I wrote last year about how I’ve become a much more consistent audiobook listener and with that, I’ve become interested in digging into audiobook performers. I definitely have my preferences, and those preferences are influenced in part by the fact I listen to my audiobooks at 1.25 speed. I want someone who is engaging, who has a compelling reading voice, and someone who seems genuinely invested in the book they’re reading. Since I tend to stick to nonfiction, this last aspect is especially important: I’ve listened to audiobooks by readers who are very clearly bored by the topic at hand, and that has translated to my listening experience and my take on the book has been impacted.
But one thing I’ve found I do enjoy is when the author of a book is the performer of the book. Certainly, this takes skill, but I have discovered that I’m far more forgiving because it’s always clear their investment in the content of the book, since they have such ownership over it.
Find below a roundup of some of the YA authors who narrate their own audiobooks. What I especially love in this list is that many of these are verse books, and there’s something especially powerful about hearing verse read aloud by the creator. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but rather, a look at some of the awesome YA audiobooks out there performed by the author.
I’ve used Audible descriptions here because as much as I read, I haven’t read all of these. Maybe some day! And maybe many of them will be read on audio. Upcoming titles have pub months noted beside the title.
YA Authors Who Narrate Their Own YA Audiobooks
Anger Is A Gift by Mark Oshiro
Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks. Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals in their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and the Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.
Ash by Malinda Lo
In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love – and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.
Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson (May)
“I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.”
Shaun David Hutchinson was 19. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him.
A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality.
Thankfully, Shaun survived, and over time, came to embrace how grateful he is and how to find self-acceptance. In this courageous and deeply honest memoir, Shaun takes listeners through the journey of what brought him to the edge and what has helped him truly believe it does get better.
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance.
At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge – for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle.
The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?
Written in powerfully inventive language and bursting with heart, Bridge of Clay is signature Zusak.
brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.
The first time, she’s 14, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick.
The second time, she’s 17, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.
After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina – and about the secret they shared.
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepytes (October)
Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is 18-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography – and fate – introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War – as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.
Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history’s darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence – inspired by the true postwar struggles of Spain.
Girl Mogul by Tiffany Pham
Welcome to Girl Mogul! No matter who you are or where you come from, this audiobook can help you define success, envision it, and make it happen – in school, in your personal life, and at work. Get ready to awaken all the awesomeness that is already inside of you.
You are fierce. You are bold. You are unique. You are driven. You are inspiring. You are a girl mogul.
Tiffany Pham, founder and CEO of Mogul, created one of the most successful platforms for girls worldwide, reaching millions of people to enact true change in their lives, after receiving thousands of emails asking for advice. In Girl Mogul, she speaks directly to teens and young adults, sharing insights from her own life as well as from the lives of the most incredible and inspiring women on Mogul. Tiffany has proven that with the right attitude, the right people, and the right vision, there’s nothing girls can’t do.
I Don’t Want To Be Crazy by Samantha Schutz
This is a true story of growing up, breaking down, and coming to grips with a psychological disorder.
When Samantha Schutz first left home for college, she was excited by the possibilities – freedom from parents, freedom from a boyfriend who was reckless with her affections, freedom from the person she was supposed to be. At first, she revelled in the independence…but as pressures increased, she began to suffer anxiety attacks that would leave her mentally shaken and physically incapacitated. Thus began a hard road of discovery and coping, powerfully rendered in this poetry memoir.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
An ode to “Put the Damn Guns Down”, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times best seller Jason Reynolds’ fiercely stunning novel that takes place in 60 potent seconds – the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.
A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what 15-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun.
He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually used his gun. Bigger huh.
Buck is dead. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, misses.
And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an end…if Will gets off that elevator.
Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Take two American teen chefs, add one heaping cup of Paris, toss in a pinch of romance, and stir….
Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent’s school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn’t all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes.
Henry Yi grew up in his dad’s restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent’s school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie’s growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away.
Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs.
Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love à la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.
Love From A to Z by SK Ali (May 2019)
A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes – because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.
An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.
Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.
Then her path crosses with Adam’s.
Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.
Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.
Until a marvel and an oddity occurs….
Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
A timely and powerful story about a teen girl from a poor neighborhood striving for success, from acclaimed author Renee Watson.
Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.
Two podcasts this week! Eric and I talked about plant-loving teens and the rise of music in 2019 YA books on Hey YA, and I cohosted All The Books with Liberty this week, highlighting so many great books across a variety of genres and categories. If you like historical disease books….we really offer up a pile of books about the plague.
I forgot last week to link to my recent work at School Library Journal: here are 8 YA BookTubers you’ll want to know!
In the past few years, the majority of my reading has shifted to audiobooks. While I still read about two books per month in print, audiobooks now occupy the prime spot in my reading life. Just this year, 20 of the 27 books I’ve read so far have been in audio format. With so many books read on audio, the narrator is so important. I’ve spoken about my perennial favorites some in previous posts, but I thought I’d highlight a few new favorites here. These are narrators I’ve discovered more recently whose name in an audiobook credit makes me more likely to check out that book in the first place.
Ruth Ware is one of my favorite new authors of recent years, and I’ve read all four of her books on audio. Imogen Church narrates all of them, and her voice has come to define Ware’s complicated, human characters and her moody, murderous settings. Church’s voice is ever-so-slightly deeper than the average woman’s voice, and she paces her narration well, both aspects which heighten the tension and add to the atmospheric feel of these fantastic mysteries.
