Hello lovelies! Now this is a Top Ten I can totally get behind! I love reading books set outside the US (typically in England, but as you’ll see, I read more than that). I want to try to give you a wide range of places, so I’ve picked some books I’ve really enjoyed from all over the world. Have fun!
Top Ten Books Set Outside the US
1. Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher (Australia)
This story is simply beautiful. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s the story of a teenage girl who was kidnapped from an airport in America and taken to Australia. As the title suggests, it’s written in a letter format to the man who kidnapped her. The story focuses a lot on the Australian landscape and the unique animals and climate there. Truly, I felt as though I’d actually been there because it was so descriptive. It’s just perfect in so many ways. I love this story so much.
2. Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (Pakistan)
As it turns out, I actually really love stories set in the Middle East. It’s a world so different from ours. This is the story of a young American girl of immigrant parents. When she begins getting willful, her parents take her to Pakistan to explore her roots. But things turn dark quickly when Naila (our protagonist) realizes that plans have changed and she’s actually there to find a husband. It’s a dark story, but it highlights what life is like for so many girls in this part of the country. In the author’s note, Saeed tells us that this story has played out in real life for a couple of her friends. And even though it’s dark, it teaches me more about the world. That’s why I like it.
3. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (France)
Seriously, would this list have been complete without this book? I think not. What story could be sweeter than that of Anna, an American girl going to school in France where she meets the funny and charming Etienne, who sweeps her off her feet? *sigh* Yup, it’s official. I want to go to Paris now. Also, this cover will always be my favorite for this book.
4. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (Central America)
A beautiful story of backpacking across a number of countries and finding yourself along the way. Bria wants to avoid her life and explore Central America in the process, but it all changes when she meets Rowan, a backpacker and dive instructor, who shows her the beauty of the countries they pass through. I’ve never truly wanted to go to Central America (and after a few scenes in this book, I’m still not exactly chomping at the bit), but it’s a beautiful part of the world and this lets those of us who have never been there experience a piece of it.
5. Endangered by Eliot Schrefer (The Congo)
Some of the most interesting stories are the ones that take place in the harshest of countries. Sophie is half-American, half-Congolese. Every summer, she comes back to the Congo to spend time with her mom, who rescues Bonobo apes. But the Congo is a war-torn country on the brink of war, and Sophie’s about to find herself in the middle of it all. A dark story, for sure, but very interesting. It’s about war, family, finding your path, and really coming to understand those around you (whether they’re people or apes).
6. The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats (Medieval Wales)
If you’re like me and in love with medieval English history, this is awesome. It follows two girls, Cecily and Gwenhwyfar. Cecily is an upperclass Englishwoman who has recently moved to Wales. Gwenhwyfar is a Welsh servant forced to serve Cecily hand and foot. It’s a harsh world, and when certain events turn the tables on the girls, they each get to understand what it’s like to live in the other girl’s shoes. Not as dark of a story as some of the others on this list, but it has its moments.
7. A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller (Early 1900s England)
My introduction to Sharon Biggs Waller! This is mostly a suffrage story, but I tend to like those. Victoria is supposed to lead the quiet life of a well-bred socialite and aristocrat. But that’s not the life she wants. When she poses nude for an art class, Vicky quickly becomes disgraced and expelled from her French finishing school. Now she has to make choices about what she wants from her life, how she can meet those goals, and whether or not she can live with her family’s rules. For those who like historical fictions, this book walks the line between those big debutante balls of the aristocratic world and the hard working-class world of this same time period. It’s a really cool dichotomy.
8. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (Medieval Brittany)
I swear, this book makes it on to every other Top Ten. So, quick recap, we’re in medieval Brittany (which is now part of northern France) where we follow assassins from a secret abbey who are often called in to help deal with traitors and other affairs of state. Sure, it’s a bit on the paranormal side, but there’s also a ton of stuff about the relations between Brittany and France at this time. The girls totally rule this world, and it’s awesome. Seriously, just look at the weaponry she’s got!
9. The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (Middle East)
Another story of the Middle East! Sure, this is pretty much a retold fairytale and likely has little to do with actual geography or customs, but it’s crazy entertaining. A retelling of 1,001 Nights (which is the politically correct title for 1,001 Arabian Nights) we follow Shahrzad, a girl who is destined to just be another murdered wife of Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. Each night, Khalid marries and kills his wife…until Shahrzad. Awesome story, beautiful settings, and great characters.
10. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (England)
I was really interested in including this one on my list. Definitely paranormal, Rory is an American girl who moves to England with her parents just as a slew of brutal murders are occurring through London. The police don’t have any leads…except that Rory thinks she saw the prime suspect, who happens to be a ghost. It’s a mystery and a suspense novel, but it’s also hilarious and filled with a great cast of characters. I had so much fun reading this book. And you get to see quite a lot of London’s underbelly.
Honorable Mention: Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach (France), Destined by Jessie Harrell (Greece), Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick (Russia)