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Theme Terms in NoveList

Themes are popular and recurring plot elements that are found among fiction books for all audience levels (Adult, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8). Themes describe the overall plot, while appeal terms describe the storyline, tone, writing style, and other aspects of a book’s content.

Our list of themes is organized by the genres in which they are commonly found. In addition to being found under these genres, you might find some of these themes under books in other genres.

Christian Fiction

Caught up in the Rapture: Characters of faith have to find a way to survive in the end times. (Adults, Teens)

Choosing Christ: These young characters make a decision to follow Christ. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Christian soldiers: These characters put on the full armor of God. Their struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the forces of evil. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Christianity under fire: When it's tough to be faithful, the faithful get tough, survive, and thrive. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Communities set apart: These stories center around enclosed Christian communities that choose to separate themselves from the outside world, such as Amish or Mennonite. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Count your blessings: All things bright and beautiful . . . These kids see heaven sent blessings all around. (Ages 0-8)

Forgive and forget: Now that I've met Him, I can forgive the wrongs done against me. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Home again: Take me back to the place where I belong. (Adults)

Life in small towns: Love 'em or hate 'em, tiny towns are the settings for these books that frequently feature themes of community. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Life outside the flock: Whether it's because of a rite of passage or potential love interest, characters raised in a deep community of faith must decide if they should stay or go. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Prodigal returns: Characters once with a deep faith, who left for a time, are brought into the fold once more. (Adults, Teens)

Sinner redeemed: Despite their former misdeeds, the characters in these books are determined to follow a new spiritual path. (Adults)

Tell me about God: From parent to child, the precepts of faith are passed down from generation to generation. (Ages 0-8)

Test of faith: Due to challenging circumstances, the main character in these books questions their faith. After many trials, faith in God's love is renewed. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

What would Jesus do: So you decided to walk with Jesus, but how do you live out your faith when faced with a difficult choice? (Teens, Ages 9-12)


Fantasy

Academies of magic: Supplies: No. 2 pencils, pointy hats, owls, wands, superhero capes, etc.; these young people are off to a very specialized school for the gifted. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Bad religion: These fantasy worlds have a god problem.  Find here author-invented religions corrupted by lust for power and angry deities with no love of mortals.  Say your prayers. (Adults)

Be careful what you wish for: "I wish for a million bucks!"  *sounds of hooves and disgruntled animals in all directions*  -- Genies have to amuse themselves somehow. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Chosen one: Prophets foretold of these heroes. They are destined for greatness. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Court intrigue: What's better than power? More power. In the halls of the mighty, any cup might be poisoned and any friend may be foe. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Dark lord: Evil incarnate, or just a really bad guy--these lords and ladies are out to conquer the world with their armies of darkness. Muahaha. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Defend the realm!: Call the banners!  Whether an invasion force is massing just over the border or already besieging the palace in these fantasy stories, their heroes must rally to the cause. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Faerie realm: The land of the immortal fae, other and apart from the human world, is a setting in these tales, though the heroes might not cross over into it. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

For the resistance: Corruption and injustice at the highest levels inspires organized resistance in these rebellious tales. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Hidden among us: There's a whole world within the world--under the floorboards, down an alley, maybe deep in the woods. Most humans never know they're there. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Hidden heritage: Unknown to them, these protagonists' magical heredity sets them apart; it's a shock when they find out, but might explain a thing or two. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)
 
Last of their kind: The heroes are all that remain of their people, or so they think. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Laws of magic: A wizard did it!...In accordance with the author's complex magical system. (Adults)

Magic goes away: These fantasy worlds lose that which makes them fantastical. Characters must learn to cope with a more mundane reality or find a way to bring the magic back. (Adults)

Metaphorical racism: Exploring themes of prejudice and injustice in a fantasy setting, these books feature bigotry against or systemic oppression of a fictional demographic group.  Thinks elves who hate dwarves and magic users who must hide their powers. (Adults)

Princess power: Whether princess in fact or playing pretend, these young damsels are in no way distressed. (Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Quest for magical items: The objects of power are scattered--bet it takes several books to collect them all! (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Realm of the dead: The afterlife has an address, and the heroes are prepared to make that journey.  It's fine, as long as they don’t glance back when they leave. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Reluctant allies: To survive, enemies must make common cause. Find here grudging cooperation between rivals, hero/villain team-ups, and other character pairings where trust comes slowly, if at all. (Adults, Teens)

