I’ve been busy compiling all sorts of reading lists lately. And as I’ve settled into “tween territory”, I’m reminded of how fantasy and adventure books are often at the top of the list in terms of interest and popularity. I realized it would be helpful to come up with a list of 25 of the best adventure books for 9-12-year-olds!
Reflecting on some of my top picks, I recruited my two teens (now ages 12 and 15) to chime in with some of their all-time-favorites!
It was fun to reminisce about books we read together, times we enjoyed audiobooks in the car, and then the titles they opted to read independently.
Honestly, it was tough to limit it to only 25!
There truly are SO many great adventure books for 9-12-year-olds!
I hope this list inspires you and your kids to explore some of these titles!
Note: I recommend the following books for tweens, (specifically ages 9-12) but please decide what is appropriate for your own child. You’ll find that most of the following titles are part of a series because it’s so exciting to find a new favorite book and then discover there’s more where that came from. Who doesn’t love a good series!?!
25 of the best adventure books for 9-12-year-olds
1. Harry Potter
by J.K. Rowling
I know, I know, couldn’t I have started with something more original!?!
Um, actually, NO!
There’s a reason Harry Potter continues to be so insanely popular. This story of a neglected, gifted boy unexpectedly entering the fantastical world of wizards and muggles, resonates deeply with readers everywhere. It has captured the imagination of countless kids and adults and continues to do so.
Both of my children (now ages 12 and 15) have read this entire series more than once. My daughter, especially, has loved the heck out of her Harry Potter books to the point where they’re pretty tattered and worn.
If you don’t already own a copy of the Harry Potter series, now is a great time to get one!
by Rick Riordan
Warning: This will NOT be the last time you see Rick Riordan’s work listed here!
My daughter first discovered Percy Jackson, (through our local public library) and immediately became a fan. My son followed in his big sister’s footsteps and this ended up being the series that hooked him and turned him into a bookworm!
Percy Jackson is a troubled, accident-prone, 12-year-old boy who is about to be kicked out of boarding school. Before he knows what’s happening, mythical creatures and monsters appear to be following him.
As Percy learns that Mount Olympus is currently at war and that Zeus has been robbed, he ends up befriending both a satyr and a demigod. This unlikely group is given just ten days to return Zeus’s property (or else!) despite countless threats and obstacles along the way.
My children are now SO much more knowledgable about the Greek gods and goddesses than I am, and the credit goes to this series!
Intrigue, adventure, mystery, friendship, and character traits challenged, this series is a winner!
by Rick Riordan
Told ya! MORE Rick Riordan!
And I’m not apologizing for the bombardment because seriously, they are THAT good!
The god Apollo is kicked out of Olympus after angering Zeus and ends up in New York City as a teenage boy. The only way he will be allowed back to Olympus is by restoring five oracles which he must do without his godly powers.
This series is full of adventure, unexpected twists and turns, and intrigue.
4. Magnus Chase
by Rick Riordan
Magnus Chase is a troubled kid who is tracked down one day by a stranger and told that he is the son of a Norse god.
Apparently, the gods of Asgard are about to engage in an all-out war. In order to prevent this, Magnus begins a critical search for a specific weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.
Making some unexpected friends along the way, Magnus confronts some very serious choices. Just like learning about Greek mythology through Percy Jackson, my kids learned so much about Norse mythology through reading this series.
Rick Riordan is able to bring mythology to life in such exciting and (dare I say!?) relatable ways!
by Rick Riordan
OK, this is THE LAST Rick Riordan recommendation! (Well kind of… you’ll see what I mean towards the end of this post!)
By now I hope that I’ve made myself clear, you should go get ANYTHING that has been written by Rick Riordan. Got it!?
Carter Kane has been recently reunited with his sister, who has been living in London with her grandparents, while Carter has been traveling the world with his father, an Egyptologist.
This reunion occurs at the British Museum where things quickly go from bizarre to frightening, as they realize that the gods of Ancient Egypt are waking up. Their father disappears and the only way the siblings will be able to save him is to embark on a dangerous quest, during which they learn about their family’s involvement in an ancient secret order.
