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.
Bitter

Akwaeke Emezi
(Young Adult Fiction - 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.


Eliza and Her Monsters

Francesca Zappia
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Zappia)

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Then, Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.


The First Rule of Punk

Celia C. Pérez
(Juvenile Fiction – J Perez)

12-year-old María Luisa O'Neill-Morales (she prefers to be called Malú) reluctantly moves with her Mexican-American mother to Chicago and starts seventh grade with a bang—violating the dress code with her punk rock aesthetic and spurning the middle school's most popular girl in favor of starting a band with a group of like-minded weirdos.


Ghost Wood Song

Erica Waters
(Young Adult Fiction - 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.


The Great American Whatever

Tim Federle
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Federle)

Quinn Roberts' only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. That was before the car accident that changed everything. Geoff, Quinn's best friend insists it's time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One night, Geoff drags Quinn to a party where he meets a guy. Then, Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending.


I'll Give You the Sun

Jandy Nelson
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Nelson)

A story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal told from different points in time, and in separate voices, by artists Jude and her twin brother Noah.


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.


Love, Hate, & Other Filters

Samira Ahmed
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Ahmed)

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter, and then there is 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.


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.


Picture Us In the Light

Kelly Loy Gilbert
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Gilbert)

Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father's closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there's much more to his family's past than he ever imagined. Danny has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set. Still, contemplating a future without his best friend, Harry Wong, by his side makes Danny feel a panic he can barely put into words.


Shadowshaper

Daniel Jose Older
(Young Adult Fiction - Older)

When the murals painted on the walls of her Brooklyn neighborhood start to change and fade in front of her, Sierra Santiago realizes that something strange is going on--then she discovers her Puerto Rican family are shadowshapers and finds herself in a battle with an evil anthropologist for the lives of her family and friends.


Solo

Kwame Alexander
(Young Adult Fiction - 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.


With the Fire on High

Elizabeth Acevedo
(Young Adult Fiction - Acevedo)

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


The Words in My Hands

Asphyxia
(Young Adult Fiction - Asphyxi)

Piper is tired of trying to conform. Her mom wants her to be "normal," to pass as hearing, to get a good job. But when she meets Marley, a new world opens up⁠—one where Deafness is something to celebrate, and where resilience means taking action, building a community, and believing in something better.


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.


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.


Chef's Kiss

Jarrett Melendez
(Graphic Novels - GN Melende Chefski)

Now that college is over, English graduate Ben Cook is on the job hunt looking for something...anything...related to his passion for reading and writing. But interview after interview, hiring committee after hiring committee, Ben soon learns getting the dream job won't be as easy as he thought. But when Ben stumbles upon a Now Hiring--No Experience Necessary sign outside a restaurant, he jumps at the chance to land his first job. He's actually not so bad in the kitchen, but he will have to pass a series of cooking tests to prove he's got the culinary skills to stay on full-time. But it's only temporary...right? 


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.


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 manga artist...a hugely popular shoujo manga artist, that is!


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.