, doesn't understand why Jessie won't hang out with her friends. The other girls' bullying gives shy, withdrawn Jessie anxiety. This, along with jealous feelings and a boy they're both crushing on, pulls the girls apart. Can they set aside all the miscommunication and make up, or is it already too late?

Can they set aside all the miscommunication and make up, or is it already too late?

Next up at #6 is "Populatti" by Jackie Nastri Bardenwerper. Livi was awkward in middle school, but at sixteen, she is striving to be popular. Here to help is Populatti.com, a social media site that opens the door to parties, friendships, and hot athletes. Brandon, Livi's crush, is also on the platform. But when nasty rumors emerge about Livi, she must prove them wrong before it's too late. And if her silent friends are any indication, she's all on her own when it comes to saving her reputation.

#7 on the list is "The Mess of Me" by Chantelle Atkins. This novel tackles eating disorders, self-harm, drugs, and suicide. Lou is obsessed with her weight and in love with her best friend. Joe, who's known Lou all her life, comes from a large and violent family. He strives to be nothing like them, but then the two find drugs while looking through Joe's brother's things. After they get pulled into taking and dealing drugs, will they be able to turn their lives back around?

Next up at #8 is "The Boy Who Steals Houses" by C.G. Drews. No one from Sam's family will take in him and his autistic brother Avery, so Sam has to care for them both himself. He breaks into empty houses to keep a roof over their heads. When the large family whose house they were staying in returns, they don't make the brothers leave. Instead, they each think Sam and Avery must be friends of one of their siblings. It seems things are working out perfectly until Sam's secret past catches up to him.

He breaks into empty houses to keep a roof over their heads.

Lastly, at #9 is "The Moment Before" by Suzy Vitello. Brady is reeling with grief after losing her older sister, Sabine, who died due to an accident while cheerleading. She leaves messages on Sabine's phone, but one day, the voicemail is full. When Brady goes to delete messages so that she can continue this ritual, she finds out that Sabine had secrets, and that things may not be what they seem. With the help of Connor, who everyone else blames for Sabine's death, Brady seeks the truth.