Engaging Historical Fiction for High Schoolers

Studying dates and memorizing names isn’t the only way to learn about the past. Your high schooler will enjoy exploring history through these exciting and historically-accurate novels.

“A Mad, Wicked Folly” by Sharon Biggs

Set in Edwardian-era London, “A Mad, Wicked Folly” tells the story of Victoria, a high-society, rebellious teenager who dreams of becoming an artist — a career option unheard of for women in this era. In the novel, Victoria faces an arranged marriage, an art school application, and class differences. The title of the book is a reference to Queen Victoria’s statement in 1870 that women’s rights were a “mad, wicked folly.” Through this book, your child will get a glimpse of the challenges that women faced in the early 20th century.

Ages: 12+

“Uprising” by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This novel tells the story of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, one of the deadliest industrial disasters in American history and an event that brought national attention to workers' rights and the labor movement. The narrative, told from the point of view of three young women of different backgrounds, is meticulously researched and full of historical detail and suspense.

Ages: 12+

“Keeping Corner” By Kashmira Sheth

This book is set in 1940s India. Leela is a young teenager who was married at age nine, and who must spend a year “keeping corner” — unable to leave the house — when her husband dies. Through the isolated visits of her older brother and tutor, Leela learns of Gandhi's ideas about gender equality, and she begins to question the treatment of women in contemporary Indian society. This book will teach your child about aspects of 1940s Indian culture, British colonial rule, and the changes Gandhi’s non-violent protests set in motion.

Ages: 12–17

“Flygirl” by Sherri L. Smith

“Flygirl,” set in 1940s Louisiana, tells the story of Ida Mae Jones, a young black girl who uses her light skin to pass as a white woman in order to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II. This book explores some of the struggles of African Americans in the South through Ida, who learns just how much it costs her to deny her family and culture. Readers will also learn about the role of women in the war effort.

Ages: 12+

“Search and Destroy” by Dean Hughes

This well-written and engrossing read tells the story of Nick, a recent high school graduate. Feeling lost, he decides to join the army to fight in the Vietnam War. Once he gets overseas, he learns the realities of the conflict. This powerful and authentic coming-of-age story will teach your child about the Vietnam War era and about how war can change a man.

Ages: 12+

“The Forgotten Fire” by Adam Bagdasarian

“The Forgotten Fire” will teach your child about the Armenian Genocide from the perspective of Vahan Kenderian, who is forced to flee the country when his family is killed by Turkish police in 1915. Based on the author’s great-uncle’s experiences of the genocide, this beautifully-written story brings to life an event that’s often left out of high school history books. A note to readers: This book contains intense descriptions of murder and violence.

Ages: 14+

The “Maus” Series by Art Spiegelman

This graphic novel is a harrowing account of Vladek Spiegelman’s life during and after the Holocaust. The story is narrated by Vladek's son Art, who alternates between telling his father’s story and showing the intricate ways in which this trauma affected the family. Spiegelman’s illustrations add another layer of complexity to the novel. He uses animals to symbolize different groups of characters — the Jewish characters are mice, the Nazis are cats, and the Americans are dogs. The first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize, this book will not only teach your child about the history of the Holocaust, but will also give her a sense of how historical tragedy can affect many generations.

Ages: 15+

Want to find historical-fiction titles for children of other ages? Check out the other parts of this series:

Historical Fiction for Elementary Schoolers

Historical Fiction for Middle Schoolers