Sometimes when I listen to an audiobook, I just want a deep, commanding, British accent to narrate the story. Robert Glenister has the voice for the job. He narrates the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling, and he does a fantastic job. He voices male characters perfectly, is better than average with female characters, and makes even the most tedious parts of the books (and there are a few, as Rowling can get a bit too wordy and bogged down in the details sometimes) immersive.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan was one of my favorite books of 2018, and that’s largely thanks to Stephanie Hsu, who narrates the audiobook. Unlike some other narrators of YA, she doesn’t make the main character’s voice seem artificially young. Instead, her voice sounds realistically like a teenager’s, which aren’t necessarily higher-pitched than that of other women who may be in their 20s or 30s. Making an adult narrator’s voice sound like it belongs to a teen has something to do with pitch, but in my experience as a listener, it has more to do with cadence and tone. And of course, Pan’s superb writing helps significantly.
Huber is quickly becoming one of my go-to narrators for adult fiction. She narrated two literary scifi books I really enjoyed, Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton and The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones, and in each case, her narration was clear, careful, and paced perfectly. She has the kind of voice that sounds full and feels full of meaning when she narrates, much like that of Kirsten Potter (one of those perennial favorites I alluded to in my intro).
Kramer narrated the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, which I somehow missed as an avid adult fantasy reader in my early 20s and have only finally gotten around to reading now. Kramer’s work definitely added to my enjoyment of the doorstopper books, whose page counts and tiny print can be intimidating. He does well voicing all characters, though he’s best at male characters (his female character voicing sounds a bit too breathy/soft for my liking, a common flaw in male-voiced audiobooks). He’s particularly good at voicing slight accents for characters of different races or regions of Sanderson’s world so that it’s immediately obvious who is speaking, no dialogue tag required.
The YA world has loved Bahni Turpin for a while, but I’ve only recently listened to some of her work. She does a fantastic job in Children of Blood and Bone as primary narrator and is by far the standout narrator in Ellen Goodlett’s Rule, which is told in three different perspectives by three different narrators. I also appreciated her work in Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation. Turpin is great at imbuing emotion into every word without her voice coming across as exaggerated, which I feel is a common flaw in narration for children’s audiobooks. Her speaking voice is also unique; I’d be able to pick it out from a big group of other voices and name hers immediately.
Book titles aren’t under copyright, though as anyone who has spent time reading books or thinking about them can attest, book titles can definitely be subject to trends. Back in the late 00s and early 10s, we had a wave of single-word YA book titles. Think Twilight, think Fallen, think the whole host of paranormal titles in that area. We’ve also had ups and downs with the title trend of threes: Kale, My Ex, and Other Things To Toss In A Blender; Airports, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over; and others. Right now, we’re in the midst of a host of YA book titles about the Queen of blank-and-blank, with lots of shadows, lots of dust, and lots of thorns, thrones, and crowns sprinkled in.
On one hand, these are super helpful trends from a reader advisory perspective. Chances are, those trends emerge within a genre or type of mood within a book and therefore, make it easy to connect books to a reader who likes something similarly titled. On the other hand, well, it’s super easy to forget the full titles, to confuse them with one another, or to see them all as literally the same thing when they aren’t.
And then there are times when book titles are coincidentally the exact same thing. Like when book covers use the same stock image — something we’re finally seeing less of in the world of YA! — book title twins can be confusing as much as they can be amusing. I’ve pulled together a short list of YA books with the same title or titles that are extremely similar, including front and back list picks, that would make for a fun book display. This is far from comprehensive, but if you know of other great YA book title twins, tell me about ’em in the comments.
Descriptions for each title are from Goodreads.
YA Book Title Twins
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
A music-loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.
Melati Ahmad looks like your typical moviegoing, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.
But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.
With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.
The Weight of The Sky by Lisa Ann Sandell
Sarah, like every college-bound junior, deals with constant pressure from teachers, friends, and parents. Besides that, she’s a marching band geek and the only Jew in her class. So when she gets a chance to spend the summer on a kibbutz in Israel, Sarah jumps at the opportunity to escape her world. But living in Israel brings new complications, and when the idyllic world Sarah creates suddenly shatters, she finds herself longing for the home she thought she’d outgrown.
This lyrical novel beautifully captures the experience of leaving behind a life that’s too small, and the freedom of searching for a place with a perfect fit.
If you’re wondering, the “other F-word” in both of these cases is not the same.
The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend
A fresh, humorous, and timely YA novel about two teens conceived via in vitro fertilization who go in search for answers about their donor.
Milo has two great moms, but he’s never known what it’s like to have a dad. When Milo’s doctor suggests asking his biological father to undergo genetic testing to shed some light on Milo’s extreme allergies, he realizes this is a golden opportunity to find the man he’s always wondered about.
Hollis’s mom Leigh hasn’t been the same since her other mom, Pam, passed away seven years ago. But suddenly, Leigh seems happy—giddy, even—by the thought of reconnecting with Hollis’s half-brother Milo. Hollis and Milo were conceived using the same sperm donor. They met once, years ago, before Pam died.
Now Milo has reached out to Hollis to help him find their donor. Along the way, they locate three other donor siblings, and they discover the true meaning of the other F-word: family.
