First Chapter Friday: High School Book List (Part 2)

If you’ve been around my corner of the internet for the last few years, then you probably know that I LOVE First Chapter Friday. But if you haven’t, WELCOME! You’re in the right place because I have lots of high school First Chapter Friday books for you. And if you’ve somehow stumbled upon this post without knowing much about First Chapter Friday at all, allow me to do the honor of introducing this gem of a strategy to you!

First Chapter Friday is just what it sounds like: Every Friday, you read the first chapter of a new book to your students. Just one chapter! It’s the perfect way to help students discover high-interest books, build a culture of reading in your classroom, and spark the kind of curiosity that will create lifelong readers! It’s phenomenal, but there’s one thing that can make or break the whole strategy: the BOOKS you feature!

For First Chapter Friday to work its bookish magic, you need to select the best of the best books! The ones with juicy, intriguing first chapters that leave readers wondering and wanting more. While it’s fun to leisurely peruse your bookshelves, skim first chapters, and curate the perfect stack of books to feature, it takes time and energy. And when you’re running low on that, selecting books can feel like a chore. There’s nothing worse than being stressed on a Thursday night or Friday morning. Trust me–I know the feeling. But that’s exactly why I’m writing this post. I want to help you (and myself, ha) jump-start a list of ready-to-ready First Chapter Friday titles for your high school students.

Not ready for this high school book list, or looking for something different, like my middle school recommendations? Here’s a rundown of all of my First Chapter Friday blog posts:


Alright, get out that lesson planner or google doc, and get ready to record some fabulous First Chapter Friday recommendations! For each title, I am including the genre, a quick no-spoilers summary, an intriguing quote, and the length of each first chapter. Because sometimes you just need a super short excerpt to share for those days when you have a million things on the agenda! 🙂 Some of these books have very quick prefaces, prologues, or first chapters, so feel free to share more if you have the time.

PS: If these book recs are helpful, stay tuned because I have more recommendations coming in my next post. 🙂

Here are 15 titles that your high school students are sure to LOVE!

Sadie by Courtney Summers

High School First Chapter Friday: Sadie
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Length: Medium

Fans of true crime podcasts and small-town mysteries will love this dark, gritty, and disturbing thriller. Told in both podcast and first-person narrative form, the story follows a girl named Sadie, who goes missing on a hunt for revenge after her sister is found dead. If you use this for First Chapter Friday, definitely check out the audio version so your students can hear the podcast element. I recommend playing the first part and “Episode 1: The Girls” of the podcast. If you want, you can also play or read a few paragraphs from the following chapter so readers can get a taste of Sadie’s point of view, too. (The book switches between these two perspectives.)

“And it begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.”

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

High School First Chapter Friday: We Are Not From Here
  • Genre: Realistic fiction
  • Length: Super Short

If you’re crunched for time but want to feature a phenomenal book, look no further than We Are Not From Here! Between the book’s map, the opening quote, the epigraph, and the prologue, you’ll have what you need to set the scene and reel readers in. The book follows three teenagers who flee from their Guatemalan town when it becomes too dangerous for them to stay. Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña might be fictional characters, but their stories are just about as real as it gets. You can recommend this to fans of Enrique’s Journey and The Far Away Brothers and/or mention those books when you feature this. (Speaking of these books, they’re also excellent picks for a nonfiction First Chapter Friday).

“When you live in a place like this, you’re always planning your escape.”

It’s Trevor Noah: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

High School First Chapter Friday: It's Trevor Noah
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Length: Long; break the rules and read part of it, or an excerpt from the middle of the book, like I did. More on that below!

If you and your students are not above some potty humor, then I highly recommend breaking the rules of First Chapter Friday to feature an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Trevor Noah’s YA adaptation of Born A Crime. If you know, you know: It’s the “poop demon” scene. I won’t even begin to explain it here, because you just have to read it and decide for yourself. If you can hook your students with this hilarious scene, they’ll want to stay around for the rest of Trevor Noah’s memoir about growing up as a biracial child during apartheid. Do it if you dare, and please share!

“I was nine years old when my mother threw me out of a moving car.”

Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen

High School First Chapter Friday: Wild Bird
  • Genre: Realistic fiction
  • Length: Short

Perfect for a short but suspenseful First Chapter Friday, Wild Bird begins with 14-year-old Wren being woken up at 3 am, inexplicably escorted out of her home by cops. She soon finds out that her parents have arranged for her to go to a “wilderness therapy” camp in the middle of the Utah desert.

While I’m talking about this author, it’s worth mentioning that her book The Running Dream is another excellent pick for First Chapter Friday!

