Though it may be a popular genre, only a select few historical fiction books about World War II truly capture the nuance and danger of that period of time in our world’s history.
Historical fiction books are more important now than ever. Without knowing where we’ve been and putting ourselves into the shoes of others just like us who lived through some of the most influential times and events in history, we can’t possibly move forward in the ways that we want to. In the ways that truly matter.
All of the World War II novels on this list help us do just that.
From alternative histories that add in interesting “What If?”s that highlight certain aspects of life at that time to novels that focus on the amazing (and, many times, untold) contributions and accomplishments of women in wartime, these novels run the gamut of the human experience during one of the most fascinating yet harrowing periods of history.
That’s why we’ve deemed them to be truly…
The best historical fiction books about World War II
‘The Alice Network’ by Kate Quinn
The Alice Network is a must-read novel in this particular genre. It’s the novel by which all other World War II historical fiction books are measured against, honestly. Combining intrigue and heart-wrenching scenes of love and loss, this enthralling story puts the reader right in the middle of the chaos surrounding World War II.
‘Nadya’s War’ by C.S. Taylor
Though there’s another title on this list that incorporates the perspective of one of Russia’s infamous Night Witches, this is the only one of the World War II novels here that’s told completely from a non-Western viewpoint. We’ve all encountered the experience of World War II from Americans’ and Brits’ perspectives, but what did the war look like for Russians, who originally had a non-aggression agreement with Germany? Who had very staunch rules and hierarchies in place, even in wartime? Who lived in a culture of fear even *before* the war? Nadya’s War by C.S. Taylor gives us a really interesting glimpse into a life we couldn’t otherwise imagine.
‘The Lost Letter’ by Jillian Cantor
Like The Alice Network, this is another historical fiction novel told not only from two different perspectives, but also from two different time periods. An intriguing stamp on an even more intriguing letter set into motion a fascinating investigation and search for truth. This is one of those books that will grab you from the very beginning and won’t let you go until you’ve finished it.
‘The Secret of Raven Point’ by Jennifer Vanderbes
What a beautifully crafted novel. Its depiction of war and suffering, especially that which was experienced by hospitalized soldiers, is gut wrenching and powerful. It may be hard to read at times because of its vivid imagery, but its violence and gore are not without purpose. The descriptions paired with the main character’s search for her brother will leave you weepy, but it’s all worth it.
‘Code Name Verity’ by Elizabeth Wein
This is another one of those World War II books that’s a must-read in the genre. From the beginning of the novel, it’s clear that the narrator is an unreliable one (as she’s a female spy), but the tale she weaves for her captors about her experience, relationships, and secrets that she knows will keep you glued to the page until the very end.
The Front Lines series by Michael Grant
I’ve gone on and on about how I love Michael Grant’s Front Lines series here on Hypable previously, but it deserves mention once more. Though it’s a slight alternate history (in that women are able to serve in combat and on the front lines in this series), the events in this novel were painstakingly researched and very closely reflect reality here. Though it may be hard to read at times, this is truly one of the best series that you’ve never read.
‘Girl in the Blue Coat’ by Monica Hesse
Some of the best depictions of what life was like during World War II are those that take place far from the front lines but, instead, focus on the people trying to live their lives as normally as possible (given the circumstances). Girl in the Blue Coat follows a young woman who’s trying to do just that while also trying to do her part to help the resistance. When she’s asked to track down a young girl who has gone missing, we follow her as she discovers just how dangerous the Nazi influence over her town (and country) has become.
(Also, take a close look at that cover… You may see an extra endorsement from us on there…)
‘The Kennedy Debutante’ by Kerri Maher
You may be somewhat familiar with or aware of the Kennedy family, but how much do you know about Kit Kennedy? Very little, probably. Her life and legacy isn’t discussed nearly as much as her brother’s. But Kerri Maher’s The Kennedy Debutante gives Kit her due, and then some. Inspired by true events, this novel tells the tale of Kit’s aspirations and struggles amongst the backdrop of World War II. Taking place largely in London (rather than the United States), it may make you see the second world war in a new light.
‘The Lost Girls of Paris’ by Pam Jenoff
If you’re in the mood for a good cry, you’ll want to pick up Pam Jenoff’s newest release The Lost Girls of Paris. Like other novels on this list, it focuses on the brave women who gave their lives to become spies for their country during the war (and don’t nearly get the credit they’re due). It both affirms the strength of ordinary women in the face of adversity and exposes the rampant sexism that led to many of their downfall.
‘The Huntress’ by Kate Quinn
As much as we’d like to think that justice was served after World War II, Kate Quinn’s The Huntress shows us that that wasn’t always the case. This historical fiction book tells the story of a Nazi murderess that disappeared after the war and the group of disparate individuals working to bring her to justice for her horrendous crimes. What follows is a fascinating dive into how the war affected individuals and the consequences of trying to move on from and forget the events of the second world war.
‘The Flight Girls’ by Noelle Salazar
While there are many unsung heroes of World War II, there were few groups who received less recognition than the brave civilian women who flew in the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) program. These courageous female pilots supported men during the war by ferrying their planes and helping their male counterparts in any way that they could. Noelle Salazar’s The Flight Girls is a wonderful novel that depicts just what life was like for these civilian pilots, both in the air and in their interpersonal relationships.
Bonus: Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf series
Okay, so this series doesn’t technically take place during or around World War II as we know it but, like the Front Lines series, its alternate history take on events give us much to think about. Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf series deals very directly with the fallout of if the Nazis had won the war and the world was thrown into a perpetual World War II-atmosphere forever. In a time where nationalism is rearing its ugly head across the globe once again, this series is a great reminder of what can happen if we start down that path once again.