These Historical Novels Will Captivate Your Teenaged Boy

Looking for a good read for your teen son that has a ton of action and adventure, and themes of friendship and honor? Historical fiction novels have it all within the context of important past events. We’ve compiled a list of books geared towards to young men, with engaging male protagonists and subject matter that is thought-provoking and relatable. Here are some of our favorites:

A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

This story begins with the main character, Gene Forrester, returning to the prep school he had attended when he was young. As he roams the campus, various locations bring back some very specific memories that transport Gene back to a precise point in time, with the plot's action taking place in flashback.

During the early years of WWII, sixteen year-old Gene stands by a tree with his roommate and pal Finny. Though polar opposites, Gene being the the more introverted and intellectual counter type to Finny's outgoing, daredevil persona, the two are pretty much inseparable...though not without much heated rivalry.   So when Finny conceives of the Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session where members must jump from a tree into the river to be initiated, Gene agrees.

Then a terrible "accident" happens. Rivalry is taken too far. When Gene shakes the branch the boys are standing on, Finny falls, shattering his legs along with his dreams of becoming a professional athlete. Finny sees it as simply an unfortunate accident...until Gene finally confesses.

A dark coming-of-age story set during a time when the whole world lost its innocence, this timeless tale deals with big themes of friendship, love, hate, war, and peace...and what it means to betray someone's trust.


by Art Spiegelman

Teen boys who are fans of comic books will be drawn to this graphic novel, which relays the experiences of a Holocaust survivor in a truly unique way.

Perhaps as a way to make some very difficult topics easier for teens to graps, the book is a historical fiction interpretation of the life of the author’s father told entirely in comic form. All of the characters in the graphic novel are animals: The Germans are cats, Americans are dogs, and Jews are mice.

The book weaves in and out of two storylines varying from the author listening to his father’s tales of what life was like as a Jewish Pole in the time leading up to the Holocaust, enduring life in a concentration camp, and surviving his wife’s suicide some years later, with all depictions in cartoon form.

The storyline is certainly a dark one, but the lesson is important. 

The Boy in Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

Nine-year-old Bruno is unhappy about his father’s promotion, which means his family has to move away from Berlin. He's equally unhappy about his new home, which is smaller than their old one and far from his friends.

As Bruno explores his new surroundings, he sees a fence surrounding the camp where his father works, which Bruno thinks is called Out-With. There, he meets a small boy named Shmuel who happens to share Bruno’s birthday. Shmuel wears the same odd pajamas as everyone else at the camp.

After about a year, Bruno’s mother announces that they will be moving back to Berlin. When Bruno goes to break the news to his friend, he discovers that Shmuel’s father is missing. The boys devise a plan that involves Bruno dressing in a pair of pajamas and sneaking into the camp to help Shmuel find his father.

This heart wrenching novel will give teen readers a dark glimpse into the reality of the Holocaust through the eyes of two naïve and unbiased boys.

The Cider House Rules

by John Irving

From the outside looking in, Dr. Wilbur Larch is just a kindly obstetrician who runs an orphanage. In reality, he is also an ether addict and secret abortionist, the latter of which he took on only after seeing the horrific results of back alley pregnancy terminations.

When no one adopts Homer Wells, one of Dr. Wilbur's orphans, the doctor grows to see him as a son and teaches him to be a pseudo-obstetrician. However, Homer has a moral objection to abortion, which unsettles the pair’s otherwise close relationship.

When reconciliation seems impossible, Homer leaves St. Cloud to spend time with his friend Wally at his family's orchard on the coast. The two become very close and Homer secretly falls in love with Wally’s fiancée, Candy. The boy's friendship is cut short with Wally off to fight in World War II.

With Wally away, betrayal ensures and Homer and Candy find themselves in a predicament that leads them back to St. Cloud.

Teens will discover more about World War II as well as changes in views and laws regarding abortion in this historical fiction novel.

These books will captivate boys with their deep, dark, and noteworthy characters and subjects. The historical aspects will provide insight into another time, and may encourage readers to seek out more information on what life was like during that era.

What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels for teen boys? Share with us!

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