“Why are you doing this to me?” I ask as the cop drags me through the house… “Because we are at our wit’s end,” my father says. “We’ve run out of options.”

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

High School First Chapter Friday: Scythe
  • Genre: Dystopian
  • Length: Long; read an excerpt or just the first section from the “gleaning journal”

I might be biased, but I think Scythe is the best of the best when it comes to YA dystopia! If your students haven’t discovered it yet, it’s a great choice for First Chapter Friday. The book is set in a futuristic world that has conquered death and thus requires “scythes” to kill, or “glean,” innocent people. The first chapter is rather long, so I don’t recommend reading the whole thing. Skim through the first chapter to find a good stopping point or read as much as you can in a set amount of time!

“Now we have a monopoly on death. We are its sole distributor.” 

I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

High School First Chapter Friday: I Am Still Alive
  • Genre: Survival/Thriller
  • Length: Super Short (preface)

At just one page, the preface of this gripping survival story is enough to hook your readers when you’re in need of a quick First Chapter Friday. Sell this one as the YA, female protagonist version of Hatchet! Speaking of survival thrillers, I Am Still Alive by Mindy McGinnis is another great survival with a similar super short preface.

“…if you’re reading this, I’m probably dead. But for a while, I survived. My name is Jess Cooper, and I am still alive.”

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

High School First Chapter Friday: Clap When You Land
  • Genre: Realistic fiction; novel in verse
  • Length: Short (Read the first few sections, or just “The Day”)

Like Long Way Down, Clap When you Land is another captivating novel in verse sure to please even the most reluctant of readers. Written from alternating perspectives of two sisters who don’t know of each other’s existence until their dad dies in a plane crash, this is the story of Yahaira in New York City and Camino in the Dominican Republic. I recommend reading the first few sections from Camino, stopping at the end or in the middle of “The Day” to give readers just enough exposition to keep them wanting more. 

For more great novels in verse to share with your high school readers, check out this blog post.

“I search the monitor, but his flight number is blank. A big crowd of people circle around a giant TV screen.”

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

High School First Chapter Friday: Grown
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Length: Super Short

Rule of thumb: If it’s written by Tiffany D. Jackson, you won’t be able to keep it on your shelves. Grown is no exception, and its dramatic, disorienting first chapter will leave readers with more questions than answers. It begins with a young girl waking up, disoriented and in pain, as she slowly registers that a dead body is just a few feet away from her.  The story is loosely taken from R. Kelly’s grooming, manipulation, and abuse of young girls, so be sure to read the quick content warning at the beginning of the book. If readers are hooked on this one, you can also recommend Muted by Tami Charles, which follows a similar storyline, but in verse.

[FYI: “Damn” is used in Chapter 1]

“When I awake, I am eye-level with a puddle of beet juice soaked into the carpet, soft fibers cushioning my feet…There’s blood everywhere. No, not blood. Beet juice.”

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

High School First Chapter Friday: The Grace Year
  • Genre: Dystopian
  • Length: Super Short

The first page-and-a-half “chapter” of this gritty YA dystopia is intriguing, haunting, and captivating. It will likely leave students with some questions and weird stares. Be prepared to do a little book talking to sell this story about a county where girls are banished and left to survive on their own during their sixteenth year. It’s worth it! It’s been described as part-Lord of the Flies, part-Hunger Games, but it’s also a little reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Crucible, too. If you teach any of those texts, this would make for a thematically relevant First Chapter Friday. Fair warning: This book is disturbing and gets pretty graphic in parts, so make sure readers know the wild ride they getting into. 

“No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden. We’re told we have the power to lure grown men from their beds, make boys lose their minds, and drive the wives mad with jealousy.”

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brenden Kiely

High School First Chapter Friday: All American Boys
  • Genre: Realistic fiction
  • Length: Super Super Short (< 50 words total)

If you’re looking for an incredibly short but powerful opening chapter (if you can even call it that), open up All American Boys to its first section after the epigraph, titled “Zoom In.” I’ll include the entirety of this section here, because it speaks for itself: “Zoom in. Zoom in more. A little more. A boy, grainy. Facedown on the pavement. A man above him. Fists raining like stones. Howling. Lights and sirens. Blood on the street. The boy is still moving. And then he is not.” The book alternates between two points of view: Rashad, a black victim of the police brutality described in the opening scene, and Quinn, a white classmate of Rashad’s and a witness to the incident. 

“The boy is still moving. And then he is not.”

