Books for 13 Year Old Boys Who Don’t Like to Read

Finding books for 13 year old boys can be a real pain in ass.

Too adult and it’s over their head. Too kiddie and they won’t read it at all.

Below is a mix: some books with reading levels right on the nose, some a little low, some a bit high.

With every book we asked the core question: would a 13 year old boy really pick this up and read it?

How We Chose These Books

Fun, Fast, Engaging Stories
Thirteen year old boys aren’t really known for sitting around (except to play video games). Keeping them turning pages requires stories that move quickly and focus on action. Our list emphasizes genre stories (thrillers, mysteries, science-fiction) that does just that.

Not everything on this list is a series, but we made a point to look for series authors. Why? Because 13 year old boys who don’t like to read are notoriously hard to please. If they do like a book, the best thing is for them to immediately have another book just like it.

Graphic Novels
We love graphic novels. Study after study shows kids get just as much out of reading graphic novels and comics as they do reading traditional novels. And graphic novels are an easier entry point for reluctant readers. Win-win.

Range of Reading Levels
No one decides they want to read a book because its reading level looks cool. Some days you want a book that looks easy. Other days you’re up for something a bit more challenging. This list gives 13 year old boys a lot of options: books they can breeze through, and books that will push them.

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

Pages: 352
Reading Level: 5.2
Goodreads Rating: 3.95

Sarah and Eric have been friends forever, drawn together his obesity and her scars, which made both of them outcasts. Now Sarah lies in hospital, and Eric must discover the terrible secret that put her there.

The Third Twin by CJ Omololu

Pages: 336
Reading Level: 4.6
Goodreads Rating: 3.78

As little girls, identical twins Lexi & Ava made up a third sister, Alicia. They blamed her for everything & used her as cover to date bad boys. But now one of the boys “Alicia” dated is murdered…and then another…

My Corner of the Ring by Jesselyn Silva

Pages: 256
Reading Level: 5.6
Goodreads Rating: 3.88

Take a seat ringside in the memoir of 12-year-old Jesselyn Silva as she recounts growing up with a single dad, putting on her first set of fighting gloves at age 7, and breaking into the boys club of Olympic boxing.

The Giver Graphic Novel by Lois Lowry

Pages: 185
Reading Level: 4.2
Goodreads Rating: 4.27

Lowry’s Newbery Medal winner about a young boy who discovers the dark secrets behind his ideal world is given an engaging makeover by P. Craig Russell in this excellent graphic novel.

Author Spotlight: Lois Duncan

Few writers have been as gifted and skilled at crafting page-turning thrillers about everyday teens as Lois Duncan. Many of her novels as classics: I Know What You Did Last Summer, Killing Mr. Griffin, Summer of Fear.

Others, like Daughters of Eve, deserve to be better known.

Duncan excels in portraying normal teenagers who get trapped in gut-wrenching scenarios (such as the accidental killing of their teacher) and are forced to find resilience and courage to deal with these terrifying situations.

Start With: Killing Mr. Griffin

The Hobbit Graphic Novel by JRR Tolkien

Pages: 134
Reading Level: NA
Goodreads Rating: 4.49

Bilbo Baggins has his contented little world turned upside down by the wizard Gandalf and 13 dwarves as they quest for a treasure stolen by a dragon. Full color illustrations introduce this tale to a new generation.

Vision Quest by Terry Davis

Pages: 256
Reading Level: 5.4
Goodreads Rating: 3.87

You think I’m just another muscle-bound, sex-crazed, fuzzy-brained, futureless JOCK. But You’re Wrong. I dream big. I love hard. I think far. I act fast. I live humbly. I want to win. And, yeah, I’m a jock. My Vision. My Quest. My Life.

A person doesn’t have to be a great athlete or politician or doctor or artist or entrepreneur or performer of any type or degree of greatness to find challenges in life. About half of the time I think it’s a great victory just to be able to smile semi-regularly, to keep your head up, and to keep from giving in and getting mean.

Terry Davis, Vision Quest

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend

Pages: 272
Reading Level: 5.1
Goodreads Rating: 3.87

Adrian Mole, aged 13 & 3/4, has it rough. Luckily he keeps a hilarious journal where he tells us all about it. Everything from losing his first love to his neighbors attempts to seduce his mother.

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

Pages: 263
Reading Level: 6.9
Goodreads Rating: 4.00

Heinlein’s controversial bestseller about a recruit of the future making his way through boot camp and into the Terran Mobile Infantry in order to serve in The Bug War against mankind’s greatest enemy.

Author Spotlight: Tyler Miller

A shameless plug for our own books? Why not, it’s our list, right?

But hear us out.

We launched Reluctant Reader Books with the sole aim of publishing books for kids who didn’t like to read. Books that were written and designed to reach those kids and keep them reading.

Miller’s Nevermore series does just that.

These novels are short, with lots of white space and short chapters to make them less intimidating.

Cliffhanger endings keep kids engaged. Swiftly moving plots leave no room for things to get dull and boring.

But don’t take our word for it.

Subscribe & we’ll send you our list of 5 books you’ve never heard of that will get kids reading now.

No hassles. Unsubscribe anytime.

No hassles. Unsubscribe anytime.

The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall

Pages: 185
Reading Level: 4.8
Goodreads Rating: 3.94

Nazi planes rain bombs on England every night. In Garmouth, every boy collects shrapnel & souvenirs. None compare to Chas McGill, who discovers a machine gun in a downed bomber and intends to fight the Germans himself.

The Sherlock Holmes Book

Pages: 352
Reading Level: NA
Goodreads Rating: 4.24

Packed with illustrations, graphics and quotes, this is the ultimate guide to Sherlock Holmes and his long winding history from the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle to the big screen and beyond.

