Welcome to the world of YA historical fiction, where the past comes alive through thrilling stories written specifically for young adults.

Get ready to embark on exciting journeys through different time periods, from ancient civilizations to important historical moments. Follow courageous characters as they navigate iconic events and experience a captivating blend of adventure, romance, and mystery.

These books offer an entertaining and accessible way to learn about the wonders of history while sparking your imagination. So grab a YA historical fiction book today and prepare to be transported through time!

Just a heads up, Reading Rhapsody could make money from sales or other compensation through any of the links on this page if you purchase something – that’s how I keep afloat! My reviews have been tweaked to ensure they are both concise and clear. Nevertheless, all opinions in this article are my own. Now go ahead and begin your journey to find your next favorite read!

What is Historical Fiction?

Historical novels specifically in fiction are like a time-travel ticket to the past, where real history and awesome stories team up for an adventure. It's not just facts and dates—it's more like vivid snapshots of different times, from knights jousting in medieval castles to sneaky spies dodging danger in World War II.

These books let you walk in the shoes of people who lived in the old days, feel their excitement, and face their challenges. So, whether you're a history buff or just love getting lost in a good tale, historical fiction is the secret door to exploring the past in the most thrilling way possible!

Why Read Historical Fiction?

One of the significant benefits of reading historical fiction is the insights it offers into different eras. These books recreate the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of the past, allowing readers to step into the shoes of characters and experience their world.

Also, historical fiction helps readers gain a deeper understanding of history by presenting alternative perspectives and filling in gaps in traditional narratives. These stories can challenge preconceived notions and shed light on the experiences of marginalized groups or lesser-known events.

Types of Historical Fiction

Historical fiction has lots of different types that make the past exciting in their own ways. If you love knights and castles, there's Medieval Historical Fiction that takes you to a world of epic battles and princesses.

Early American Historical Fiction explores the early days of the United States, showing what life was like in the early 1800s. World War II Historical Fiction tells stories from the 1940s, revealing the bravery and sacrifices of that time.

And if you're into ancient times, there's historical fiction about places like Egypt and Rome. For a bit of magic mixed with history, there's also magical realism, where fantastical things happen in real-world settings. Each type gives you a cool way to travel to the past and experience it in a different and exciting light.

Best YA Historical Fiction 

Get ready to embark on an exciting journey through time as these books transport you to different eras, bringing history alive in thrilling and imaginative ways. From ancient civilizations to times of revolution and rebellion, these stories will entertain, inspire, and leave you longing for more. Join me as we delve into the very best historical fiction for young adults.

Flight of the Sparrow

In 1676 Massachusetts Bay Colony, Mary Rowlandson was captured with her kids by Indians, losing their home. Sold into service to a powerful tribal leader, she becomes a pawn in the English settlers vs. native people conflict.

Facing cold, hunger, and brutality, Mary discovers unexpected kindness and is drawn to her captors' way of life. Taught to fear God and hate Indians, Mary questions her beliefs after living on the other side of the forest.

Check Price on Amazon

Why do I love it?

The start is heart-wrenching and genuine. As a mom, I felt Mary's love for her children and the pain of being separated. One of the story's major strengths is Mary's struggle with her beliefs. Before living with the Indians, Mary's ideas about God and morality were shaped by her husband Joseph, and their Puritan community. Mary starts questioning what she's always been told about God and the "heathens."

Her character development is really nice. She doesn't want to give up on God; she's just looking for a better way to connect with Him. Mary comes to appreciate nature, freedom, and kindness. Seeing her think about right and wrong, and clash with Joseph and the community over it, makes the story really interesting to read.

The ending disappointed me; it felt abrupt without a satisfying feeling. Yet, it's clear the author put in endless hours to perfectly tell Mary's story.

What you should know

This book tells the real story of Mary Rowlandson's capture, a tale printed in 1682 and known as the first best-seller in English America.

Mary sees a harsh Indian attack on her community, where family, friends, and neighbors die. Captured with her daughter, Mary goes through a tough experience that changes her view. Her strict Puritan beliefs get tested as she discovers a different life with the Indians – a community that respects women, values freedom, loves kids openly, and shares with neighbors.

Despite its flaws, Mary finds freedom with the Indians that she doesn't have in the English colonies. This fictionalized story, loosely based on facts, gives a peek into Puritan life. The well-told tale, with characters like Mary's minister husband and the Indian, James Printer, explores customs and culture in the 1700s Massachusetts Bay Colony.

