20+ Best Books for 12-Year-Olds: Adventure, Classics, and More!

The twelfth year of life is a momentous one for children, no doubt. Boys and girls alike are undergoing important changes during this time due to a number of factors like puberty, social pressures, and brain development.

Good books for 12-year-olds are crucial as they provide a much-needed escape or a companion during times of hardship or boredom. The following list features nearly two dozen books guaranteed to make great gifts for the children in your life, whether they’re yours or someone else’s!


Books for Summer Holidays

“Up for Air” by Laurie Morrison

good books for 12-year-olds

Up for Air/

Recommended for kids in grades 5-7, “Up for Air” features main character Annabelle who is the fastest swimmer in her school. While she excels in the pool, though, Annabelle struggles socially and academically. When she loses the ability to swim, Annabelle must discover her worth beyond the surface of the water.

Buy the book.

“The Ice Cream Machine” by Adam Rubin

best books for 12-year-olds

The Ice Cream Machine/

This quirky book for 12-year-olds is actually a collection of six different stories, all with the same title. Funny, light, and reminiscent of summers passed, this is a great beach book or family vacation read. Each story features different characters, a unique setting, and illustrations by distinct artists.

Buy the book.

“Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers” by Celia C. Perez

books for 12-year-olds

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers /

A great summer read for 12-year-old girls, “Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers” tells the story of four friends who come together for a great cause. Driven by their love of animals, the girls take on the local scout group “The Floras” and their tradition of using a hat made from real bird feathers. As their mission develops, so too does their friendship and commitment to social change.

Buy the book.

Books for 12-Year-Old Girls

Coming-of-Age Books

“Wonderland” by Barbara O’Connor

boys mystery nonfiction

Wonderland: A Novel/

Written by beloved children’s author Barbara O’Connor, “Wonderland” is a book about a girl and her dog—at least on the surface. Buried in the pages, though, are lessons about growing up, overcoming hardship, and what it means to be a friend. Tween girls will find connections with the feisty, but big-hearted main character Mavis while they fall in love with her dog, Henry.

Buy the book.

“Echo Mountain” by Lauren Wolk

girls fiction popular

Echo Mountain/

Set during the Great Depression, “Echo Mountain” follows Ellie who leaves her home during hard times to start over in a rural area near Echo Mountain. When her father has a serious accident and Ellie is blamed, she treks to the top of the mountain in search of a miracle cure. What she finds is something even more healing, though.

Buy the book.

Mystery Books

“Hannah Saves the World” (Series) by A.M. Luzzader

romance puberty adventure

Hannah Saves the World: Book 1: Middle Grade Mystery Fiction/

In this contemporary “Nancy Drew” spin-off, middle-schooler Hannah and her best friend Mia venture to save the world. Along the way, clues are unveiled, and epic adventures are shared. Readers who agree that this is one of the best books for 12-year-olds will be happy to learn that it is part of a 3-book series. “Hannah Saves the World” is recommended for girls ages eight to twelve, so it will likely be an easier read for tweens.

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 “Premeditated Myrtle” (Series) by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Premeditated Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery 1)/

Another top pick for mystery lovers, “Premeditated Myrtle” is an award-winning mystery series starring 12-year-old sleuth Myrtle Hardcastle. Readers will be enthralled by the unfolding mystery of a spinster’s untimely death as Myrtle follows clues that lead her to exciting revelations. This novel explores real-life science like crime scene analysis, forensics, and toxicology while keeping young readers hanging onto every word

Buy the book.

Books About Fantasy and Magic

“The Silver Arrow” by Lev Grossman


The Silver Arrow/

Weaving in important lessons regarding environmental issues and animal rights, “The Silver Arrow” is a must-read adventure story. In it, a girl named Kate receives a magic locomotive as a gift for her eleventh birthday. Kate and her brother Tom then proceed to take a trip of a lifetime, exploring exotic locations and meeting talking animals. This book is your tween’s ticket to hop on board and find inspiration along the way!

Buy the book.

