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Best YA Books for Young Adults Who Hate to Read

September 26, 2011

Reading might be overrated.  Not the ability to read, but reading for entertainment, reading just for the sake of reading.  To most literate people (even dysfunctional literates), we might look at somebody who doesn’t enjoy reading and pity them for all the wonderful experiences they have missed.  A reluctant reader (somebody who hates reading) would in turn look upon us literates and pity us for all the experiences we’ve missed because we’ve been wasting our time reading.  

Since people don’t like to do what they don’t enjoy doing (that made sense when I first thought it), people who don’t enjoy reading aren’t going to read just for the heck of it, especially teens (or Young Adults, as book sellers categorize them).  But sometimes we can force Young Adults to do things they don’t want to do (school, chores, music lessons), and reading is sometimes one of those battles that parents choose to fight with reluctant readers. 

A reluctant reader is not the same as a dysfunctional literate.  A reluctant reader can read but doesn’t like it.  A dysfunctional literate likes to read but might have really bad taste. 

Trying to get a kid who hates reading to read on his own is probably a losing battle.  But if you’re absolutely determined to get a reluctant teen (Young Adult) to read, then here are a few books you might want to try. 

WARNING!  These aren’t necessarily the best YA books out there, but these are books that might interest a teenager who hates to (but can) read.  Also, this is an incomplete list because I’m sure that there are other books out there that can be added; I just haven’t read them or seen reluctant readers read them.


The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton- Pony Boy, Soda Pop, and Darry live on!  Every kid sympathizes with the greasers, even kids who are Socs but don’t realize it. 

Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman- An amusement park of death.  And a baseball cap with an extended middle finger.  And a humorous reference to Moby Dick that doesn’t make fun of the name Moby Dick.  This book borders on brilliant. 

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker-  High school, football, and steroids.   It’s not a classic by any stretch, but a lot of boys who don’t like to read will read it. 

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger- Just enough cuss words and attitude to keep a kid interested. 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- For girls.  Yeah, it’s violent, but it’s well-written and has a point, and at least it has nothing to do with vampires. 

Different Seasons by Stephen King-  It’s not meant to be YA literature, and it’s wildly inappropriate for teens, but boys like the short story “The Body,” and it’s even better if they think they’re not supposed to read it.  There’s a story within the story with vomit, lots and lots of vomit.  Teens who hate reading love reading about vomit. 


Harry Potter and the…– Reluctant readers hate Harry Potter.  The books are too long, and Harry’s time is over. 

Any classic literature- Yes, these stories are timeless and treasures, but for most reluctant readers, there is never a good time to read a classic.  They’re long and boring (from a reluctant reader’s point of view), and even when they’re not boring, they’re written in a boring way that makes non-boring things boring. 

Any abridged classic- Yeah, your intentions are good, but the abridged versions are just as boring and will collect just as much dust as the originals. 

For boys, any book written by a girl, about a girl, or has a girl on the cover (unless it’s one of… those kinds… of books).  

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand- Great book to give as a gag gift before handing out the latest Call of Duty game to a teen that hates reading.  Also a great way to see how a reluctant reader handles disappointment. 


If you’re trying to get a teenager who hates reading to read any of our suggested books, remember, there is no guarantee of success.  Also remember, there are other important skills the kid might have that you can encourage or exploit, like rigging free cable or fixing the car.  Some of those skills might be more valuable than reading just for the enjoyment of it.

  1. Hm, interesting list. I used to be a kid who hated to read but I was given Harry Potter and it actually started me on reading. But everyone’s different, right? Nice post.

    • I think around ten years ago or so, Harry Potter books were great for kids who hated to read, but nowadays this same type of kid (at least the ones I’ve seen… purely anecdotal evidence) seems almost repulsed by them. I think a new generation of kids that hate to read need a new hero, and maybe Full Tilt or Hunger Games have provided that. Oddly enough, I love to read and have never read a Harry potter book (or seen the movies).

  2. LoL @ Harry Potter, & at “final note”!!
    I’ve been practically begging my 17 yr old daughter to read Hunger Games, & my 14 yr old son to read The Outsiders…He actually DID just read The Outsiders, in 2 days! Like your choices.

  3. I’m in my late forties and I love YA lit. Not just because I want to know what all the hype is about, i.e. Harry Potter (read ’em all) but because they are usually designed to teach while they entertain. For example, I read the “The Dark is Rising” set of five volumes, and learned a bit about the landscape, language and politics of Wales in one of the volumes. A few years ago I raided a box of books that was being discarded by the high school librarian, and saved about twenty that had to do with history, biography, and other subjects of interest. These books hadn’t been borrowed in many years, but for me they were fresh and new, and chock full of information I had somehow missed in school.

    • Yeah, it’s interesting to compare YA lit from a few decades ago with today’s. I just discovered Rosemary Sutcliffe books because of the movie The Eagle based on her book (written in the 1950’s, I think), and it was supposedly written for a YA audience. I enjoyed it and a couple of her other books, but I can’t picture kids today reading them. I actually don’t like most YA lit (but I don’t like most book books either, so maybe I’m not the best critic).

  4. Good stuff!

  5. I used to hate reading. Until I read Harry Potter. Yeah, they were long but I loved the books and read the last one in one sitting.

  6. While I love reading, and will read just about anything, my boyfriend is very much the opposite and has told me on many occasion that reading is boring and pointless. However, he’s currently working away and has clearly reached a new height of boredom which has driven him to buy himself a kindle! Wow.

    The problem I have now is what to suggest he might like to read. I’ve come across your blog by typing ‘good books for people who hate reading’ into Google and thought you might be able to help… Any suggestions? I’m leaning towards your Stephen King recommendation, but then I’ve never read anything of his myself… Help is much appreciated!

    • Different Seasons is a good start for Stephen king books. It has four short stories, and the first two “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body” are great. I’ve known several people who hate to read but liked those two stories. The whole book is about $10.00 on kindle, but you can probably find a beat up paperback at a used book store for a buck. If he likes those, then maybe he’ll like The Shining or The Stand.

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