Philadelphia YA

A List of Young Adult Books Set in Philadelphia


by REBECCA, September 2, 2013

Yesterday was my two year Philaversary (anniversary of moving to Philly, that is)! So, obviously, I was too tanked on Bloody Marys to write this post last night. I love Philly, but, as cities go, it really doesn’t get the literary representation of a New York or an L.A. (though I have learned there are a number of mysteries set here). So, in honor of my Philaversary, here are 10  YA Reads Set in Philadelphia.

Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian

Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian

I love this book. Emily lives in suburban New Jersey, where her main joy in life has been to drink frothy Starbucks concoctions with her bestie. But what she hasn’t really acknowledged is her passion for art. So, when she starts a summer art program at an art school in Philadelphia, it isn’t just the city that throws her for a loop. Emily’s journey isn’t only about connecting with her art; it’s about finding her own voice and letting that unique perspective permeate every facet of her life. My full review is HERE.

Pretty LIttle Liars

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Ok, I have only watched the TV show, not read the books, but I love the show. Their fictional town of Rosewood is 20 miles from Philly, on the Main Line, so the girls go into Philly often.

“Three years ago, Alison disappeared after a slumber party, not to be seen since. Her friends at the elite Pennsylvania school mourned her, but they also breathed secret sighs of relief. Each of them guarded a secret that only Alison had known. Now they have other dirty little secrets, secrets that could sink them in their gossip-hungry world. When each of them begins receiving anonymous emails and text messages, panic sets in. Are they being betrayed by some one in their circle? Worse yet: Is Alison back?”

Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart

Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart

“It is 1876, the year of the Centennial in Philadelphia and Katherine has recently lost her twin sister Anna in a tragic skating acci­dent. The loss haunts and threatens to suffocate her, and one wickedly hot September day, Katherine sets out for the exhibition grounds to end the life she no longer wants to live. But Katherine’s not as alone as she thinks, and a surprise encounter may just save her from her own tragic end.”

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

“It’s late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn’t get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family’s coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie’s concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family’s small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie’s struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight-the fight to stay alive.”

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

This one doesn’t necessarily look like it’s my speed, but it sounds charming for folks who like romantic-y type books. Also, “Love Walks In” is one of my favorite Van Halen songs, so . . .

“When Martin Grace enters the hip Philadelphia coffee shop Cornelia Brown manages, her life changes forever. But little does she know that her newfound love is only the harbinger of greater changes to come. Meanwhile, across town, Clare Hobbs—eleven years old and abandoned by her erratic mother—goes looking for her lost father. She crosses paths with Cornelia while meeting with him at the café, and the two women form an improbable friendship that carries them through the unpredictable currents of love and life.”

Creating Monsters by Christopher Rankin

Creating Monsters by Christopher Rankin

I don’t remember where the hell I heard about this book, but it looks super interesting!

“In modern Philadelphia, where a deep economic depression has left the city near collapse and most of its inhabitants in gruesome poverty, Mitchell Gray, a twenty-year-old graduate student in a beleaguered university physics department, spends most of his time playing piano and touring the city’s worst slums in stolen cars. He is a technical virtuoso whose scientific ideas challenge the foundations of his field but he lives in hiding from one of the world’s most powerful billionaires, a man obsessed with the quiet Mitchell and determined to capitalize on his strange inventions. When Mitchell falls in love with an older woman, the wife of a wealthy pharmaceutical executive, their relationship inspires him with a mad plan use his creations to change the world. With the help of a brilliant and neurotic chemistry student named Charlie Nolan and technology so advanced that it resembles magic, Mitchell devises horrifying yet harmless schemes and supernatural hoaxes, causing an uproar in the city.”

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

“The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia . . .  Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—the Dead are rising in Philadelphia. If Eleanor is going to find her brother, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.”

The Philadelphia Adventure by Lloyd Alexander

The Philadelphia Adventure (Vesper Holly #5) by Lloyd Alexander

Well, since our blog’s name is inspired by a Lloyd Alexander character, it delights me to find out that Alexander wrote a Philly book. “Vesper Holly has foiled murderers, crossed mountains, and narrowly escaped earthquakes. Now she’s home in Philadelphia, where she can relax—until President Ulysses S. Grant asks for her help. The Centennial Exposition of 1876 is about to begin, and luminaries from around the world will be there. But so will Vesper’s arch-nemesis, the evil Doctor Helvetius. There’s only one person who can thwart his evil plans—Vesper Holly!”

Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago

Rise of the Corpses (The Undertakers #1) by Ty Drago

“‘On a sunny Wednesday morning in October, a day that would mark the end of one life and the beginning of another, I found out my grouchy next door neighbor was the walking dead. When you turn around expecting to see something familiar, and instead see something else altogether, it takes a little while for your brain to catch up with your eyes. I call it the ‘Holy Crap Factor.’ Forced to flee his home and family, twelve-year-old Will Ritter falls in with the Undertakers-a rag-tag army of teenage resistance fighters who’ve banded together to battle the Corpses.”

Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart

Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart

“Ever since her mother passed away, Katie’s been alone in her too-big house with her genius dad, who restores old paintings for a living. Katie takes a summer job at a garden estate, where, with the help of two brothers and a glamorous librarian, she soon becomes embroiled in decoding a mystery. There are secrets and shadows at the heart of Nothing but Ghosts: symbols hidden in a time-darkened painting, and surprises behind a locked bedroom door. But most of all, this is a love story—the story of a girl who learns about love while also learning to live with her own ghosts.”

Am I missing your favorite Philly-adjacent book? Tell me in the comments!



  1. Lynn

     /  February 25, 2014

    I found your post because I was looking for YA in Philly (but rather hoping it wasn’t too young and angsty. Looks like I’m out of luck.) I know one that is for a younger audience, (MG–for the tween crowd) called “Maniac Magee.” It’s interesting mostly in that it’s set around this city, (well close to it), and Magee is an interesting kid, but, truthfully, eh. It didn’t do it for me.

    Two problems though:
    1. I’m in my 50s but still like YA.
    2. I’m writing an MG set in Philly, and was looking for the unusual.

    Thanks for the reviews, but none of them did it for me.

    • Hi Lynn,

      I didn’t remember that Maniac Magee was set near Philly, thanks—I loved that book as a kid.

      Well, in terms of looking for “the unusual” in terms of Philly, if you’re looking for material for your book, have you checked out Hidden City Philadelphia? ( They have some pretty cool essays and photos of Philly unusualness (and usualness, of course).

      Good luck with the book!

  2. Margalit

     /  September 4, 2013

    Wasn’t “The Lovely Bones” Philly-adjacent? And then there’s Judy Blume’s “Blubber”!

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