The Other F-Word edited by Angie Manfredi
Chubby. Curvy. Fluffy. Plus-size. Thick. Fat. The time has come for fat people to tell their own stories. The (Other) F Word combines personal essays, prose, poetry, fashion tips, and art to create a relatable and attractive guide about body image and body positivity. This YA crossover anthology is meant for people of all sizes who desire to be seen and heard in a culture consumed by a narrow definition of beauty. By combining the talents of renowned fat YA and middle-grade authors, as well as fat influencers and creators, The (Other) F Word offers teen readers and activists of all ages a guide for navigating our world with confidence and courage.
All Our Broken Pieces by LD Crichton
“You can’t keep two people who are meant to be together apart for long…”
Lennon Davis doesn’t believe in much, but she does believe in the security of the number five. If she flicks the bedroom light switch five times, maybe her new L.A. school won’t suck. But that doesn’t feel right, so she flicks the switch again. And again. Ten more flicks of the switch and maybe her new step family will accept her. Twenty-five more flicks and maybe she won’t cause any more of her loved ones to die. Fifty times more and then she can finally go to sleep.
Kyler Benton witnesses this pattern of lights from the safety of his treehouse in the yard next door. It is only there, hidden from the unwanted stares of his peers, that Kyler can fill his notebooks with lyrics that reveal the true scars of the boy behind the oversized hoodies and caustic humor. But Kyler finds that descriptions of blonde hair, sad eyes, and tapping fingers are beginning to fill the pages of his notebooks. Lennon, the lonely girl next door his father has warned him about, infiltrates his mind. Even though he has enough to deal with without Lennon’s rumored tragic past in his life, Kyler can’t help but want to know the truth about his new muse.
Our Broken Pieces by Sarah White
The only thing worse than having your boyfriend dump you is having him dump you for your best friend. For Everly Morgan the betrayal came out of nowhere. One moment she had what seemed like the perfect high school relationship, and the next, she wanted to avoid the two most important people in her life. Every time she sees them kiss in the hallways her heart breaks a little more.
The last thing on Everly’s mind is getting into another relationship, but when she meets Gabe in her therapist’s waiting room she can’t deny their immediate connection. Somehow he seems to understand Everly in a way that no one else in her life does, and maybe it’s because Gabe also has experience grappling with issues outside of his control. Just because they share so many of the same interests and there is an undeniable spark between them doesn’t mean Everly wants anything more than friendship. After all, when you only barely survived your last breakup, is it really worth risking your heart again?
The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez
Amelia is used to being upstaged by her charismatic younger sister, Charly. She doesn’t mind, mostly, that it always falls to her to cover for Charly’s crazy, impulsive antics. But one night, Charly’s thoughtlessness goes way too far, and she lands both sisters in serious trouble.
Amelia’s not sure she can forgive Charly this time, and not sure she wants to . . . but forgiveness is beside the point. Because Charly is also hiding a terrible secret, and the truth just might tear them apart forever.
The Spaces Between Us by Stacia Tolman
Two outcast best friends are desperate to survive senior year and break away from their rural factory town.
Serena Velasco and her best friend Melody Grimshaw are dying to get out of their shrinking factory town. Until now, they’ve been coasting, eluding the bleakness of home and the banality of high school. In a rebellious turn, Serena begins to fixate on communism, hoping to get a rise out of her blue-collar factory town. Her Western Civ teacher catches on and gives her an independent study of class and upward mobility—what creates the spaces between us. Meanwhile, Grimshaw sets goals of her own: to make it onto the cheerleading squad, find a job, and dismantle her family’s hopeless reputation. But sometimes the biggest obstacles are the ones you don’t see coming; Grimshaw’s quest for success becomes a fight for survival, and Serena’s independent study gets a little too real. With the future of their friendship and their lives on the line, the stakes have never been so high.
Permanent Record by Mary HK Choi
After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.
Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.
When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out…
Permanent Record by Leslie Stella
Being yourself can be such a bad idea.
For sixteen-year-old Badi Hessamizadeh, life is a series of humiliations. After withdrawing from public school under mysterious circumstances, Badi enters Magnificat Academy. To make things “easier,” his dad has even given him a new name: Bud Hess. Grappling with his Iranian-American identity, clinical depression, bullying, and a barely bottled rage, Bud is an outcast who copes by resorting to small revenges and covert acts of defiance, but the pressures of his home life, plummeting grades, and the unrequited affection of his new friend, Nikki, prime him for a more dangerous revolution. Strange letters to the editor begin to appear in Magnificat’s newspaper, hinting that some tragedy will befall the school. Suspicion falls on Bud, and he and Nikki struggle to uncover the real culprit and clear Bud’s name.
Permanent Record explodes with dark humor, emotional depth, and a powerful look at the ways the bullied fight back.
I’m perpetually hung up on this one, in part because the main characters are named Grace, so the titles cleverly allude to that.
The Fall of Grace by Amy Fellner Dominy
Grace’s junior year is turning into her best year yet. She’s set to make honor roll, her print from photography class might win a national contest, and her crush just asked her to prom.
Then the bottom falls out. News breaks that the investment fund her mom runs is a scam and her mother is a thief. Now, instead of friends, the FBI is at her door. Grace is damaged goods.
Millions of dollars are unaccounted for, and everyone wants to know where all the money went. Can she find it and clear her mother’s name?
The key to repairing her shattered life seems to lie in a place deep in the wilderness, and Grace sets out, her identity hidden, determined to find it.
But she isn’t alone.
