9 Young Adult Historical Novels That Make The Past Come To Life
The past is full of important events, interesting customs, and colorful characters. That's why so many talented authors are inspired to create works that take place in bygone eras, from revolutionary France to the Viking age. Whether you find history class fascinating or boring, there's sure to be something for you on this list. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.
YA Historical Fiction: Our 9 Picks
Popular Settings for Historical Fiction
8 Great Historical Movies
- The Sound of Music (1965)
- Hidden Figures (2016)
- Amadeus (1984)
- Lincoln (2012)
- Newsies (1992)
- Catch Me If You Can (2002)
- Pride (2007)
- Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017)
Teaching History in the 21st Century
It's often said that kids of this generation are growing up fast, but as these works of historical fiction show, young people didn't have it so easy in previous generations. From ancient Rome to 19th-century France, the titles included on this list transport readers to eras before cellphones or laptop computers. For teens curious about the past, here are, in no particular order, nine Y.A. novels that bring history to life.
Coming in at #1 is "The Forbidden Orchid" by Sharon Biggs Waller. In a small town in Victorian England, prim and proper Elodie Buchanan lives with her nine younger sisters. Their father, a plant hunter, is rarely around due to his frequent expeditions overseas. When he rescinds his contract to recover a rare and precious orchid, the family faces dire consequences. To avoid prison time for her father and life in an orphanage for her sisters, Elodie convinces her dad to travel to China to collect the flower. While accompanying him on his voyage, Elodie awakens to an exciting but perilous world radically different from her own.
For #2 we have "Belle Epoque" by Elizabeth Ross. Maude Pichon has abandoned her country town for the streets of Paris. Penniless and in need of work, she responds to an ad and takes a job with an agency that rents out plain women to be friends with rich debutantes. Maude is to be paired with Isabelle, the strong-willed daughter of a countess. The only problem is that Isabelle doesn't realize her new companion is a hired worker. Maude must keep the truth hidden if she is to pass unsuspected in the world of nobility.
Penniless and in need of work, she responds to an ad and takes a job with an agency that rents out plain women to be friends with rich debutantes.
At #3 is "The Lost Girl of Astor Street" by Stephanie Morrill. Dissatisfied with the police's investigation into the disappearance of her best friend Lydia, eighteen-year-old Piper takes the case into her own hands. Alongside an attractive young gumshoe, she chases clues through the seedy underbelly of 1920s Chicago. As she digs deeper into the city's treacherous network of corruption, Piper will have to determine how much she's willing to risk to find Lydia.
For #4 we have "A Beautiful Poison" by Lydia Kang. When friends keep dying around young Manhattan socialite Allene, it seems that the 1918 flu pandemic could be the cause. But chemistry-loving Allene has a different idea: she's convinced they've all been poisoned. Determined to get answers, she enlists her friends Jasper, a medical examiner, and Birdie, a worker at a radium factory, to investigate. While the bodies keep piling up and the culprit continues to elude capture, the three science-minded detectives find themselves questioning if they can even trust each other.
Arriving at #5 is "Madame Tussaud's Apprentice" by Kathleen Benner Duble. Teenage orphan Celie Rosseau's desire to join the resistance in the French Revolution is put on hold when she is caught stealing from the brother of King Louis XVI. To escape punishment for her crime, Celie will use her artistic talent to help design the displays at Madame Tussaud's waxworks museum. While the street girl becomes accustomed to the lavish surroundings at Versailles, she finds herself conflicted between fighting for the poor masses and staying in the comfort of the royal elite.
Teenage orphan Celie Rosseau's desire to join the resistance in the French Revolution is put on hold when she is caught stealing from the brother of King Louis XVI.
For #6 we get "Prisoners in the Palace" by Michaela MacColl. Left broke and debt-ridden after the sudden deaths of her parents, sixteen-year-old Liza finds work as a maid to the teenage Princess Victoria. The soon-to-be queen, who lives with her calculating mother in tumultuous Kensington Palace, proves to be a surly and pitiable person to care for. But as Liza gets entangled in the gossip and conspiracy circling the kingdom, she comes to understand and sympathize with Victoria's situation.
#7 is "Curses and Smoke" by Vicky Alvear Shecter. In ancient Pompeii, Lucia is butting heads with her father, Titurius, who is trying to betroth her to a wealthy patron of his gladiatorial school. Her childhood friend Tag, meanwhile, is enslaved as her dad's medical servant. When the two fall in love and attempt to escape their fates by running away together, they are followed by Titurius and caught up in the chaos of Mount Vesuvius's eruption.
For #8 we have "Viking Warrior" by Judson Roberts. The first installment in the "Strongbow Saga" takes readers to the brutal world of 9th-century Denmark, where a boy becomes a warrior on a path of self-discovery. Halfdan, the illegitimate son of a Danish chieftain and his enslaved, noble Irish wife, grew up as the property of his father. When he is freed following the deaths of his parents, Halfdan sets out to establish a life of his own and exact vengeance on those who have wronged him.
Halfdan, the illegitimate son of a Danish chieftain and his enslaved, noble Irish wife, grew up as the property of his father.
Finally, at #9 is "The Watch That Ends the Night" by Allan Wolf. Told from the perspectives of passengers aboard the R.M.S. "Titanic," including non-human characters, the 24 different sections utilize free-verse, telegraphs, and various reports to create a portrait of the diverse people involved in the 1912 tragedy. From a millionaire to a Lebanese refugee, Wolf weaves together characters from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, their voices providing an intimate window to the experiences of those who perished and those who survived.