“The Patron Thief of Bread” by Lindsay Eager

read recommended great

The Patron Thief of Bread/

A main character raised by sea urchins, a talking gargoyle, and a moral dilemma. These are just a few things your twelve-year-old will encounter within the pages of the mystical novel “The Patron Thief of Bread”. Eight-year-old Duck is assigned to be the apprentice for the local baker, and her sea urchin family urges her to steal from the baker’s coffers. Duck must decide where her loyalty lies and ultimately, who she really is.

Buy the book.

Books for 12-Year-Old Boys

Adventure Books

“Children of the Flying City” by Jason Sheehan

funny classic online

Children of the Flying City/

Orphan Milo Quick has lived in the flying city of Highgate since he was a little kid. Now twelve years old, he finds himself in possession of a dangerous secret. He’ll need his close friends Jules and Dagda to help him elude the bounty hunters as a war erupts around them all. This fast-paced narrative manages to make even young readers slow down and ponder questions of character and loyalty.

Buy the book.

“Tristan Punches a Hole in the Sky” (Tristan Strong series) by Kwame Mbalia

free comic series

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky /

Though it’s packed with action, the first book of the Tristan Strong series isn’t your run-of-the-mill middle-grade adventure story. When Tristan experiences a traumatic loss, he’s sent off to his grandparent’s farm to recover. There, he stumbles into a strange and mystical world full of monsters, a burning sea, and African American folk heroes. Since it’s part of a trilogy, readers will have more to look forward to as Tristan’s journey continues in books two and three.

Buy the book.

Science Fiction Books

“The Lion of Mars” by Jennifer L. Holm

The Lion of Mars/

Is your tween obsessed with science fiction? If so, “The Lion of Mars” will make a great addition to his reading list. The popular book follows eleven-year-old Bell who lives on Mars. When a virus breaks out that targets the adults, it’s up to Bell and his friends to literally save the planet. Full of epic space adventure, fun science, and lessons about community, this book has it all!

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“Greystone Secrets” (Series) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

bookstore twelve reader

Greystone Secrets #1: The Strangers/

Siblings Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone lead ordinary lives. That is, until their very existence comes into question when a local kidnapping raises eyebrows. When details of the incident reveal that the victims are strangely similar to themselves, the Greystone kids are thrust into a startling mystery. Your tween won’t want to put this book down, but when he does, he can pick up the next two books in the series!

Buy the book.

Inspired by History

“Duet” by Elise Broach

handbook kids children


Fans of music and mystery will be enthralled with this charming story about a boy, a bird, and some of the best creative minds of the 19th century. As 11-year-old prodigy Michael Jin struggles to learn a complex piano score in preparation for the renowned Chopin festival, something magical happens. A goldfinch named Mirabelle sings the tune for him as he plays. Soon after, the plot thickens, and the duo go on a quest to find a lost piano worth a fortune.

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“The Storm Runner” (Series) by J.C. Cervantes

gifts age novels

The Storm Runner/

Based on Mayan mythology, “The Storm Runner” follows Zane, an awkward kid who walks with a limp but is destined for greatness. When Zane’s dog Rosie becomes a victim of mayhem, Zane discovers his inner strength and embraces his destiny as the Storm Runner. Your tween will be on the edge of his seat as Zane confronts volcanoes, demons, and warring gods. And that’s just the beginning in this exciting three-part adventure series.

Buy the book.


“Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen

puberty adventure young


An instant bestseller and now modern classic, “Hatchet” tells the story of young teen Brian Robeson who finds himself alone and deserted in the wilderness after a plane crash. While grappling with his parents’ divorce, Brian must find it within himself to survive the 55 long days until his eventual rescue. When he does triumph over his circumstances, he finds himself changed by the experience. This is a must-read classic survival story that’s perfect for age twelve and up.

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“Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry

read recommended great

Number the Stars/

A classic work of historical fiction for preteens, “Number the Stars” recounts 10-year-old Annemarie’s experiences as part of a Jewish family living in German-occupied Denmark during World War II. Taken in by her friend’s family, she must hide in plain sight while her people are relocated to Sweden to escape the Nazis. Readers come away with knowledge of the Holocaust as well as timeless lessons about humanity.