Sam Rivers, a mysterious loner from school, is on her trail and wants to know exactly what secrets she uncovers. As the pair travels into the wilds, Grace realizes she must risk everything on the dark, twisted path to the truth.
The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas
“Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost.”
Grace is autistic and has her own way of looking at the world. She’s got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that’s pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn’t make much sense to her any more.
Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it’s up to Grace to fix it on her own.
Retellings of fairy tales and classic stories are always popular, and it’s even better when the retelling focuses on people who have traditionally been excluded from the fairy tale/classics canon. This booklist features YA retellings of fairy tales and other well-known stories with queer characters as the leads. Are there any I missed?
His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler (forthcoming September 24)
Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.
Contributors include Kendare Blake (reimagining “Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morge”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).
Charming by Mette Bach (companion to Cinders)
Seventeen-year-old Char has studied music, but didn’t think of it as a future until she posted a video of herself singing and it went viral. So now, instead of going to queer youth events or taking part in the Gay Lesbian Alliance, Char spends her time figuring out how to get enough online fame to fuel a singing career. When one of her videos is bombarded with vicious online comments she is pleased to find an app that offers support and encouragement to people who are being bullied online.
Using the handle Charming, Char gets to know the creator and moderator of the app, who calls herself Cinders. Cinders inspires Char to reconsider her obsession with having the ideal online presence and concentrate on who she really is. But when Cinders turns out to be Ash, a shy girl who goes to the same school, Char must find a way to show Ash how much she means to her.
With a modern female version of Prince Charming as the main character, Charming expands the story of the fairy-tale prince to one of a teen girl who learns the true nature of fame and love.
Cinders by Mette Bach (companion to Charming)
Seventeen-year-old Ash has been living with her mother in her mother’s boyfriend’s house, along with his daughter Mimi and son Noah. When Ash’s mother dies, Ash stays so she can attend a high school with a top coding program. But her stepsiblings take advantage of Ash’s precarious living situation, with Mimi posting embarrassing pictures of Ash online and Noah making her do his homework. Ash’s only solace is the social media app she has developed to support people who are being bullied online.
Using the handle Cinders, Ash starts chatting online with a girl who calls herself Charming. They become close, without ever meeting in person. When Ash finds out that Charming is Char, an aspiring singer who goes to her school, she admires her courage in identifying herself as a lesbian and singing about it. Char helps Ash see her own strength in not letting her situation cause her to be bitter, but instead using it to reach out to help others. For the first time since her mother died, Ash feels like someone sees that she is special and is there for her.
With a modern version of Cinderella as the main character, Cinders tells the story of a teen girl who overcomes adversity and bullying with kindness and compassion.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone has never beat at all, in fact, but shed always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the kings heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that shell have to become a stepmother.
Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queens image, at her fathers order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do and who to be to win back the only mother shes ever known or else defeat her once and for all.
Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.
Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother in East Hampton. This year is no different. She sticks out like a sore thumb among the teenagers who have been summering (a verb only the very rich use) together for years. But Naomi finds herself captivated by her mysterious next-door neighbor, Jacinta. Jacinta has her own reason for drawing close to Naomi-to meet the beautiful and untouchable Delilah Fairweather. But Jacinta’s carefully constructed world is hiding something huge, a secret that could undo everything. And Naomi must decide how far she is willing to be pulled into this web of lies and deception before she is unable to escape.
Based on a beloved classic and steeped in Sara Benincasa’s darkly comic voice, Great has all the drama, glitz, and romance with a terrific modern (and scandalous) twist to enthrall readers.
Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait. In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.
Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.
The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell (forthcoming January 21, 2020)
From a New York Times bestselling author, a queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” in which teenage twins battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family.
Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes.
In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.
The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember
Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.
Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.
The Secrets of Eden by Brandon Goode
When Eden discovers he possesses forbidden magic, keeping his affair with the crown prince a secret becomes the least of his worries.
Eden has always obeyed the laws of Rolaria. He spends his days teaching children how to read in order to distract him from his mother’s bizarre disappearance. She worked in the castle before suddenly vanishing, and when Eden mistakenly receives an invitation to the Royal Ball, he goes to feel closer to her.
That same night, Prince Jared must find a bride. But after an unexpected encounter between Eden and the prince, a relationship begins. After a night with the prince, Eden explores the castle on his own. Lost in the corridors, he stumbles upon a hidden room and finds his mother’s journal, whose pages reveal a lineage of outlawed magic.
He soon realizes the castle walls not only hide his romance with Jared but secrets about his mother’s disappearance. In order to unravel the mystery and understand his awakening abilities, Eden must risk exposing his relationship and thwarting Jared’s chances to rule Rolaria.
The closer Eden gets to the truth, the closer he finds himself facing the same fate as his mother.
Just Julian by Markus Harwood-Jones (companion to Romeo for Real)
Nineteen-year-old Julian doesn’t see any point to life. After years of bullying at school, he is so depressed that his single mother must stay home from work to care for him, and the only outlet for his feelings is his artwork. He sees a glimmer of hope after meeting the similarly out-of-place Romeo at a party and sharing a kiss with him. But Romeo has always identified as straight — and he hangs out with a group of guys who hurt Julian’s friend Paris and harassed his cousin Ty.
But Julian can’t deny his attraction to Romeo, who is confused about his feelings and embarrassed by his past behaviour. As the two begin to fall in love, Julian finds strength he never knew he had, coming out from hiding behind his paintings and brokering peace between Romeo and Ty. But Romeo’s old friends come after the couple, resulting in a vicious fight that puts both Julian and Romeo in the hospital. With the encouragement of Mrs. Duke, Paris’s mother and Romeo’s vice-principal, the two boys decide to take a stand for their right for respect.
