9 Works Of YA Historical Fiction That Will Take You To Times And Places Near And Far

Getting teenagers to learn about history isn't always an easy task. Sometimes it's best to go beyond dates and facts and use historical fiction to give young readers a sense of what life was like in the past. The immersive YA novels listed here take place in a variety of settings, from the French Revolution to America's bicentennial, and are sure to spark an interest in history that just might last a lifetime. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Historical Fiction for Young Adults: Our 9 Picks

Title Author(s)
1. Blood Water Paint Joy McCullough
2. Our Sweet Guillotine Mary Gray
3. Bridie's Fire Kirsty Murray
4. One Thousand Hills James Roy & Noel Zihabamwe
5. Eli the Good Silas House
6. 84 Ribbons Paddy Eger
7. Amina J.L. Powers
8. Tiger Jeff Stone
9. Up From the Sea Leza Lowitz

8 Great Historical Movies

  1. The Sound of Music (1965)
  2. Hidden Figures (2016)
  3. Amadeus (1984)
  4. Lincoln (2012)
  5. Newsies (1992)
  6. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
  7. Pride (2007)
  8. Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017)

5 Real People Who Changed History

  1. Claudette Colvin: Teenage civil rights activist
  2. Rosalind Franklin: Made ground-breaking discoveries about DNA
  3. Nelson Mandela: Peace activist and President of South Africa
  4. Indira Gandhi: First female prime minister of India
  5. Alexander Hamilton: Profoundly shaped America's financial system

Is There A Difference Between History and The Past?

In Depth

The term "historical fiction" might bring to mind revolutionary-era America or ancient Greece, but there are great books for young people that take place everywhere from imperial China to 21st-century Japan and Africa. For those interested in exploring the vast reaches of history and geography, here are, in no particular order, nine works of truly inspired young adult historical fiction.

At #1 we have "Blood Water Paint" by Joy McCullough. Based on the true story of renowned 17th-century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi, this feminist novel told in verse depicts how a young woman battled the male-dominated art establishment. After years of mixing paints for her mediocre artist father and frequently finishing his work, seventeen-year-old Artemisia finally starts to come into her own when she takes lessons from painting tutor Tino. But when Tino's guidance turns into abuse, she must choose between staying silent or fighting back against a system that's rigged against her.

Arriving at #2 is "Our Sweet Guillotine" by Mary Gray. In this provocative romance set around the French Revolution, intrepid street urchin Tempeste is on a mission to track down and kill the executioner who hanged her mother. But when that man, Gabriel, ends up falling for her, Tempeste's extreme bloodlust is unexpectedly challenged. As the guilt-stricken Gabriel romantically pursues her while trying to fend off the ire of the lower classes, the two enemies are forced to reevaluate what it is they really seek from life, and from each other.

As the guilt-stricken Gabriel romantically pursues her while trying to fend off the ire of the lower classes, the two enemies are forced to reevaluate what it is they really seek from life, and from each other.

For #3 we get "Bridie's Fire" by Kirsty Murray. Orphaned after her parents and baby brother become victims of Ireland's potato famine, feisty teenager Bridie starts a new life in gold rush-era Australia. This bold young Irish woman undergoes an eventful coming-of-age odyssey as she encounters colonial miners as well as the country's diverse immigrant community. In the process, her adventures reveal a vivid portrait of 19th-century Australian social life.

Coming in at #4 is "One Thousand Hills" by James Roy and Noel Zihabamwe. An account of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda as seen through the eyes of a young boy, this heart-wrenching novel shows how easily innocence can be shattered by evil. Pascal is just an ordinary kid minding his own business in his small village, going to school and church like everyone else. But as ethnic hostilities escalate around him, his comfortable childhood world is thrown into peril.

For #5 we find "Eli the Good" by Silas House. While others are spending the summer celebrating America's bicentennial, ten-year-old Eli is despondent over the increasingly fractured state of his family. His veteran father is still traumatized from his time in Vietnam, his mother has become remote, and his rebellious sister Josie is butting heads with their mom. Eli's only two solaces are his best friend Edie and his aunt Nell, a former antiwar protester, but they can only do so much to temper the drama that's rocking his summer.

Eli's only two solaces are his best friend Edie and his aunt Nell, a former antiwar protester, but they can only do so much to temper the drama that's rocking his summer.

At #6 is "84 Ribbons" by Paddy Eger. In 1950s Montana, seventeen-year-old Marta finally achieves her goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer when she is invited to perform with a prestigious dance company. But as she endures the physical and emotional stresses of her new career, including a stern artistic director, a mean neighbor, and plenty of injuries, she finds that realizing her dream is going to be as much an act of survival as one of passion.

For #7 we have "Amina" by J.L. Powers. Amidst the violence of the decades-long civil war in Somalia, Amina lives with her family in a crumbling house on the margins of the country's capital city. When her artist father is arrested by the government for subversion and her brother is forced to join the rebel army, Amina's already tenuous sense of security falls apart. Embattled but tenacious, she learns how to harness her own gift for artistic expression in order to persevere.

At #8 is "Tiger" by Jeff Stone. Within a hidden temple in 17th-century China, a grandmaster has raised five orphan boys to be kung-fu-fighting monks. When they find themselves the only survivors after their temple is destroyed in battle, the boys split up to save their lives and discover the truth about their past. This first book in the "Five Ancestors" series follows twelve-year-old Fu, with each subsequent book focusing on a different one of his warrior brothers.

Within a hidden temple in 17th-century China, a grandmaster has raised five orphan boys to be kung-fu-fighting monks.

Finally, at #9 we have "Up From the Sea" by Leza Lowitz. Kai, a biracial teenager living in Japan, loses everything when the 2011 tsunami claims his village as well as his mother's and grandparents' lives. Traveling to New York, he bonds with orphaned kids who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks, and takes the opportunity to search for his estranged American dad. Told in verse, this poignant novel explores the trials and triumphs of rebuilding one's life in the wake of tragedy.