Grade 9 books – this recommended reading list has been curated and compiled by teachers and librarians for final year middle school / junior high and freshman high school students in the 9th Grade, aged 14-15. There is a range of exciting and thought-provoking books to suit all abilities, including easy readers and more difficult texts. This list of 9th grade reading recommendations contains titles by Jeff Zentner, Jason Reynolds, Liz Kessler, Adam Silvera, Victoria Aveyard, William Golding, Rick Yancey, Marjorie Rawlings, and more.
Books for Grade 9 – our recommendations
In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner
Cash’s world is about to change when his best friend Delaney gets them both full-ride scholarships to an elite school. He’ll be able to leave behind a life dominated by his father’s ill health and his late mother’s drug addiction. But can he bear to move away from his grandparents and hometown? This award-winning novel is an emotional engrossing read.
School story | Romance
The First to Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Does the Death Cast predict someone’s time of death, or is it all just fake news? Orion Pagan and Valentino Prince are two very different characters who are both about to find out after their lives unexpectedly intertwine. This dystopian page-turner prequel to ‘They Both Die at the End’ melds emotion, conflict, and cliffhangers. It’s a gripping read.
LGBT | Dystopia
Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds
This unique mixed media words and art mash-up explores the meaning of the very oxygen we breathe. Part poetry, part cut up, and part art project Ain’t Burned All the Bright takes a look at life for a black family during the COVID pandemic in America. It’s an exceptional and engaging book to spark discussion in book clubs and to inspire less confident teens to read critically.
Racism | Family
Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
Based on a true story: a young African prince, Amos, was sold into slavery, aged 15. Transported to Massachusetts, he was auctioned and began 45 years as a slave. Courageous, and retaining his dignity, he never stopped dreaming of freedom – and finally, his hopes were realized.
Nothing by Janne Teller
A modern masterpiece that has won awards worldwide. Teen Pierre Anton decides that nothing matters in life and climbs into a tree. He will not move, in spite of all the efforts of his fellow students to prove him wrong. A challenging read that asks questions teens will relate to. Controversial, thought-provoking and at times disturbing.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A group of boys is marooned on a deserted island and left to fend for themselves. What could possibly go wrong? An ideal book to study in 9th grade literature classes.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
A reluctant airman in WW2 gets closer and closer to achieving enough flights to go home but is thwarted every time in this absurdist portrayal of power and bureaucracy. This book is excellent for studying time shifts and narrative plotting.
Historical fiction | Classic
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
A highly rated and award-winning book. Written in hard-hitting and sharply crafted verse, it tells a cautionary tale of revenge. 15-year-old Will, gun at the ready and ready to kill, is forced to face the potential consequences of his actions as he descends the elevator of his building. This book is a harsh expose of the peer pressures felt by young men.
Verse story | Graphic novel
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
In a dystopian world where humans are bred and controlled, can one man bring normal life back to society? A challenging read for students in grade 9.
Dystopia | Classic
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In this classic Pulitzer Prize winning story of prejudice, a white lawyer represents a black man accused of the most heinous of crimes in the South. Voted the best novel of the 20th century by American librarians.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Disillusioned with school, 16-year-old Holden Caulfield escapes to New York for three days where the reader finds out more about Holden’s life and Holden finds out more about how ‘phony’ the people and the world are. A classic coming-of-age story.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The gripping multi-award-winning debut novel by John Green follows teenage Miles Halter as he leaves boarding school in search of “The Great Perhaps”. A great coming-of-age story, and a good novel to study and compare with The Catcher in the Rye.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
The first book in a quintet of science fiction stories about human survival after a devastating alien invasion. Gripping and fast-paced, this series of novels will appeal to reluctant readers.
Monster by Walter Dean Meyers
The intelligent and distinctive story of Steve Harmon, charged with being the lookout in a homicide drug store robbery gone wrong is presented as a strangely detached screenplay written by Steve as a way of coping with the system and situation he finds himself trapped inside.
Crime | Racism
The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
In a dystopian society divided by blood, regular people serve the rich and powerful and the silver-blooded rule with superpowers, Mare Barrow finds out she has a power, a power that changes her life forever. Dark and poignant, this is an epic thriller.
Taking Hold by Francisco Jiménez
A beautifully written autobiography that charts Franciso’s journey from growing up in California and moving to Columbia University in New York. A great story of resilience.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Two unlikely friends, George – small, quick-witted and sharp, and Lennie, large, and childlike find themselves enveloped in injustice and inevitable danger. Will they find a way to escape?
Every Day by David Levithan
A unique story about a teenager, A, who wakes up in a different life and different body each day. In many ways, A has come to terms with this – until A meets Rhiannon whom he wants to stay with every day. A great book for studying character and plot in the 9th grade. A great class reader for 9th grade students.
Contemporary | LGBT
Under the Bridge by Michael Harman
When hotshot skateboarder Indy drops out of school after a family argument, his brother Tate tries everything to save him from a rapid descent into a life of crime. Gritty and powerful, this book will appeal to reluctant readers.
Family | Crime
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
A clever and thought-provoking graphic novel about Jin Wang who struggles to fit in at his new High School. When a visiting cousin ruins his hard-earned reputation, where will he turn? A great story of isolation and rejection and an ideal format for reluctant readers.
