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19 Best Influential Young Adult Nonfiction Books

Updated on January 21, 2024

Readings In Multiple Genres

The power of adolescent literature has the ability to transform the consciousness of young adults through a multitude of vicarious experiences. Great literature presents a thorough understanding of what life is all about. It also shows how others have already confronted and overcome the many challenges that life dealt them.

The purpose of this article is to recommend and present comprehensive book reviews of some of the most influential adolescent literature, a collection of books with subjects expanding across all genre of non-fiction, including memoirs, politics, autobiographies, sports, crime, adventure, and other aspects of life. Special attention will be given to various books in terms of thematic emphasis. But most importantly, this selection of literature offers the young reader a variety of significant insights into the adolescent world. Therefore, teens and young adults who commit themselves to this reading adventure will be inspired with a greater understanding and appreciation of adolescent literature.


The Shooting: A Memoir: by Kemp Powers

Powers writes a powerful book about his tragic past. While playing with a gun he accidentally shoots his friend in the face. Powers gets convicted but spends no time in prison because of the forgiveness of his friends family. Nevertheless, Powers is consumed by guilt for many years. Although this incident causes him to walk the high road, the tragedy ruins his marriage and professional life. He had contemplated suicide many times until the 9/11 tragedy that gives him the courage to confront his past and make peace within himself. The teen reader will understand that making unwise decisions such as playing with guns and other dangerous weapons can ruin one’s life forever. This book will make younger readers think about making good judgments which will help them avoid the consequences of bad judgments.

Deep Telling

This book goes deep into the life of a young man who made a fatal judgment involving the death of a friend and how it tormented him most of his life, despite not having to spend any prison time.

Real Teens, Real Stories, Real Life: by Suzanne Eller

For the younger reader who feels that adults do not understand the issues of teen-life-this is a good book. The book contains a collection of real-life experiences written by teenagers who have been through almost everything under the sun. The topics include issues dealing with drugs, suicidal thoughts, occult practices, homosexuality, pornography, addictions, and many other challenges. The young adult will learn how these teens dealt with their problems by finding a deep spiritual solution. They learn about love, respect, and forgiveness. Even though their lives were still not perfect they were able to find peace in their faith.


Growing Up With Television: Everyday Learning Among Young Adolescents: by Joellen Fisher Keller

The young reader will understand the impact of television on their lives and affairs. Watching television is one of the most powerful ways for teens to learn about themselves and the world. They learn about cultures, ethics, social issues within the environment as well as the part they play within it. From the point of view of a young adolescent who discusses the many ways television has played a vital role in helping them understand life and make important decisions.

Children’s Rights in the United States: In Search of a National Policy: by Nancy E. Walker

In this book, the younger reader learns about his or her rights as a child in nearly every level of society. The book traces the historical aspects of children’s rights and how these rights have developed throughout the centuries. It is very important for young adolescents to know how important they are to society. The book teaches adolescents how they must stand up and take charge as leaders of the next generation. This knowledge will give young adults a sense of importance as well as assist them in making better judgments regarding their future, and the future of society.


Failure Is Impossible: The History of American Woman’s Rights: by Martha Kendall

The adolescent teen, particularly females, will learn about the great women of society and the trial and tribulations they experienced for their equal and rightful place in American society. Subjects include women’s suffrage, women’s movement, property and children’s rights, fair wages, etc. The younger reader will learn about the legal actions and other powerful initiatives that women took to get where they are today. The book is filled with many photos of these great women and the things they accomplished. This book has the ability to persuade the adolescent female to rise up with strength and voice in society, and refuse to be treated unfairly. The book also teaches young adolescent males to understand and acknowledge the great contributions that women have made influencing society. This book gives the female teen an outstanding perspective of a woman’s value in society, going beyond the typical male view of women as sexual objects.

We Are Witnesses: Five Diaries of Teenagers Who Died In The Holocaust: by Jacob Boas

Other than Anna Frank, an adolescent female who died in the Holocaust, there is little known about other accounts of the horrible tragedy. But here are five accounts from four other adolescents who suffered the terrors of the concentration camps and eventually perished. The youths in these dairies had different backgrounds. One is religious, the other Jewish, and the other political. The teen writers depict daily life in this hellish environment. All their accounts are filled with universal meaning. All in all, it reveals the inhumanity that other misguided souls have toward their fellow humans. Most importantly, the book teaches young adults how to respect the humanity of all people.

