May 3, 2018


Being a teenager can be exhilarating, harrowing, impassioned and confusing all at the same time.

They face hurdles like academic stresses, parental expectations, peer pressure and body image issues. Sometimes they must come to terms with more serious problems, like illness, addiction, poverty and death.

Copyright Agency’s Reading Australia is a freely accessible online resource for parents and teachers, listing over 300 Australian books that are a must to read. The website also has more than 140 teaching resources for all ages of learning.

Young people can find comfort and guidance in books that explore some of the same issues they are grappling with in their own lives.

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Aleesha Paz from Copyright Agency’s Reading Australia, lists five books which explore multiple issues and feature teenaged characters navigating their journey into adulthood, and learning life lessons along the way.

1. Zac and Mia by A. J. Betts
Under normal circumstances, Zac and Mia wouldn’t be friends – the only thing they have in common is that they are the only teenagers stuck in the adult oncology ward. But now that their cancers have isolated them from their friends and family, the only people who understand what they’re going through is each other. Confronted with the possibility of death, Zac seeks to control his illness by obsessively researching statistics about cancer, and Mia struggles to adjust to her new identity as the ‘disfigured’ girl with cancer. Zac and Mia explores how from adversity can come friendship, and even love.

2. Destroying Avalon by Kate McCalfrey
When Avalon moves from her country-town school to a city school, she becomes the victim of a vicious hate campaign in the form of online bullying. The end of the school day doesn’t mark the end of the attacks against her – the bullying follows her home through the text messages and online posts that spread horrible rumours about her. Kate McCalfrey’s book exposes the way victims of this type of intimidation feel isolated and can be at risk of self-harm, and highlights the importance of seeking help from parents or teachers.

3. Becoming Kirrali Lewis by Jane Harrison
When Kirrali Lewis moves to the city to start her first year of university, she’s ready to tackle her law classes, friendship problems and possible new romances. What she doesn’t expect is to come face-to-face with racism, be introduced to activism and begin a desperate search for identity. As an Aboriginal girl who was adopted by a white family as a baby, she never felt a need to find out about her birth parents. But the more she learns about her Aboriginal heritage, the more she needs to discover where she came from and who she is.

4. Blackrock by Nick Enright
In his essay on Blackrock, Finegan Kruckemeyer suggests the play’s subject powerfully resonates with a teenage audience, not necessarily because they have had violent experiences ‘but rather, because of potentiality.’ Nick Enright’s play was inspired by the true story of the sexual assault and murder of a 14-year-old girl. The play focuses on the aftermath, and interrogates the dominance of the male culture in which sexism and vilification of women is typical. The protagonist, a teenage boy, struggles to come to terms with the attitudes of the friends and family around him, and his own guilt.

5. Faith Singer by Rosie Scott
Faith Singer is different from the rest of the books on this list because it is told from the perspective of an adult. Faith works and lives in Kings Cross where she befriends the lonely and homeless. One day she meets Angel, a spunky 14-year-old living on the street and working as a sex worker. Faith is reminded of her own daughter, who passed away from a heroin overdose, and she fears losing Angel in the same way. It’s a remarkable story about poverty, drug addiction and overcoming grief.

For more information and resources, visit www.readingaustralia.com.au

Share your comments below

  • Great books and they would all help children during their growing up phase.


  • great ideas thank you


  • Great ideas, but how many teenagers are into reading? If only


  • It’s time to check if school libraries have these. That may be more incentive than if they are given to the kids by parents. I don’t know if schools still have allotted times that classes spend in libraries.


  • My kids didn’t do a lot of reading when they were teenagers, they were too busy playing sport and being with friends. Thankfully this no book phase didn’t last long


  • Thanks for this book list – a valuable resource.

    • Thanks for providing the Reading Australia link – a terrific site and resource.


  • Thanks for the suggestions, sound like some great books. I’m sure my daughter would like “Zac and Mia”.


  • And a great book for parents of female tweenagers…….Princess Teenage Bitchface. Lots of tips on how to cope


  • Thanks for the info. I’ve been looking for some suitable books recently.


  • I was able to reserve “Destroying Avalon” and “Becoming Kirrali Lewis”. I hope my daughter will like them . :-)


  • Thank you for all the tips. My daughter just read Zac & Mia, and loved it. There’s also a tv series about this book.
    I’m going to look at my local library for the other ones.


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