> Skip to content

Article  •  13 August 2020


The best new books for high school students

Keep the classroom engaged with these new books for teens.


47 Degrees
by Justin D’Ath

When temperatures soar to 47 degrees one hot summer day, Zeelie hopes the nearby bushfires everyone’s talking about aren’t heading towards her family’s new home. Nothing can prepare Zeelie for what’s to come.

Published in January 2019, this story of 12-year-old Zeelie facing the Black Saturday bushfires has once again rocketed to the top of the educational charts in the wake of the 2019–2020 summer megafires. Fast-paced, poignant and confronting. Download the 47 Degrees teachers’ notes.


You Must Be Layla
by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

With her long skirt and headscarf, everyone thinks they know what kind of person Layla is just from a glance. But do they? And does Layla really know herself?

Layla is a loveable and chatty Sudanese-Australian girl of Islamic faith who stands out like a sore thumb at her new prestigious high school.  She’s determined to prove that she is worthy of her scholarship by setting out to win the school’s scientific invention competition. Download the You Must Be Layla teachers’ notes.



Lion: A Long Way Home Young Readers’ Edition
by Saroo Brierley

Saroo became lost on a train in India at the age of five. Not knowing the name of his family or hometown to find help, Saroo survived for weeks on the streets until he was taken to an orphanage and adopted by a family in Tasmania, Australia. Despite being happy in his new home, Saroo spent years searching on Google Earth as a young adult until he found his old village via grainy satellite images.

A moving and inspirational true story of survival and triumph against incredible odds. Now a major film available to stream on Netflix in Australia and New Zealand. Download the Lion: A Long Way Home Young Readers’ Edition teachers’ notes.


by Tristan Bancks

A daring escape. A school lockdown. A thrilling chase. What would you risk to save a life?

Detention was a bestselling YA book in 2019 and has a 4.11 rating on Goodreads as a ‘confronting, powerful, emotional and important story.’ This narrative of a refugee escape will captivate teachers as well as their students! Watch the Detention book trailer on YouTube. Download the Detention teachers’ notes.



Chemical Hearts
by Krystal Sutherland

Henry Page has never been in love. Then he meets Grace Town, the elusive new girl in school, who wears oversized boys’ clothing, walks with a cane, rarely seems to shower and is hiding crushing secrets. After all this time, Henry’s about to learn firsthand just how disastrous the road to first love can be – and that sometimes it’s the detours that end up mattering much more.

An irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again – now an Amazon original film starring Lili Reinhart and Austin Abrams, arriving on Amazon Prime Video in Australia on Friday 21 August 2020. Watch the Chemical Hearts trailer on YouTube. Download the Chemical Hearts teachers’ notes.


Unmasked Young Readers’ Edition
by Turia Pitt

Turia Pitt is living proof that, with the right mindset, anything is possible. Unmasked reveals the woman behind the headlines, and in so doing, uncovers the grace, humour and inner-steel that gets Turia through every day – and which leaves the rest of us watching on in amazement.

Covering topics such as confidence, goal-setting, family, friends and happiness, this story will resonate strongly with young teens. Download the Unmasked Young Readers’ Edition teachers’ notes.


YEARS 10–12

The Yield
by Tara June Winch

Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwini takes pen to paper, determined to pass on the Wiradjuri language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. When August returns home from overseas for her Poppy’s funeral, she is determined to make amends and save the land from a mining company. August’s quest leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river.

Quickly becoming a multi-award winning novel, The Yield was winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award and winner for three categories in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards; Book of the Year, the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction and the People’s Choice Award. It was also shortlisted for The Stella Prize and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in the Fiction category. See The Yield book club notes. Download The Yield teachers’ notes.


The Drover’s Wife
by Leah Purcell

Deep in the heart of Australia’s high country, Molly Johnson raises her four children while her husband Joe is away droving livestock for months on end. Molly’s twelve-year-old son Danny is the true man of the house, mature beyond his years having seen things no child should see. One night, Molly and her family receive a visit from a man on the run – Yadaka, a black ‘story keeper’ – who shows Molly a secret truth and the strength to imagine a different path.

Utterly authentic, brilliantly plotted, thoroughly harrowing and entirely of our times exploring race, gender, violence and inheritance. Soon to be a major film. Read an extract from The Drover’s Wife. See The Drover’s Wife book club notes.



