14 World War II and Holocaust Novels to Recommend to Your Secondary Students

December 15, 2017

Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and within that, World War II and the Holocaust are my favorite historical events to read about. It's a time in history of fascinating extremes, a time when people demonstrated amazing courage and selflessness, but also a time when people were consumed by terrible cruelty and evil. Here's 14 historical fiction titles, focused on World War II and/or the Holocaust and separated into middle school and high school, that I've recently read and would recommend.
Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and within that, World War II and the Holocaust are my favorite historical events to read about. It is likely because those are the events that shaped my grandparents' generation and I had a close relationship with my grandparents. It's also a time in history of fascinating extremes, a time when people demonstrated amazing courage and selflessness, but also a time when people were consumed by terrible cruelty and evil.

Here's 14 historical fiction titles, focused on World War II and/or the Holocaust and separated into middle school and high school, that I've recently read and would recommend. Click the title of each to read my full review and ideas for using it in the classroom.


Middle School
1. Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Told using a third person limited narrator, the novel focuses on Bruno, a young German boy growing up during World War II. Although a fictional account, it presents a child's perspective of the choices one family makes during a terrible time in history.

2. The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg
Though also fictional, this novel is an amazing tale of a young man's successful escape from a concentration camp in hopes of warning the rest of the world about its horrors. The novel is full of action and adventure without being overly violent or gruesome.

3. Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
Focused on a little known event in American history, This narrative nonfiction novel is a fascinating story of the prejudice and injustice that faced black men and women in America's armed forces during World War II.

4. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The lives of Ada and her brother Jamie are changed forever when the threat of bombing forces them to leave London for the English countryside. After realizing what poverty and ignorance they once lived in, Ada hopes that they'll never have to return.

5. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This is the tale of two best friends serving in unusual roles during WWII. The two girls face danger and losing each other in this gripping narrative.

6. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Like Code Name Verity, this novel is set during WWII and features young women in non-traditional roles. As a female pilot, Rose can only transport planes, not engage in combat, but when she goes astray on a mission, she is forced into enemy territory and eventually taken to a concentration camp.

7. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
This novel chronicles the harrowing experience of Lina and her family, labeled as anti-Soviet during the 1940s and imprisoned in a labor camp into the 1950s. Taken from their home in Lithuania to the coldest edges of the globe, each day is a struggle to survive.

8. From Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Four young adults trek toward the Baltic Sea during World War II, hoping to board a ship and escape the advancing Russians. The historical fiction novel, told in alternating points of view, reveals the struggles of each of the narrators leading up to the deadliest maritime disaster in history.

High School
9. Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero
The lives of Elsi, a young half-Jewish girl in the Lodz ghetto, Matilda, a Romanian child taken from her home to be Aryanized, and Willem, a Nazi doctor, become intertwined as each struggles to survive.

10. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Two sisters have two very different experiences in occupied France during WWII. Despite the struggles of everyday life, both women risk their lives to save others.

11. China Dolls by Lisa See
Three young Asian women meet while auditioning at a San Francisco nightclub and quickly become friends despite their differences. But the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II will change everything.

12. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The lives of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a German orphan recruited by the Nazis, intersect in extraordinary ways in a tale full of magic and beautiful details.

13. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
This nonfiction biography, reads like a great narrative. Louis Zamperini survives unbelievable odds as a POW during WWII.

14. Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
This literary nonfiction reads like a spy thriller. America's efforts to build the atomic bomb, the sabotage of German weapon manufacture, and the Soviets attempts to steal American secrets are woven together in this action packed story.

You can find all of my teaching resources for the Holocaust here.

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