YA Books with 14-year-old protagonists | Book Riot

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When I was a teenager, it seemed like most YA books focused on the lives of younger teens—your high school freshmen and sophomores, the sweet sixteens, and lots of big teen firsts. I ate it all up of course because I started reading YA books at age 12 and I wanted to get a feel for what to expect in my teenage years. I only remember a couple of YA books that focused on 17 and 18 year olds and what the end of high school was like – 18 seemed incredibly old and mature, so much so that reading a YA book about a teen girl dating, a high school senior definitely felt slightly scandalous!

As YA has grown and evolved, especially in the last 15 years, we’ve seen the protagonists aging and so many are 17, 18 or even 19! Sixteen looks young now. Fifteen feels childish. And 14? Almost unheard of. And while I love that the age range of YA books has expanded to include seniors in high school and the tumultuous and uncertain years immediately following high school (emergency contact by Mary HK Choi is a great example of this!), I feel like it came at the expense of these younger YA protagonists who seem to be out of the limelight.

I think getting younger teens involved in YA is so important for many reasons: First, those years are important and just as storytelling as the senior year drama. Second, younger teens deserve to reflect their own experiences and challenges in YA, especially when they differ from those older teens may face. Third, children and adolescents tend to “read aloud”, i.e. read beyond their own age and experience level, and I think it’s important for middle school readers to have a bridge from middle school and middle school books to books with older YA readers hit.

Nonetheless, there has been a shortage of 14-year-old protagonists in YA for the past 10 or so years — and it’s such a shortage that it took me some time to research this list and find enough books to fill a post. But there is good news! Amazing newer and established authors are writing younger YA protagonists and many of the books on this list are new for 2022. I hope that more young adult books will hit shelves in the future and until then I hope you enjoy this excellent and varied selection of young adult books featuring 14 year old protagonists!

Perfect Parvin by Olivia Abtahi

On her first day of school, Parvin is devastated to discover that she has been dumped by her first boyfriend in just a week, who claims she is too much. To save face, she vows to find the perfect date by homecoming to show she’s not too loud or too loud. your plan? Act more like the heroines of romcoms. Her friends and family aren’t convinced this is the right path, but Parvin sticks to her plan… but then world events have a major impact on her family and Parvin has to reevaluate what really matters.

Azar on Fire cover

Azar on Fire by Olivia Abtahi (August 23)

Azar Rossi deliberately kept her freshman year of high school quiet because nodules on her vocal folds gave her a really, really deep voice. But when Azar, who lives for music and is a songwriter, hears about a local Battle of the Bands, she wants to be there. But first she must assemble the perfect band, led by a lead singer, to perform her own music. It’s just that putting a band together isn’t as easy as she thinks, and she needs to use her voice if she’s to achieve her dreams.

I Rise cover

I Rise by Marie Arnold (2 August)

14-year-old Ayo is used to her mother being in the spotlight after founding one of New York City’s largest social justice movements and protesting police brutality. Ayo knows her mother’s work is important, but she also just wants to experience life as a normal teenager without having to be an activist. But when her mother is shot dead after a riot broke out and is left in a coma, Ayo finds that the activist community wants her to step up… and Ayo must decide what she wants to do publicly, even as she mourns privately.

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger book cover

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

14-year-old Sophronia doesn’t want to graduate from high school – she’d rather disassemble mechanical instruments and climb things than learn how to buckle and pour tea. But her mother sends her away anyway… and Sophronia is surprised to find that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Graduate School for Young Ladies of Quality is no ordinary graduate school. Sure, they teach their young ladies manners… but they also teach them about poisons, intelligence, and the best way to defend yourself with a hat pin. And it doesn’t take long before Sophronia becomes embroiled in a conspiracy bigger than herself. This first book in the series begins when Sophronia is 14 years old, but the three sequels take readers through her senior years as she gets older .

Girl on fire cover

Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys, Andrew Weiner and Brittney Williams

Lolo thinks she’s just a normal teenage girl struggling with normal family drama and fear of the failure of her father’s business, but is discovered when a police officer mistakes her brother for someone else and points a gun at him Lolo that she has supernatural abilities. Now, a dangerous dealer in her neighborhood wants Lolo on his crew because he knows her powers could be beneficial to him… but Lolo isn’t being used by anyone, and she needs to find the strength to speak up for what’s right.

Cover of Flamer

Flamer by Mike Curato

Aiden Navarro spends the summer between middle school and high school at camp, where he is overcome with feelings and questions about his identity. As he navigates bullying, friendships, and his growing attraction to another boy named Elias, Aiden must find a way to accept who he is while finding the confidence to live his truth.

Light woven cover

Brightly woven: The graphic novel by Alexandra Bracken

Before she was known for The Darkest Minds, Alexandra Bracken’s debut novel was a standalone fantasy novel called Brightly Woven, which is unfortunately out of print. It starred a 16-year-old protagonist named Sydelle, who is a talented weaver and embarks on a mission to help a wizard save the kingdom. A graphic novel adaptation was released a few years ago, and Sydelle was recast as a 14-year-old girl. While I can’t say for sure why the character had aged, I’m sure it had something to do with the massive popularity of mid-range graphic novels, and the publisher was probably hoping the adaptation would be a nice bridge from MG would be to YES.

Winger Andrew Smith book cover

Winger by Andrew Smith

The oldest book on this list, this is about a super smart 14 year old boy named Ryan Dean West who skips two grades and is a junior at an exclusive private school. But just because he’s literally smart doesn’t necessarily mean he knows how to navigate the complicated social dynamics of his junior class. But dealing with bullies, unrequited love and rugby rivalries pales in comparison to the complications and heartbreak that follow when tragedy strikes.

Cover of Sometime in the Summer

Sometime in the Summer by Katrina Leno

Anna believes in luck because bad luck seems to follow her everywhere. As summer approaches, not only does she face the loss of her family’s bookstore and her parents’ divorce, but her best friends also stop speaking to her. And now she’ll spend the summer in New England for over two months. But when she arrives in Rhode Island, she finds that luck can change and friends new and old aren’t always what she expected.

Undercover Latina Cover

Undercover Latina by Aya de León (October 11)

This book is billed as mid-range, but since it stars a 14-year-old character, I’ll say it counts as YA. Andréa Hernández-Baldoquín’s family works for The Factory, a spy agency whose international work is dedicated to protecting communities of color. At 14, she finally gets her first assignment, but it’s not what she expected: she has to go undercover as a white girl and befriend the son of a white supremacist. But life undercover is tough when you have to deny your culture and your core being… and even tougher when Andréa falls for her brand’s Latino best friend.

Want more great recommendations? Check out our roundup of YA books perfect for intermediate grade readers who want to read!

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