We all know that YA has an amazing breadth, bringing us fantastic stories from across a variety of genres—it’s why we love it so much, tbh. One of our faves (because you know we’re obsessed with all of them) is YA historical fiction, those books that draw their *epic* inspiration from the past. These books are always so immersive, really bringing us into their worlds, and we. are all. about it.
With a range from France in the 1400s, to a 17th century romp across Europe, to NYC in 1989 (because that’s historical now, oops), from fantastical fiction to realistic stories, these books are a total blast (from the past)!
17 YA Historical Fiction Books
THAT WILL GIVE YOU SERIOUS HISTORICAL FOMO
1. The Language of Fire by Stephanie Hemphill
Hi, if you need us, we’re still obsessing over this epic Joan of Arc retelling.
Jehanne was an illiterate peasant, never quite at home among her siblings and peers. Until one day, she hears a voice call to her, telling her she is destined for important things. She begins to understand that she has been called by God, chosen for a higher purpose—to save France.
Through sheer determination and incredible courage, Jehanne becomes the unlikeliest of heroes. She runs away from home, dresses in men’s clothes, and convinces an army that she will lead France to victory.
As a girl in a man’s world, at a time when women truly had no power, Jehanne faced constant threats and violence from the men around her. Despite the impossible odds, Jehanne became a fearless warrior who has inspired generations.
2. The Beholder by Anna Bright
Bachelor-esque historical fiction? Yes. Please.
Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match.
But after an excruciatingly public rejection, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic to visit a series of potential suitors—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.
From the gardens of England to the fjords of Norge, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.
3. Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
A little more current than some others on this list, but ’89 NYC is too good to miss.
It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.
Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.
Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.
Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.
As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart—and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.
4. Hamilton and Peggy! by L.M. Elliott
Our love for Hamilton (and Peggy) will never die.
Peggy Schuyler has always felt like she’s existed in the shadows of her beloved sisters: the fiery, intelligent Angelica and beautiful, sweet Eliza. But it’s in the throes of a chaotic war that Peggy finds herself a central figure amid Loyalists and Patriots, spies and traitors, friends and family.
When a flirtatious aide-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton, writes to Peggy asking for her help in wooing the earnest Eliza, Peggy finds herself unable to deny such an impassioned plea. A fast friendship forms between the two, but Alexander is caught in the same war as her father, and the danger to all their lives is real.
Everything is a battlefield—from the frontlines to their carefully coded letters—but will Peggy’s bravery’s and intelligence be enough to keep them all safe?
5. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Monty and Percy are the kings of YA historical fiction and we are here for it.
Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
So Monty vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
6. Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Is it cheating if part of this one takes place in 2065?
2065: Adri has been handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house more than a hundred years ago and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate.
1934: Amid the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine’s family’s situation is growing dire. She must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.
1919: In the recovery following World War I, Lenore tries to come to terms with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail from England to America. But can she make it that far?
7. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Can this total historical badass please be our book BFF?
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.
In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.
But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.
But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.
And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.
8. My Plain Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, & Jodi Meadows
Give us a hilarious historical retelling any day of the week.
You may think you know the story. Penniless orphan Jane Eyre begins a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester—and, Reader, she marries him. Or does she?
Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Bronte, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.
9. Finale by Stephanie Garber
A book worth losing sleep for…
A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.
It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.
With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.
Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.
Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end…
10. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Inspired by ancient Arabia—and a total inspiration to us, tbh.
People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.
Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya―but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds―and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.
11. Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
Yep, 1998 is considered historical now and nope, we’re not okay with it.
Brooklyn, 1998. Biggie Smalls was right: Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are cool letting their best friend Steph’s music lie forgotten under his bed after he’s murdered—not when his rhymes could turn any Bed Stuy corner into a party.
With the help of Steph’s younger sister Jasmine, they come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: the Architect. Soon, everyone wants a piece of him. When his demo catches the attention of a hotheaded music label rep, the trio must prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.
As the pressure of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only, each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, they need to decide what they stand for or lose all that they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.
12. Lovely War by Julie Berry
Take a look at this cover and try to tell us you’re not already hooked??
It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep—and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.
Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.
Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.
13. Romanov by Nadine Brandes
~Nastya~ women make history.
The history books say I died.
They don’t know the half of it.
Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.
Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are either to release the spell and deal with the consequences, or to enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.
That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad… and he’s on the other.
14. Enchantée by Gita Trelease
We are ~enchanted~ by this one.
Paris is a labyrinth of twisted streets filled with beggars and thieves, revolutionaries and magicians. Camille Durbonne is one of them. She wishes she weren’t…
When smallpox kills her parents, Camille must find a way to provide for her younger sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on magic, Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille pursues a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Using dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into a baroness and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for magic. As she struggles to reconcile her resentment of the rich with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille meets a handsome young inventor, and begins to believe that love and liberty may both be possible.
But magic has its costs, and soon Camille loses control of her secrets. And when revolution erupts, Camille must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality of magic—before Paris burns.
16. All For One by Melissa de la Cruz
Didn’t we say we couldn’t get enough of Alexander Hamilton?
1785. New York, New York.
As a young nation begins to take shape, Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler are on top of the world. They’re the toast of the town, keeping New York City buzzing with tales of their lavish parties, of Eliza’s legendary wit, and of Alex’s brilliant legal mind.
But new additions to Alex & Eliza’s little family mean change is afoot in the Hamilton household. When they agree to take in an orphaned teenage girl along with Eliza’s oldest brother, John Schuyler, Eliza can’t help but attempt a match. It’s not long before sparks start to fly . . . if only Eliza can keep herself from interfering too much in the course of true love. After all, she and Alex have an arrival of their own to plan for, though Alex’s latest case brings a perilous threat that may destroy everything.
17. Sherwood by Meagan Spooner
Give us all the feminist fairy tales, pls and thank.
Robin of Locksley is dead.
Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on, but the people of Locksley town, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, need a protector. And the dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiancé.
Who is there to stop them?
Marian never meant to tread in Robin’s footsteps—never intended to stand as a beacon of hope to those awaiting his triumphant return. But with a sweep of his green cloak and the flash of her sword, Marian makes the choice to become her own hero: Robin Hood.
- Let us know your favorite YA historical fiction in the comments below!