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“Wild” Novels About Nature to Inspire Teenagers

If your teen spends time wandering the hills or coastlines or has a favored tree for sitting under, chances are that they are lovers of the natural world, and there are increasingly more novels about nature just for them. These teen reads are not end-of-the-world dystopian novels but instead are books where young people are coming of age or facing a challenge set against the backdrop of endangered wild lands or waters. These are all great stories with energy, humor, and drama that teens can relate to.

4 Novels About Nature

1. Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman (2019)

This book’s premise is what happens when we turn the tap, but no water comes. After California’s Tap-Out hits, Alyssa and her younger brother are left at home while their parents go to a local water station for their ration of water. But when her parents don’t return and their neighborhood breaks into chaos, she is forced to begin a journey to find them. Joined by other lost teens, Alyssa and her brother face challenges and dangers as they make their way to safety. Noted for its diversity and commentary on human nature, this book has received numerous state-level awards from educators and library staff.

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2. Legacy by Jessica Blank (2018)

Alison’s life has been in a downward spiral since her brother’s death. In trouble at school, her reputation in tatters, and no direction for her future she follows her footloose boyfriend, Jeff, to a Free State camp, where activists are trying to stop the logging of old-growth forests. Because she has no opinions of her own, Alison becomes the lens through which the reader learns the issues surrounding logging, the economy of small, rural communities, and the determined passion of tree activists. When Jeff begins to show his true colors, and Alison finds herself stranded in camp, she slowly finds her own voice—inspired by Sage, one of the camp’s female leaders—to stand up for what she believes. A story of growth, courage, and finding your way back when you think you’ve become irretrievably lost.

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3. Skink: No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen (2014)

When Richard’s cousin Malley doesn’t show up for their loggerhead turtle survey, he knows something is wrong. At the same time, he crosses paths with a larger-than-life stranger named Skink. Attired in a shower cap and camouflage pants and carrying a rusty nine iron, Skink doesn’t seem to be a reliable sort to help anyone in trouble, but Richard trusts him, and the two head off following the only clue Richard has from his cousin’s text: that she has just seen an ivory-billed woodpecker, a bird thought to be extinct. Gators, kidnappers, and a canoe trip down the dark, rolling Choctawhatchee River are highlights of this madcap mystery by Florida’s iconic regional writer. This novel about nature is fast-paced, full of humor, and does not disappoint.

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4.The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch (2005)

Thirteen-year-old Miles O’Malley has two loves: the ocean and 18-year-old Angie Stegnar. When his parents announce their imminent divorce and the subsequent selling of their home, Miles is devastated. Looking for solace, he sneaks out each night to walk the tidal flats near his home, where one night he finds a rare giant squid. On the heels of this discovery come others, and Miles is launched into the national spotlight, but his youth also leaves him vulnerable to those wanting to use him for their own benefit. Finding support from his elderly neighbor, Florence; his best friend, Phelps; and his beloved Angie, Miles hopes to use his fame to bring attention to the plight of the world’s oceans.

Lynch’s novel about nature is one of wonder and beauty—of the natural world, of our local communities, and of our first loves. This book can be found on lists for adults, but the writing and subject matter are easily accessible for older teens or strong readers.

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Shawna Bethell

Shawna Bethell is an essayist, journalist, and library associate who loves wilderness and the wildlings who live there. Her work has appeared in Statesider, This Land Press, The Denver Post, and High Desert Journal among other publications.

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