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World War II Books for Teens

a cropped image of the cover of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This year marks the 75th commemoration of the end of World War II, an event that has produced countless stories of bravery, tragedy, and triumph. These World War II books are not just for history buffs. They are stories that help us connect to the past, and give hope for the future.

The titles below are some of our top picks for teen fiction and nonfiction World War II books available in our digital collection. These books celebrate resilience and endurance to inspire modern-day readers, and explore profound social and ethical issues still relevant today. For more suggestions, you can use our My Next Read service or ask a librarian online or over the phone.

Fiction

American Ace by Marilyn Nelson – In this contemporary novel told in verse, Connor finds out that his grandfather was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, an African-American group of pilots in WWII. Prior to this discovery, he did not know his grandmother’s husband was not his biological grandfather. Connor begins to research the class ring, his only clue to the man’s identity, and is excited to learn about the history of his country and grandfather in the process. 

White Rose by Kip Wilson – Another novel in verse, this book is based on the true story of Sophie Scholl, a non-violent, anti-Nazi activist who was sentenced to death for treason. The poems go back and forth from “The End”, when she was arrested, to “Before”. These poems tell Sophie’s story through letters to her boyfriend Fritz, recollections from her childhood, and other memories including that of her arrest. 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Set in Germany during the war, this book follows Liesel, an adopted girl who is learning how to read. Death narrates the story of her new family and town in a meandering, poetic style. This long, meandering tale is good for getting lost in, and it was adapted into a movie in 2013. 

Nonfiction

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott; and illustrated by Harmony Becker – George Takei’s family was forcefully relocated from California to a Japanese internment camp when he was four. In this graphic novel, he shares what he remembers of the time, what his father told him when he was older, and how these experiences shaped his activism and acting career. Available on Hoopla.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – Anne (pronounced like Anna) received a diary for her 13th birthday. She wrote in it before and during the time her family lived in the hidden part of a house in Amsterdam. The diary focuses a lot on the tension in the house of the family and friends who were hiding together in close quarters with limited resources. This classic is a firsthand account of what life was like for the Jewish people forced into hiding during the war. 

Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington – This award winning book tells the true stories of gay men who were persecuted in Germany and Nazi-occupied territories. The book starts with a history of Germany’s gay and lesbian scene in the early 1900s and the injustices they faced when Hitler came to power. Available on Overdrive.

Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive by Laura Hillenbrand – After pilot Louis Zamperini’s ship crashed into the Pacific Ocean, he stayed afloat for weeks before being captured as a prisoner of war. This book showcases his strength and bravery from the time of the crash until he was released in 1945 and returned to America. There is also an edition of Unbroken written for adults.

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin – This work of nonfiction details the development of the atomic bomb, from conception to its use in WWII. In addition to the American scientists who worked on the project, the book follows of Russian spies who wanted to steal the secret technology for their own country. 

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Comments 1

Guest - Excellent list. on Monday, 25 May 2020 09:56

Excellent list of WWII books depicting life torn asunder by the horrors of war.

Excellent list of WWII books depicting life torn asunder by the horrors of war.
Guest
Wednesday, 02 December 2020

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