Return of magic: Magic seeps back into the world, restoring lost power, making real what was legend. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Rightful heir: These heroes have the strongest claim to the throne, but someone else is in their seat. They may know, they may not. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Scum and villainy: Sometimes you have to root for the bad guy. Antiheroes, villains, thieves and assassins make compelling protagonists in these morally gray tales. (Adults)

Seeking lost parents: Adventures in role reversal--these young heroes are called upon to rescue or find missing guardians. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Slaying the dragon: Only heroes true may face these beasts and live to tell the tale.  OK, sometimes dragons aren't so much slain as befriended. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

To the rescue!: Kidnapped by bandits, up in a tower, down in the dungeon--someone always needs saving. These heroes are on the job. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Too powerful to contain: Magic in these stories has explosive consequences.  Find here wizards whose spell craft is beyond their control and the heedless casting of dangerous sorceries. (Adults)

Vengeance is mine: Hell hath no fury like a character scorned. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Women of steel: Whether at the helm of a starship or on the throne of the Amazons, these women are seriously skilled, fully armored, and ready for quest or battle alike. (Adults, Teens)

Zero to hero: You've got to start somewhere. The lead characters in these books achieve greatness from the humblest beginnings. (Adults, Teens)


Fiction A-Z

24 hour stories: A lot can happen in a day!  These stories unfold over the course of 24 hours. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Books about books: These books are saturated with books, storytelling, and writing, celebrating the reading life we all know and love! (Adults)

Bouncing back: Characters in these stories get knocked down, but they get up again. (Adults)

Brand new you: Featuring characters who want to change their image to fit in with peers or for other reasons, these stories lead to self-discovery in sometimes unexpected ways. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Child narrator: These stories explore the unique perspective children have of the world by letting them speak for themselves. (Adults)

Chosen family: Sometimes you have to build your own family.  In these stories, misfit characters find love and support in a circle of friends and like-minded people. (Adults)

Comedy of manners: Lifestyles of the rich, famous, and fairly ridiculous. These witty novels take a wry look our customs and behavior, especially among the upper classes. (Adults)

Confronting mortality: All things must pass. These novels follow characters as they confront mortality and the impermanence of life. (Adults)

Coping with death: The characters in these stories are coping with grief and loss after the passing of someone close to them. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Dealing with illness: These books grapple with one of life's greatest challenges, following characters as they cope with illness and malady. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Dealing with mental illness: Mental illness takes many shapes and forms and will impact the lives of characters in different ways. Read these titles for a range of experience with mental illness. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Eat, drink, and be merry: You can almost smell the aromas and taste the output of the kitchens described in these books, which are immersed in culinary culture. (Adults)

Engendering gender: These books challenge, interrogate, and explore the concept of the gender binary and may feature gender-fluid and -nonconforming characters. (Adults, Teens)

Ensemble casts: No single protagonist defines these stories. Instead, a group of characters comes together for a common interest or cause, and their relationships move the story forward. (Adults)

Facing racism: Whether individual or systemic, racism is a lived experience for the characters in these books. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Family gatherings: When families get together, personal histories collide. These novels use the family gathering as a catalyst for exploring character, relationships, and kinship. (Adults)

Fish out of water: City folk learning to farm, sudden fame for a recluse, or a math geek at a Jane Austen convention. Characters cope with being out of place in these books. (Adults)

Get in the game: Everyone roots for the underdog.  These novels take place in the world of sports and athletics. (Adults)

Go your own way: If you want to go off the beaten path you have to blaze your own trail. Follow along as characters strike out on their own. (Adults)

Green reads: Green reads are about our relationship with the natural world around us and the impact of our actions on natural spaces. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Home again: Take me back to the place where I belong. (Adults)

Human and animal bonds: These stories explore our relationships with animals. (Adults)

Immigrant experiences: Moving through the world, over borders and into new and unfamiliar places, has always been challenging. These books explore the experiences of immigrants as they build lives abroad. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Life during wartime: Often taking place on the home front, these stories explore the experiences of people living during a time of war. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Life in art: Featuring both broad strokes and delicate portraits, these books are about art and the art world. (Adults)

Love on the rocks: The course of love doesn't run smooth in these books, where romantic relationships flounder, struggle, and unravel. (Adults)

Maybe baby?: There are many ways to start a family. Characters in these novels consider pregnancy, fertility treatments, adoption, and the initial choice to begin a family. (Adults)

Musical reads: These stories harmonize in the musical world, with featured performances from musicians, composers, and music-lovers. (Adults)

