10 inspiring novels about getting through tough times

These characters came out on top

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By author Hayley Long...

Being a teenager can be a tricky business. Half the time, you're told that you're old enough to know better, and the other half of the time you're treated as if you're too young to be trusted.  Some days even the simplest of conversations can end up feeling like a pretty confusing and frustrating experience.  

In my novel, Sophie Someone, Sophie is having difficult days like these more and more often.  But what she doesn't realise is that that the problem isn't with her at all - it's with her parents.  They are keeping secrets from her.  In fact, they haven't even told her who she really is.

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Sophie Someone is a story about a girl who goes through a really rough patch in her life and gets through it.  In no particular order, here are ten more novels about troubled teens who find a way of getting through.

1. Elliot Allagash by Simon Rich

I love this book. It's a total riot from start to finish. Seymour Herson is the most unpopular boy in his school. He doesn't deserve to be but hey, life isn't always fair. Then the new boy arrives - Elliot Allagash. Elliot is the richest boy in the world but – and it's a big BUT – he is also the most evil. Elliot makes Seymour an offer to make him the most popular boy in the school. Seymour just has to agree to do anything that Elliot says...

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2. Life On The Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

This book is a gem. Claire is a busy teenager with a busy life. Claire's mum is busy too. In fact, the pair of them are so busy they hardly ever see each other - instead they just leave each other sticky notes on the fridge door. But then life steps in and messes up their routine. This book is funny and sad and beautiful and shocking all at once, and it's really quick to read because it really is all written in note form. I wish I'd written it!

3. Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah

Oh my gosh - this book is sad too. It's also interesting because it's written from the point of view of someone who doesn't often get their voice heard – an asylum seeker. Alem is a fourteen-year-old boy who finds himself all alone in Britain after escaping a war in Ethiopia. Would any of us want to be in Alem's shoes and try living as a teenage refugee in a strange country?

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4. Girls Can Vlog: Lucy Locket Online Disaster by Emma Moss

This one provides a nice break from the angst and it's a really fun read for those at the start of adolescence. Don't get me wrong, there's still a fair dollop of angst here but Lucy's story is told with a deliciously light touch. As well as her narrative, there are photos and text messages and the scripts for each of her online vlogs. The book sends out a really positive message that social networking can be a powerful force for good when it's supported by a healthy dose of interaction in the real world.

5. An Island Of Our Own by Sally Nicholls

Talking of warm and lovely – here's another one.  The story is told by Holly whose mum has recently died.  With no dad on the scene, Holly and her little brother Davy are looked after by their big brother Jonathan.  Eighteen-year-old Jonathan is finding his new role as a surrogate parent very hard and the Social Workers are wondering whether another solution needs to be found. Nicholls has taken a thoroughly depressing situation and danced all over it with love and optimism and resilience.  

6. What A Way To Go by Julia Forster

Another book which dances over disaster is What a Way to Go. Every word of this book is a joy. It's 1988 and twelve-year-old Harper is the only kid in town with divorced parents. Aside from the shenanigans of being ferried backwards and forwards between mum and dad, Harper has to get used to her mum's new boyfriend Kit and find her place in a world where she no longer neatly fits in. Very funny and very beautiful and very sad.

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7. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This is a very clever book and quite unlike anything else I've ever read. It's one of those books that makes your brain work quite hard as you're reading it – but then you get to the end and think WOW. Cady is an American teenager whose family are so rich that they even own their own island. But life is not beautiful for Cady. An accident that she can barely tell us about has left her emotionally and physically damaged, but with the help of Johnny, Mirren and Gat, Cady finds her own extraordinary way of getting through the darkness.

8. Pig Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman

Cameron has a lot on his plate.  He's so ill that he needs a heart transplant to stay alive, but there just isn't a suitable donor.  Then another solution is offered, and the clue is in the title.  This book is a very thought-provoking and emotional read. Life, death, ethical issues – they are all raised here, and so too is the nature of modern celebrity. Harrowing in places but ultimately uplifting, a bit like life really.     

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9. Holes by Louis Sachar

This book is probably going to be on any list of books I ever compile. I think it is a work of genius.  Teenager, Stanley Yelnats has been sent to a boys' correctional camp in the Texas desert for a crime he did not commit. Every day, he has to dig a hole – five feet by five feet.  Is it punishment? Or is it something else? Either way, Stanley gets through this nightmare and comes out on top.  If you only ever read one book in your life – make it this one. 

10. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Then again, if you only ever read one book in your life, maybe it should be this one.  This isn't a novel which is aimed specifically at teens but it's a true tale of growing up. When Theo Decker is thirteen years old, something very random and very bad happens to him. It changes the course of his whole life. I should just warn you that this is not a quick read - this book is as thick as a brick - but stick with it and you are in for a dizzying, breath-taking, emotional and really quite extraordinary ride.

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