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“Becoming Muhammed Ali” by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander

funny classic online

Becoming Muhammad Ali/

Tweens interested in the sport of boxing or even just the game of life will be intrigued by this story of heavyweight champion Muhammed Ali’s childhood. Readers will learn fascinating details about the kid named Cassius Clay, his friends and family, as well as his brushes with racism. Most of all, they’ll be inspired by his hard work and perseverance from the age of twelve to seventeen as he begins his professional boxing career and “becomes” Muhammed Ali.

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“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba

reader handbook

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Young Reader’s Edition/

If you’re looking for one of the most uplifting books for 12-year-olds, don’t miss this inspiring true story of a boy who builds a windmill to save his village in Malawi. When his family finds themselves destitute after a drought, young William takes action. After reading everything he can find on the subject, William constructs a fully functioning windmill from scrap. Readers will come away from the book awestruck and believing their ideas matter!

Buy the book.

Funny Books

“Marcus Makes a Movie” by Kevin Hart and Geoff Rodkey

kids children

Marcus Makes a Movie/

If you’re in search of a funny book for your 12-year-old, you can’t go wrong with a novel written by a world-famous standup comic! In addition to a kid-friendly dose of Kevin Hart’s comedic prowess, this book manages to have actual heart as well. The story features middle-schooler Marcus who, with hard work and a little help from his friends, realizes his dream of being a filmmaker.

Buy the book.

“Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid” (Series) by Jeff Kinney

gifts age

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid/

From the author of the immensely popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series comes a spin-off series narrated by the beloved character Rowley Jefferson. Full of hilarious situations recalled by a famously clueless narrator, the book will make your tween laugh out loud (and not just online, but in real life!). Perhaps more importantly, the book’s style is not overly complex, making it an easy read even for reluctant readers.

Buy the book.

Graphic Novels

“The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor” by Shaenon K. Garrity


The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor/

If your kid loves graphic novels, this one is worth a trip to the bookstore. The heroine Haley is also a reader and is obsessed with Gothic romance novels. One night, she quite literally falls into one while trying to save a stranger from drowning. This dark, yet strangely whimsical book-within-a-book will have your 12-year-old-hooked from page one.

Buy the book.

“The Witch Boy”(Series) by Molly Knox Ostertag

books for 10-12 year olds

The Witch Boy: A Graphic Novel/

Fortunately, this graphic novel is a three-part series because your pre-teen is going to want more after turning the final page. In “The Witch Boy”, main character Aster is a boy who wants to be a witch. Unfortunately for him, his fantastical society doesn’t allow males to be anything other than shapeshifters. Young readers will identify with Aster as he struggles to find himself while navigating societal pressures.

Buy the book.

Other Interesting Books for 12-Year-Olds

great books for 12 year old boys

Yuganov Konstantin/

  1. “The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl” by Stacy McAnulty (Fantasy).
  2. “Better Nate than Ever” by Tim Federle (Coming of Age).
  3. “My Own Lightening” by Lauren Wolk (Coming of Age).
  4. “Willodeen” by Katherine Applegate (Fantasy).
  5. “Holes” By Louis Sachar (Classics).
  6. “The Last Cuentista” by Donna Barba Higuera (Science Fiction).
  7. “The Secret Fountain” by Grace Lockhaven and Michael Jaymes (Science Fiction).
  8. “The Mighty Miss Malone” by Christopher Paul Curtis (Historical Fiction).
  9. “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson (Coming of Age).

Turning Kids Into Readers

As parents, we all know how important it is for kids to get off their phones and put their nose in a book. Yet, it can be an uphill battle getting some preteens to open a book instead of an app. Consider the above list your free handbook to turning your social media-obsessed tweens into lifelong readers. Just put one of these novels in their hand, and let the authors do the rest!

Did you find this article useful? Don’t forget to share it with your tribe of tween parents—they’ll thank you later!

The picture on the front page: LightField Studios/

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