Limelight and Spotlight
by Solli Raphael

Words have the power to empower others.

At 12 years old, Solli Raphael was the youngest winner of the Australian Poetry Slam held at the Sydney Opera House after performing Australian Air, a poem about political wisdom, environmental awareness and the importance of social consciousness. Solli’s first book, Limelight, has received accolades for its capacity to engage students in poetry, having also won a Nautilus Book Award in 2019 for best middle-grade fiction. His second book, Spotlight, arrives in bookstores in September 2020. Download the Limelight teachers’ notes.


Love is Strong as Death
by Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly’s songs are steeped in poetry. And now he has gathered from around the world the poems he loves. This wide-ranging and deeply moving anthology combines the ancient and the modern, the hallowed and the profane, the famous and the little known, to speak to two of literature’s great themes that have proven so powerful in his music: love and death – plus everything in between.

A collection of more than 300 of Paul Kelly’s favourite poems. Read the Paul Kelly Q&A.


Visit Penguin Teachers for more great lesson notes, read aloud videos and the most popular books for both primary and secondary school students.

Featured Titles

47 Degrees
A fast-paced and poignant novel of survival by Justin D’Ath that draws on his own experience of escaping the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
Read more
You Must Be Layla
With her long skirt and headscarf Layla certainly stands out at her new high school. Everyone thinks they know her, just from a glance. But do they? And does Layla really know herself?
Read more
A daring escape. A school lockdown. A thrilling chase. What would you risk to save a life?
Read more
Chemical Hearts
An irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again – now an Amazon original film starring Lili Reinhart (Riverdale) and Austin Abrams (Paper Towns).
Read more
Unmasked Young Adult Edition
A young adult edition of Turia Pitt's bestselling book Unmasked that is unflinchingly honest and completely inspirational.
Read more
The Yield: Winner of the 2020 Miles Franklin Award
Winner of the 2020 Miles Franklin Award. Winner, Book of the Year, People's Choice, Christina Stead Prize for Fiction at NSW Premier's Literary Award. Shortlisted for the Stella Prize. Shortlisted for the VPLA. Just tell the truth and someone will hear it eventually.
Read more
The Drover's Wife
IN CINEMAS NOW, from Leah Purcell, named as one of the 100 figures shaping Australia’s creative future. The Drover's Wife is utterly authentic, brilliantly plotted, thoroughly harrowing and entirely of our times exploring race, gender, violence and inheritance.
Read more
Age is no barrier to creating poetry that inspires social change and positive action. Award-winning teenage slam poet Solli Raphael is taking on the world … one word at a time. The future needs you and me to create equality across all levels of humanity ~ Solli
Read more
Words have the power to empower others. In his own words, slam poet and social advocate, Solli Raphael shines a spotlight on the concerns teenagers face today, exploring the powerful link between writing and shaping the future.
Read more
Love is Strong as Death
A collection of more than 300 of Paul Kelly's favourite poems.
Read more

More features

See all
6 books that will show you a new side of Australian history

These six books will deepen your understanding of our country’s past by showing you a different side of Australian history.

Top 5 unmissable Aussie books of 2021

A list of page turners we recommend you read this year.

Bold, wise and funny girls

The best books for educators to share on International Women’s Day 2021

Read these books before your kids go back to school

Books for first timers, experienced students or parents at home.

9 audiobooks for the whole family to enjoy

The perfect way to listen and learn! 

Stock your school library with these wonderful books

26 books for school libraries that students will love.

Easy costume hacks for Book Week 2021

Bluey masks, Roald Dahl favourites, Friday Barnes, Ginger Meggs and more.

Top 10 Queer YA Books of 2021

Read the rainbow with new stories from Becky Albertalli, Tobias Madden, Krystal Sutherland, Alicia Jasinska and more.

The Unsolved Mysteries that Inspired House of Hollow

Author Krystal Sutherland shares her favourite stories.

The Most Anticipated YA Books of 2021

New stories from bestselling authors Lynette Noni, Becky Albertali, Karen M. McManus, Rick Riordan, and more.

Book trailers for kids

Find your new favourite book by checking out the book trailer first! 

Let us tell you a story

Australian authors and personalities read some of our favourite picture books.

Looking for more articles?

See all articles