I can still remember reading “The Secret Garden” at age 8 and realizing that reading was the best thing in the whole world. I flew through the books in my elementary school library and started begging my dad to take me to the city library every Saturday to find more books. I started making my own book choices fairly young and realized pretty quickly that as an avid reader I was often going to bump into material I wasn’t comfortable with. (Case in point: when my eighth grade teacher recommended a book with an extremely graphic sex scene and then made fun of me when I told her I wasn’t going to finish it. Thanks for that.)
In reality, any kid who likes to read is going to have to decide what sort of language and content she or he is comfortable with, and I think the teen years are a good time for kids to start making those decisions for themselves, with guidance from parents. But sometimes kids (and adults) just want to know in advance if the book they’re interested in has content that will be problematic.
To help, I’ve asked my friend Melynie, who’s read more YA books than anyone I know, to compile a list of fantastic young adult novels that don’t contain objectionable content – basically a clean reads list for teens. Here are 12 series (totalling 60 books!) that are entertaining, interesting reads you can feel good about recommending to your kids or ordering as Christmas gifts for them. Click the title of each book to view the book on Amazon (affiliate).
60 clean YA reads for teens
Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage
Book 1 of 2 (so far) in the Mysteries of Cove series
Unfortunately for 13 year old Trenton, creating and inventing are what he does best, but both are against the law. Trenton and his friend Kallista follow the clues left by Kallista’s father to an invention they never would have imagined.
Loot by Jude Watson
Loot is a fun, fast paced action and adventure novel about a group of kids who are trying to pull off the biggest heist of their life.
Book 1 in the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series; 6 books (complete)
Josh and Sophie, 15 year old twins, are thrown into a world of magic, myth and legend. They have to decide for themselves which side of the battle is good and which is evil. These novels are full of action, adventure, and magic.
I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter
Book 1 of the Gallagher Girls Series; 6 books (complete)
Cammie is a sophomore at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Girls. These girls are taught more than the basic curriculum at this school — they are learning to be elite spies. While Cammie has been trained to handle all kinds of spy situations, she still struggles in her everyday life.
Once Upon A Time Fairytales by various authors: Cameron Dokey, Tracy Lynn, Debbie Viguie, Nancy Holder, Suzanne Weyn
This is a group or 20 books that each retell a different fairy tale. Tales include Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood and many more. It’s called a series, but books can be read in any order. Click here for a full list of books in the series.
Heist Society by Ally Carter
Book 1 of 3 in the Heist Society Series
Fifteen year old Kat wants out of the family business – the business of theiving. But before she can get out she has to pull off one more heist to save her father. A fun and clean adventure!
Stormbeaker by Anthony Horowitz
Book 1 of 10 in the Alex Rider series
Alex is unwillingly pulled into working for MI-6 as a teenage agent. And he’s good at what he does. He experiences adventure and life threatening danger in order to save the children of England.
First Light by Michele Paige Holmes
Book 1 (only one so far) in the Forever After series
Seventeen year old Adrielle doesn’t believe in magic, but unfortunately for her she possesses it. This is a wonderful, quick, fast paced, clean, well-written novel that will especially appeal to those readers who love fairy tales.
Entwined by Heather Dixon
A retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses with delightful characters and a wonderful villain (if you can call a villain wonderful). The writing pulled me in and kept me until the end.
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
Book 1 (only one so far) in the Rithmatist series
A fantasy novel where chalk drawings come alive if drawn by a rithmatist. This novel is full of action, adventure, and mystery.
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Book 1 of 3 in the Leviathan series
Steampunk is a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology. In this Steampunk trilogy, Deryn is in for an adventure when she dresses as a boy and joins the British Air Service.
The Outcasts by John Flanagan
Book 1 of 6 in the Brotherband Chronicles series
Skandian boys prepare for their future at Brotherband training. Because of Hal’s parentage he is considered an outcast. Hal and several other village misfits are grouped together and challenged to prove themselves against those who never gave them a chance.
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