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This one time at band camp . . . YA Lit about Marching Band Coming Soon

A few years ago, as I sat watching 1,000s of teens perform in a statewide marching band contest, I thought to myself, where are all the YA books with kids in marching band? I’ve read about football and cheerleading. I’ve even read about teens that play instruments and taking classes at school, but there hasn’t been a lot of teens that are in marching band featured in YA lit. None of the bus rides to competitions, band camp, and all the drama that comes with getting up at 6 am to practice marching in the school parking lot before most of your classmates have even opened their eyelids.

Music for All indicates that people involved in music programs including marching band score higher on the SAT, by an average of 107 points. Other research indicates that there are at least 1,077 high school marching bands alone. Marching bands are featured each year in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and are a huge part of the Friday Night Lights we all talk about. What a high school football game without the marching band performance at half time?

So I was excited to see this year that there are at least 2 YA lit books featuring teens in marching bands. Here’s everything you wanted to know about some upcoming YA lit that features teens in high school marching bands.

Forward March by Skye Quinlan

Publisher’s Book Description:

What’s worse? Someone using your face for catfishing or realizing you actually do have a crush on the catfished girl?

Harper “Band Geek” McKinley just wants to make it through her senior year of marching band—and her Republican father’s presidential campaign. That was a tall order to start, but everything was going well enough until someone made a fake gay dating profile posing as Harper. The real Harper can’t afford for anyone to find out about the Tinder profile for three very important reasons:

1. Her mom is the school dean and dating profiles for students are strictly forbidden.
2. Harper doesn’t even know if she likes anyone like that—let alone if she likes other girls.
3. If this secret gets out, her father could lose the election, one she’s not sure she even wants him to win.

But upon meeting Margot Blanchard, the drumline leader who swiped right, Harper thinks it might be worth the trouble to let Margot get to know the real her.

With her dad’s campaign on the line, Harper’s relationship with her family at stake, and no idea who made that fake dating profile, Harper has to decide what’s more important to her: living her truth or becoming the First Daughter of America.

Coming March 8, 2022 from Page Street Kids

It Sounds Like This by Anna Meriano

Publisher’s Book Description:

A sweet and nerdy contemporary YA novel set in the world of marching band perfect for fans of Late to the Party and Kate in Waiting.

Yasmín Treviño didn’t have much of a freshman year thanks to Hurricane Humphrey, but she’s ready to take sophomore year by storm. That means mastering the marching side of marching band—fast!—so she can outshine her BFF Sofia as top of the flute section, earn first chair, and impress both her future college admission boards and her comfortably unattainable drum major crush Gilberto Reyes.

But Yasmín steps off on the wrong foot when she reports an anonymous gossip Instagram account harassing new band members and accidentally gets the entire low brass section suspended from extracurriculars. With no low brass section, the band is doomed, so Yasmín decides to take things into her own hands, learn to play the tuba, and lead a gaggle of rowdy freshman boys who are just as green to marching and playing as she is. She’ll happily wrestle an ancient school tuba if it means fixing the mess she might have caused.

But when the secret gossip Instagram escalates their campaign of harassment and the end-of-semester band competition grows near, things at school might be too hard to bear. Luckily, the support of Yasmín’s new section—especially new section leader Bloom, a sweet and shy ace boy who might be a better match for her than Gilberto—might just turn things around.

Coming August 2, 2022 from Viking Books for Young Readers

It’s nice to see some books coming out that featuring marching band, a staple for a lot of teens of the high school experience.

Take 5: 2022 Sourcebooks Fire Showcase

It’s that time of year when everyone starts thinking about books coming out in 2022 that they can’t wait to read. I, personally, am super done with 2021 and hope that 2022 starts a big turnaround for this broken little world we are living in. And looking forward to 2022 with hope (please let it be better), I am thinking about some of the books I am looking forward to reading. My TBR list is growing and today I am going to talk about Sourcebooks Fire books. Sourcebooks Fire are one of my go to publishers for all things YA lit horror, mysteries and thrillers. If they aren’t on your radar, you should add them. So here is a look at 5 upcoming Sourcebooks Fire YA lit titles you should add to your TBR list.

At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp

Publisher’s Book Description: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of This Is Where It Ends comes another heartbreaking, emotional and timely page-turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center is ironically named. No one has hope for the delinquent teenagers who have been exiled there; the world barely acknowledges that they exist.

Then the guards at Hope start acting strange. And one day…they don’t show up. But when the teens band together to make a break from the facility, they encounter soldiers outside the gates. There’s a rapidly spreading infectious disease outside, and no one can leave their houses or travel without a permit. Which means that they’re stuck at Hope. And this time, no one is watching out for them at all.

As supplies quickly dwindle and a deadly plague tears through their ranks, the group has to decide whom among them they can trust and figure out how they can survive in a world that has never wanted them in the first place.

