Time Travel with These 15 YA Historical Fiction Novels

Posted by Sharon on November 9, 2020
 
Kids these days! Protesting injustice, sassing their elders, and sometimes saving the world. So...pretty much like kids during any other time period?

If you're a fan of young adult novels set in the past, 2020 offers some amazing reads from beloved authors such as Sherri L. Smith and Elizabeth Wein as well as exciting first novels from this year's crop of debut writers. We gathered up some of your fellow readers' popular picks (each of these books has an average star rating above 3.5) for your Want to Read shelf.

So step into our fictional time machine to visit a 1920s New Orleans speakeasy, a police bureau in Korea before it was Korea, and many more historical destinations!


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Where/when does it take place? Los Angeles, California, 1992
Read this book if you enjoy: Screaming internally that the 1990s now count as a historical time period, The Hate U Give, young people rethinking their place in the world, young people learning to use their voices, books that are unafraid of tackling big systemic issues


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Where/when does it take place? Northern Scotland, 1941–1942
Read this book if you enjoy: The Code Name Verity series, books about WWII, prequels, codebreaking, dashing Royal Air Force pilots, Scottish accents, a large cast of lovable characters, multiple narrators, thrilling heroics


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Where/when does it take place? San Francisco and various Japanese American incarceration camps, 1942–1945
Read this book if you enjoy: Multimedia storytelling, multiple narrators, celebrating the endurance of the human spirit, loyal friendships, books featuring the parts of history that you may not have learned about in school, WWII books set in the United States, National Book Award finalists


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Where/when does it take place? Joseon (Korea), 1800
Read this book if you enjoy: Girl detectives, unreliable police inspectors, young adult mysteries that keep you guessing, lots of plot twists and red herrings, unlikely alliances, atmospheric writing, young adult books with no romance


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Where/when does it take place? Paris, the 19th century and present day
Read this book if you enjoy: Dual timeline stories, women who were written out of history getting their moments in the spotlight, Alexandre Dumas, Lord Byron, art history, the City of Lights, girls who control their own destinies, hot Frenchmen


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Where/when does it take place? Chiran, Japan, 1945
Read this book if you enjoy: Flygirl, young people rethinking their place in the world, books about WWII set in Japan, music, well-researched historical fiction, books about the civilian experience during wartime, reading while tears stream down your face


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Where/when does it take place? New Orleans, 1929
Read this book if you enjoy: The Roaring Twenties, speakeasies, bootleggers, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, murder mysteries, a large cast of lovable characters, LGBTQ+ stories, show business, rollicking good times


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Where/when does it take place? Ellison, Alabama, 1955
Read this book if you enjoy: Root beer floats, tender coming-of-age stories, outcasts who stick up for each other, understanding race relations, debut novels, humid summers, loyal and unforgettable friendships


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Where/when does it take place? Washington, D.C., 1919
Read this book if you enjoy: Sheltered young women discovering their places in the world, the complicated history of women's rights, Black protagonists in historical fiction, thriving Black communities in historical fiction


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Where/when does it take place? Grand Bahama Island and New York City, 1776
Read this book if you enjoy: Shipwrecks, secret identities, lady spies, protagonists modeled after real historical people, Hamilton, characters who fight for liberty, stories set during the American Revolutionary War


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Where/when does it take place? London, 1851
Read this book if you enjoy: The Victorian era, Parent Trap-esque plots with identical twins swapping places to achieve their goals, twins who have opposite personalities, secret identities, swoony romance


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Where/when does it take place? Florida, 1968
Read this book if you enjoy: Record stores, the music of the 1960s, outcasts who stick up for each other, teenagers witnessing times a-changin', antiwar protests, books that come with their own Spotify playlists


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Where/when does it take place? Massachusetts, the early 20th century
Read this book if you enjoy: Girl, Interrupted, The Bell Jar, getting really angry about the historical practice of locking up societal misfits, girls banding together and saving themselves, very intense reads, books that will make you cry


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Where/when does it take place? San Francisco and Orange County, California, 1977
Read this book if you enjoy: Pen pal meet-cutes, protagonists who write letters to historical figures, LGBTQ+ teens fighting for gay rights, epistolary novels, punk rock from the 1970s, Harvey Milk, 1970s counterculture, California vibes


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Where/when does it take place? Bainbridge Island, Washington and Paris, 1935–1945 
Read this book if you enjoy: More stories about unlikely pen pals, books that take place over long periods of time, really brave protagonists, heartbreaking WWII novels, stories that stay with you long after you read the last page


Which new YA historical novels are you looking forward to reading? Let's talk books in the comments!