The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman

Pages: 192
Reading Level: 3.9
Goodreads Rating: 4.3

Volume one of P. Craig Russell’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s wonderfully creepy novel about an orphaned boy raised in a graveyard who must face the dark and deadly ghosts of his past.

If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.

Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Uncaged by John Sandford & Michelle Cook

Pages: 416
Reading Level: 6.1
Goodreads Rating: 3.87

Shay arrives in Hollywood with $58 and a handmade knife, searching for her hacker brother, Odin. He claimed he had evidence of unspeakable experiments & a ruthless corporation. Can she save her brother?

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

Pages: 212
Reading Level: 4.8
Goodreads Rating: 3.95

The first time Juli Baker saw Bryce Loski, she flipped. The first time Bryce saw Juli, he ran. A hilarious novel of eighth grade relationships told from both character’s point of view.

Author Spotlight: Stephen King

The master of horror also happens to be one of the few writers that young people who don’t read much fall in love with. In fact, we know dozens of people who read nothing but King, and all of them started reading Maine’s favorite son when they were in middle school.

Concerned that King might be too intense for your 13 year old boy? There are plenty of non-horror stories in King’s output.

The Running Man and the Long Walk are futuristic sci-fi novels. The Body is a coming of age tale without a single ghost or vampire to be found. The Dead Zone, in spite of its name, isn’t a scary novel at all.

Start With: The Body

5 Minute Mysteries by Ken Weber

Pages: 198
Reading Level: NA
Goodreads Rating: 3.16

Thirty-seven cases of murder and mayhem you can solve in under five minutes! The first book in an ongoing series that includes More 5 Minute Mysteries, Further 5 Minute Mysteries, and more.

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

Pages: 190
Reading Level: 5.3
Goodreads Rating: 3.96

Taran, a pig keeper, just wants to be a hero. He is led into a perilous world of oracular pigs, the terrible Horned King and his Cauldron-Born army, and a quest to save the Kingdom of Prydain. Book 1 of 5.

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

Pages: 221
Reading Level: 5.4
Goodreads Rating: 3.99

This fabulous collection includes stories from Sherman Alexie, Stephen King, Jon Scieszka, Louis Sachar, Lois Lowry and more, all inspired by the haunting illustrations of Chris Van Allsburg.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Pages: 227
Reading Level: 6.9
Goodreads Rating: 4.41

The astonishing story of how nine working-class boys from the University of Washington shocked the world and defeated both the elite rowing teams of the East & the German Olympic rowers in the 1936 Olmpics.

R is for Rocket by Ray Bradbury

Pages: 184
Reading Level: NA
Goodreads Rating: 4.12

Bradbury was the greatest short story writer of his generation. Found in Classic Stories 1, the tales in this book are some of Bradbury’s best: A Sound of Thunder, The Fog Horn, The Rocket Man, and Frost & Fire.

The Vault of Horror by EC Comics

Pages: 216
Reading Level: NA
Goodreads Rating: 4.33

In recent years EC Comics has unlocked its vast archives and collected hundreds of its old publications in fabulous new editions: Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, Shock, and Tales From the Crypt.

Author Spotlight: Christopher Pike

Pike was one of the most successful teen horror novelists of the 1990s, churning out chilling tales month after month, all of them adorned with lurid covers (thank you Brian Kotzsky).

While RL Stine’s Fear Street was better known, Pike’s novels connected with teens because of his frank and honest portrayals of teenage life. Pike’s books included plenty of violence, and his kids drank, smoked and had sex. While the sexual descriptions weren’t particularly graphic, they were a long way from Stine’s more virginal outings.

Pike remains a cult favorite today, and his readership is passionate and devoted. Just what you want when you’re looking to break through with a 13 year old reluctant reader.

Start With: Monster

Becoming Muhammad Ali by Kwame Alexander

Pages: 320
Reading Level: 5.4
Goodreads Rating: 4.16

Cassius Clay is a struggling kid dealing with the challenges of racism, but he is on his way to transforming into Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer who ever lived and one of the most revered athletes of the 20th Century.

Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman

Pages: 208
Reading Level: 5.0
Goodreads Rating: 3.92

16 year old Blake and his brother Quinn are opposites. Blake is responsible, Quinn is a fearless thrill-seeker. Can Blake save his brother when he is trapped by a bizarre phantom carnival?

They were the screams of riders torn apart by the twisted reflections of their own inner selves.

Neal Shusterman, Full Tilt

Shrinking Man Graphic Novel by Richard Matheson

Pages: 104
Reading Level: NA
Goodreads Rating: 3.2

Scott Carey is getting smaller every day, shrinking and shrinking. Until he’s smaller than a child. Smaller than a cat. Smaller than a common house spider. Can he survive?

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Pages: 324
Reading Level: 5.5
Goodreads Rating: 4.3

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin thinks he’s playing a simulated war game. But in reality he’s part of a genetic experiment designed to find children who can wage war against the greatest galactic threat Earth has ever known.

Sphere by Michael Crichton

Pages: 371
Reading Level: 7.1
Goodreads Rating: 3.81

A group of scientists rush to a huge vessel on the ocean floor. It is a spaceship of enormous dimensions, undamaged by its fall from the sky. And it appears to be at least 300 years old.

Author Spotlight: Caroline Cooney

Many people forget that Cooney was a regular contributor to the 80s Point Horror line of publications. She established her career writing taut thrillers in the same vein as Lois Duncan.

But she broke out from the pack with The Face on the Milk Carton, the first book in a series that followed the adventures of a young girl, Janie, who discovers that she was kidnapped as a child when she sees her own face on a milk carton.

Cooney is a master of suspense, and she excels in delving into the inner lives of her teen characters.

Start With: The Face on the Milk Carton

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Reluctant Reader Books