Romeo for Real by Markus Harwood-Jones (companion to Just Julian)
On the surface, Romeo has it all: success on the basketball court, a group of good friends, the companionship of the beautiful Rosie. Deep down, he knows something is wrong: All he feels for Rosie is friendship, and all he feels for his friends’ intolerance is guilt. Everything changes when he meets the openly gay Julian at a party and finds himself sharing a kiss with him. In spite of their obvious attraction, Romeo now feels less sure of himself than ever, and leaves without even telling Julian his name.
With Rosie’s support, Romeo begins exploring his sexuality — and ends up running into Julian again. Realizing how little he knows about other sexual orientations and gender identities, Romeo begins to see the world in a whole new light, and he and Julian begin to fall in love. But his homophobic friends and family can’t accept him as gay. After a violent confrontation with one of his old friends, Romeo becomes determined to prove that his love for Julian is real and right.
Ash by Malinda Lo
In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.
Marian by Ella Lyons
When Marian Banner moves to the glittering city of Nottingham with her father, Sir Erik the Fortunate, her entire life changes. She is no longer allowed to run about the countryside in trousers and braids, climbing fences and shooting turkeys, but is thrust into a life of dresses and jewels and dancing lessons, none of which Marian is particularly pleased about. Her dark mood changes when she meets a tiny whip of a girl called Robin Hood. Robin is fierce and brave, and wants more than anything to become a knight, regardless of her gender. Together they explore the city, becoming fast friends along the way.
As time passes, their friendship into something bigger and scarier and far more wonderful. But then Marian’s father is killed in service to the king and she catches the king’s eye.
Can Robin save her once more? Or will Marian discover how to save herself?
Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.
All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell
Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.
From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.
The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston
The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.
Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.
When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as..
We’ve been blogging at STACKED for ten years now, meaning that we have a whole host of backlist posts worth highlighting periodically. Likewise, I’ve got a whole collection of things I’ve written at Book Riot and elsewhere around the web, and sometimes, rather than reinventing the wheel, it feels worthwhile to draw those pieces together in one centralized place. This is particularly the case when there’s a topic worth talking about that has been talked about extensively before.
A couple of years ago, I pooled together a post of links relating to horror and young adult horror, and today, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, it feels like a good time to gather some of the best of my writing on mental health and wellness in one place.
I often get asked to talk about how it is gatekeepers, especially teachers and librarians, can be advocates for mental health for young people. The answer is being open and honest with them, both in your own experiences, as well as in your own weaknesses. It’s okay to talk with teens about bad mental health days, just as it’s okay to be open about not understanding something they may be experiencing and then offering up to them resources that may help them find the help they’re looking for. In some cases, it’s a matter of wanting to talk and get it out there, without any expectation of needing help or to be fixed (which can’t happen — we can lead people to tools, but management comes from each person individually).
One thing that’s always helpful, especially for young people, is to offer them books and reading resources that can help them develop the language and understanding of what life is like with a brain that sometimes works and sometimes, well, might not work. The books included on the lists below are excellent tools and resources for cracking open some of these challenging, but vital, conversations about mental health.
Please note that some of the older backlist posts here at STACKED might look a little weird or image may be strange. When we shifted web hosts a few years ago, going back through archives to update didn’t turn into a priority. Everything is readable, though!
This week’s episode of Hey YA features a really fun guest, Alyssa Wees, author of the recently-released The Waking Forest. Eric, Alyssa, and I go deep into debut YA novels we love, as well as dive into dark fairy tales. This is a fun episode!
I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Ladies of the Fright podcast last week as well, talking about the Summer Scares program, as well as horror for young readers more broadly. I’m talking about my own history with horror, my life in libraries, and, of course, the three YA books selected as Summer Scares picks this year. Tune in here.
Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday by Natalie C. Anderson
A few years ago, Somalian teenager Abdi was kidnapped and forced by the CIA to go undercover in the jihadi group Al Shabaab. His brother was taken by Al Shabaab a few years earlier and has now bought into the group’s mission, becoming a leader himself. Abdi must ingratiate himself with the leaders of Al Shabaab, starting with his brother, and feed information back to the CIA agent, who holds the rest of his family hostage.
This story is interspersed with Abdi’s story in the present day, where he’s in the care of the UN in fictional Sangui City, Kenya, going to school as they try to find his family and some sort of permanent home for him. How Abdi got from the Al Shabaab camp in Somalia to Kenya unravels slowly, as does what exactly Abdi had to do to save himself and his family (and if he saved them at all) while there.
A child soldier’s life is a challenging topic to write about, but Anderson has a deft touch and writes Abdi well. His family is everything, and he’s scared of losing them, but also terrified of being brainwashed by Al Shabaab as his brother, someone he looked up to and admired, was. Groups like the real-life Al Shabaab use pieces of truth to tell lies, making them all the more alluring to young minds who are fed a diet of the same propaganda day after day. Even more terrifying, he’s unsure how far he’ll have to go within Al Shabaab – murder, suicide bombing, and more – in order to get the information the CIA agent demands in order to save his family. It’s easy to feel empathy for Abdi, even as he’s wracked with guilt in the present-day sections over his as-yet-unknown actions. I look forward to a lengthy author’s note at the end.