Graphic novel | Diverse
March by John Lewis
This graphic novel masterpiece which features vivid artwork chronicles the life of Congressman John Lewis during the civil rights movement. Widely praised, this book is a Coretta Scott King Honor book.
Graphic novel | Civil rights
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
When Dill’s father becomes the town pariah, he soon starts to feel the heat. Travis and Lydia are the only friends he has left, but can they help see him through to the end of school and graduation day? This book offers a harsh look at growing up in a small town in the Bible Belt and is useful to provoke discussion.
Friendship | Contemporary
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
An intriguing story that blends science fiction, alternative realities, and superheroes into a gripping and pacey thriller. Yael, a death camp prisoner who can shapeshift, plans to impersonate a famous motorcycle racer to assassinate an ageing Hitler in a reimagined 1956. But can she escape the attention of Luka and Felix long enough to maintain her disguise? Ideal for reluctant readers, this novel features a stunning climax. A startling read for teens in the 9th grade.
Science fiction | Thriller
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
When Ed Kennedy inadvertently stops a bank robbery, he finds himself thrust into a strange and unpredictable world where he delivers messages and makes problems vanish. But who is sending him the messages and orchestrating everything he does and what is the bigger picture? A clever mystery, peppered with plot devices and clues and written in a less formal style – this book will appeal to the more reluctant reader in grade 9.
Shadowmancer by GP Taylor
Obadiah Demurral is the epitome of evil, trying to take over not just the world, but the universe with magic and spells. Raphah, Kate, and Thomas are perhaps the only ones who can stop him. Packed with atmospheric descriptions of smuggling and ancient magic – this is a gripping read for middle graders or reluctant teen readers in grade 9 who enjoy fantasy and magic.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
When Rosie’s parents start arguing and yelling non-stop, she goes off with her friend Windy in search of excitement and escape. This summer, however, they find much more than they bargained for. This is a powerful graphic novel page-turner and coming-of-age story.
Haunt Me by Liz Kessler
A love story with a difference. Joe is a ghost who lives in his old house after his family moves on. When a new family arrives, Erin, a lonely and bullied teenager, shares Joe’s space. A relationship develops and complications abound.
Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
A classic tale of mystery, murder, and bumps in the night. Sherlock Holmes investigates the curse of the Baskervilles and the legend of a gigantic hound that roams the bleak, marsh-infested moors. Full of peculiar suspects and strange phenomena. A gripping read for 9th grade teens who enjoy mysteries and adventures.
Mystery | Classic
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
An award-winning science-fiction novel, set in Opium, a country between Mexico and the United States. A complex story of drugs, power, treachery, and cloning; this fast-moving text follows the adventures of Matt, his allies, and his foes. A good book to discuss in 9th grade literature classes.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
A powerful autobiography from Maya Angelou. Living with her grandmother, Maya and her brother feel abandoned and despised by the local community. Back with their mother in St. Louis, eight-year-old Maya is attacked by a man and is left traumatized. Many years later, kindness, her strength of character and her love of literature allow her to feel free.
Autobiography | Classic
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Regarded as one of the hundred best novels of all time, this classic book is an enduring anti-war polemic. Elements of science fiction and time travel combine with WW2 experiences. A must-read.
Science fiction | Classic
The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings
Jody Baxter is a young boy who lives in the 1870s with his impoverished family in the Florida backwoods. The story revolves around a fawn called Flag which Jody adopts and grows up with. In this coming-of-age tale, Jody lives through hunger, fear, and loneliness; anger and rejection – but ultimately finds peace through the love of his family.
Coming of age | Classic
Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
A classic best-selling book that was described by The New York Times as ‘original, remarkable, and finally heartbreaking … impossible to put down.’ An account, in their own words, of the battles, broken treaties and massacres that left the American Indians landless and defeated.
Historical fiction | Diverse
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
In this complicated love story, Natasha has to fight deportation back to Jamaica, and Daniel is being pushed by his Korean parents to get on with his life. These two young people, with nothing in common and different ambitions, meet, and this sets off a sequence of events that will change their lives.
Romance | Diverse
Revolutionary Summer by Joseph Ellis
A brilliant examination of the people, the politics and the military battles in the summer of 1776 in America. The actions of both sides are brought together into a single story explaining how British actions provoked an American response and vice versa. A more challenging read for 9th grade students.
Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch
The Magisterium draws the reader into an alternative world. Glenn and Kevin have lived next to The Rift for 16 years – but they have never been allowed to cross to the other side. Events conspire and when they are forced to leave home, there is only one way to go – across the Rift and into the unknown. A gripping and compelling read.
Action | Fantasy
The Odyssey by Homer
The classic Greek poem about Odysseus and his ten-year journey home after the fall of Troy. The contemporary slant and lyricism capture the scale of Homer’s epic poetry in an absorbing retelling of the mythical legend.
Classic | Poetry
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
A classic novel that has been a bestseller for over 30 years. Set in a New England boarding school for boys during WW2, the relationship between Gene and Phineas is tested, stretched and altered forever. Innocence is lost and the world changed. A great book for students in grade 9.
Merriam-Webster’s School Dictionary
With over 100,000 word definitions and 28,000 usage explanations this dictionary for students aged 14+ has been specifically designed for high school grades. It also includes synonyms, etymology, illustrations, and a Handbook of Style, making this an ideal resource for college preparation and personal statement writing.
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