I have to admit: I don’t read a ton of historical fiction. But never fear, readers like me! Here is a list of absolutely fabulous books that feature real characters and moments in history from creative, different, and interesting points of view.
12 Books That Feature Real History
1. Your Heart, My Sky by Margarita Engle
Acclaimed author Margarita Engle tells a “deeply felt and engrossing” (Horn Book Magazine) story of love in a time of hunger inspired by her own family’s struggles during a dark period in Cuba’s history. Once you’ve read Your Heart, My Sky, be sure to check out Margarita Engle’s latest book, Rima’s Rebellion, an inspiring coming-of-age story set in 1920’s Cuba!
2. The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
Set in Los Angeles, 1992 against the background of the Rodney King Riots, The Black Kids centers on the charmed life of Ashley Bennett. Ashley’s family is wealthy; she attends an expensive private school, lives in a fancy neighborhood of L.A., and now that it’s the end of senior year, she spends more time in the pool with her white friends than in the classroom. But when four police officers are acquitted after beating a Black man, Rodney King, half to death, she’s no longer just one of the girls—she’s one of the Black kids. Ashley tries to continue living as she always has, even as her sister gets dangerously involved in the riots and the model Black family façade her parents have constructed starts to crumble. But when a rumor Ashley starts threatens to derail the future of her classmate and fellow Black kid Lashawn, she’s forced to confront uncomfortable truths about the world, and about herself.
3. When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Emily Windsnap series, Liz Kessler, comes a poignant and harrowing story of three young friends whose fates are intertwined during the devastation of the Holocaust—based on a true story.
4. The Great Unknowable End by Kathryn Ormbsee
The Great Unknowable End features Stella, Galliard, and a creepy cult called Red Sun. When the lightning turns pink and the rain bloodred, Galliard and Stella must decide what they want to accomplish before the (potential) end of the world. Inspired by the music and atmosphere of the seventies, Kathryn takes readers on a wild and crazy journey about following your dreams when faced with seemingly impossible odds.
5. Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman
Nicole Castroman reimagines the origins of history’s most infamous pirate—Blackbeard—and tells the story of the girl who captured his heart and then broke it, setting him on a path to destruction. From Bristol to Curaçao to the open seas, follow Edward “Teach” Drummond and Anne Barrett as they set out on an adventure to chase their dreams.
6. The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell
Honestly, one of the best ways to experience history is if you can travel through time, which is Esta’s gift (along with being a talented thief). Her newest job includes traveling to 1902 to steal a magical book, but Old New York is much more dangerous than she expected.
7. What Every Girl Should Know by J. Albert Mann
As a feisty and opinionated young woman, Margaret Higgins Sanger witnessed and experienced incredible hardships, which led to her groundbreaking work as an advocate for women’s rights and the founder of Planned Parenthood. This fiery novel of Margaret’s early life paints the portrait of a young woman with the passion and courage to change the world.
8. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
The Weight of Our Sky is a beautiful and heart wrenching story that takes place during the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Beatles-loving Melati Ahmad is just like any other teenager at the movies when violence erupts between the Chinese and the Malay. Her entire world shifts as tensions escalate in this heart-pounding debut.
9. Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt
Multiple perspectives spanning across time are united through themes of freedom, hope, and faith in the Texas bayou. Follow Cade Curtis, Achsah, and Zorra as they each try and find their place in a world that seems to forever be against them. Kathi Appelt weaves together stories across time, connected by the bayou, an angel, and the universal desire to be free.
10. Soaring Earth by Margarita Engle
Margarita Engle’s childhood straddled two worlds: the lush, welcoming island of Cuba and the lonely, dream-soaked reality of Los Angeles. But the revolution in the 1960s has transformed Cuba into a mystery of impossibility, no longer reachable in real life. Margarita longs to travel the world, yet before she can become independent, she’ll have to start high school. Amid the challenges of adolescence and a world steeped in conflict, Margarita finds hope beyond the struggle, and love in the most unexpected of places.
11. The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith
The Last Magician meets The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy in this thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy, set in 1911 New York, following a young woman who discovers she has magical powers and is thrust into a battle between witches and wizards.
12. When Can We Go Back to America? by Susan H. Kamei
In this dramatic and page-turning narrative history of Japanese Americans before, during, and after their World War II incarceration, Susan H. Kamei weaves the voices of over 130 individuals who lived through this tragic episode, most of them as young adults.