Karen’s Thoughts: Marieke Nikjamp is a NYT bestselling author and she has written some amazing books. I once held a fantastic teen book discussion group centered around her book This is Where it Ends, and I think that this title has the same potential. Some might be thinking, oh no it’s too soon for a plague novel given our current situation, but I believe that it is the perfect vehicle to help those of us who wish to and need to process the events of the past two years while still giving ourselves the grace of a fictional narrative to do so. It’s like bibliotherapy, we can process our pandemic trauma by talking about a fictional plague. This book is slated for a January release.

The New Girl by Jesse Q. Sutanto

This is the ebook cover that I found online. I think it may be released with a different cover.

Publisher’s Book Description: Lia Setiawan has never really fit in. And when she wins a full ride to the prestigious Draycott Academy on a track scholarship, she’s determined to make it work even though she’s never felt more out of place.

But on her first day there she witnesses a girl being forcefully carried away by campus security. Her new schoolmates and teachers seem unphased, but it leaves her unsure of what she’s gotten herself into.

And as she uncovers the secrets of Draycott, complete with a corrupt teacher, a golden boy who isn’t what he seems, and a blackmailer determined to get her thrown out, she’s not sure if she can trust anyone…especially when the threats against her take a deadly turn.

Karen’s Thoughts: First, I just want to take a moment to note that it was amusing to me to see a book titles New Girl with an author named Jesse because, well, the TV show. I love the show. This book, obviously, has nothing to do with the show but who doesn’t love a deadly game of cat and mouse? This book is scheduled to come out on February 1st.

Lock the Doors by Vincent Ralph

Publisher’s Book Description: A brand new addictive, twisty thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of 14 WAYS TO DIE – for fans of Karen McManus, Holly Jackson and Lisa Jewell.

LOCK EVERY DOOR

Tom’s family have moved into their dream home. But pretty soon he starts to notice that something is very wrong – there are strange messages written on the wall and locks on the bedroom doors. On the OUTSIDE.

The previous owners have moved just across the road and they seem like the perfect family. Their daughter Amy is beautiful and enigmatic but Tom is sure she’s got something to hide. And he isn’t going to stop until he finds the truth behind those locked doors. . .

Will their dream home become a nightmare?

Karen’s Thoughts: Vincent Ralph is the author of the recent thriller 14 Ways to Die, which you can currently find on Riley’s dorm bed as she is reading it as we speak. A dream home turned into a deadly home is a pretty reliable trope so sign me up. This book is scheduled to publish in March 2022.

Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson

Publisher’s Book Description: Black Lives Matter meets Attack the Block with a dash of Under the Dome in this stunning story of teens using their talents to liberate a city from unjust police occupation

Jamal Lawson just wanted to be a part of something. As an aspiring journalist, he packs up his camera and heads to Baltimore to document a rally protesting police brutality after another Black man is murdered.

But before it even really begins, the city implements a new safety protocol…the Dome. The Dome surrounds the city, forcing those within to subscribe to a total militarized shutdown. No one can get in, and no one can get out.

Alone in a strange place, Jamal doesn’t know where to turn…until he meets hacker Marco, who knows more than he lets on, and Catherine, an AWOL basic-training-graduate, whose parents helped build the initial plans for the Dome.

As unrest inside of Baltimore grows throughout the days-long lockdown, Marco, Catherine, and Jamal take the fight directly to the chief of police. But the city is corrupt from the inside out, and it’s going to take everything they have to survive.

Karen’s Thoughts: First, I want to take a moment to say that Attack the Block is a great British sci fi movie starring none other than John Boyega and the current Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. So I was in the moment that it was used as a comp title. More importantly, the title is relevant and necessary as we as a nation and the world at large continues to wrestle with what policing can, should and does look like and the impact that it has on Black lives. Scheduled to be published in March 2022.

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

**please note, there has not yet been a cover released for this title**

Publisher’s Book Description: Mysterious disappearances. An urban legend rumored to be responsible. And one group of friends determined to save their city at any cost. Stranger Things meets Jordan Peele in this utterly original debut from an incredible new voice.

For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.

Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.

Karen’t Thoughts: Urban legends and deadly games? Yes please. This should be a great read for your Stranger Things fans. Vincent Tirado is a debut author and they should have a promising literary career. Scheduled for a May 2022 release.

Every single one of these book sounds like they have high appeal for teen readers. I know that the murder teen, also known as Riley, and I can’t wait to read them.

Take 5: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Inspired – New Twists on Old Tales in YA Lit

Last week, middle grade and YA author Martha Brockenbrough tweeted that her kid was reading the same books that she herself read in high school. This is also true in my house. Riley, who just graduated in May of 2021, read almost book for the book the same books that I read in high school . . . which was now 31 years ago. And most of those books were already old and outdated at that time. And they certainly didn’t represent the plurality of the world or any of the new innovations in science, justice, or even basic humanity that we have evolved to embrace over the scope of time. And yet there are no shortage of new, innovative takes on classic stories. So today I am going to share with you 5 new takes on some beloved classics that would make for some great comparisons. If you’re going to assign an old tale, why not ask readers to read a new take on those tales and make comparisons. There are so many ways we can invite readers to dig deeper and have a richer exploration of literature.