An Elephant in the Garden

Set in war-torn Germany during World War II, the story follows Lizzie, a young girl who finds herself caught up in the chaos and devastation caused by the Nazi regime. As bombs rain down on the city, Lizzie's family is forced to make a difficult decision - they must protect Marlene, an orphaned elephant from the zoo, by taking her into their care.

Check Price on Amazon

Why do I love it?

I loved the fresh spin on World War II, where a family juggles war chaos while caring for an elephant. There are times when the story had me on edge, feeling a bit queasy, but then BAM! There are these moments that totally restored my faith in people and their goodness.

I usually dodge animal stories because, let's face it, they often end in a tearjerker. But this book surprised me! It's like a warm hug, proving not all animal tales have to break your heart. It's seriously beautiful and sprinkled with a touch of magic.

What you should know

"An Elephant in the Garden" tells the story of a family—Lizzie, Karli, and their mom, Mutti—living in Dresden during World War II. With their father away at war, Mutti, who works at a zoo, shares a special bond with an elephant named Marlene.

When they learn that Dresden is going to be bombed and all zoo animals must be killed, Mutti fights to keep Marlene in their garden. Sadly, Dresden is bombed, and like many others, their family escapes the city.

The family, along with thousands of others, embarks on a journey to find safety. Along the way, they seek refuge in their relatives' abandoned house, where they encounter a soldier who becomes a crucial ally in their journey.

Code Talker

The untold story of Ned and his friends, the Navajo Code Talkers, who use their native language to create an unbreakable code. Through their courage and cleverness, they became unsung heroes in the Pacific War. Experience the blend of captivating history and thrilling adventure in this must-read tale of the vital role played by these extraordinary Code Talkers.

Check Price on Amazon

Why do I love it?

The book taught me things I didn't know about the war, and it made me really respect the Navajo people. The first part feels like you're right there, dealing with all the ups and downs of growing up on a Navajo reservation.

Then, in the second half, it hits you - our country tried to erase the Navajo language, but in a twist, they needed it big time for the war. And when it gets into World War II, it's like watching an awesome movie with all the chaos and bravery.

What you should know

Ned Begay gets taken from his family and thrown into a school. He grows up, learns English, and then joins the army. Because he's Navajo, his language becomes this super-secret code in World War II that the bad guys can't figure out.

The book is packed with cool details, and it's full of action, following Ned's adventures during World War II. While the book has a few slow parts, it always picks up, making it awesome for people who dig history. I'd say it's a must-read if you're into real stories and want to know how important the Navajos were during the war.

The Light in Hidden Places 

Set during World War II, it tells the true story of Stefania PodgĂłrska, a teenage girl living in Poland. As the Nazis invade her town, Stefania's life takes a dramatic turn when she discovers that her Jewish friends and neighbors are being forced into the ghetto. Inspired by true events, Stefania risks everything to hide thirteen Jewish people in her small attic.

Check Price on Amazon

Why do I love it?

This book is tough. I don't think you can ever be prepared to read about the horrific things that were done and the conditions that people endured during the war. It was just so heartbreaking to read

But there was still a lot to love about this book! Fusia, the main character, was really strong, brave, and caring. Her relationship with her little sister was super sweet. I liked how brave she was. There's also this character, Max, who I really love.

Cameron really takes you back in time with her words. She describes everything so well—the places, the vibes, and stays true to what really happened. It feels like you're right there in Poland, experiencing it all. The mood she sets is kinda creepy, but I loved it! It's sad, but it's also full of hope.

What you should know

It's a story about Stefania, a brave girl facing tough times with the Nazis around. Stefania wants to protect her sister, Helena, and a Jewish family, the Diamants, especially Izio and Max. Things get really intense when Stefania hides thirteen Jewish friends in her attic. There are also sweet and sad love stories mixed in.

The author, Sharon Cameron, talks about serious things like death and discrimination, but not in a scary way. It's a rollercoaster of feelings — happy, scared, and hopeful. If you like stories about heroes, tough choices, and love during important times in history, you'll enjoy 'The Light in Hidden Places.' It's a special book that shows how people stay strong during tough times.

The Fountains of Silence

In 1957 Madrid, Spain, under the rule of General Franco, a secret hides in the shadows. Visitors flock to the city for the sun and wine, but Daniel Matheson seeks something deeper: a connection to his mother's roots through photographs.