This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston

High School First Chapter Friday: This Is Our Story
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Length: Short (preface)

Perfect for fans of One of Us Is Lying and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, This Our Story is a suspenseful murder mystery set in the woods. The premise: 5 teenage boys go hunting in the woods, but only 4 make it out alive. Scheming together, the boys settle on a story and stick to it until the case eventually fades away in their small town…until one girl decides to look into it. The preface to the book is dramatic, intriguing, and a bit confusing in the best way. The narrator is an anonymous member of the “River Point Boys,” and nobody is referred to by name except for the dead boy. The book flips back and forth between this perspective and the main narrator, Kate, who investigates the case.

[FYI: “Shitless” is used in the preface]

“A ten-point buck and a dead body make the same sound when they hit the forest floor.”

Reality Boy by A.S. King

High School First Chapter Friday: Reality Boy

Want to shock your students into reading? If you’re adventurous enough to read a weird first chapter that references bowel movements multiple times, add Reality Boy to your First Chapter Friday plans. I’ll attempt to explain it here, but really…just read it. The book is about a book who becomes notorious for pooping on his kitchen table, an incident that would have been private, had his family not been the focus of an intrusive reality show. Known as “The Crapper,” Gerald still struggles years later. Admittedly, this book is a weird, wild ride, but you probably have some teens in your classroom that would appreciate it!

[FYI: The quote that precedes the book mentions “shit.”]

“I’m the kid you saw on TV. Remember the little freak who took a crap on his parents’ oak-stained kitchen table when they confiscated his Game Boy?”

#murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil

High School First Chapter Friday: #murdertrending
  • Genre: Mystery/Horror
  • Length: Medium

With a title that will students’ attention and an opening paragraph that will keep their eyes glued to the page, #murdertrending is sure to start trending after a First Chapter Friday read-aloud. The book is set in a near-future America, where infamous murderers are sent to “Alcatraz 2.0,” a prison designed with human entertainment in mind. Through an app called The Postman, viewers can watch 24/7 livestreams of the prisoners as they fight to survive by murdering others. If it sounds weird, morbid, and wild, that’s because it is–and that’s exactly why your teen readers will like it. 

[FYI: The first chapter includes 3 cuss words, including the f-bomb; if you are uncomfortable with this, the first 2 pages are squeaky clean when it comes to language.]

“Fifty million people are about to watch me die.”

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

High School First Chapter Friday: Unbroken (YA)
  • Genre: Biography
  • Length: Super short (Read the “Introduction”)

First Chapter Friday is a great opportunity to promote nonfiction titles that otherwise might go unnoticed by teen readers. If you’re looking to mix up your genres and expose students to a high-interest biography, the YA adaptation of Unbroken is phenomenal. An account of survival against all odds, this is the true story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympian athlete turned WWII prisoner of war. Perfect for fans of history and war/survival stories, the book is compelling and powerful. Its brief but suspenseful “Introduction” section is sure to hook readers: It ends with sharks ready to swarm Zamperini when he jumps off his life raft to escape a bomber plane.

“Somewhere below, the sharks were done waiting. They bent their bodies in the water and swam toward the man under the raft.”

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

High School First Chapter Friday: Salt to the Sea
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Length: Medium

Introduce your students to the wonderful world of Ruta Sepetys historical fiction with one of her most gut-wrenching books, Salt to the Sea. The book follows four different WWII refugees who board a ship that promises safety but ultimately delivers tragedy. Since the story is told by 4 different first-person narrators, I recommend reading the first 4 chapters. They’re all super short and structured similarly, so it works!

“An explosion detonated and death crept closer, curling around me in fingers of smoke.”

That’s all for now…but there’s more where that came from! 🙂

I hope this post helps you add more books to your First Chapter Friday toolbox. If you try using these books in class, let me know how they go in the comments, or tag me on Instagram! ’m teaching middle school now, but I love living vicariously through my high school teacher friends. 🙂

Want more book recs for First Chapter Friday and beyond? If you liked these titles, make sure you’ve read the other half of my high school First Chapter Friday book list too. Let me know if you’d like any more First Chapter Friday book recs (by genre, topic, or theme) in the comments, and I can round up another post or two in the future. In the meantime, stay tuned to my Instagram for book recs for First Chapter Friday and more.

Ready to get started with First Chapter Friday? Check out this pack of active listening graphic organizers that will keep First Chapter Friday purposeful, stress-free, and fun! You’ll also love this freebie for a spooky First Chapter Friday.

Tired of waiting until Friday to have all the bookish fun? You’ll love my favorite companion strategy: Book Trailer Tuesday! Click HERE to read more about how you can hook students on books in less than 5 minutes a week or HERE to get free links for Book Trailer Tuesday for the entire year.

High School First Chapter Friday Graphic Organizers
Check out this pack of active listening graphic organizers that will keep First Chapter Friday purposeful, stress-free, and fun!

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