Fighting for Freedom: Great World War II Fiction for Teens

The other day, a teenage boy came into the library looking for World War II books that focused on fighting. Now while I am very familiar with books about the Holocaust and the victim experience during WWII, I struggled to come up with more than a handful of books chronicling the other side of the war.

For that reason (and in the hopes of one day helping out some other book searchers) I have compiled a list of fiction WWII novels for teens who are interested in learning more about fighting during the war.

If you like fiction books about fighting during World War II, try reading:

[Please note: Unless otherwise noted, all annotations provided by the Library of Congress Catalog in Publication (CIP) and all links lead to Goodreads.com]

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien: Heroic young men carry the emotional weight of their lives to war in Vietnam in a patchwork account of a modern journey into the heart of darkness.

The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins: A World War II Soldier, Normandy, France, 1944 by Walter Dean Myers: A seventeen-year-old soldier from central Virginia records his experiences in a journal as his regiment takes part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and subsequent battles to liberate France.

Soldier Boys by Dean Hughes and Kim McGillivray: Two boys, one German and one American, are eager to join their respective armies during World War II, and their paths cross at the Battle of the Bulge.

Soldier X by Don L. Wulffson: In 1943 sixteen-year-old Erik experiences the horrors of war when he is drafted into the German army and sent to fight on the Russian front.

The Winter War by William Durbin: When Russian troops invade Finland during the winter of 1939-40, Marko, a young polio victim determined to keep his homeland free, joins the Finnish Army as a messenger boy.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: One of  the world’s great anti-war books. Centering on the  infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s  odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey  of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning  in what we are afraid to know (from the publisher).

√ B for Buster by Iain Lawrence: In the spring of 1943, sixteen-year-old Kak, desperate to escape his abusive parents, lies about his age to enlist in the Canadian Air Force and soon finds himself based in England as part of a crew flying bombing raids over Germany.

√ Under a War-Torn Sky by Laura Malone Elliott: After his plane is shot down by Hitler’s Luftwaffe, nineteen-year-old Henry Forester of Richmond, Virginia, strives to walk across occupied France, with the help of the French Resistance, in hopes of rejoining his unit.

 I Had Seen Castles by Cynthia Rylant: Now an old man, John is haunted by memories of enlisting to fight in World War II, a decision which forced him to face the horrors of war and changed his life forever.

 The Boy at War Trilogy (A Boy at War, A Boy No More, and Heroes Don’t Run) by Harry Mazer: While fishing with his friends off Honolulu on December 7, 1941, teenaged Adam is caught in the midst of the Japanese attack and through the chaos of the subsequent days tries to find his father, a naval officer who was serving on the U.S.S. Arizona when the bombs fell.

√ Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal by Mal Peet: In England in 1995, fifteen-year-old Tamar, grief-stricken by the puzzling death of her beloved grandfather, slowly begins to uncover the secrets of his life in the Dutch resistance during the last year of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and the climactic events that forever cast a shadow on his life and that of his family.

√ Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley and Ron Powers: In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jima—and into history. Through a hail of machine-gun and mortar fire that left the beaches strewn with comrades, they battled to the island’s highest peak. And after climbing through a landscape of hell itself, they raised a flag. Now the son of one of the flag-raisers has written a powerful account of six very different young men who came together in a moment that will live forever (from the publisher).

√ Gunner’s Run by Rick Barry: In 1943, nineteen-year-old Jim Yoder serves as a waist gunner aboard a B-24 in the United States Army Air Corps, but through a strange chain of events, is trapped behind enemy lines in Hitler’s Europe, alone, on foot, and on the run, and finds himself returning to his family’s staunchly pacifist Mennonite roots.

 *Did I miss your favorite WWII book? Please share it with us in the comments below!*

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5 comments on “Fighting for Freedom: Great World War II Fiction for Teens

  1. Creepy Query Girl on said:

    What a great list to put together! Very true that the premise isn’t something we see every day and that young man is really lucky someone like you took the time to advise him!

  2. Kayla (All the Things She Read) on said:

    My brother loves Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. I’ve seen the HBO mini-series, and it is amazing.

  3. Mindy McGinnis on said:

    Harry Mazer also wrote “The Last Mission” which is about a B-29 crew. Quite good!

  4. Mindy McGinnis on said:

    Whoops – thought of another one! FLYGIRL by Sherri Smith .

  5. Got a few! Iain Alexander, Kit Pearson, Jean Little – all Canadian. I’m sure there are others, it’s one of my favourite eras to read about (though I know how weird that sounds).

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