Best diary books for how it feels to be a teenager

The Isobel Journal

There's something about the diary or journal format in a book that really helps you get under a character's skin.

After all, you're privy to their first-person, most innermost thoughts. The relationship between the reader and this character feels so close that it can almost feel like a friendship.

This must be why diary books are at their most powerful when you are a pre-teen or a young teenager: battling through puberty, everyday life, and trying to figure out who you are and want to be.

Below are some of our favourites for capturing the highs, the lows, and the very, very funny bits. 

For readers 12+.
  • I Capture the Castle

    Author: Dodie Smith
    Publisher: Penguin
    Interest age: 12+
    Reading age: 12+

    17-year-old Cassandra lives an eccentric existence with her bohemian family in a crumbling castle in the English countryside, in this delightful classic coming-of-age story.

  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4

    Author: Sue Townsend
    Publisher: Penguin
    Interest age: 12+
    Reading age: 9+

    The first book in the Adrian Mole series, this was a publishing sensation back in the 1980s, but still has the power to entertain pre-teen, teen and even adult readers, and make them double up with laughter.

  • Spud

    Author: John van de Ruit
    Publisher: Penguin
    Interest age: 12+
    Reading age: 10+

    Spud gets a scholarship to a smart boys’ school where he soon joins in with a mad bunch of boys – the Crazy Eight.

  • Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging

    Author: Louise Rennison
    Publisher: HarperCollins
    Interest age: 11-14
    Reading age: 11+

    Welcome to the world of Georgia Nicolson - an angst-ridden teenage girl who keeps a diary to record the rollercoaster of emotions and experiences she faces every day

  • Diary of a Crush: French Kiss

    Author: Sarra Manning
    Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
    Interest age: 13+
    Reading age: 11+

    First published as a hugely popular serial story in Just 17 magazine, French Kiss is the first in a trilogy following the tumultuous relationship between Edie and her on-off boyfriend Dylan.

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower

    Author: Stephen Chbosky
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster
    Interest age: 14+
    Reading age: 14+

    High school student Charlie prefers to look on life from the sidelines, but he can't be a 'wallflower' for ever, and soon finds himself grappling with the challenges of adolescence.

  • OMG! Is This Actually My Life?

    Author: Rae Earl
    Publisher: Walker Books
    Interest age: 11+
    Reading age: 11+

    When Hattie is sent to her room for being sick in her step-father's fish tank, she decides to start writing a diary and sort her life out.

  • The Isobel Journal

    Author: Isobel Harrop
    Publisher: Hot Key
    Interest age: 13+
    Reading age: 12+

    Subtitled ‘Just a Northern Girl from Where Nothing Really Happens’, this beautifully-presented book from 18-year-old debut author Isobel Harrop is a vivid scrapbook of teenage life.

  • Boys Don't Knit

    Author: T S Easton
    Publisher: Hot Key Books
    Interest age: 13+
    Reading age: 13+

    'I'm aware that keeping a diary is considered part of the female domain, but in my life, with the family and friends I'm stuck with, it is the only reason I haven't run away and gone to live in the woods...'

  • My So-Called Life

    Author: Joanna Nadin
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    Interest age: 13+
    Reading age: 13+

    'Why is life never like it is in books? Nothing interesting ever happens to me...Even my name sucks. In other words, my life is earth-shatteringly normal.'