The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. (Knopf, 2007). This book about World War II and its aftermath, narrated by Death and focusing on a little girl who steals books but, at least initially, can't read, is itself a must-read for the engaging, heart-rending narrative and unique portrayal of this particular time in history.
What I Saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell. (Scholastic, 2008). A mystery set in America after World War II featuring 15-year-old Evie Spooner, this won the 2008 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.
Starring Sally J. Freedman as herself, by Judy Blume. (Bradbury, 1978). This will always be a favorite, for the character of Sally as much as for the deftly drawn setting of post-World-War-II Miami Beach.
The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy. (Putnam, 2011). Set in London in 1952, Meloy's book tells of the Scott family, who've moved from L.A. to London. Janie Scott meets the local apothecary's son, Benjamin Burrows, who wants to become a spy, and mysterious, dangerous things begin to happen. Stay tuned for the sequel, The Apprentices, upcoming this June. This series has been described as "Harry Potter meets Nancy Drew."
Strings Attached, by Judy Blundell. (Scholastic, 2011). Another one from National Book Award-winner Blundell, this thriller with the distinct flavor of noir concerns a 16-year-old girl and Mob retribution in '50s New York City.
Out of the Easy, by Ruta Sepetys. (Philomel, February 2013). Upcoming from Sepetys is the story of 17-year-old Josie Moraine, who wants desperately to go to college and escape her prostitute mother and their home in the 1950s New Orleans French Quarter. Then she becomes embroiled in a murder investigation.
Glory Be, by Augusta Scattergood. (Scholastic, 2012). Scattergood writes of segregation and a public pool in 1964 Mississippi.
Never Fall Down, by Patricia McCormick. (Balzer +Bray, 2012). In Vietnam during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, a boy from Cambodia named Arn is separated from his family, assigned to a labor camp, must learn to play an instrument to save his life, and is ultimately forced to become a solder. "He lives by the simple credo: Over and over I tell myself one thing: never fall down." It's a powerful book based on a true story.
The Vietnam Series, by Chris Lynch. (Scholastic, #4: 2013). Lynch's four books feature a group of teens who all sign up to fight in the Vietnam War when one of their friends is drafted.
Summer and the City: A Carrie Diaries Novel, by Candace Bushnell. (Balzer + Bray, 2012). Say what you will of the series, and of the series going Y.A./prequel, but this depiction of Little Carrie navigating the Big Apple offers up some great '80s nostalgia fodder. Think playlists. (While you're at it, you may want to pick up some Sweet Valley High, old and new.)
Pink Smog, by Francesca Lia Block. (HarperTeen, 2012). For the other coast: 1980s Los Angeles is a key character in this prequel to the Weetzie Bat series, in which the 13-year-old Louise "grows up" and becomes Weetzie.
This list is not conclusive, so if we missed any of your favorites, please share.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.