It’s often said that a good book can transport you to another place, but with the right title, you can visit another time as well. Historical fiction can transform what mighty seem like dry and dusty history by showcasing the possible thoughts and feelings of people living through that time period.
This collection of books I’m recommending includes some classic young adult historical fiction, as well as some brand new titles. There’s a something here for everyone, with murders, mysteries, romance, war, and adventure bringing these historical settings to life.
A true classic of young adult fiction, Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman won the Newbery Honor in 1995 and has remained one of my favourite books ever since. Catherine is an unusually well-educated girl and the book takes the form of the diary that she keeps as she tries to avoid being married off by her boorish father. This book truly captures the spirit of the middle ages, and there are thousands of tiny details about the music, food, clothing, people, and places that make it seem as though you have stepped back to 1290 and become friends with the charming Catherine.
Gilt by Katherine Longshore takes the reader all the way back to the opulent court of King Henry the eighth. The year is 1540 and Henry has just married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. This is a privileged but dangerous position to be in. The novel tells the story of Catherine’s best friend Kitty Tylney, as she watches Catherine rise to the position of Queen and then lose everything.
First in a series of four books, Luxe by Anna Godbersen is a gossipy treat that unravels the mystery behind the sudden accidental death of Elizabeth Holland. Told from the perspectives of five different New York teenagers who are leading wildly scandalous lives, and flouting the restrictive social codes of the time this book will have you hooked from the first page. It’s a completely captivating read, similar to Gossip Girl, but set in 1899.
The 2016 winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz isn’t full of jewels, glamour, or royalty but it does have heart, hope, romance, and a feisty main character. Joan longs to be more than just a farm girl and after her father refuses to allow her to attend school, she runs away from her family’s farm to take a position cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week in the home of a wealthy Baltimore family. There she begins a journey of self-exploration and learning as she tries to create a future for herself.
There is a ton of historical fiction set during the Second World War, but two titles I would like to recommend are Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. They both tell the stories of teenagers struggling to stay alive and protect their secrets during a dangerous and tragic times. In Salt to the Sea, four teenagers meet as they try to secure passage on the Wilhelm Gustloff a ship that would take them to safety, away from the advancing Soviet Army. Code Name Verity tells the story of a team of two teenage girls working for the British war effort. Verity is captured while spying in France, and as she awaits her fate in prison she writes down her story.