No strings attached: We're not "dating"...we’re just keeping it casual (until one of us falls for the other and then, well...that’s going to be a little awkward). (Adults)

Novels of place: These stories are as much about the setting as they are about the characters. (Adults)

Office life: The 9-5 world has its own kind of story arc: these books look at life around the water cooler. (Adults)

Rags to riches: In these stories, the protagonist moves from poverty to wealth or obscurity to fame over the course of the narrative. (Adults)

Return from war: Characters returning to civilian life must reconcile traumatic experiences with their former lives. (Adults)

Rich and famous: These books are saturated with celebrity culture. (Adults)

Road tripping: Gas station food, pit stops, getting lost…and self-discovery?  Follow these characters on their road trips as they discover new and unfamiliar places, inside and out. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Sad small towns: A town with few prospects and little privacy, as everyone knows everyone's business.  The kind of place most folks leave, if they can. (Adults)

Second act: Characters in the second halves of their lives seek to find meaning, balance, and acceptance of mortality. (Adults)

Suburban malaise: Characters feeling alienated, bored, or otherwise disenchanted with life struggle to understand what went wrong in their quest for the American Dream. (Adults)

Surviving abuse: These books are about the survival or recovery of characters who experience physical or emotional abuse. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Surviving sexual violence: These books are about characters who have suffered the trauma of sexual violence and follow them as they survive, cope, and build their lives. (Adults, Teens)

Technical difficulties: Technology – and the increasingly important role it plays in our lives –- takes center stage in these stories. (Adults)

Thrown together: Diverse groups of people are brought together in unexpected ways. (Adults)

Time and again: These tales explore what might have been if characters had made a different choice when presented with a turning point in their lives. (Adults)

Toxic relationships: Characters are drawn into intense relationships in unhealthy ways. (Adults)

Unhappy families: They're all unhappy in their own ways. In these stories, family dysfunction is front and center. (Adults)

Unlikely friendships: Despite their differences, these characters are the best of friends. (Adults, Ages 0-8)

Web of connections: Inanimate objects are given a voice in these unique stories. These items either tell the story themselves or the story centers on the object as it passes from one person to another. (Adults)

We used to be friends: Not all friends are forever. Characters in these stories are dealing with the unravelling -- or aftermath -- of friendships. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)


Fiction for Ages 0-8

Adoption and families: These books capture the emotions and experiences of adoption, either from the adopted child's perspective or those who are welcoming an adopted child into their family. (Ages 0-8)

All kinds of families: What does it mean to be a family? Answers may vary, as you can tell from these stories that celebrate the wonderful diversity of families. (Ages 0-8)

Art comes alive: Fantasy and reality blend in these stories about art that takes on life of its own, often leading to adventure or mayhem. (Ages 0-8)

Artistic endeavors: I am, therefore I create art, through painting, pottery, or drawing. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Becoming big brothers and sisters: Welcoming a new sibling to the family can be tough, but these books help kids adjust. (Ages 0-8)

Being a friend: It's not always easy to find or keep friends, but life is so much sweeter because of them. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Coping with death: The characters in these stories are coping with grief and loss after the passing of someone close to them. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Count your blessings: All things bright and beautiful...these kids see heaven sent blessings all around. (Ages 0-8)

Daddy and me: The relationship between father and child is at the heart of these books. (Ages 0-8)

Dealing with bullies: These characters are caught in a cycle of bullying, whether they're the targets or the instigators. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Emotions and feelings: Whether happy, sad, angry, or scared, kids can find a story to help them put a name to their emotions. (Ages 0-8)

Families in conflict: Divorce and separation can be difficult for children to understand; these books may help. (Ages 0-8)

Fighting and forgiving: These characters don't always see eye to eye, but their care for friends or family ensures they always make up. (Ages 0-8)

Get well soon: Achoo! Minor illnesses, hospital visits, and giving or receiving care are the subjects of these stories. (Ages 0-8)

Grandparents and me: Whether grandma or grandpa is cuddly, prickly, or sassy, time together is special. (Ages 0-8)

Handling bad moods: Young characters learn how to express themselves when having a grouchy day. (Ages 0-8)

Learning to share: One for you, and one for me, these characters learn that sharing can be sweet. (Ages 0-8)

Let's dance: From class to recital, these books about dancers aren't short on sparkle motion. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Making new friends: These books feature characters who have met and become friends. (Ages 0-8)