Engaging, fascinating, and an amazing way to learn about the Egyptian gods!
By Nnedi Okorafor
Binti is a young Himba girl who has a unique gift for mathematics. This talent provides her with the chance to attend the prestigious Oomza University.
Binti embarks for Oomza on a spaceship but the entire crew is attacked by beings known as Medusae. Binti ends up as the sole survivor and still has several days left until she reaches Oomza University. She must somehow survive the voyage with the Medusae still on board and figure out how to save the inhabitants of the island where Oomza University is located.
An exciting sci-fi adventure full of twists and turns!
by Soman Chainani
Two best friends enter the School for Good and Evil, a place where boys and girls are trained to be either heroes or villains. One friend trains for Good and one trains for Evil.
But they end up being swept into the Endless Woods where they discover that their fortunes have been reversed. This results in twists and turns, mysterious forces, unexpected alliances, and an unfolding quest.
A unique concept for an adventure series that is definitely worth checking out!
by Shannon Messenger
See, I told you we’d be moving on from Rick Riordan!
In fact, this next recommendation is written by Shannon Messenger, a young female author who already has some wonderful books under her belt!
In this series, Sophie Foster is a girl struggling to belong, since she’s never felt at home in her life. Why? Well, because she’s telepathic.
Sophie finds herself embarking on an epic journey where she discovers many shocking things and encounters lots of unexpected adventures.
An exciting series with a lead female character… woo-hoo!
by Shannon Hale
Miri lives a simple life on a mountaintop, where her ancestors have resided for generations. But word soon spreads that the nearby king will be choosing a bride for his son, the prince, in a year’s time.
An academy is established where every teenage girl is expected to attend and learn how to become a proper princess. A horrible mistress resides over the academy, ruthless competition breaks out among the girls, and Miri feels conflicted between striving towards a life of privilege and wrestling with what it would be like to leave her home behind.
An adventure story shedding light on the challenges females face, including the messages they receive from society and how they are often pitted against each other.
By Tracey Baptiste
One night, fearless Corinne La Mer chases an agouti into the forbidden forest of her island home, where a pair of yellow shining eyes follows her. She finds herself wondering if the eyes belong to a jumbie; tricksters that Corinne assumed were always pretend.
The next day, Corinne encounters a mysterious stranger at the market and senses that danger is in the air. The next thing she knows, Corrine discovers that this stranger plans to claim the island for the jumbies, (who are real, after all!). Corinne and her friends must act quickly and learn how to use ancient magic, as well as their courage, in order to save their home.
by Chris Colfer
Fun Fact: I recently discovered that Chris Colfer played Kurt Hummel on the TV musical Glee. I never watched Glee, otherwise, I probably would have realized this sooner!
This is a magical series where twins Alex and Conner experience mysterious powers through a book of stories they’ve read throughout their childhood. They leave their world and discover a foreign land full of adventure and magic, where they meet fairy-tale characters that exist in the pages of their favorite stories.
Another great fantasy-adventure series!
12. 5 Kingdoms
by Brandon Mull
This is another of my son’s top-favorites!
On Halloween, Cole Randolph’s friends disappear right before him and as he desperately tries to follow them, he finds himself transported to a place called the Outskirts. Existing in this “in-between” are the five kingdoms where some people are born and others arrive from other worlds.
Cole meets a girl named Mira and together they try to find his friends and figure their way out of the Outskirts and back home.
An engaging series by Brandon Mull!
by Brandon Mull
Yep, Brandon Mull AGAIN.
Just trust me, OK?
Imagine discovering that your grandparents are caretakers of a sanctuary for magical creatures! This is exactly what happens to siblings Seth and Kendra and from this discovery on, they encounter countless adventures.
Gripping, fun, and action-packed!
by Brandon Mull
Last recommendation by Brandon Mull… promise!
In a hidden dragon sanctuary, Celebrant the Just, who is the King of the Dragons plots to overthrow his captors and reclaim the Age of Dragons.
