Washington, DC

11 Great Novels for Teenage Washingtonians

Claire Handscombe

Growing up in DC is a unique experience. It's a city unlike any other, with its own very particular culture and sub-cultures, and, for some, its proximity to privilege, power, and influence, and nationally recognised public figures mingling with ordinary people in coffee shops, restaurans, and bookshops. Books that reflect those things can help teenage Washingtonians make sense of their world and feel understood. Here are ten examples of YA novels set in Washington, DC or in the world of politics more generally, which will feel real and recognisable to kids growing up in the nation's capital.

All-American Girl, by Meg Cabot

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When sophomore Samantha Madison inadvertently saves the life of the Preisdent, her whole life changes. Before, she had regular teen girl problems like being in love with her big sister's boyfriend, and getting into trouble at school. But now she's suddenly the Teen Ambassador to the UN, and the object of the First Son's crush...

Capital Girls, by Ella Monroe

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If you like Gossip Girl and want to see a DC twist on it, you'll love Capital Girls, the first in a series of three books. It Girl Jackie, adventuring wild child Taylor, brainy and ambtious Lettie, and dreamer and rich girl Laura Beth: they're insperable, until tragedy strikes and secrets surface...

Diplomatic Immunity, by Brodi Ashton

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Piper Baird is an aspiring journalist studying at an elite DC school when she uncovers a story that could kickstart her career in a spectacular way. But the story involves the son of the Spanish Ambassador, and yes, you've guessed it: there are romantic feelings involved.

The Fixer, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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Veronica Mars meets Scandal in this story of sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick who moves in with her older sister in DC - whom she quickly learns is the real-life answer to Olivia Pope. Then Tessa finds herself following in her sister's footsteps at her prestigious new school -- until their two worlds collide.

The Gallagher Girls series, by Ally Carter

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The Gallager Academy for Exceptional Young Women may look like a typical all-girls school for overachievers, but it's actually a school for spies. What it doesn't teach, though, is socail skills, and Cammie has no idea what to do when she meets a boy she likes. To make matters worse, she can never tell him who she really is...

Love is the Drug, by Alaya Dawn Johnson

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Published in 2014, this book now seems eerily prescient: a deadly flu virus is prompting quarantines and curfews across the nation. And at the centre of it all is Emily Bird, who passes out one night after meeting a homeland security agent and wakes up in this virus-ridden world, and just might know more about it than even she realises...

Running, by Natalia Sylvester

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Set in Miami, this 2020 novel grapples with themes that many DC kids know well: what happens when your dad is running for President, but you're not even sure you like what he stands for?

The Unpopular Vote, by Jasper Sanchez

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Like many DC kids, Mark grew up watching The West Wing and Scandal, and they've helped fuel his passion about politics and his knowledge of that world. But the person who's taught him the most is his Father, the Congressman who can't accept that Mark is his son and not the daughter he thought he had. Mark's reluctantly agreed to lie low for the sake of his dad's career, but that's until he and his nerdy friends take on someone from their school whose rhetoric really needs to be challenged...

The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli

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This book features seventeen-year-old twins Cassie and Molly navigating first love in the social scene of Washington, DC. "If you’re in the mood for a snappy romance to vicariously bathe you in the pain and elation of first love, Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited provides," says NPR.

The Voting Booth, by Brandy Colbert

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When political activist Marva sees Duke Crenshaw turned away from the polling place on Election Day, she decides to fight for his right. But nothing is simple, and capers ensue -- including the search for Marva's Instagram influencer cat, who chooses this already complicated day to go missing. This is a great read for fans of intense, one-day stories like Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and The Sun Is Also a Star.

The Wrong Side of Right, by Jenn Marie Thomas

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Sixteen-year-old Kate Quinn has never known who her father was. But a year after her mother’s death, she’s about to find out. His name is Senator Mark Cooper, and he’s running for President. Before she knows it, Kate is swept up in a whirlwind of election campaigning, learning to smile and wave and dress as the model politician’s daughter. Has she finally found the family she’s always wanted? And what about that cute guy she keeps bumping into – does he spell as much trouble as she suspects he might? I kept turning pages to find out, and I enjoyed being surprised at every turn of the plot.

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

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