Mind your manners: Whether showing gratitude or asking to excuse bad behavior, these books focus on the importance of using good manners. (Ages 0-8)

Mommy and me: These books show all of the ways a mother loves her children. (Ages 0-8)

Music makers: I sing, I play, I beat the drum. Sounds come together to make music, and I come to life. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

My siblings and me: Whether they love or annoy each other, these books focus on the relationship between brothers and sisters. (Ages 0-8)

Overcoming fear: The characters in these books have a fear or phobia, but find a way to move past it. (Ages 0-8)

Power of stories: These books celebrate the power of stories and storytelling to encourage, transform, and inspire. (Ages 0-8)

Set the stage: All the world's a stage in these books about actors. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Starting school: These books help kids alleviate their anxiety by showing them what to expect on the first day of school. (Ages 0-8)

Stay safe: Whether discussing traffic, fire, or stranger danger, these books demonstrate the importance of safety. (Ages 0-8)

Unlikely friendships: Despite their differences, these characters are the best of friends. (Adults, Ages 0-8)

Welcome baby!: Focusing on the positive aspects of a growing family, these books show the joy and wonder newborns bring to those around them. (Ages 0-8)

Write it out: Through poetry, essays, or stories, characters find their voice in the written word. (Teens, Ages 9-12)


Horror

Band of survivors: Teamwork means survival in these stories of people working together -- whether out of desperation or by choice -- to survive disasters. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Body horror: These books revolve around all the disturbing and gruesome things that can happen to your body whether by supernatural means or by others (Cannibalism!). (Adults)

Childhood trauma: Innocence is lost through a confrontation with evil in these books that pit young people against dark forces. (Adults, Teens)

Creature feature: These books contain various monsters and creatures that may not be as common as vampires, witches, zombies, or werewolves, but they will scare you all the same. (Adults, Teens)

Creepy clowns and bad seeds: Menace often lurks behind things that seem innocent at first glance. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Cursed!: Whether they deserve it or not, characters are punished by supernatural forces or cursed objects. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Don’t go in there!: I dare ya! Whether it's a graveyard at midnight or an abandoned asylum, it takes more guts than common sense to spend time in these places. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Evil animals: Normal animals become human-eating machines -- think Cujo! Don't trust the Fidos in these books -- they're after more than just a second breakfast. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Evil transformations: A normal, mild-mannered citizen transforms into a “beast” which acts in ways that are violent and basically unacceptable in society. Think Jekyll and Hyde or The Hulk. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Final girls: Final girls are the lone female survivors of a horrific event -- from serial killers to supernatural monsters. They battle, and even defeat, the creatures ordinary humans can't face. Whether through virginity or ingenuity, a final girl is a heroine for the ages. (Adults, Teens)

Found footage: It feels so real! Framing devices such as letters, documents, diaries, or video highlight the horror as it takes place in real time. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Lovecraftian horror: Look here for insane elder gods, the cults that worship them, and horror beyond human understanding. (Adults, Teens)

Monster mashups: Classic literature, beloved characters, historical figures who've stood the test of time now stand the test of horror and speculative fiction elements inserted into their stories. Think Jane Austen plus zombies; Abraham Lincoln plus vampires. (Adults)

Monster mayhem: My gym teacher is a vampire! My mailman is undead! Smart kids notice something fishy in these lightly paranormal stories. (Ages 9-12)

Moving to a haunted house: Characters in these stories find out what its like to live in a real haunted house (spoiler -- it's not fun). (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Possessed!: What an excellent day for an exorcism! Characters in these stories grapple with demonic possession, often despite no wrongdoing on their part. (Adults, Teens)

Real life monsters: Not all monsters are supernatural -- sometimes they are sitting right next to you.  Here are stories about seriously disturbed serial killers and psychopaths. (Adults, Teens)

Small town horror: Books set in small towns populated by people who are routinely faced by monsters, horror, or evil.  This can also include people in small towns that ARE the horror and evil. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Trapped!: Characters here are trapped by the monster, rather than being chased. Think isolated cabins, Arctic research bases, submarines, space ships, graves, elevators. This is very prevalent in zombie novels. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Vampire menace: Garlic-challenged bloodsuckers feature prominently in these horror stories. (Adults, Teens)

Vengeance is mine: Hell hath no fury like a character scorned. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Werewolves among us: Beware the full moon! The deadly hounds in these horror stories are not your average Fido. (Adults, Teens)

Witchcraft and the occult: Sinister spell-casting begets supernatural horror in these stories of human-conjured evils. (Adults, Teens)
 