Check out more recent articles, including:
Readers' Most Anticipated Books of November
November's Most Anticipated Young Adult Reads
YA Debut Sets 'Romeo and Juliet' in 1920s Gangster Shanghai

Comments Showing 1-25 of 25 (25 new)

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message 1: by Casey (new)

Casey  Chrapuch Idk why I literally read this as "Time Traveling" novels lol so I was like waaaiit......? I just read Silence of Bones and I couldn't figure out how I had missed a secret time travel plot LOL


message 2: by Delia (new)

Delia Music From Another World is SO good!


message 3: by megan (last edited Nov 12, 2020 05:59AM) (new)

megan Magical_Bookworm wrote: "In order for book to be historical fiction it hates to take place at 20 years prior to the year it was written. So The Black Kids would not be consider historical fiction."

1992? 28 years ago.


message 4: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Maloney Casey wrote: "Idk why I literally read this as "Time Traveling" novels lol so I was like waaaiit......? I just read Silence of Bones and I couldn't figure out how I had missed a secret time travel plot LOL"

Same! I was hoping for that too. I love time traveling books!


Silver  - Have a great day, you're loved Screaming internally that the 1990s now count as a historical time period

This is amazing.


message 6: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Fitzgerald Yep, makes one feel old, doesn’t it?


message 7: by Isra (new)

Isra Here we go gfvgbgekufsufkskyfskyfs


message 8: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Santana-Banks Casey wrote: "Idk why I literally read this as "Time Traveling" novels lol so I was like waaaiit......? I just read Silence of Bones and I couldn't figure out how I had missed a secret time travel plot LOL"

I thought the same thing, lol!


Magical_Bookworm Casey wrote: "Idk why I literally read this as "Time Traveling" novels lol so I was like waaaiit......? I just read Silence of Bones and I couldn't figure out how I had missed a secret time travel plot LOL"

Time traveling novels would be great topic for a list of recommendations though.


message 10: by Casey (new)

Casey  Chrapuch Magical_Bookworm wrote: "Casey wrote: "Idk why I literally read this as "Time Traveling" novels lol so I was like waaaiit......? I just read Silence of Bones and I couldn't figure out how I had missed a secret time travel ..."

yesss 10000%


Silver  - Have a great day, you're loved Petition for an article of time-traveling novels!
-SIGNED-


message 12: by Celia (new)

Celia Silver - Have a great day, you're loved wrote: "Petition for an article of time-traveling novels!
-SIGNED-"



I agree!


message 13: by Amy (new)

Amy If you're interested, here are some other suggestions for YA Historicals that I wrote. NOTHING BUT SKY takes place after WWI and follows a female wingwalker and her traveling air show. My second novel, ACROSS A BROKEN SHORE, is about a girl in 1930s San Francisco who secretly apprentices with a female doctor who cares for the men building the Golden Gate Bridge!


message 14: by Meghan (new)

Meghan The “read this book if you enjoy” parts just remind me of why I’ve never enjoyed YA. It’s like they’re all trying too hard to be edgy. Even in my mid-20’s I prefer middle grade fiction.


message 15: by kamran (new)

kamran hi how are my friend pleces


message 16: by Mairy (new)

Mairy The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones was one of my favorite releases of 2020. A beautiful and emotional story of friendship and racism. I had to fight through the tears to finish it. This story will stay with me for a very long time and I am planning on reading it again next spring. I recommend it to all fans of historical, southern , and ya fiction.


Silver  - Have a great day, you're loved Meghan wrote: "The “read this book if you enjoy” parts just remind me of why I’ve never enjoyed YA. It’s like they’re all trying too hard to be edgy. Even in my mid-20’s I prefer middle grade fiction."

I'm also on the middle-grade boat. It's way easier to find clean books that way.


message 18: by kell_xavi (new)

kell_xavi Great article! I'm looking forward to reading The Degenerates. I'm not usually a historical fiction fan but I think a teenage narrator could make it interesting.


message 19: by Pen&Quill (new)

Pen&Quill  Read Who writes NOTHING BUT SKY?


message 20: by Pen&Quill (new)

Pen&Quill  Read Where are all the MG lists?


message 22: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer MG = middle grade, your genre of choice.


message 23: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Valerie The Vinyl Underground is a great book! I highly recommend it. The characters are fun, and I loved learning about late 60s America.


Silver  - Have a great day, you're loved Jennifer wrote: "MG = middle grade, your genre of choice."

Thank you.

Pen&Quill wrote: "Who writes NOTHING BUT SKY?"

I think Amy Trueblood.


message 25: by Millene (new)

Millene Casey wrote: "Idk why I literally read this as "Time Traveling" novels lol so I was like waaaiit......? I just read Silence of Bones and I couldn't figure out how I had missed a secret time travel plot LOL"

me too! I feel silly now lol


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