You Owe Me a Murder by Eileen Cook
I love a good high concept thriller, and Cook’s latest has a great one. Borrowing from Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, she reimagines it as Strangers on a Plane with two teenage girls. Kim is traveling to London on a school trip with a number of other students, including her newly-ex-boyfriend Connor, when she meets Nicki, a confident English girl on her gap year between high school and college. Nicki encourages Kim to act a little more brashly in the little time they have on the plane, and they both get drunk on some stolen liquor. In the midst of Kim’s drunkenness, she confides in Nicki about her antipathy toward Connor, and Nicki shares her disdain for her alcoholic mother. Wouldn’t it be great, Nicki says, if they each took care of the other’s problem? Kim, of course, thinks this idea of swapping murders is a joke, but when Connor is run over by a train soon into the trip, Nicki tells Kim that it was no accident, and she intends to hold Kim to her side of the bargain.
This is a fun thriller with twists and turns that don’t end at Nicki’s reappearance. Kim herself is hiding some secrets, and even seasoned thriller readers may be caught by surprise. Nicki uses coercion, blackmail, and threats to convince Kim to murder her mom, and I’ve found myself wondering why Nicki doesn’t just do it herself; she seems to have gotten away with Connor’s murder pretty neatly. But I try not to think too hard on that aspect and just enjoy the ride.
California by Edan Lepucki
This is the next in the line of Station Eleven readalikes I’ve been making my way through for the past few years. When I first saw this book in 2014, the year of its publication, I assumed it was your standard literary fiction about a miserable family and how their misery somehow defines what California is like, or something along those lines. Imagine my delight when I learned it was actually about the end of the world! Everyone is still miserable, but there’s a much more exciting backdrop.
In all seriousness, though, “miserable” is a bit of an exaggeration. The story opens several years after the sketchily-defined apocalypse (which I assume will grow more defined as the book progresses), and the two leads – married couple Frida and Cal – have managed to create a sustainable life in the wilderness outside the bounds of what used to be Los Angeles. They’re not happy, per se, but they seem relatively content, though greater challenges (running out of the soap they’ve carefully rationed, the dwindling opportunities for hunting) loom on the horizon. And then Frida finds herself pregnant, a surprise – the couple hadn’t been using protection for years, and Frida just assumed she was unable to bear children. But suddenly, the far-off problems become much more immediate, and the two decide to travel to the nearest settlement, believing it’s the only way their child will survive.
This definitely has a Station Eleven vibe, and I’m enjoying it a lot so far. Lepucki is good at introducing characters and plot elements and tweaking their interactions just slightly so that readers sense that something might be a little off – but they’re not quite sure what or why. It makes for an intriguing story that I’ve found myself sucked into pretty quickly.
Microtrends: the little commonalities among two, three, sometimes a few more, books that don’t necessarily make a trend but that stand out for being an interesting coincidence in time. Pulling together microtrends in YA is one of my favorite things. Because I read so much catalog copy and read so many reviews — it is my literal job to stay on top of these things, and I can’t read everything — I see a lot of interesting things that make me go “huh,” even if they aren’t full-scale trends.
It’s about this time of the year when those microtrends become clearer. 2019 isn’t half-way over, but nearly every book hitting shelves this year has been included in a publisher’s catalog, and most of them have their covers available. I always love when I’m looking up one thing and happen upon something else entirely and realize it’s something I’ve seen recently in another book.
This isn’t a comprehensive look at trends nor at microtrends, and it’s entirely possible that I’m missing books in each of these categories that would fit. I’d love to hear about those missing titles and/or any microtrends you’ve noticed this year. I’m not including things like vampires, because I’ve already dug into how vampires are back in YA for 2019 and 2020 (especially 2020!).
Explanations of the microtrend are all mine, and descriptions from Goodreads.
Girls in Denim Jackets
I’m not even a big fan of the 90s or its fashion, but this particular cover trend has got me feeling all kinds of excitement this year. I love it deeply.
The Babysitters Coven by Katie Williams (September 17)
Seventeen-year-old Esme Pearl has a babysitters club. She knows it’s kinda lame, but what else is she supposed to do? Get a job? Gross. Besides, Esme likes babysitting, and she’s good at it.
And lately Esme needs all the cash she can get, because it seems like destruction follows her wherever she goes. Let’s just say she owes some people a new tree.
Enter Cassandra Heaven. She’s Instagram-model hot, dresses like she found her clothes in a dumpster, and has a rebellious streak as gnarly as the cafeteria food. So why is Cassandra willing to do anything, even take on a potty-training two-year-old, to join Esme’s babysitters club?
The answer lies in a mysterious note Cassandra’s mother left her: “Find the babysitters. Love, Mom.”
Turns out, Esme and Cassandra have more in common than they think, and they’re about to discover what being a babysitter really means: a heroic lineage of superpowers, magic rituals, and saving the innocent from seriously terrifying evil. And all before the parents get home.
Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan (September 10)
It’s 1992, and there’s a rumor spreading in Baton Rouge…
When it comes to being social, Athena Graves is far more comfortable creating a mixtape playlist than she is talking to cute boys—or anyone, for that matter. Plus her staunchly feminist views and love of punk rock aren’t exactly mainstream at St. Ann’s, her conservative Catholic high school.
Then a malicious rumor starts spreading through the halls…a rumor that her popular, pretty, pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. A rumor that has the power to not only hurt Helen, but possibly see her expelled.
