Are you trying to find books for your elementary age or middle school age reader who reads at a high school level? It’s tricky! Because it’s important to find a book that is both challenging but also age-appropriate.
Here’s a list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers. All books listed are at a reading level above Lexile 1000. (I used various websites to verify.) This number, the Lexile Measure, indicates the text complexity, more or less. Generally speaking, books that are above 1000 are around upper middle school to high school reading level.
Challenging Books for Young Advanced Readers
I’ve split up these high level books into genre classifications so that your readers can find their favorites.
- fantasy / sci-fi
- historical fiction
- memoir, biographies, and nonfiction
Fantasy and Sci-Fi
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
The classic Tolkien from which everything begins . . . it’s wordy and descriptive and wonderful. Epic fantasy stories weave together a world of magical creatures where evil is threatening the land. The writing is complex, detailed, and intense.
Outcast of Redwall by Brian Jacques
If you like epic fantasy adventures, this is the series for you.
Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
A great girl-power novel.
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This book was my all-time favorite in high school! It’s science fiction canon.
Sabriel by Garth Nix
Teens love this book, and so do I. You need to know that it’s about a necromancer so decide if her personal relationship with death and other themes may be too advanced for younger readers. It depends on the reader.
Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve
Fever is an orphan, raised by a scientist in the order of Engineers. She begins having strange memories and wants to know if she’s a non-human Scrivener and where she came from.
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
In this creative expanded Alice in Wonderland story, Alyss Heart, heir to Wonderland, flees from her evil aunt Redd who has attacked her kingdom and killed her parents.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Orphan, Alina, lives in a country where much of the land and people have been a darkness called the Shadow Fold. When magical Alina’s powers reveal themselves, surprising even her, she’s taken to the leader, the Darkling, to train and serve him in his fight against the Shadow Fold.
Eye of the Minds by James Dashner
Imagine our world with more advanced technology that lets you “live” in a game world. Players hook up their bodies to to the game, and while their in the game, food and bathroom breaks are taken care of. It’s crazy action and adventure that will keep you reading late into the night. It’s an addicting adventure.
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, et.al SCI-FI
Because these books zip along with fast-paced adventure and action, you’ll be hard-pressed to stop reading! John isn’t a human teenager, he’s one of 9 Loric children who were sent to Earth when their planet was attacked by the evil Mogadorians. He moves around a lot with his guardian to escape these alien killers who can only kill the kids in numerical order…Now that he’s come of age, he develops his Legacies — powers that will help him survive. But one, two, and three have been killed already. John is next.
Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Part historical (Rome) and part fantasy, Elias and Laia live in a world that enslaves them both in different ways — Elias to fight and Laia to serve and spy. This is an epic page-turner with lots of mystery, action, and a hint of romance.
Rascal by Sterling North
The Princess Bride by Barry Denberg
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
The Eagle (The Roman Britan Trilogy) by Rosemary Stucliff
Mystery & Adventure
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
After his plane crashes in the woods, Brian is stranded in the Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet. His journey of survival is incredible and will captivate readers.
The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan: an Enola Holmes Mystery by Nancy Springer
Sherlock’s sister hones her detective skills in these historical mysteries.
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Neatly Snyder
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Emma by Jane Austen
Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle
Call of the Wild by Jack London
Wind in the Willows by K. Grahame
The Incredible Journey by Shelia Branford
Memoirs, Biographies, and Nonfiction
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin BIOGRAPHY
You don’t have to be a football fan to be mesmerized by this incredible underdog story of grit with the history of football as a backdrop. You don’t really know the history of football until you’ve read the history of Carlisle Indian School and Jim Thorpe. Did you know that a whole team played on the field all at once? Or that a president had to intervene because there were so many deaths from head injuries with no helmets? Jim Thorpe was clearly one of the greatest athletes in the world of all time, and his life wasn’t what you would ever have expected. Steve Sheinkin is one of the best writers you’ll read. The way he put together this book, which facts and how he told the story, is masterful. A must-read!
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
After Louis Zaperini’s WWII plane goes down in the open ocean — he’s starving, adrift, and prey to enemy planes. His triumphant survival is nothing short of incredible. You’ll be amazed and inspired at his incredible true story.
Hidden Figures (Young Readers’ Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly
Bomb: The Race to Build –and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Another knock-out nonfiction book from the talented Steve Sheinkin! I’m so impressed by how Sheinkin makes this story come ALIVE like it’s an adventure/mystery/thriller and not real life and true. Well, they do say truth is stranger than fiction. But usually, it’s written like it’s duller than dirt. This book is a great exception — mesmerizing. I wasn’t even interested in the topic until I started reading.
Untamed The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey, forward by Jane Goodall
This is not your average biography for kids with small font and ugly black and white photos. No, it’s so much better! Untamed is an excellent depiction of Jane Goodall’s life with kid-friendly language using kid-appealing layouts of colorful photos. Interesting insets throughout describe tips for kids and information such as sign language. I love the Gombe Family Scrapbook at the end with some of the significant chimps in Jane’s life. I also found it really interesting to learn how this English girl read about Africa as a child and fell in love with it.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat
Steve Jobs by Karen Blumenthal
All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
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