“Classic” Literature and YA Literature Pairings to Teach

“Classic” Literature and YA Literature Pairings to Teach

This is a list of literature, current YA and older, more “classic” literature that could be taught together that have similar messages. See my post “Books Are Only Powerful If People Read Them” for an explanation of why teaching newer literature with older literature can make for more engaging English classes. Each source is linked to a description and I have spelled out some of the themes that tie these works together. At the end I have made a list of other YA books that could be taught or encouraged as independent reading books.

“Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman and Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Themes: self identity, confidence, ownership

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven or Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Themes: Teen angst, self identity, friendship, Why you need to be alive

The Color Purple by Alice Walker and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Themes: female empowerment, racism, family

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Themes: friendship, fear, being in an unfortunate situation

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Themes: power, morals, Who do you trust?

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and/or Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott

Themes: love, heartbreak due to an outside force (family hatred vs. illness)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and The Unlikely Hero of Room 13b by Teresa Toten

Themes: boyhood, not fitting into the world, self identity

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Wrecked by Maria Padian

Themes: guilt, hiding, reputations

Macbeth by William Shakespeare and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Themes: trauma, consequences, perception of reality, mental illness

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway and Alabama Moon by Watt Key

Themes: struggle, perseverance, pride

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Themes: strong females, learning females, empowerment

1984 by George Orwell and Divergent by Veronica Roth

Themes: dystopia, rebellion

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Punching the Air by Yusef Salaam & Ibi Zoboi

Themes: alienation from society, prisoners, psychology, fate

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Refugee by Alan Gratz

Themes: Having to move to an unfamiliar place, leaving everything behind

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and The Paper Cowboy by Kristen Levin

Themes: coming of age, boyhood struggles, family struggles

Other YA Books:

Realistic Fiction:

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson

More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

In Her Skin by Kim Savage

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum 

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer


Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Science Fiction:

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Historical Fiction: 

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

They Went Left by Monica Hesse

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Resistance by Jennifer A. Neilson

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez


The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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