Zombie apocalypse: Live free or…walk dead? Characters in these stories face the outbreak and/or impact of a zombie epidemic. (Adults, Teens)


Mysteries and Thrillers & Suspense

Ancient enigmas: The modern-day protagonist follows a trail of artifacts, codes, and mystic symbols into a centuries-old mystery, often guarded by a secret society or religious order. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Behind the Iron Curtain: The Cold War heats up in these mysteries featuring spy craft. (Adults)

Beyond the grave: In these mysteries, crime victims who have died investigate their own murder or reach out to the living to help solve the mystery or bring justice. (Adults, Teens)

Criminal masterpieces: Priceless paintings and artifacts do, in fact, have a price to the right buyer.  Find here art heists, forgeries, and other crimes against curated collections. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Eerie mysteries: Characters in these stories investigate whether there is a supernatural cause to mysterious or eerie occurrences. (Ages 9-12)

Framed!: Investigators suspect the protagonist of a crime, but it's a set-up!  In these mysteries, proof of innocence has to come before proof of guilt, as the protagonist works to clear their name, then catch who framed them. (Adults)

Inspired by real events: Based on true events, these stories range from fictional retellings to more loosely inspired interpretations. (Adults, Teens)

Locked room mysteries: The scene of the crime has no obvious point of entry or was securely locked. These mysteries ask both who and howdunnit. (Adults)

Missing memories: Where am I?  Who am I?  A gap in the main character's memory withholds information vital to the plot.  Amnesia in these stories could span a couple of days or years. (Adults, Teens)

On the run: Let's get out of here! Flight beats fight in these mysteries based on the chase. (Adults, Teens)

Proving own innocence: These investigators must use their skills to prove themselves innocent of a crime. (Adults, Teens)

Race against time: The clock is ticking! In these adrenalized stories, characters have to act fast to avert disaster. (Adults, Teens)

Real life monsters: Not all monsters are supernatural -- sometimes they are sitting right next to you.  Here are stories about seriously distributed serial killers and psychopaths. (Adults, Teens)

Rookie on the beat: Newbies must tackle crime as well as skeptical coworkers. (Adults)

Rural police: Crime is not absent in the country -- it's just more spread out.  These police may not have fancy forensics labs and specialized units, but they'll close the case just the same. (Adults)

Shadow organizations: Who controls the power? Good question! It could be top secret organizations that work to create a new world order...or not. (Adults)

Sherlock Paws: These detectives really keep their noses to the ground --animals solve mysteries or help out with human investigations. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Sleuths in schools: Cheating, vandalism, and all manner of kid-size crime gets sent to the principal's office in these (mostly) innocent school stories about child detectives' early cases. (Ages 9-12)

Small town police: Small towns can have big crimes, and it's not easy investigating when "the usual suspects" are your neighbors. (Adults)

Solve the puzzle: In these stories filled with riddles and codes, characters must puzzle things out. (Ages 9-12)

Starring famous figures: What would Jane (Austen) do? Real people, from Aristotle to Groucho Marx, hunt down criminals and solve mysteries. (Adults)

The butler did it!: The butler, of course, manages an estate, whose house and sprawling grounds are perfect for hiding secrets -- and bodies.  Characters gather in these remote, luxurious settings and cannot leave until the mystery's solved. (Adults)

Too good to be true: Whether it's a perfect marriage, the appearance of a "long lost" family member, or a stranger who inserts himself into the main character's life, something doesn't add up. Each has secrets that can harm or even kill. (Adults)

Unreliable narrator: Readers may not be able to trust the version of events narrated to them in these complex and sometimes disturbing stories. (Adults, Teens)

Urban police: Crime never sleeps in the city. (Adults)


Realistic Fiction

Artistic endeavors: I am, therefore I create art, through painting, pottery, or drawing. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Being a friend: It's not always easy to find or keep friends, but life is so much sweeter because of them. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Boarding school life: Things can get intense when you live with your classmates. These stories invite readers into the rarefied world of boarding schools. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Boys vs. Girls: It's a battle of the sexes as kids divide themselves along gender lines in a friendly (but heartfelt) rivalry. (Ages 9-12)

