Challenging Books for Young Advanced Readers

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Affiliate Links 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
  • classics

Printable list here.

challenging age appropriate books for young readers

Fantasy and Sci-Fi

The Hobbit Challenging Books for Young Advanced Readers
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.

Challenging Books for Young Advanced Readers
Outcast of Redwall by Brian Jacques
If you like epic fantasy adventures, this is the series for you.

Hero and the Crown Challenging Books for Young Advanced Readers
Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
A great girl-power novel.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This book was my all-time favorite in high school! It’s science fiction canon.

Sabriel
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 Earthsea
Wizard of Earthsea
by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Golden Compass
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Tales of Beedle the Bard
Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

good books for teens
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.

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers
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.

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers
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.

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers
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.

Historical Fiction

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers
Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
by Gary D. Schmidt

Elijah of Buxton
Elijah of Buxton
by Christopher Paul Curtis

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers
Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers
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.

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers
Rascal
by Sterling North

the princess bride
The Princess Bride by Barry Denberg

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers
War Horse
by Michael Morpurgo

Island of the Blue Dolphins
Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O’Dell

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

The Eagle (The Roman Britan Trilogy)
The Eagle (The Roman Britan Trilogy) by Rosemary Stucliff

Mystery & Adventure

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers
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.

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced 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.

list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Neatly Snyder

Classics


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

This is a powerful, well-told personal story from the wise, self-reflective perspective of Malala Yousafzai and appropriate for middle grade readers. Malala draws readers in with her accounts of daily life in Pakistan — the sounds, smells, sights, habits. Readers are hooked from the first page. As the stage is set, we learn how her country used to be and the fearful place it became with the Taliban’s influence. After she is shot for her blog writing in support of educating females, she’s taken to England for recovery and safety. The confusion and contrast between the countries and cultures really stand out during this time. But what is even more striking is Malala’s hope, positivity, and belief in what she stands for. You can’t read this book and not be changed by it.


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.

A well-crafted blend of the historical realities and inspiring life stories of four mathematically talented women who worked to build this country’s aviation and aeronautical programs starting from the Civil Rights era to the Space Race all the way to the Cold War. The text includes black-and-white photographs documenting the women’s lives and the historical events which add to the reader’s understanding. Hidden Figures will educate and inspire teenage readers.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club
 by Phillip Hoose NONFICTION
If you’re teaching leadership or becoming change-makers, use this book! Knut and his friends couldn’t endorse their country of Denmark’s position on allying with the Nazi’s so they decided to do what they could to fight back. Even though they were just teenagers, they managed small acts of sabotage. But more than that, they inspired a full Danish resistance movement!

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
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


The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi
by Neal Bascomb

 

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One Response

  1. Colene Roberts says:

    When I got the first book in the Enola Holmes series, it was for my nine year old daughter to read. I happened to read it first, out of curiosity because I’ve always been a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. I ended up reading the entire series myself. I didn’t give them to my daughter to read, though. There are several references to prostitutes.

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