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a program of The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation

Fourteen Books for Teen and Middle Grade Readers Set in Indiana

Emily Rasmussen is the spring 2018 intern at the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation, working primarily with the Indiana Authors Award. She is a marketing and international business major at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. In her spare time, Emily writes about young adult and middle grade literature on her book blog, Forever Literary, and talks about it on her podcast, A Novel Chat

Whether or not you spent your childhood in Indiana, there’s nothing like a story about growing up in the crossroads of America. Here are fourteen books for young people set across the state, from Indianapolis to small farming towns, from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan. 

Young Adult

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord 

“It's been a year since it happened--when Paige Hancock's first boyfriend died in an accident in small-town Oakhurst, Indiana. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school… and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she's back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it's high school after all. But when Ryan's sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?”

~ summary, Bloomsbury

Capture-2.JPG#asset:515All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

“Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.”

~ summary, Knopf

Capture-3.JPG#asset:516Teen Idol by Meg Cabot

“High school junior Jenny Greenley is so good at keeping secrets that she's the school newspaper's anonymous advice columnist. She's so good at it that, when hotter-than-hot Hollywood star Luke Striker comes to her small Indiana town to research a role, Jenny is the one in charge of keeping his identity under wraps. But Luke doesn't make it easy, and soon everyone—the town, the paparazzi, and the tabloids alike—know his secret...and Jenny is caught right in the middle of all the chaos.”

~ summary, HarperTeen


Capture-4.JPG#asset:517A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood

“Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They're making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.” While this anthology features stories set across the United States, one (spotlighting the story of Bonnie and Clyde) is set in southern Indiana.

~ summary, Candlewick Press

Capture-5.JPG#asset:518Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

“Despite sending him letters ever since she was thirteen, Taliah Abdallat never thought she'd ever really meet Julian Oliver. But one day, while her mother is out of the country, the famed rock star from Staring Into the Abyss shows up on her doorstep. This makes sense—kinda—because Julian Oliver is Taliah's father, even though her mother would never admit it to her. Julian asks if Taliah if she will drop everything and go with him to his hometown of Oak Falls, Indiana, to meet his father—her grandfather—who is nearing the end of his life. Taliah, torn between betraying her mother's trust and meeting the family she has never known, goes.”

~ summary, Balzer + Bray


Capture-6.JPG#asset:519The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012 Indiana Authors Award National Winner)

“Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.”

~ summary, Dutton Books



Capture-7.JPG#asset:520Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (2012 Indiana Authors Award National Winner)

“Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.”

~ summary, Dutton Books



Middle Grade

Capture-8.JPG#asset:521Salt by Helen Frost (2011 Indiana Authors Award Regional Winner)

“Anikwa and James, twelve years old in 1812, spend their days fishing, trapping, and exploring together in the forests of the Indiana Territory. To Anikwa and his family, members of the Miami tribe, this land has been home for centuries. As traders, James's family has ties to the Miami community as well as to the American soldiers in the fort. Now tensions are rising—the British and American armies prepare to meet at Fort Wayne for a crucial battle, and Native Americans from surrounding tribes gather in Kekionga to protect their homeland. After trading stops and precious commodities, like salt, are withheld, the fort comes under siege, and war ravages the land. James and Anikwa, like everyone around them, must decide where their deepest loyalties lie. Can their families—and their friendship—survive?”

~ summary, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 

Capture-9.JPG#asset:522Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

“Jessie lives with her family in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana, in 1840—or so she believes. When diphtheria strikes the village and the children of Clifton start dying, Jessie's mother reveals a shocking secret—it's actually 1996, and they are living in a reconstructed village that serves as a tourist site. In the world outside, medicine exists that can cure the dread disease, and Jessie's mother is sending her on a dangerous mission to bring back help.” Fun fact: this story was inspired by the real-life living history museum Conner Prairie in Fishers, Indiana.

~ summary, Simon & Schuster 


Capture-10.JPG#asset:523The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts

“After years of waiting, it is finally Libby Ryan’s turn to shine at the Practical County Fair. Libby is filled with excitement as she and her granddad pick out two calves for her to raise on her family’s Indiana cattle farm, in hopes of winning the annual steer competition. Against her father’s advice, Libby gives the calves names, even though both steers will eventually be auctioned off. After a few months of preparing for the Practical County Fair, Libby finds that she is growing closer to her steers with each passing day, and the pressure to win Grand Champion is mounting.”

~ summary, Delacorte Books for Young Readers 

Capture-11.JPG#asset:524The Teacher's Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts by Richard Peck

“’If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it.’ Russell Culver is fifteen in 1904, and he's raring to leave his tiny Indiana farm town for the endless sky of the Dakotas. To him, school has been nothing but a chain holding him back from his dreams. Maybe now that his teacher has passed on, they'll shut the school down entirely and leave him free to roam. No such luck. Russell has a particularly eventful season of schooling ahead of him, led by a teacher he never could have predicted—perhaps the only teacher equipped to control the likes of him: his sister Tansy. Despite stolen supplies, a privy fire, and more than any classroom's share of snakes, Tansy will manage to keep that school alive and maybe, just maybe, set her brother on a new, wiser course.”

~ summary, Dial Books

Capture-12.JPG#asset:525How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen

“Thirteen-year-old Lamar Washington is the maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler at Striker's Bowling Paradise. But while Lamar's a whiz at rolling strikes, he always strikes out with girls. And his brother, Xavier the Basketball Savior, is no help. Xavier earns trophy after trophy on the basketball court and soaks up Dad's attention, leaving no room for Lamar's problems. Until bad boy Billy Jenks convinces Lamar that hustling at the alley will help him win his dream girl, plus earn him enough money to buy an expensive pro ball and impress celebrity bowler Bubba Sanders. But when Billy's scheme goes awry, Lamar ends up ruining his brother's shot at college and every relationship in his life. Can Lamar figure out how to mend his broken ties, no matter what the cost?”

~ summary, Balzer + Bray

Capture-13.JPG#asset:526A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

“Set amid Indiana's vast Limberlost Swamp, this treasured children's classic mixes astute observations on nature with the struggles of growing up in the early 20th century. Harassed by her mother and scorned by her peers, Elnora Comstock finds solace in natural beauty along with friendship, independence, and romance.”

~ summary, Quiet Vision




Capture-14.JPG#asset:527Pageant by Kathryn Lasky

“Sarah Benjamin, a Jewish teenager on the brink of Kennedy's New Frontier, wonders if she can endure four more years of Stuart Hall, Indianapolis's most exclusive, very Christian, and impossibly stuffy school for girls.”

~ summary, Four Winds