As he explores, he crosses paths with Ana, and together they uncover the untold stories of the Spanish Civil War. Daniel's pictures spark questions that lead to difficult decisions in order to shield his loved ones. Lives intertwine, revealing a dark underbelly beneath the city's sunny facade.

Check Price on Amazon

Why do I love it?

The characters are like your ride-or-die buddies—some you root for, some you wanna kick to the curb. You get sucked into these crazy relationships and a chunk of history that's cooler than a Netflix series.

I love how Ruta Sepetys, breaks down heavy stuff like love, loss, politics (fascist dictatorship), and money. It's like she's unveiling the secrets behind dictatorship and the art of keeping a secret. This book's like an onion, layers upon layers which adds to the plot twists!

What you should know

Daniel, fresh out of high school in 1957, visits Spain with his wealthy parents. His dad's doing business with a not-so-great leader named Franco, and his mom, originally from Spain, feels a bit out of place in Texas. Daniel, with his camera, checks out Madrid and captures the struggles under Franco's rule through his photos.

He finds mysteries with Ana, a maid at his fancy hotel, whose family's been hit hard by Franco. As Daniel and Ana fall for each other, they deal with the challenge of their different worlds. Daniel works hard to share Spain's truth through his pics. The story ends with a big revelation that changes Daniel's life but ties things up nicely.

The Downstairs Girl

17-year-old Jo Kuan, a Chinese-American lady's maid with a secret talent for writing. Jo secretly authors an advice column in a local newspaper, using her wit and insight to challenge societal norms and shed light on issues of race and gender.

Check Price on Amazon

Why do I love it?

This book opened my eyes to a fascinating slice of American history I knew little about. Thanks to this novel, I discovered the rich tapestry of Asian culture during the Gilded Age.

It boldly pushes back against the oppression faced by women, African Americans, and Asians, making it incredibly relevant today. Jo Kuan, the fearless main character, and other key figures resonated with me. This story brought joy and inspiration to my mind!

What you should know

Step into the world of Jo Kuan, a seventeen-year-old Chinese girl navigating life in Atlanta. Her dream of crafting hats takes an unexpected turn, leading her to become a maid for a wealthy man's daughter. But when the sun sets, Jo transforms into Miss Sweetie, an undercover advice columnist for Southern women.

Miss Sweetie shakes things up by questioning old ideas, and people react in different ways. As Jo's column becomes more popular, she faces the tough task of keeping her double life a secret. The book mixes in humor while telling a story about what it means to be a woman in a changing society. Set against a Southern background, it gives a lively take on topics like racism, women's rights, and what society expects.

Other Historical Fiction Novels for Young Adults

The following are books that are highly recommended that did not make my list but definitely deserve to be mentioned.

Refugee by Alan Gratz: Three young refugees from different times (Nazi Germany, 1994 Cuba, and present-day Syria) share their harrowing journeys seeking safety and freedom.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: During World War II, a British spy named Verity crashes into Nazi territory. She faces capture but uses her smarts to survive, telling a gripping story of espionage and friendship.

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee: Follow a group of Japanese-American teens forced into internment camps during World War II. They confront injustice, loyalty, and the fight for freedom.

Romanov by Nadine Brandes: Anastasia Romanov, the last surviving member of the Russian royal family, uses her magical powers to escape Bolshevik execution. The story unfolds with danger, enchantment, and intrigue.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows: A funny historical fantasy that reimagines Lady Jane Grey's story with characters who can transform into animals, blending politics, romance, and a touch of absurdity.

All That Glitters (Enchantée #1) by Gita Trelease: In 18th-century Paris, Camille Durbonne uses forbidden magic to enter high society. As she navigates the lavish world of Versailles, she discovers the price of her illusions and courtly intrigue.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong: Set in 1920s Shanghai, this Romeo and Juliet reimagining follows Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov as they navigate family loyalty, love, and a mysterious city-wide illness.

The best book for you!

Young Adult (YA) historical fiction has become increasingly popular in recent years, captivating readers of all ages with its ability to transport them to different time periods and immerse them in rich and detailed stories. These books offer a unique blend of history and imagination, taking readers on unforgettable journeys through time.

Whether it's a thrilling adventure, a heartfelt romance, or a coming-of-age tale, YA historical fiction has the power to educate, entertain, and inspire young readers. So, if you're looking for a way to connect with the past and discover compelling stories with timeless themes, YA historical fiction is the perfect genre for you.

Happy Reading!