Despite their wildly contrasting views, Athena, Helen and their friends must find a way to convince the student body and the administration that it doesn’t matter what Helen did or didn’t do…even if their riot grrrl protests result in the expulsion of their entire rebel girl gang.
The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert (August 20)
Dove “Birdie” Randolph works hard to be the perfect daughter and follow the path her parents have laid out for her: She quit playing her beloved soccer, she keeps her nose buried in textbooks, and she’s on track to finish high school at the top of her class. But then Birdie falls hard for Booker, a sweet boy with a troubled past…whom she knows her parents will never approve of.
When her estranged aunt Carlene returns to Chicago and moves into the family’s apartment above their hair salon, Birdie notices the tension building at home. Carlene is sweet, friendly, and open-minded–she’s also spent decades in and out of treatment facilities for addiction. As Birdie becomes closer to both Booker and Carlene, she yearns to spread her wings. But when long-buried secrets rise to the surface, everything she’s known to be true is turned upside down.
Joan of Arc, Retold
There are two YA Joan of Arc stories this year. Both are historical fiction, and both are written in verse. I can’t entirely put my finger on why, since the 600th anniversary of her birth was in 2012. I’m not disliking it though, as she’s a fascinating person of history, and more, I love the fact both of these books get creative in format.
Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott (Available Now)
Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc’s life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood). Along the way it explores issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power. Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired. It is that girl we come to know in Voices.
The Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined by Stephanie Hemphill (June 11)
This extraordinary verse novel from award-winning author Stephanie Hemphill dares to imagine how an ordinary girl became a great leader, and ultimately saved a nation.
Jehanne was an illiterate peasant, never quite at home among her siblings and peers. Until one day, she hears a voice call to her, telling her she is destined for important things. She begins to understand that she has been called by God, chosen for a higher purpose—to save France.
Through sheer determination and incredible courage, Jehanne becomes the unlikeliest of heroes. She runs away from home, dresses in men’s clothes, and convinces an army that she will lead France to victory.
As a girl in a man’s world, at a time when women truly had no power, Jehanne faced constant threats and violence from the men around her. Despite the impossible odds, Jehanne became a fearless warrior who has inspired generations.
The White Rose Resistance
I had no idea what the White Rose student resistance was until I read Russell Freedman’s wonderful We Will Not Be Silenced a few years back. For those who aren’t familiar, this is a group of students who, during World War II, formed an active resistance campaign to Hitler and the Nazi movement after having been raised as Hitler Youth. They risked imprisonment and execution, of course, but decided to spread the word to the Germans about why they needed to defy the government.
It’s really not entirely surprising we have two YA books that actively discuss the White Rose students this year. It’s an all-too-fitting comparison to the resistance we’re seeing in America today, especially from young people. One of the titles is very obviously about the White Rose resistance; the other one invokes the resistance throughout, as it’s held up as a vanguard for how to resist in the face of government power.
Internment by Samira Ahmed (Available Now)
Rebellions are built on hope.
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.
With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.
Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.
White Rose by Kip Wilson (Available Now)
A gorgeous and timely novel based on the incredible story of Sophie Scholl, a young German college student who challenged the Nazi regime during World War II as part of The White Rose, a non-violent resistance group.
Disillusioned by the propaganda of Nazi Germany, Sophie Scholl, her brother, and his fellow soldiers formed the White Rose, a group that wrote and distributed anonymous letters criticizing the Nazi regime and calling for action from their fellow German citizens. The following year, Sophie and her brother were arrested for treason and interrogated for information about their collaborators.
Teen Abortion Rights
If you get my biweekly newsletter “What’s Up in YA?” from Book Riot, you know I’ve highlighted this already. Abortion rights for teens are all the rage this year. I’m really pleased to see this, even if it means that the manuscript I’ve been toying with on this topic now feels like something maybe worth shelving (or it’s worth pursuing with more vigor). This particular microtrend doesn’t surprise me, given that abortion rights continue to be chipped away in the US, and given how little say teenagers have in the government, well, they’re especially hurt by this.
What I like about these abortion-themed books in YA this year, though, is that they’re from a range of time periods. We have contemporary titles, as well as more historical titles.
I’m not including YA pregnancy books here, though that’s also a nice trend going on. I’m especially appreciating how many of them include teens having and raising that baby (see Elizabeth Acevedo’s With The Fire on High and Eva Darrow’s Belly Up).
As Many Nows As I Can Get by Shana Youngdahl (August 20)
In one impulsive moment the summer before they leave for college, overachievers Scarlett and David plunge into an irresistible swirl of romance, particle physics, and questionable decisions. Told in non-linear, vivid first-person chapters, As Many Nows As I Can Get is the story of a grounded girl who’s pulled into a lightning-strike romance with an electric-charged boy, and the enormity of the aftermath. Cerebral, accessible, bold, and unconventionally romantic, this is a powerful debut about grief, guilt, and reconciling who you think you need to be with the person you’ve been all along.
Girls Like Us by Randi Pink (October 29)
Set in the summer of 1972, this moving YA historical novel is narrated by teen girls from different backgrounds with one thing in common: Each girl is dealing with pregnancy.
Four teenage girls. Four different stories. What they all have in common is that they’re dealing with unplanned pregnancies.