Brand new you: Featuring characters who want to change their image to fit in with peers or for other reasons, these stories lead to self-discovery in sometimes unexpected ways. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Coming out experiences: Whether they're loud and proud or timidly tiptoeing out of the closet, characters in these stories are beginning to open up about being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or asexual. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Coping with death: The characters in these stories are coping with grief and loss after the passing of someone close to them. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Dealing with bullies: These characters are caught in a cycle of bullying, whether they're the targets or the instigators. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Dealing with eating disorders: Though they may or may not be ready to admit it, characters in these books are living with the physical and psychological stress of eating disorders. (Teens)

Dealing with illness: These books grapple with one of life's greatest challenges, following characters as they cope with illness and malady. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Dealing with mental illness: Mental illness takes many shapes and forms and will impact the lives of characters in different ways. Read these titles for a range of experience with mental illness. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Dealing with suicide: Characters in these stories are coping with feelings of grief and loss after losing someone close to them to suicide. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Exploring faith: The characters here struggle to balance a religious faith with the regular demands and desires that are universal to kids –- falling in love, getting through school, making friends, and fitting in. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Facing racism: Whether individual or systemic, racism is a lived experience for the characters in these books. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Girls disguised as boys: Driven by necessity rather than identity, the girls in these stories cross-dress for safety, education, work, or other opportunities denied to girls. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Green reads: Green reads are about our relationship with the natural world around us and the impact of our actions on natural spaces. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Immigrant experiences: Moving through the world, over borders and into new and unfamiliar places, has always been challenging. These books explore the experiences of immigrants as they build lives abroad. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Let's dance: From class to recital, these books about dancers aren't short on sparkle motion. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Life after high school: Surviving high school is only half the battle. The older teens in these stories grapple with the complicated emotions that accompany the transition from high school to whatever comes next. (Teens)

Life during wartime: Often taking place on the home front, these stories explore the experiences of people living during a time of war. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Life in slavery: These historical fiction books center on the experiences of enslaved African American characters as they try to survive -- and sometimes escape from -- the brutality and injustice of slavery. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Life in small towns: Love 'em or hate 'em, tiny towns are the settings for these books that frequently feature themes of community. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Living while dying: Growing up in the shadow of a serious or even terminal illness is the issue at hand for these characters, whether they are directly or indirectly affected. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Living with invisible disability: Though their disability isn't immediately visible, it's always present and makes life difficult for the person living with it. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Living with visible disability: Living in an able-bodied world isn't easy when your disability is on display in these stories. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Me and my dog: From Old Yeller to Winn-Dixie, these stories highlight the powerful bond between kids and dogs. (Tissues not included.) (Ages 9-12)

Meet the family: These stories are a family affair, starring a cast of parents, siblings, and other relatives. (Ages 9-12)

Misfits united: Detention. Drama club. Hiding from a bully. Wherever and however they meet, the characters in these stories feel like they don't fit in -- except with each other. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Music makers: I sing, I play, I beat the drum. Sounds come together to make music, and I come to life. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

New to the neighborhood: It's tough being the new kid on the block. Characters in these books are dealing with the uncertainty of starting over in a new home or a new school. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Road tripping: Gas station food, pit stops, getting lost…and self-discovery? Follow these characters on their road trips as they discover new and unfamiliar places, inside and out. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Royal reads: It's good to be king…or is it? These books delve into the responsibility, privilege, and peril experienced by young royals throughout history. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Running away: Escape, adventure, a personal mission -- the motivations may vary, but these stories all feature young runaways. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Set the stage: All the world's a stage in these books about actors. (Teens, Ages 9-12, Ages 0-8)

Surviving sexual violence: These books are about characters who have suffered the trauma of sexual violence and follow them as they survive, cope, and build their lives. (Adults, Teens)

Surviving the Holocaust: These historical fiction books center on the experiences of Jewish characters (and other targeted groups) as they try to survive persecution and genocide during the Nazi regime. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Teen pregnancy and parenting: The teens in these stories confront the choices, changes, and challenges of pregnancy or becoming a teen parent. (Teens)

Trouble at home: "How are things at home?" is a loaded question for the characters in these books as they face serious family problems, struggle with tough situations, or shoulder heavy responsibilities. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Tween romance: First dates, all-consuming crushes, and emerging romantic feelings hold sway over the tween characters in these books. (Ages 9-12)

Underdog athletes: Like the Bad News Bears or the Mighty Ducks, these teams consist of loveable losers. (Ages 9-12)

We used to be friends: Not all friends are forever. Characters in these stories are dealing with the unravelling -- or aftermath -- of friendships. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Write it out: Through poetry, essays, or stories, characters find their voice in the written word. (Teens, Ages 9-12)


Romance

Best friend’s sibling: Though the characters in these stories are attracted to each other, they feel they shouldn't act on their impulses due to pre-existing loyalties to friends or family. (Adults, Teens)

Captive hearts: The hero holds the heroine captive for his own gain, but along the way, they fall in love. (Adults)

Childhood sweethearts: Young love blossoms into adult romance in these stories of childhood sweethearts maturing into a realistic partnership. (Adults)

Enemies to lovers: There is a thin line between love and hate in these stories where the characters start out as adversaries but end up romantically attached. (Adults)  Note: On the teen side, the heading is called “Hating to Dating."

