Be Inspired: Creative Tales for Teens

This list features books about teens who have creative interests such as music, art, cooking, fashion, and more!

Compiled by:
Tyana H. & Fern S.
Always the Almost

Edward Underhill
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Underhi)

Miles Jacobson's New Year's resolutions include winning back his ex-boyfriend and winning the Midwest's biggest classical piano competition, but when a new, proudly queer boy moves to town, Miles reconsiders who he was and who he is now.


Akwaeke Emezi
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Emezi)

After a childhood in foster care, Bitter is thrilled to have been chosen to attend Eucalyptus, a special school where she can focus on her painting surrounded by other creative teens. But outside this haven, the streets are filled with protests against the deep injustices that grip the city of Lucille.

The Dos and Donuts of Love

Adiba Jaigirdar
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Jaigird)

Shireen Malik is still reeling from the breakup with her ex-girlfriend, Chris, when she receives news that she's been accepted as a contestant on a new televised baking competition show. This is Shireen's dream come true! Because winning will not only mean prize money, but it will also bring some much-needed attention to You Drive Me Glazy, her parents' beloved donut shop.

Ghost Wood Song

Erica Waters
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Waters)

Shady Grove inherited her father's ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle, but she also knows the fiddle's tunes bring nothing but trouble and darkness. However, when her brother is accused of murder, she can't let the dead keep their secrets.

A Guide to the Dark

Meriam Metoui
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Metoui)

Stranded at the Wildwood Motel while on their spring break road trip, Mira and Layla discover eight people died in their room and set out to find the connection between the deaths and the unexplainable things that keep happening inside Room 9.

Happily Ever Afters

Elise Bryant
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Bryant)

Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She's rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves and the only place she's a true leading lady is in her own writing. When Tessa is accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, she's excited to finally let her stories shine.

Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Tiffany D. Jackson
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Jackson)

Three Brooklyn teens plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he's still alive.

Long Story Short

Serena Kaylor
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Kaylor)

Growing up homeschooled, Beatrice is a statistical genius who has dreamed her whole life of discovering new mathematical challenges at a school like Oxford University. But making friends is a problem she hasn’t been able to solve, so her parents are worried about sending her halfway across the world. The compromise: the Connecticut Shakespearean Summer Academy.

Love, Hate, & Other Filters

Samira Ahmed
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Ahmed)

American-born 17-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter, and then there's the world of her dreams. Going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

Now That I've Found You

Kristina Forest
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Forest)

Evie Jones is poised to be Hollywood's next big star. That is, until a close friend's betrayal leads to her being blacklisted. Fortunately, Evie knows just the thing to save her floundering career: a public appearance with America's most beloved actress—her grandma Gigi, aka THE Evelyn Conaway. The only problem? Gigi is a recluse who's been out of the limelight for almost 20 years.

Phoebe's Diary

Phoebe Wahl
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Wahl)

Drawing on her own diaries, Phoebe Wahl presents the illustrated journal of a teenage girl careening through the turmoil and ecstasy of adolescence amid school plays, art projects, favorite bands, blossoming friendships, and new love.

A Phở Love Story

Loan Le
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Le)

Bảo Nguye̋n would describe himself as steady and strong: his grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents' phở restaurant - as his parents' fifth favorite employee. Linh Mai would describe herself as a firecracker: stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She dreams of pursuing a career in art, while working practically full-time at her family's phở restaurant. Bao and Linh have never even had a class together - but after a chance encounter, sparks fly.

Rhythm & Muse

India Hill Brown
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Brown)

Crushing on transfer student Delia, Darren, the host of the "Dillie D in the Place to Be" podcast, must make a decision when his anonymous submission for her theme song contest becomes the frontrunner.


Kwame Alexander
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Alexander)

Seventeen-year-old Blade endeavors to resolve painful issues from his past and navigate the challenges of his former rockstar father's addictions, scathing tabloid rumors, and a protected secret that threatens his own identity.

Super Fake Love Song

David Yoon
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Yoon)

When new-girl Cirrus mistakes self-described nerd Sunny Dae as the lead in a rock band, Sunny rolls with it forming a fake band with his friends, but as the lies continue he risks losing both Cirrus and his friends.

Wings in the Wild

Margarita Engle
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Engle)

When a hurricane exposes Soleida's family's secret sculpture garden, the Cuban government arrests her artist parents, forcing her to escape alone to Central America where she meets Dariel, a Cuban American boy, and together, they work to protect the environment and bring attention to the imprisoned artists in Cuba.

With the Fire on High

Elizabeth Acevedo
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Acevedo)

Teen mother Emoni Santiago struggles with the challenges of finishing high school and her dream of working as a chef.

