Throughout his life Charles Dickens published fifteen novels. His works did not only seek to entertain; they were also known for social commentary. Oliver Twist shows the struggles of a poor orphan, forced to rely on his own wits for survival. A Christmas Carol sheds light on the hardships of the lower class. Bleak House shares the hypocrisy of British Society at the time of his writing.

In the spirit of Dickens, in honor of his 208th birthday, here are some SparkPress books that follow his proud tradition of using fiction to expose lesser-noticed aspects of society and comment on them.

Seventh Flag by Sid Balman, Jr.

In this epic novel, Balman explores what constitutes identity and citizenship, even delving into radicalization. He follows two families, the Laws and the Zarksans, for over 70 years as they live in West Texas. The friendship forged between these two families shapes each generation.

Squirrels in the Wall by Henry Hitz

This dark yet whimsical novel touches on topics like abuse, death, and the bonds of family and community. It follows the Blatz family and the animals that make up the ecosystem in which they live, from Barney Blatz’s childhood through death.

A Song for the Road by Rayne Lacko

Following the tradition of Oliver Twist, this YA novel features a young man relying on his wits and skills (both on the guitar and in the kitchen) to survive. Carter is only fifteen when a tornado destroys his Tulsa home, leaving his mother in the hospital. He soon embarks on a cross-country road trip to find his dad.

Sarah’s War by Eugenia Lovett West

Set during the American Revolutionary War, this novel follows a young Patriot, determined to avenge her brother who was killed in battle. She is sent to live with her aunt, who trains her to act like a Loyalist to inform the Patriots. It questions the nature of loyalty, love, and family.

The House Children by Heidi Daniele

This research-driven novel exposes what living inside Ireland’s most infamous industrial school was actually like. It follows Peg, an orphan living there, who discovers that the mother in the kind host family who takes her on summer holiday with them, is her birth mother.

Child Bride* by Jennifer Smith Turner

Nell’s story in Child Bride brings to light the unique oppression of African American women in the mid-1900s. They were