Fake relationship: Whether to make someone jealous or out of necessity, these characters pretend to fall in love, only to find it feels so real. (Adults, Teens)

Falling for a friend: Though their relationship begins platonically, the characters in these stories find themselves developing an attraction which deepens into love. (Teens)  Note: On the adult side, the heading is called “Friends to lovers.”

Famous flings: The glare of the limelight is no match for the sparks that fly when a famous figure falls in love with an ordinary person. (Adults, Teens)

For richer, for poorer: Despite coming from very different social classes, nothing can keep us apart. (Adults)

Friends to lovers: Though their relationship begins platonically, the characters in these stories find themselves developing an attraction which deepens into love. (Adults)  Note: On the teen side, the heading is called “Falling for a friend.”

Getting together for the kids: An unplanned pregnancy leads to marriage. (Adults)

Hating to Dating: There is a thin line between love and hate in these stories where the characters start out as adversaries but end up romantically attached. (Teens)  Note: On the adult side, the heading is called “Enemies to lovers."

Home again: Take me back to the place where I belong. (Adults)

Love abroad: A travel adventure leads to everlasting love. (Adults, Teens)

Love in a small town: Fall in love in a small town where everyone knows your name. (Adults)

Love in disguise: Can love blossom even though one or both of these characters is not who they seem? (Adults, Teens)

Marriage of convenience: Saying "I do" is mutually beneficial for the couples in these stories, but then the unexpected happens: they fall in love! (Adults)

New in town: Moving to a new town leads to new love. (Adults)

No strings attached: We're not "dating"...we’re just keeping it casual (until one of us falls for the other and then, well...that’s going to be a little awkward). (Adults)

Once upon a time: The fairy tale couple lived happily ever after, right? (Adults, Teens)

One night to forever: What's supposed to be a brief fling turns into a lasting relationship for the characters in these romances. (Adults)

Opposites attract: The couple in these novels seems an unlikely match in all ways (except for how they feel about each other). (Adults, Teens)

Second chance at romance: Tis better to have loved and lost and loved again. (Adults)

Secret baby: The revelation of a secret love child helps these couples reunite and give love another chance. (Adults)

Snowbound & stranded: Things heat up in close quarters. (Adults)

Sudden baby: Unexpectedly becoming the guardian of a child (or children!), leads to an unexpected romance. (Adults)

Together again: Reunited and it feels so good! Former lovers reunite and reconcile in these romantic stories. (Adults)

Unforgettable love: Characters suffer through memory loss get another chance for love as they slowly remember their past. (Adults)

Workplace romance: Mixing business with pleasure?  Smitten colleagues defy HR regulations in these love stories. (Adults)


Science Fiction

Alien invasions: Extraterrestrial lifeforms attack Earth, intending conquest, colonization, or total destruction.  (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Altered memories: These characters may not be able to trust their own minds after their memories are deliberately wiped or altered. (Adults, Teens)

Band of survivors: Teamwork means survival in these stories of people working together -- whether out of desperation or by choice -- to survive disasters. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Battle royale: People are pitted against each other in high-stakes competitions, often serving the interests of the powerful elite rather than their own. (Adults, Teens)

Boldly go: Humans set out to explore the cosmos, seeking greater understanding rather than new homes or resources. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Climate change apocalypse: Characters in these stories must weather devastating changes in temperature as access to food or land are impacted by rising sea levels or spreading ice. (Adults, Teens)

Evil corporations: At Evil, Inc., we value you--your labor, consumption, unwitting complicity, and sometimes bodily components are cash money to us.  Go team! (Adults, Teens)

First contact: Humans discover they're not alone in the universe after all. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Fixing history: These characters travel through time to alter past events, thus repairing the present, or to set right events affected by other time travelers. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

For the resistance: Corruption and injustice at the highest levels inspires organized resistance in these rebellious tales. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Generation ships: Space is BIG. Spacefarers in these stories cross its vast expanse aboard generation ships designed to house them across lifetimes, until their children or grandchildren reach their destination. (Adults, Teens)

