18 Sunny Summer Reading Book Lists for High School (No Depressing Stories)

Written by Michelle Watson

June 11, 2023

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Ready for some GOOD summer reading book lists for high school?

They’re moody. They’re rebellious. They’re sassy. They’re amazing.

Your high schoolers are probably SO glad to be done with assigned reading for English class. It’s summer, and they can choose their own books.

Choose their own books?!?! 


They’re going to read filthy romances about having sex with no consequences and freaky vampire stories that will entice them into a life of witchcraft.

Take a deep breath. 

I’ve compiled a list of summer reading booklists for high schoolers to help you navigate the tricky waters of YA lit. 

You WANT to give your high schoolers the freedom to choose books that interest them. Summer is for free reading, after all, and teens are constantly pushing for more independence. 

But you definitely want to provide guidance. Sometimes that means taking certain books off the table (like open-door romances, a no-brainer), but sometimes that means helping them separate the truth from the lies presented in a book.

It’s a tall order, and I hope these book lists help point you to some great summer reads for your teens!

18 Summer Reading Book Lists for High School

Please don’t skip 👉 I haven’t read all the books that appear on these lists. It’s impossible. And it very well IS possible that the lists have been updated since I last checked them. So, I can’t vouch for every title. I have, however, made an effort to include lists compiled by people who I feel have a heart for kids and who give solid recommendations.

One quick thing. YA books contain a lot of R-rated content. Sex, drugs, violence. You can check the content ahead of time at Focus on the Family’s Plugged In Book Reviews. Or, you can search reader reviews on Amazon or Goodreads for specific words and phrases.

Which then leads me to ask…

Should we censor what our high schoolers are reading?

Yes and no. They need to develop the skill of choosing their own books. We can’t shelter them from R-rated content forever. Chances are good that your teens have been exposed to that level of content already in movies, TV, and games. Our job is to help them take the truth and goodness that the books present and reject the lies (and reject an overabundance of graphic content). Does the book glorify teen sex and violence? Or does it condemn these things? Let’s help them here.

One little alarm bell: I don’t think it’s a great idea for teens to read too much of anything that’s going to make them feel depressed or anxious. It’s summer. Let’s keep things on the sunny side, and by “sunny” I don’t mean “sanitized.” I mean books that end on a hopeful note versus a bleak, existential one.

At the very bottom of this post, I’ve included some of my personal favorite summer reading books for high school. These are titles that I’ve actually read and would recommend to any high schooler who will give me the time of day.

High School Summer Reading List: The Top Books For Your Teen

By Shawna Wingert for Sonlight

Good Clean Books for Teens – Fiction, Mystery, Christian, Non-Fiction

By Ann Karako at It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool

7 Books for Thoughtful Teens

By Betsy at Redeemed Reader

Over 20 of the Best Books To Read With Your Teenager

By Mary Hanna Wilson at Celebrate a Book (This list has some great options for road trips and audiobooks for families with older listeners.)

100 Books You Should Read by the Time You Turn 20

By Heather Woodie at Blog, She Wrote (Divided by genre for easy scanning)

36 Clean Beach Reads: Classics, Literary Fiction and Breezy Reads

By Beth at Smart Mamas Read (Not specifically for teens, but there’s a wide selection here that has a lot of overlap for teens)

10 Books Your Teens Will Treasure for Years

By Vicki V. Lucas for Club 31 Woman

Flashlight Reads: Can’t-Put-‘Em-Down Books for All Ages

By Betsy at Redeemed Reader (Scroll to the teen section)

Books Teen Girls Love

By Sarah MacKenzie at Read-Aloud Revival

40+ MUST READ Books for Christian Teen Girls

By Jamie at The Unlikely Homeschool (All nonfiction picks)

Books Teen Boys Love

By Sarah MacKenzie at Read-Aloud Revival

15 Books for 15-Year-Old Boys: A Book List

By Betsy at Redeemed Reader

40+ MUST READ Books for Christian Teen Boys

By Jamie at The Unlikely Homeschool (All nonfiction picks)

10 True Stories for Teens

By Betsy at Redeemed Reader

Nonfiction Books for Teens

By Lynn at From Our Bookshelf

Gorgeous YA Fairy Tale Retellings You’ll Remember Forever

By Elsie at Tea and Ink Society

7 Young Adult Fantasy Series You’ll Always Treasure

By Elsie at Tea and Ink Society (So many of these I’d never heard of before!)

The Best Book Series for TeensBy Afoma at Reading Middle Grade (Lots of modern titles here. If your teens want to read recently published books that speak to teen issues, check out Afoma’s book lists for teen girls and teen boys.)

Michelle’s List of Favorite Summer Reading Books for High School 

Here are books that I’ve personally read that I think your ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders just might love.

Which high school books (or book lists) have I missed?

Tell me your favorite books in the comments! Do you have a list on your website? Drop a link in the comments so that I can check it out.

More along these lines…


  1. Courtney

    This post is super helpful! I have a teen who sometimes reads books that include inappropriate content (typically romance novels), but we always talk about it. That being said, I don’t like the idea of her reading too much of that stuff, but I don’t always know what to recommend. So, I really appreciate this!

    • Michelle Watson

      I’m so glad, Courtney! It’s impossible to completely shield her or preread everything, but discussing it with her—that’s GOLD. She will likely remember those talks with you more than she remembers the actual book.


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