Who doesn’t love a good adventure?  Whether conquering the high seas, climbing the highest peak of the Alps, or trying to survive alone in the woods, most boys and girls crave a bold undertaking at some point – and they love reading about it.  For a list of adventure books to get the adrenaline pumping, here are my top ten middle-grade and young-adult books for adventurous souls (no spoilers).


My Side of the Mountain: Top Ten YA Books for Adventurous Souls

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Ages: 12-16

Themes of: courage, solitude, survival skills, coming of age

My Side of the Mountain is the story of 12-year-old Sam Gribley, who leaves his cramped home in New York City to seek independence in the Catskill Mountains.  He fends for himself in the wilderness, surviving the winter alone at his great-grandfather’s abandoned farm.  He learns to fish, trap animals, forage for edible plants, and make deerskin clothing.  He befriends a falcon he names Frightful, who proves to be a very good hunter.  For anyone who’s ever built a treehouse, been in Scouts, or simply loves the ruggedness of camping or being in nature, you won’t stop turning pages until the last word.


Top Ten YA Adventure Books: Holes

Holes by Louis Sachar

Ages 10-14

Themes of: friendship, justice, destiny, masculinity

When 14-year-old Stanley Yelnats is unjustly accused of stealing a pair of shoes, he is sent to Camp Green Lake, a correctional facility for teens in Texas.  He and his new friends are made to dig holes endlessly, leaving the desert landscape looking like Swiss cheese.  Ostensibly this is to “build character,” but there is a more sinister reason behind the digging, driven by the Warden at Camp Green Lake.  Stanley battles injustice, bad luck, and venomous lizards, and eventually he must venture into the desert alone to save his friend Zero.  Their subsequent adventure leads Stanely to uncover the truth about his family’s bad luck curse, and to finally take his fate into his own hands.  Holes is a fast-paced, easy read that has a “tall tale” feel to it, many layers to the plot, and characters with whom you’ll wish you were friends.


Banner in the Sky bookBanner in the Sky by James Ramsey Ullman

Ages 12-16

Themes of: courage, man vs. nature, maturity, and masculinity

16-year-old Rudi Matt is determined to pay tribute to his father, who died attempting to conquer the Citadel, the highest peak of the Alps.  Rudi takes his father’s red shirt as a flag and climbs the very mountain that killed his father.  This is a story of toughness and grit, in which a boy becomes a man.  It’s a real page-turner.


Avi Adventure Story

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Ages: 12-14

Themes of: courage, integrity, standing up for what is right.

13-year-old Charlotte Doyle is accused and convicted of murder aboard the Seahawk, a ship captained by a tyrant, in the year 1832.  This is her account of what actually happened.  With a strong female lead, a fabulous character curve, and a plot so fast-paced you won’t be able to put it down, it is one of my favorite historical fiction books for Middle School.  (As a side note, most books by Avi are wonderful.)



Call it Courage

Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Ages: 12-14

Themes of: survival, courage, overcoming all odds to survive

Call it Courage is the story of young Maftu, a Polynesian boy who is afraid of the sea.  Being that he is the son of the great Chief of Hikeuru, a tribe that worships courage, he must face his fear by taking off in a canoe on his own.  He learns his own resiliency as he fights to survive the elements that killed his own mother.  This is a great coming-of-age tale and also gives great insight into other cultures.



The Hobbit Adventure Book

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

Ages: 13-16

Themes of: courage, friendship, heroism, loyalty

One of the greatest fantasy novels of all time (in my humble opinion) is the story of Bilbo Baggins, who wants nothing to do with adventures but ends up journeying through the wilderness, to the elven land Rivendell, and across the Misty Mountains, facing goblins, wolves, a giant spider, the creature Gollum, and the dragon Smaug.  I have seen many students fall in love with fantasy because of this book.


The Cay adventure reading

The Cay by Theodore Taylor

Ages: 12-14

Themes of: survival, overcoming adversity, ignoring prejudices, the true meaning of friendship

The Cay is the story of 11-year-old Phillip, who survives a shipwreck in the Caribbean caused by a torpedo blast during World War II.  The incident leaves him blind.  He is saved by Timothy, an older black man from Curacao, and the two must stay alive on an uninhabited Cay (a tiny island) with the hopes they will soon be rescued.  Readers will need help understanding some of the island dialect, the West Indies’ religion known as voodoo, and the backdrop of World War II, but this is a wonderful story of survival and friendship.


Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Ages: 12-14

Themes of: imagination, friendship, honesty, coming of age

Tom Sawyer is a mischievous young boy living with his Aunt Polly on the banks of the Mississippi River.  After getting in trouble for fighting and skipping school, Tom is made to whitewash a fence.  However, he convinces the neighborhood boys that he has been given a great honor, and he tricks them into finishing the work for him and giving him gifts in exchange for the honor of doing the chore.  This is a great set-up for the rest of the book, in which Tom falls in love with Becky Thatcher, meets Huckleberry Finn, and gets into all kinds of trouble.  When he and Huck witness a murder, they try to hide it, but that only leads to more trouble.  This is one of the most beloved pieces of American literature for children.


The Odyssey Teen Reading

The Odyssey by Homer

Ages: 16-18

Themes of: courage, honor, hospitality, loyalty

The Odyssey is an epic poem written by the Greek slave Homer around 700 BC, and it is one of the oldest pieces of literature still read today.  It is the story of the Greek hero Odysseus and his journey home after the Trojan War.  He encounters many dangers, but he never wavers in his loyalty to his wife and family back home, and he does whatever it takes to get back to them.  I recommend that students read this with a study guide or in a seminar, in order to gain a full understanding of the time period and the meaning of these passages.  I consider this an essential piece of literature for any High School reading program.



Ages: 16-18

Themes of: good conquering evil; bravery; loyalty; helping one’s neighbor

Beowulf is an Old English epic poem set in the 6th century AD.  It is the tale of the Gothic hero Beowulf, who comes to the aid of Hrothgar, king of the Danes, against the evil monster Grendel.  Readers will need to understand the backdrop of old Scandinavian paganism and culture.  Even though this is advanced literature and will require extensive use of a dictionary and time spent researching, I would still call it a page-turner.  It is one of the most translated works of Old English literature.


This list is by no means complete, but it’s something to get you started, and hopefully nurture adventurous readers’ craving for adrenaline.  As always, I would love your feedback on this reading list.


Happy reading!





D.N. Moore is an author of Young Adult fiction. She particularly loves speculative fiction from fantasy to paranormal, but she will read or write in any genre. She is currently writing a dystopian novel for teens. Her previous works include Ballad of the Dead: A Modern Fairy Tale and The Blandford Fly and Other Tales, and they have received critical acclaim both online and in contests such as Writers of the Future.

Her writing has been described as “lyrical,” “chilling,” and has been praised for its diverse themes, page-turner plots, and relatable characters. She has been compared to Neil Gaiman and Naomi Novik and her work is loved by teens and adults alike.

As a former teacher and a mother, she loves starting and nurturing the reading “bug” in children and young adults.  Her blog offers suggested reading to teens, teachers, and parents, with a focus on quality literature and age-appropriate themes.  Sign up for her newsletter here to be notified of new reading lists as they come out.