Human 2.0: Whether these characters sport engineered enhancements or are part of the next evolutionary leap forward, they're a distinct upgrade from your run-of-the-mill human. (Adults, Teens)

Lost in space: Characters in these stories have lost their way in the vast emptiness of space or been stranded on alien soil.  First priority: survival; next on the agenda: getting home. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Pandemic apocalypse: In these apocalyptic stories, disease spreads so quickly that the infected soon outnumber the uninfected, and both must try to survive in the new reality. (Adults, Teens)

Playing God: An experiment's safeguards aren't enough to prevent disaster in these tales of scientific overreach. (Adults)

Press play to start: It's not just a game when you're in it. Virtual reality takes on new dimensions in these high-scoring stories. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Rise of the machines: Robots and computers turn on their creators. (Adults)

Robots with emotions: Not only could these robots pass the Turing test, they have become as human as humans -- or more so. (Adults, Teens)

Science fiction boot camp: Ten-hut!  Boot camp meets space camp in these militaristic training stories.  Young space marines and fleet commanders gotta learn somewhere. (Teens, Ages 9-12)

Send in the clones: Cloning humans has deep ethical and personal implications, as these genetically replicated characters know all too well. (Adults, Teens)

Space colonization: Venturing out into the solar system and beyond, humans in these books establish settlements off-world. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Time loop: So that happened…again. And again. These characters trapped in a time loop typically try to break out of the repetition and restore temporal flow. (Adults, Teens)

Time slip: Characters find themselves suddenly somewhen else -- past or future.  They may manage to adapt, or discover how to return to their original time. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Vengeance is mine: Hell hath no fury like a character scorned. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)

Weird science: These stories feature kids who get involved in odd science experiments. What could possibly go wrong? (Ages 9-12)

Women of steel: Whether at the helm of a starship or on the throne of the Amazons, these women are seriously skilled, fully armored, and ready for quest or battle alike. (Adults, Teens)


Urban Fiction

Baby drama: Matters of paternity and unplanned pregnancy are at hand in these books featuring conflicts that revolve around parentage. (Adults)

Backstabbers: You just can't trust some people, particularly in these books that feature (sometimes outlandish) acts of disloyalty. (Adults)

Cautionary tales: Consequences are harsh for characters who lose it all in these melodramatic books. (Adults, Teens)

Cheaters: Becky with the good hair loves these books about outrageous acts of infidelity. (Adults)

Church drama: There's nothing holy about the shady pastors, backstabbing first ladies, and dubious deacons in these books that center on scandalous members of the flock. (Adults)

Crazy in love: Just like Bonnie and Clyde, these couples remain devoted to one another, come what may. (Adults)

Family business: Blood is thicker than water in these books about characters who were born into criminal life. (Adults)

Get money: The characters in these books strive to make it off the streets and into the high life, by any means necessary. (Adults)

Going straight: Leaving street life for straight life just isn't that simple. (Adults)

Good gone bad: Life on the streets proves irresistible for the former straight arrows in these books. (Adults)

I'm a survivor: Heroes and heroines seek power and healing despite a bleak history of suffering and abuse. (Adults)

Just got out: Back on the streets after doing time, these characters must deal with the consequences of their absence. (Adults)

Ladies first: Featuring women who do whatever it takes to get paid, get revenge, or get theirs. (Adults)

Life on the inside: These books offer a raw view of prison life, often by authors who have experienced lockup firsthand. (Adults)

My squad: Sisters from another mister swear to remain true to one another. Unfortunately, life sometimes gets in the way. (Adults)

On the down low: Closeted characters pursue same-sex relationships in secret. (Adults)

Payback: The main characters in these books will stop at nothing to get revenge for the wrongs that have been done to them. (Adults)

Raised by the streets: Young people grow up tough while attempting to resist the traps of gangs, drugs, and desperation. (Adults, Teens)

Rivals: Whether it's strictly business or a little too personal, these two can't stay out of one another's way. (Adults, Teens) 

Sex work: Whether by choice or by fate, characters in these books are involved in the sex industry. (Adults)

Sinner redeemed: Despite their former misdeeds, the characters in these books are determined to follow a new spiritual path. (Adults)

Test of faith: Due to challenging circumstances, the main character in these books questions their faith. After many trials, faith in God's love is renewed. (Adults, Teens, Ages 9-12)