Being 12 can be downright confusing. You’re not a teenager just yet, but not really a kid anymore. Everything is changing: your friends, your family, your likes and dislikes, even your body. (Whaaaaaat? Gross!) Talk about having your world turned upside down! But that’s why we have great books. Get inspired by extraordinary characters and their even more extraordinary tales in this list of the 12 best books for when you are 12.
The Golden Compass
12-year-old orphan Lyra Belacqua has lived her whole life scampering around Oxford with her daemon, Pantalaimon. But when she stumbles across a dangerous conspiracy, she is forced to flee to the unknown North—where armored polar bears battle, children are being abducted and experimented on by a mysterious and sinister society, and Lyra uncovers dark truths about her past, and the universe, that could completely alter the course of the future.
The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm
Tendai, Rita, and Kuda have been holed up in their mansion far too long—but when they escape to explore the world outside, they find themselves confronted with dangers beyond their wildest imagination. In the world of 2174 in Harare, Zimbabwe, the siblings find themselves kidnapped by gangsters and bounced from one awful situation to the next…all while being pursued by a strange detective agency their parents have hired. This bizarre, funny, and downright fascinating tale of the future will take you on one wild ride and have you wondering what the world will look like in 158 years.
The Graveyard Book
Brad is anything but normal…but you could probably say it’s because of how he was raised. You see, Brad was raised as the only living thing in a graveyard. His whole world has been ghosts and other supernatural beings. As he grows older, his love for his graveyard family—and fear of the outside world—grows.
Artemis Fowl is no ordinary 12-year-old. He’s a brilliant criminal mastermind, and has done a pretty good job managing his family’s criminal enterprise. He’s also on the hunt for something very, very valuable…fairies. When he captures fairy Holly Short, he thinks he’s landed on a goldmine. What he fails to realize is that Holly and her fellow fairies are anything but the gentle fairies of lore: they’re armed, and they’re ready to fight! But are Artemis’ intentions really all bad?
A Wrinkle In Time
Meg’s father has been missing for over a year. One dark and stormy night, a Mrs. Whatsit visits the family and reveals that she is a magical being who can read thoughts. She informs Meg that her father isn’t just missing on this planet—he’s lost somewhere in the fifth dimension, and it’s up to Meg, her brother Charles, and her friend Calvin to rescue him from whatever evil is holding him captive. This wild inter-dimensional tale is an absolute must-read!
In Jonas’s world, everything is in perfect order. Nobody fights, nobody hurts, nobody is poor, nobody gets sick. At the age of 12, each member of his community is given their career assignment. Jonas is assigned a very unusual job, however: he is to be the new Receiver of Memories. It’s no easy task for anyone, let alone a 12-year-old. He begins training under The Giver, who is the only one who knows of what life was really like before everything was perfect…and now that Jonas knows the truth, will he let things continue to be the way they are? Or is there meaning, and even happiness, in imperfection?
The Dark is Rising
On his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton learns that he is actually the last of the Old Ones, immortals who fight the great forces of evil. To save the world, he must first find the six Signs of the Light and unite them. But the world of magic and good and evil that Will has discovered is far more complex and sinister than he ever could have imagined…
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Karana has lived on Ghalas-at, also known as the Island of the Blue Dolphins, her entire life. She lives in the village with her father, the chief, and her brother. After a trade agreement goes terribly wrong, ending in many deaths, her fellow villagers leave—but Karana and her brother Ramo are left behind. Karana will have to rely on her survival skills and strength to stay alive until someone comes to rescue them, but soon tragedy strikes again and Karana must learn what it truly means to be brave…and be human.
Al Capone Does My Shirts
Moose Flanagan, age 12, has to move with his family to Alcatraz Island in 1935. His father got a job working at the infamous prison, and his autistic younger sister Natalie can go to a special school nearby in San Francisco. Moose is pretty miserable—he had to give up a pretty great life back in Santa Monica, and his life now is lonely and frustrating. But he’s about to make a friend (or two) in the most unlikely of places…
A Long Walk to Water
Two parallel stories—one taking place in 2008, and the other in 1985—explore the lives of two different people and how they collide. In Sudan in 1985, Salva’s classroom daydreaming is violently interrupted by what begins a harrowing journey of survival and escape. Over 20 years later, Nya spends must walk eight hours a day to collect water for her family, most of which is contaminated. How these two tales intertwine is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and will give you so much hope for how we can love one another.
Counting By 7s
12-year-old Willow Chance is a genius who is a sponge for information. She leads a pretty quiet life, and finds comfort in counting by 7s. But when her world is turned upside down by tragedy, she will be challenged in ways she never could have imagined—and through it all, she shows the power of survival, finding hope, and finding family where you least expect it.
The Thing about Jellyfish
After her ex-best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting because things don’t just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, and complicated friendships.
Have you read any of these books? What other books do you think every 12-year-old should read? Share in the Comments below!