Books to help teens feel understood when they're feeling misunderstood


When I was a moody teenager, I found comfort and solace in fictional characters that seemed to be going through what I was going through. Their happy ending gave me hope, and hopefully these new heroes will do the same for your teenager. 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli

16-year-old Simon Spier is gay. No one has any clue except for his pen pal, Blue, who he expresses his concerns to. One day, his emails land in the wrong hands and his secret is threatened. Blackmailed, Simon has to be the class clown's wingman or risk his and his pen pal's sexuality being exposed. Teens can also look forward to Love, Simon, the movie adaption of the book, coming to cinemas later this year. 

Leah on the Offbeat - Becky Albertalli

This is the sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens. This book is about Simon's BFF, Leah, as she grapples with changing friendships, first love, and senior year angst. Leah is a drummer, and that's the one thing she tends to be the most sure of. Her real life though? It's not on the beat at all! She's the only one in her group of friends from a household with a single parent and to top it all off: she's too scared to let her friends know that she's bisexual. That will mean revealing her true feelings for someone who she's positive will not reciprocate her feelings. 

Coming this April

The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven

This is being dubbed the book for young feminists. When explicit photos involving Izzy O'Neill, a politician's son and a garden bench are published online, the trolls set out to take her apart. Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she tries to laugh it off – but as the daily slut-shaming intensifies, she soon learns the way the world treats teenage girls is not okay.

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black – Emily Barr

Ella Black lives a seemingly perfect life. Until one day, when her parents whisk her off to Brazil without an explanation. Seeking an answer, she goes through their stuff and discovers her parents aren't who they say they are and her life is about to be turned upside down. 

The Colour of Bee Larkham's Murder – Sarah J Harris 

Jasper has synaesthesia – he can see sounds in colour. He’s sure something has happened to his neighbour, Bee Larkham, but no-one else seems to be taking it as seriously as they should be. The knife and the screams are all mixed up in his head and he’s scared that he can’t quite remember anything clearly.

Mine – Sally Partridge

A story about a boy named Fin and a girl named Kayla, both muscians. They feel powerful and strong when they're focused on their music, but they're each fighting demons from their past. They find strength in each other but will Kayla learn to accept the love she receives or run away in fear?

Hap – Lesley Beake

Recoverign from a traumatic experience, Lucy joins her father on a trip from New York to South Africa. Here she slowly starts to make sense of her trauma. However, Lucy is feeling uneasy about the spirits around her. Expecially that of Hap, an ancestor whose past experieces she seems to be affected by. 

New Keepers – Jayne Bauling

Fans of dystopian teen fiction will love this! Jabz is from a poor city, Gauzi, and finds himself taking in a crew from the privileged city, Sprawll. He receives visions about going to the Wildlands to receive a message: who will be the group leader to lead them in a rebellion against the controlling City Minders?

Imibala Yothando – Dumisani Hlatswayo

Sinenhlanhla is the daughter of a famous Maskandi musician. She's the new girl at school, trying to settle in but naturally, the boys take a liking to her and soon she gains a large number of admireres. Although she has no time for them – she's too busy gearing up for the Maths Olypiad that's going to take place in Cape Town – the school bad boy will stop at nothing to gain her attention. Bhajasi soon gets his hands on private pictures of Sine and posts them on social media. Can she be strong and overcome the cyber bullying and humilation? 

Mamello – Lebohang Jeanet Pheko

This South African Cinderella, Mamello, desires to go to school so she can be a human rights lawyer. Unfortunately, her parents do not allow her to go to school and mistreat her. 

What were your favourite books when you were growing up and what lessons did you learn from reading? Email us at and we may publish your comments.

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