Graphic Novels and Manga
Arden High. Book 1, Twelfth grade night

Molly Booth
(Graphic Novels - GN Arden High v. 1)

Vi came to Arden High for a fresh start and a chance to wear beanies and button-ups instead of uniform skirts. And though doing it without her twin feels like being split in half, Vi finds her stride when she stumbles (literally!) into broody and beautiful poet-slash-influencer, Orsino. Soon, Vi gets roped into helping plan the school's Twelfth Grade Night dance, and she can't stop dreaming about slow dancing with Orsino under the fairy lights in the gym.

The Backups: A Summer of Stardom

Alex de Campi
(Graphic Novels - GN GN Decampi Backups Summer Of Stardom)

Spending an entire summer on tour as a backup singer for pop star Nika Nitro? What? ! That's the dream, right? Especially for Jenni, Lauren, and Maggie, three misfit performing arts students with hopes of making it in the music world. But being 20 feet from fame isn't easy.

Blue Period Vol. 1

Tsubasa Yamaguchi
(Manga - MANGA Blueper v. 1 Yamaguc)

Yatora is the perfect high school student, with good grades and lots of friends. It's an effortless performance, and, ultimately a dull one. But he wanders into the art room one day, and a lone painting captures his eye, awakening him to a kind of beauty he never knew.

Boys Run the Riot Vol. 1

Keito Gaku
(Manga - MANGA Boysrun v. 1 Gaku)

High schooler Ryo knows he's transgender, but he doesn't have anyone to confide in about the confusion he feels. He can't tell his best friend, who he's secretly got a crush on, and he can't tell his mom, who's constantly asking why Ryo "dresses like a boy." He certainly can't tell Jin, the new transfer student who looks like just another bully. The only time Ryo feels at ease is when he's wearing his favorite clothes. Then, and only then, the world melts away, and he can be his true self.


Danie Stirling
(Graphic Novels - GN Stirlin Crumbs)

In a very special town, there's an even more unusual bakery with a selection of baked treats handcrafted to help your dreams come true. For Ray, a quiet young woman with special powers of her own, the order is always the same: a hot tea with a delicious side of romance. When Ray meets Laurie, the kind barista who aspires to be a professional musician, she gets a real taste of love for the first time.

The Fire Never Goes Out: A Memoir in Pictures

Noelle Stevenson
(Graphic Novels - GN 741.5092 Stevenson Ste)

In a collection of personal comics that span eight years of her young adult life, author-illustrator Noelle Stevenson charts the highs and lows of being a creative human in the world.

The Golden Hour

Niki Smith
(Juvenile Graphic Novels - Smith Golden Hour)

After witnessing a violent attack at school, Manuel struggles with anxiety but his cell phone camera helps him find anchors when he dissociates, and an unexpected friendship opens up new possibilities.

The Greatest Thing

Sarah Winifred Searle
(Graphic Novels - GN Searle Greatest Thing)

It's the first day of sophomore year, and Winifred must navigate high school on her own. But she isn't alone for long. In art class, she meets two offbeat students, Oscar and April. The three bond through clandestine sleepovers, thrift store shopping, and zine publishing.

Malcolm Kid and the Perfect Song

Austin Paramore
(Graphic Novels - GN Paramor Malcolm Kid And The Perfect Song)

What does the perfect song sound like? Normally, Malcolm Kid wouldn't give this type of question the time of day. But that all changes when he stumbles across the LK-2000—a strange keyboard cursed with the soul of an old jazz musician. Malcolm soon learns that the only way to free this musician's soul is by performing the perfect song.

Maybe an Artist

Elizabeth Montague
(Graphic Novels - GN 741.5092 Montague Mon)

A heartfelt and funny graphic novel memoir by one of the first Black female cartoonists to be published in The New Yorker at the age of 22.

Monthly girls' Nozaki-kun. 1

Izumi Tsubaki
(Manga - MANGA Monthly v. 1 Tsubaki)

To the eyes of classmate Chiyo Sakura, high school student Umetarou Nozaki—brawny of build and brusque of tongue—is a dreamboat! When Chiyo finally works up the courage to tell Nozaki how she feels about him, she knows rejection is on the table...but getting recruited as a mangaka's assistant?! As Chiyo quickly discovers, Nozaki-kun, the boy of Chiyo's dreams, is a hugely popular shoujo manga artist.

The Prince and the Dressmaker

Jen Wang
(Graphic Novels - GN Wang Prince And The Dressmaker)

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride—or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night, he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia—the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Taproot: A Story About a Gardener and a Ghost

Keezy Young
(Graphic Novels - Young)

Blue is having a hard time moving on. He’s in love with his best friend. He’s also dead. Luckily, Hamal can see ghosts, leaving Blue free to haunt him to his heart’s content. But something eerie is happening in town, leaving the local afterlife unsettled, and when Blue realizes Hamal’s strange ability may be putting him in danger, Blue has to find a way to protect him, even if it means leaving him.