In rural Georgia, Izella is wise beyond her years, but burdened with the responsibility of her older sister, Ola, who has found out she’s pregnant. Their young neighbor, Missippi, is also pregnant, but doesn’t fully understand the extent of her predicament. When her father sends her to Chicago to give birth, she meets the final narrator, Susan, who is white and the daughter of an anti-choice senator.
Randi Pink masterfully weaves four lives into a larger story – as timely as ever – about a woman’s right to choose her future.
Girls On The Verse by Sharon Biggs Waller (Available Now)
A powerful, timely coming-of-age story about a young woman from Texas who goes on a road trip with two friends to get an abortion, from award-winning author Sharon Biggs Waller.
Camille couldn’t be having a better summer. But on the very night she learns she got into a prestigious theater program, she also finds out she’s pregnant. She definitely can’t tell her parents. And her best friend, Bea, doesn’t agree with the decision Camille has made.
Camille is forced to try to solve her problem alone . . . and the system is very much working against her. At her most vulnerable, Camille reaches out to Annabelle Ponsonby, a girl she only barely knows from the theater. Happily, Annabelle agrees to drive her wherever she needs to go. And in a last-minute change of heart, Bea decides to come with.
Girls on the Verge is an incredibly timely novel about a woman’s right to choose. Sharon Biggs Waller brings to life a narrative that has to continue to fight for its right to be told, and honored.
The Birds, The Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh (Available Now)
Seventeen-year-old Lacey Burke is the last person on the planet who should be doling out sex advice. For starters, she’s never even kissed anyone, and she hates breaking the rules. Up until now, she’s been a straight-A music geek that no one even notices. All she cares about is jamming out with her best friends, Theo and Evita.
But then everything changes.
When Lacey sees first-hand how much damage the abstinence-only sex-ed curriculum of her school can do, she decides to take a stand and starts doling out wisdom and contraception to anyone who seeks her out in the girls’ restroom. But things with Theo become complicated quickly, and Lacey is soon not just keeping everyone else’s secrets, but hers as well.
Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan (September 10)
Seventeen-year-old Veronica Clarke never thought she would wish she’d failed a test until she finds herself holding a thick piece of plastic in her hands and staring at two solid pink lines. Even the most consistent use of condoms won’t prevent pregnancy when your boyfriend secretly pokes holes in them to keep you from going out-of-state for college.
Veronica needs an abortion, but the closest place she can legally get one is over nine hundred miles away—and Veronica doesn’t have a car. Too ashamed to ask her friends or family for help, Veronica turns to the one person she believes won’t judge her: Bailey Butler, Jefferson High’s own little black cloud of anger and snark—and Veronica’s ex-best friend. Once on the road, Veronica quickly remembers nothing with Bailey is ever simple and that means two days of stolen cars, shotguns, crazed ex-boyfriends, truck stop strippers with pro-life agendas, and a limo driver named Bob. But the pain and betrayal of their broken friendship can’t be outrun. When their fighting leads to a brutal moment of truth, Bailey abandons Veronica. Now Veronica must risk everything in order to repair the hurt she’s caused.
There’s something about a teen having to wear a giant costume for their job that is just a riot. I know of these two immediately, but I feel like I read about another one recently, too.
Chicken Girl by Heather Smith (Available Now)
Poppy used to be an optimist. But after a photo of her dressed as Rosie the Riveter is mocked online, she’s having trouble seeing the good in the world. As a result, Poppy trades her beloved vintage clothes for a feathered chicken costume and accepts a job as an anonymous sign waver outside a restaurant. There, Poppy meets six-year-old girl Miracle, who helps Poppy see beyond her own pain, opening her eyes to the people around her: Cam, her twin brother, who is adjusting to life as an openly gay teen; Buck, a charming photographer with a cute British accent and a not-so-cute mean-streak; and Lewis a teen caring for an ailing parent, while struggling to reach the final stages of his gender transition. As the summer unfolds, Poppy stops glorifying the past and starts focusing on the present. But just as she comes to terms with the fact that there is good and bad in everyone, she is tested by a deep betrayal.
Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan (April 30)
Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:
* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.
Jennifer Dugan’s sparkling debut coming-of-age queer romance stars a princess, a pirate, a hot dog, and a carousel operator who find love–and themselves–in unexpected people and unforgettable places.
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn (May 28)
Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement. She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel brave, fabulous, and like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother sees this as a distraction from working on her portfolio paintings for the prestigious fine art academy where she’s been accepted for college. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.
When she arrives in Japan, she loses herself in Kyoto’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival–and meets Akira, a cute med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. What begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.
Teen Who Rap
We’ve seen this one discussed on social media and I’m hoping to give it a deeper dive in the near future. But, there are three books by three black authors who dig into teen rappers. I love this deeply, and I hope we continue to see teens who are musicians and more specifically, who feel deep connection to music that speaks to them and for their identities.
Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson (May 21)
Biggie Smalls was right. Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are okay letting their best friend Steph’s tracks lie forgotten in his bedroom after he’s killed—not when his beats could turn any Bed-Stuy corner into a celebration, not after years of having each other’s backs.
Enlisting the help of Steph’s younger sister, Jasmine, Quadir and Jarrell come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: The Architect. Soon, everyone in Brooklyn is dancing to Steph’s voice. But then his mixtape catches the attention of a hotheaded music rep and—with just hours on the clock—the trio must race to prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.
Now, as the pressure—and danger—of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, together they need to decide what they stand for before they lose everything they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.
On The Come Up by Angie Thomas (Available Now)
Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly..