Books to Expand Minds and Gain Perspective

Being a teenager is tough, even more so in 9th grade, when it feels like the adults “just don’t get it”. That’s why it’s critical for students to see themselves reflected in classroom materials, including in summer reading lists. 

Our summer reading list for 9th grade features a variety of BIPOC authors and diverse characters from a variety of backgrounds. We’ve also selected works that explore relevant social issues, and highlight the challenges that new high schoolers face in their lives (because who couldn’t use a little extra help navigating the first year of high school?)

While we would love for our students to read all the books on this list, we recommend letting students choose a few that pique their interest. Why? Because book choice is key to student agency and motivation.

Now, let’s get to the 9th grade summer reading recommendations!

Deepfake, Sarah Darer Littman

Deepfake explores the realities of cyber security and social media, challenging students to be critical of what they post, consume and believe online. The book centers around Dara and Will, Greenpoint High’s biggest overachievers. They’re in an intense competition for the title of ‘valedictorian’ until a video of Dara accusing Will of cheating on the SATs goes viral. The only problem? Dara swears she never said any of those things even though she’s clearly pictured in the video. Your students will learn the dangers and complexities of misinformation on the internet, making this a great jumping off point for critical thinking discussions.  

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

This timely and poignant read follows sixteen-year-old Starr Carter who lives her life between two worlds, her poor neighborhood and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. Starr finds it difficult to navigate with ease between these two alternate realities but her fragile balance is shattered when she witnesses the fatal shooting of a friend at the hands of a police officer. 

Students will get a narrative, first-hand account of everyday life and issues in current America. This book is a great class-wide conversation starter. 


The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, by Sonia Manzano

The story of a Puerto Rican teenager set against the backdrop of the late-1960s civil rights movement for Latino self-determination, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano brings to light the struggles of an often overlooked community. Author Sonia Manzano deftly explores themes such as activism and finding one’s voice while giving readers insight into the lives of the Puerto Rican community in the US. This is a great coming of age novel that is equal parts funny, poignant and inspiring – a must-read!

145th Street: Short Stories, by Walter Dean Myers

Life on 145th Street, Harlem isn’t what you’d expect. In this collection of ten stories, award-winning author Walter Dean Myers paints a multi-faceted picture of life as Harlem’s residents experience it. Different characters tell tales of struggle, love, injustice, bravery – the good and the bad laid bare for all to see. This book is sure to engage readers who struggle with longer novels, and is an excellent gateway for discussions about issues that affect marginalized communities.

The Magic Fish, by Trung Le Nguyen

A book that is sure to become a favorite of graphic novel lovers, The Magic Fish relates the story of Tiến, a Vietnamese-American boy who grapples with how to come out to his family. Author Trung Le Nguyen uses beautiful illustrations to seamlessly weave together past and present, and fairy tales and reality, in an enjoyable and poignant read. This novel explores themes of family, queerness, and love in a way that is heartfelt, meaningful and genuine, and bound to resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to connect with their family, or had a secret.

If I Ever Get Out of Here, by Eric Gansworth

Genuine and relatable characters, a captivating storyline, plus humor and heart thrown in – If I Ever Get Out of Here will be a hit among 9th graders, for sure! Readers follow Lewis “Shoe” Blake who lives on the Tuscarora Indian reservation as he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and finds joy and connection in rock ’n’ roll. This is an engaging coming-of-age story that tackles a variety of issues like poverty, racism, and standing up for yourself, while educating readers about the complexities of life as a Native American.

This Is My America, by Kim Johnson

Life in America can be difficult, unfair and unjust, particularly if you’re Black. This page-turner opens with protagonist Tracy Beaumont trying to get her innocent father off death row, when her brother gets accused for the murder of a white girl. A powerful exploration of systemic racism, mass incarceration, and the failings of the criminal justice system, This Is My America will open students’ eyes to the world they live in. A relevant read, particularly in the context of social justice and BLM movements, this book is definitely a top recommendation.

Patron Saints of Nothing, by Randy Ribay

The gripping journey an American-Filipino teenager undertakes to discover the truth about his cousin’s murder, Patron Saints of Nothing will have readers hanging on to every page. Taking on difficult topics like grief, drugs, privilege and more, this book provides a glimpse into issues affecting the Philippines and the immigrant experience of being neither-here-nor-there. This is an impactful and meaningful read that 9th graders are sure to appreciate, and can be used to open discussions about more mature themes. 

Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters by Laurie Ann Thompson

Our youth can change the world, and this book tells them how. Be a Changemaker is a definitive guide for students who are interested in creating change in their communities and positively impacting others around them. Filled with inspiring stories of youth changemakers around the world, as well as practical tips on building teams, planning events and pitching ideas, this book is likely to become the handbook for youth changemakers everywhere. The ideal summer read to motivate students to get involved in activism and social justice issues!

After the Storm, Read to Lead

Struggling to get reluctant readers to even pick up a book? Read to Lead: After the Storm is not a book, but it sure will get students reading! After the Storm is the third series on the game-based learning platform, and with each game completed, students rack up approximately 5,000 words read. It’s designed to meet anchor standards and is catered to the Lexile range for 9th grade, in addition to allowing students to interact with diverse characters and learn more about different careers. Game-based learning is also a fantastic way to drive student interest and motivation. Get your students started with their summer reading program by signing up for a free account!

Inspiration and engagement are crucial to keeping students reading during summer. We hope these multicultural books encourage them to explore diverse books, expand their minds, and open themselves up to new perspectives.

What are your top picks for 9th graders this summer? We’d love to hear from you! Share your top picks below in the comments section.

About Read to Lead

Read to Lead uses the power of game-based learning to empower middle school students to build literacy, life, and career skills. Teachers can sign up for a free account to get started!