South African literature has grown significantly in comparison to what it was ten years ago. This is because more and more local people are finding the author that was buried inside of them. But most notably, there has been an increase in opportunities to write and get published.

In addition to that, the advocacy for diverse content has allowed black and brown authors to also produce literature that is geared towards sharing their lived experiences. Writing competitions, workshops, conferences, and scholarships have also played a key supporting role for novice writers.

Through all forms of literature, fiction, nonfiction, comics, graphic novels, poetry, short stories, and more, teens now have the pleasure of consuming content that engages and cultivates critical thinking. It is content that is fundamental for their developing brains. They are introduced to topics that relate to them, and characters that have similar experiences to them.

The literature addresses their needs, wants and interests in a way that is usually not easy to do in real life. This is especially true for young adults who live in homes where issues they face are not discussed with depth or not discussed at all. Examples of such topics would be romantic relationships, LGBTQ+, and how to cope with loss. These are not easy topics to broach, for both the adults and young adults, and literature can help bridge that gap.

Moreover, teen readers come to learn the difference between right and wrong, which equips them in navigating circumstances they have or are yet to encounter. It is also a gateway into uncovering new concepts.

Books serve a triple purpose – to inform, educate and entertain.

Below, is my list of African books that teens will love.

1. Hayley Chewins – The Turnaway Girls
This book follows the life of a 12-year-old Delphernia Undersea, whose dream is to sing. Delphernia is one of the magical girls with secrets, called turnaway girls, living in a convent in a stormy island where only masters are allowed to sing. The girls’ job is to silently turn the music played by the masters into gold. But one day, Delphernia sees an opportunity to leave and chase her dreams. Will she be able to break free?

2. Sally Partridge – Mine
Sally writes about a love story between two teenagers, Finely September and Kayla Murphy. The pair live in the beautiful city of Cape Town. They find solace and a sense of belonging in each other. But their romance is short-lived when ghosts from the past come and disrupt what they have built together. Here’s to hoping their love sees them through.

3. Sello Mahapeletsa – Playing With Fire
As the title suggests, teenage Koliwe is on a quest to punish her mother for abandoning her as a child. She always believed her mother was dead until her father’s death led her to Limpopo, where her mother is alive and well. Driven by rage, she plots and actions a plan to make her mother pay for abandoning her when she was a baby. Can she handle the fire she started?

4. Ros Haden – Broken Promises
Broken Promises is the first book in the Harmony High School series that tells tales about the lives of teenagers who attend this fictional school. Ntombi is an ambitious scholar, looking to make it in a singing competition. Her mother’s new relationship is changing her life for the worst, not only is she missing practice but also must take care of her younger sister Zinzi. She is also becoming friendly with the hottest boy in the school. Does she ever find out that the boy she likes knows her mother’s boyfriend and that together, they are hiding a secret that will change Ntombi’s life forever?

You can read Broken Promises on FunDza here

5. Ruby Goka – To Kiss A Girl
Set in Ghana, Ruby focuses on a teen girl, Gyikua Ampofo whose life is turned upside down after the death of her older sister. Gyikua loses faith in everything she ever believed in until she meets a girl named Chide. As their friendship grows, she begins to learn how to trust again.

You can read To Kiss a Girl here on FunDza here

6. Fiona Snyckers – Team Trinity
Team Trinity is set at a South African boarding school, where Trinity Luhabe discovers that life here is not all diets, dresses and dances. She has hardly settled into Sisulu House when she finds herself caught up in a rather unexpected love triangle. Zach is the school sports hero, while James is different to anyone she’s ever met. One of them wants to control her … the other holds the key to an old secret that has been buried for a very long time. Read to find out if Trinity figures out who to trust – before it’s too late!

You can read Team Trinity on FunDza here


Tell us: what are your favourite teen reads?