EducationDaily Booklist: Inspiring memoirs every teen should read

Jarrod Brown
Jarrod Brown

In the words of comedian Steve Gilliland, “in order to be an inspiration to someone else, you have to be inspired”.

Australia was built on the backs of dreamers.

Everyday people are inspired by those who came before them. Those who face challenges head-on, battle adversity and defy the odds in the hopes of emerging victorious – creating their own inspiring stories in the process. 

In these tales of hardship and triumph, we are reminded of what the human spirit is capable of. 

- Advertisement -

Whether the tale is of an extraordinary escape from a war zone, a nerve-racking solo flight across the globe, or an intimate journey of self-discovery, these inspiring memoirs will encourage the next generation of Australians to keep ‘dreaming big’ as they prepare for their own adventure-filled future ahead.

Tell Me Why for Young Adults

By Archie Roach

In this inspirational, highly acclaimed memoir – including reflections from First Nations Elders and young people – Archie Roach tells the story of his life, his music and his lifelong journey to discover his own identity. 

Forcibly removed from his family at the age of two and raised by a string of foster parents until his early teens, Archie received a letter that spoke of a past he had no memory of. 

- Advertisement -

Readers follow Archie’s lifelong journey to uncover his family’s past and reconnect with his culture in what is a tale unfortunately mirrored by many impacted by the Stolen Generation. 

“There are many Australian stories, and mine is just one about what happened to me and other First Peoples of this country. It’s important for me to tell my story – because it’s not just part of my healing but of this country’s as well.”

Born to Fly

By Ryan Campbell

In Born to Fly, Ryan recounts his remarkable journey of becoming the youngest pilot in history to fly solo around the world. 

Drawing on the advice of renowned aviators such as Dick Smith, Jim Hazelton and mentor Ken Evers, Ryan fundraised and planned with great determination before setting out on his thrilling 70-day journey, landing 34 times in 15 countries and covering more than 24,000 nautical miles.

- Advertisement -

From his wings icing up over Greenland glaciers, to a heart-stopping moment over Indonesian air space, abuse from an airport official in Greece, and awe-inspiring views of molten lava entering the Pacific – this real-life adventure brings readers along for the terror and exhilaration that can only be experienced on a solo expedition.

Songs of a War Boy

By Deng Thiak Adut, Ben Mckelvey

Songs of a War Boy is the inspirational memoir of a young man who overcame unthinkable adversity to become a lawyer, refugee advocate and NSW Australian of the Year. 

Taken from his mother when he was six years old, Deng Adut was conscripted as a child soldier into the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. 

Sent into battle, shot in the back, plagued by illness and the relentless brutality of war, Deng spent five years in the army before being saved by his brother John and taken to Australian shores.

- Advertisement -

After becoming only the third Sudanese family resettled in Australia, Deng’s inspiring tale of refugee to a lawyer is something that has to be read to be believed.

Letter to My Teenage Self

By Grace Halphen

Penned by 13-year-old Melbourne teenager Grace Halphen, Letter to My Teenage Self is a heartfelt journey of self-reflection as 50 prominent Australians pass on the wisdom they wish they had when navigating the ups and downs of adolescence. 

This includes national stars like Adam Gilchrist and Missy Higgins penning letters entitled From learning to laugh at yourself and Realising that the qualities that make you stand out are the ones that makes you SO RAD, respectively.  

Other figures also include Guy Sebastian (Not letting the negative things that happen shape who you become), Nathan Buckley (Practising gratitude), and Judith Lucy (The reassurance that you’ll get over anger about people treating you badly because you’ll get better at treating yourself well).

Boasting a star-studded roster of contributors from all walks of life, Letter to My Teenage Self offers inspiration and reassurance for parents and teenagers alike.

- Advertisement -

Honey Blood

By Kristy Everett

Author Kristy Everett was diagnosed with leukaemia at age nine. After spending years in treatment and attending the funerals of children she met in the cancer ward along the way, Kirsty’s cancer returned at age 16. 

Faced with a devastating prognosis, she threw herself into as much as she could – friends, school, drama, sport, and even a life-writing course with Patti Miller. 

“I thought if I was going to die I should write some things down.”

Against all the odds, however, Kirsty survived. Using what she learnt about people, attitudes and resilience, Kristy has penned a uniquely devastating book about growing up different when you want to be the same, sparking hostility where there should be support and how love can be tested to its utmost.

- Advertisement -

Girl Who Fell From The Sky

By Emma Carey

From a terrible accident that left her paraplegic, Emma Carey has inspired hundreds of thousands online to live life to the fullest and reminds us that if we can, we must.

In her twenties, she fell over 4000 metres and survived. In The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Emma tells us the inspirational story of how she found her “truest self” through one of her greatest tragedies.

From waking in the hospital as a paraplegic to learning how to use her legs again through the six-year-long court case, Emma’s tale teaches us the importance of courage and resilience in the face of insurmountable odds.

Different, Not Less

By Chloe Hayden

Different, Not Less by Chloe Hayden is a unique, sometimes funny story of how it feels to be neurodivergent, as well as advice for others living with meltdowns and shutdowns, tips for finding supportive communities and much more.

Detailing her struggles as she comes to terms with her diagnosis of autism and ADHD, Hayden’s message of “different does not mean less” is one that strikes at the core of many teenagers in today’s age. 

- Advertisement -

Whether you’re neurodivergent or supporting those who are, Chloe’s story of acceptance will inspire readers to create a more inclusive world where everyone feels like they belong.

You Don’t Know What War Is

By Yeva Skalietska

A devastating account of the recent war in Ukraine, author Yeva Skalietska pens an inspiring memoir drawn from her own diary entries depicting a young survivor’s harrowing yet hopeful story. 

Taking place after her twelfth birthday, Yeva takes readers through the horrors of the Russian attack on Kharkiv on February 24, 2022. Describing the bombings she endured while sheltering underground, the story chronicles her desperate journey to freedom as she joins her grandmother to flee the conflict alongside thousands of other refugees. 

With the conflict still raging today, You Don’t Know What War Is serves as a stark reminder of the realities of war while giving readers a glimpse of the kind-hearted nature people can display in times of crisis.

My Journey to the World Cup

By Sam Kerr

Follow Sam Kerr’s incredible journey from playing Aussie rules football as a kid to becoming one of the world’s greatest athletes as she prepares to captain the Matildas in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

- Advertisement -

Sam Kerr is widely considered to be one of the best female footballers of all time. She is famous worldwide for her skills on the soccer pitch – but before she was the Matildas captain and the leading goal scorer for Chelsea, she was just an average Aussie kid who wanted to play AFL. 

This is her incredible football journey to the FIFA World Cup, from making the switch to soccer to becoming one of the best female strikers in the world. Sam gives readers insights into what keeps her motivated, how she handles the pressures of life as a professional athlete and what she believes is really important in life.

Share This Article
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. Jarrod established his journalism career working on the education news and information site The Bursar. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.