The only way to stop Celebrant and save the world from destruction is for Kendra and Seth to refine all of their skills and knowledge in order to battle powerful supernatural forces and determined dragons.
A great pick for dragon enthusiasts!
Note: My son received Brandon Mull’s Beyonders series this past Christmas and has already devoured them. So yup, I’d consider checking this series out too!
15. Wings of Fire
by Tui T. Sutherland
There has been a years-long war between the dragon tribes of Pyrrhia. There is a prophecy that five dragonets will end the ongoing war and select a new queen.
The problem is that not every dragonet is eager to be part of the prophecy. As five dragons discover secrets about their upbringing, they must figure out a way to keep their freedom while trying to save the world.
Another great choice for dragon enthusiasts!
by Sayantani DasGupta
Kiranmala is a sixth grader who lives in New Jersey. Her life is perfectly normal until her parents go missing and a rakkhosh demon abruptly appears, trying to attack her.
Suddenly, Kiranmala is immersed in another world, full of magic, where she has to solve riddles and battle demons, as she desperately tries to find her parents and save the world.
by Lisa McMann
Each year, in a place called Quill, all 13-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds receive more education and train to join the “Quillitary”, Necessaries keep the farms running, and Unwanteds are eliminated. So when Alex is labeled an Unwanted, he expects to die. What makes things even more difficult is that his twin, Aaron, has been identified as a Wanted.
But instead of being sent to his death, Alex ends up in a magical place called Artime where all of the Unwanteds are encouraged to enhance their creativity and talents. As the twin brothers try to adjust to their new realities, a severe threat arises that forces the brothers against each other.
I’ve heard this described as a cross between Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and that feels pretty accurate to me!
by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
After moving to a relative’s dilapidated estate, twins Simon and Jared and their older sister Mallory experience strange things happening. Jared has always been the trouble maker of the family so at first the rest of the family assumes he is playing tricks on them.
But magical creatures really do roam the estate grounds, and they’re after a specific book that Jared has found, which is all about magical creatures and authored by Arthur Spiderwick.
An engaging and magical read!
Gail Carson Levine
At her birth, Ella of Frell was given the gift of obedience by a fairy. This means that she must obey any order given to her which feels like more of a curse than a gift! Ella wonders how she can ever truly be herself if she has no free will and with her strong-will, she is determined to break the curse.
Packed with ogres, giants, princes, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, this series offers an interesting and engaging twist on fairy tales.
Note: It’s always been important to me to try and expose my children to a variety of authors and stories. I’ve wanted them to see writers and characters of different ethnic backgrounds, faith traditions, social classes, and ages. While this has clearly been challenging throughout history, we live in an exciting time that is beginning to offer us better access to diverse voices. The potential for increased representation, understanding, and compassion is limitless. The following are several of the newer authors we’ve been enjoying. I encourage you to check them out!
Remember how I promised I was done with Rick Riordan recommendations?!
I AM done recommending books that HE HIMSELF has written but I’m NOT done recommending books that he’s ASSOCIATED with! Sneaky, right!?
Let me explain what I mean.
Rick Riordan Presents is a small branch of Disney-Hyperion Publishing. Their goal is to publish adventure books geared towards middle-schoolers, highlighting underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, written by authors telling original stories that are inspired by the folklore and mythology of their own cultural background. These books have nothing to do with Percy Jackson but Rick Riordan feels confident that Percy Jackson fans will love all of the Rick Riordan Presents books.
These authors create their own stories and write their own books. Rick Riordan’s involvement includes editing, offering guidance, writing an introduction, and promoting each book.
Personally, I am inspired by his enthusiasm and commitment to highlighting talented writers from a diverse array of cultural backgrounds and writing styles.
Alright, let’s get to some specific recommendations!
The following recommendations are all through Rick Riordan Presents.
by Roshani Chokshi
Twelve-year-old Aru Shah tends to stretch the truth in order to try and fit in at school. One day, a few of her classmates try to catch her in one of her lies. She claims that a local museum has a cursed lamp and a few of her classmates dare Aru to prove it.