Losses and Understandings

The book is primarily about the experience of teenagers who lived and died during World War 11. Their horrible descriptions and encounters will shed a terrible light on man’s inhumanity toward his neighbors.


My Possess Don’t Do Homework: by Louanne Johnson

The title of this book alone is attractive to the young reader. The students in this book have many problems to confront and many emotional blockages to overcome in pursuit of a possible education. A determined teacher attempts to motivate some the most reluctant and disinterested students in the inner city. The young reader can identify with many of the teen characters within the book. Humor and fast reading are two of the qualities that add to this book.

One Child: by Torey Haden

What makes a world-class teacher is the patience and understanding of students no matter what the background. This book gives an account of a special education teacher’s ability to reach a child on whom society had given up hope. Sheila, who enters class as a highly disrupted six-year-old, is transformed in three days by the love and understanding of her teachers. Abandoned by her mother and abused by her father and sentenced to a mental institution, Sheila was a child without hope and love until she met Ms. Torey Hayden. The result of this encounter produces a student with a tremendous IQ who exceeds all her peers. The discovery of her gifts and talents is remarkable. The young adolescent will learn and understand that no matter what hardships and family tribulations they have experienced there is still hope. Within them is a great, undiscovered treasure. Teens will understand how school and teachers are there to bring out the best within them.


My Losing Season: by Pat Conroy

The book offers a well-constructed account of a basketball player in his senior year. The character confronts fears, sadism, injury, failure, and humiliations. While dealing with an abusive father and a forceful coach, the character recounts the ups and downs of the basketball season. He discovers that losing is much softer than humiliation. The latter is an open wound that takes time to heal. But humiliations also gives one a chance to open the heart, to express love, admiration, and gratitude. The book gives an account a basketball player who learns how to absorb lost and grow stronger from the experience. He gives many descriptions of the games and plays and the agony of defeat. The young adolescent will learn that lost and humiliation is nothing to be ashamed of if one accepts these dark qualities as a source of growth and wisdom.

It’s Not About The Bike: my journey back to life: by Lance Armstrong

This book gives the young reader an opportunity to appreciate life beyond sports. Lance Armstrong is the best cyclist in the world. But he soon learns that testicular cancer has spread to his legs and brain. In fact, he has met his biggest challenge but he isn’t about to back down. After a brave fight with cancer, which he aggressively treats with chemotherapy and diet, Armstrong wins the battle again. But this time he is more appreciative of life in all areas: physical , emotional , nutritional, and spiritual.


No One Here Gets Out Alive: Jerry Hopkins

This book, an autobiography of the life of Jim Morrison, a great musician, gives an account of a man who lived dangerously, despite his success in music. He abused drugs, sex, and the law. He ignored all morality. This form of ignorance marred his image as a great musician and roll model. The young adolescent will learn that a life of indulgence and lawlessness will lead to self-destruction. A life of moral degradation cannot be ignored, no matter what kind of fame a person has accomplished.

Autobiography of a Face: Lucy Grealy

A young reader who feels rejected by peers will appreciate this book. The author, Luch Grealy, was diagnosed with cancer that resulted in half of her jaw being removed. She discusses the emotional pain of rejection that she experiences from her peers and how she grows strong as a result of the taunting. She battles between two emotions: wanting to be special in the eyes of others versus accepting and appreciating herself a human being. She discovers that beauty is only skin deep. Specialness and real beauty are found within.

Growing Through Narratives

This book discusses the sad experiences of a teen rejected by peers because of her disfigured face. The disease of cancer had resulted in her losing one of her jaws. Her struggles and trials in growing up among the negative experiences made her strong.


A Field Guide to Household Technology: by Ed Sobey

The book will give teenage readers a thorough knowledge of everyday household products and how they operate. Sobey examines the discovery, purpose, and operations of common household items such as radios, can openers, and vacuum cleaners. Every product in the house is covered, from the hallway to the kitchen. The young reader will have a great appreciation for the common everyday products that may have been taken for granted. Also, this book may inspire a mindset to invent more better household items.

Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want To Know About Fast Food: By Eric Schlosser

The goal of this book is to encourage adolescent to make better decisions regarding their diets. The fast food industry is looked into extensively. The book examines the nature of slaughterhouses and chicken farms and the inhumane operations of these systems. Obesity and many medical conditions resulting from fast food consumptions are discussed. Schlosser shows us what goes into the foods of the most famous fast food restaurant in the nation: McDonald's. The adolescent reader will learn about the many health problems resulting from processed foods in the fast lane.


American Street: A Multicultural Anthology Of Stories: by Anne Mazer

The adolescent reader learns much about multi-ethnic teen struggles. Many teens try to find their places within society by trying to display their abilities. Many young people just want to blend into society like the award winning runner in the short story “Raymond’s Run.” Adolescent readers will enjoy the richness of many cultural backgrounds of fourteen teenagers within the anthology. A migrant worker, an African-American, A Jewish, a Latina, and a Chinese are some of the teens that make up the diverse background of young adults trying to fit in a society that resists them. The young reader learns about the strength of family and values as the teen struggles and overcomes their challenges.

Lives In Context

This collection of stories is about the lives of teens from many different ethnic backgrounds, telling true stories of their struggles to fit into American society while maintaining their own cultural identity.

Rising Voices: by Arlene Hirschfelder

The Native American voice has been silenced and often ignored. The native American teens give their feelings about their attitudes, people, and struggles as teens adapt to American society and maintain their own culture. This book has more than 60 poems and essays written by native American children over a span of 100 years. The book is sectioned into six parts such as identity, family, homelands, ritual and ceremony, and education. It is a book of survival despite the loss of identity and insistent assimilation. A strong sense of family and cultural loyalty among native American children maintains pride regarding heritage and keeps hope alive. The young reader learns what it takes to hold on to their specialness as a person despite being ignored by society.

Rescued Histories: The above book is about the forgotten, and often ignored the voices and struggles of Native Americans in a land that doesn’t honor their past. The voices of these teens have found a sense of pride in holding on to their tradition and legacy as a native people.


Winning The War Against Youth Gangs: A Guide for Teens, Families, and Communities: By Valerie Wiener

The book is for both teenagers and parents. It discusses the various things that society can do to help prevent gang activity, like recognizing the symptoms and conditions that lead young people to choose the protection and meaning in gang affiliation. It advises parents to find ways to praise their children more than criticizing them. It addresses the young reader regarding obeying the law and society rules. All facets of society must join in the fight against gang life and activities. The young reader will be encouraged to avoid gang activity because of the growing danger and violent escalation of these groups.

Race In The Hood: Conflict and Violence: by Howard Pinderhughes

Howard Pinderhuges gives the results of gang research from three New York City neighborhoods. His studies are motivated by the murder of a young black male by white gang members and the assault of a white female jogger in central park by black and Latina gang members. He talks about the reality of teenage gangs and the social, economic, and cultural struggles and competitions that give rise to such groups. The book focuses on ways to intervene by means of peer support. The young reader will learn how racial conflict often results from fears and misguided perceptions of other cultures. Pinderhuges, a black journalist, was able to communicate and do an intensive focus study with each group. The white gang members called him cool.

Inside Encounters

This book is about Howard Pinderhuges’ investigation into a gang-ridden, New York community where murder and rape involving a racial difference between white, black, and Latina gang members. Surprisingly, all three gang groups participate willingly with Pinderhugs and call him cool. Pinderhuges is a black journalist.


The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition: by Caroline

The novel is an example of whether or not to survive or to succumb. This Arctic adventure story will appeal to teens immediately. The description of the Arctic is fantastically vivid as if the readers are among those who are trapped in the freezing wilderness. There is fear all around them but there is also strong determination in the men who endured this great polar adventure. The young reader will learn what it takes to survive such a frightening ordeal. Hope, determination, and emotional fortitude are some of the values involved in this true story.

Journeys and Places

The book is simply a novel of endurance-individuals in a desperate situation while on dangerous journeys in faraway places. The place is the Antarctic and the men show extraordinary courage on their journey across the wilderness of frozen ice while experiencing lack and limitations. The pictures and illustrations are so vivid that the young reader can almost feel cold upon them.

Young Adult Literature

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