Unfortunately, lighting the lamp results in freeing an ancient demon. Her classmates and mother end up frozen in time, and the only one who can save them is Aru.
An exciting adventure incorporating Hindu mythology.
21. The Storm Runner
by J.C. Cervantes
This story is rooted in Mayan mythology but has a modern twist. Zane lives in New Mexico and is teased a lot by kids at school because he has a bad leg which causes him to limp.
He also lives next to a dormant volcano, which just so happens to contain an entrance to a mystical world. A new girl at school tells Zane that he is part of a prophecy which includes his involvement in this secret world. Together, they head to the volcano, where they embark on a crazy journey packed with danger, discovery, and secrets revealed.
22. Dragon Pearl
by Yoon Ha Lee
How about a science fiction adventure weaving Korean mythology throughout!?
Min is a 13-year old who comes from a long line of fox spirits. But in order to stay safe, her mother forces the family to pose as humans and not use any magic.
Min feels trapped by these imposed rules and desperately wants to escape her stifling life. Her brother has recently departed into the Space Forces and she is eager to join him. But when news arrives that her brother is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, a mystical object with magical powers, Min knows that something must be terribly wrong. She decides to run away and find him.
Throughout Min’s epic space adventure, she encounters all sorts of terrifying villains and must use her fox-magic and bravery to succeed in her quest!
by Carlos Hernandez
What would you do if you had the power to reach through time and space and retrieve anything you want? This is the underlying question at the core of this science fiction adventure with Cuban culture woven throughout.
Sal considers himself an excellent magician, but he finds himself in over his head for possibly the first time ever. And while Sal and Gabi didn’t exactly hit it off the first time they met, he realizes that Gabi’s intelligence and talent might be critical as he tries to save the universe from the danger he’s just put it in.
A humorous, sci-fi adventure with lots of heart! If you enjoy this book, you’ll want to check out the sequel, Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe too!
by Kwame Mbalia
This fantasy adventure occurs in a world populated with African American folk heroes and West African gods.
7th grader Tristan Strong is mourning the death of his best friend. He is sent to his grandparents’ farm in Alabama as a way to heal from the tragedy. The only thing he has left of his friend is his journal, filled with stories that his friend wrote.
His first night in Alabama, a strange creature appears and steals the notebook. Tristan chases after it and they wrestle under a Bottle Tree. Tristan ends up punching the tree and accidentally rips a hole leading to a place called MidPass, which contains, among other things, human-hunting monsters.
Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes feeling defeated and exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and his new friends must convince the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But this isn’t as easy as it sounds and it might come at a really high price.
Fans of Black Panther will love this book! Be sure to check out the sequel too – Tristan Strong Destroys the World!
25. Race to the Sun –
by Rebecca Roanhorse
Full Disclosure: Nobody in my family has read this yet! It was recently released (as of the time of this blog post) and we’ve ordered it so it should be arriving any day. But given all of the other Rick Riordan Presents recommendations, we’re confident that we’ll really enjoy this one as well and that we’ll be encouraging readers to get their hands on a copy too!
7th grader Nizhoni, who lives in the American Southwest, has recently discovered a secret talent: The ability to detect monsters! Her father’s boss has also taken an interest in her and her brother, as well as their Navajo heritage.
Nizhoni knows her father’s boss is a threat but her father won’t take her seriously. But her father soon disappears, leaving behind a message that says, “Run!” Nizhoni, her brother, and her best friend end up on a mission to rescue her father, all the while accompanied by whacky characters in disguises.
In order to receive this much-needed help, they must pass a series of trials. If the three kids are able to reach the House of the Sun, they’ll receive what they need to defeat the monsters that are threatening their father, as well as themselves.
The importance of family, respect for nature, and bravery are all highlighted in this exciting adventure quest!
Up and coming, highly anticipated additions to ‘Rick Riordan presents!
by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Set to release August 4, 2020!
by Sarwat Chadda
Set to release Jan 20, 2021!
I’m confident you’ll find several titles that interest you, in this list of Best adventure books for 9-12-year-olds. I’d love to know what you decide to check out!