Bad Girls Never Say Die by Jennifer Mathieu is a take on the classic The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. Where The Outsiders is the tale of bad boys from the wrong side of tracks in a strong friendship, Bad Girls Never Say Die is the gender bent version of this tale. Here we see bad girls being given the liberty to be, well, bad girls, and there friendship makes the cornerstone of this novel.

Publisher’s Book Description: 1964. Houston, Texas.

Evie Barnes is a bad girl. So are all her friends. They’re the sort who wear bold makeup, laugh too loud, and run around with boys. Most of all, they protect their own against the world. So when Evie is saved from the unimaginable by a good girl from the “right” side of the tracks, every rule she’s always lived by is called into question. Now she must redefine what it means to be a bad girl and rethink everything she knew about loyalty.

In this riveting story of murder, secrets, and tragedy, Jennifer Mathieu re-imagines S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders from a female perspective. Bad Girls Never Say Die has all the drama and heartache of that teen classic, but with a feminist take just right for our times.

I read Lord of the Flies way, way back in the late 90s and Riley read it just a couple of years ago. Although she hated it with a fierce, fiery rage of a 1,000 suns, she LOVES Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. In case you don’t know, Lord of the Flies are about a group of boys who are flying to a thing (I forget what thing) and their plane crashes onto an island and they quickly devolve into horrible, horrible humans. In Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, a group of girls on their way to a beauty pageant crash onto an island and things are not always what they seem. If you are going to read this book – and I highly recommend that you do – try listening to the audio read by Libba Bray herself. It is hilarious and inspiring.

Publisher’s Book Description: Teen beauty queens. A lost island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives deep in the heart of every girl, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror!


When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

In Rebecca, a new wife goes to live a lush life with her new husband and learns that he is hiding a lot of secrets. In I Killed Zoe Spanos, a missing teen in the Hamptons village sets up a series of twists and turns that make for a great read. Inspired in part by Rebecca, Kit Frick writes a psychological suspense novel with its own gothic twists.

Publisher’s Book Description: This gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected–and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

In Orpheus and Eurdyce, Orpheus is a young lover who must travel to the depths of Hades to rescue his true love. In Never Look Back, Eury (catch the name there) is haunted by Hurricane Maria – and an evil spirit. Pheus falls in love with her and wants to help save her from all that haunts her, but does love always conquer all? You’ll want to read this moving retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria–and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .

Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.

This is an #OwnVoices retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice.

We all know the story of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. The Violent Delights takes the tale of star-crossed lovers and sets it in Shanghai in the year 1926. Rival gangs control the streets. Rumors of a madness start to take hold when gang members appear to claw out their own throats and rivals Juliette and Roma must join forces to discover what’s happening before their empires fall apart. This is book 1, there is more story to come.

Publisher’s Book Description: The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

What are your favorite updated takes on some of the classics? Share with us in the comments. Happy reading!

Book Gallery: Reading Your Way Into and Through College

For many teens, trying to get into and thinking about what college might be like is a big deal. For this week’s Book Gallery, here are some books about getting into and then going to college. I’m sure this list is in no way related to the fact that on Saturday I will drop my first born child off at her college dorm and we have spent the last year and half trying to get to this moment. Nope, not at all.

Getting In

For many kids, getting in to college is hard and stressful. There is parental pressure, financial aid, college applications and testing, to name just a few of the really big hurdles for teens trying to navigate college admissions. It can be a very stressful and challenging time. For many kids, mostly because of finances, college won’t even be on the table. And college isn’t the right next step for everyone, but for those who are trying to navigate college admissions in high school, here are some books for you.

Book covers shown include: Admission by Julie Buxbaum, We Regret to Inform You by Ariel Kaplan, Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney, Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Love is a Revolution by Renee Watson, The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Julian Cantor, Charming as a Verby by Ben Philippe, 500 Words or Less by Juleah Del Rosario

You may also want to check out this great reading list at Reading Middle Grade : https://readingmiddlegrade.com/ya-books-about-college-admission-pressure/

The Summer Before College

Graduating high school and the summer before college – or whatever comes next for year – can be such an emotional time. For some, it may fill like limbo. For others, it may feel like a long, protracted goodbye. Whatever you may be feeling, here are some books that take place in the summer after graduating high school.

Book Covers Shown: The Things We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim, The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone, I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrois, Hello Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Rayne and Delilah’s Midnight Matinee by Jeff Zentner

Freshman Year of College

For those who have dreamed of going to college, the Freshman year of college can be a time of terror, anticipation, fear, dread and honestly, a combination of them all at one. For many teens, this will be their first time truly on their own and time to figure out more fully who they are and who they want to become. So here are some books set in the Freshman year of college.

Book Covers Shown: Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu, We Are Okay by Nina Lacour, I Hate Everyone but You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin, Freshman by Tom Allen and Lucy Ivison, American Panda by Gloria Chao, Fresh by Margot Wood and Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

And here are some more book lists of YA set in college for you:

Barnes and Noble New and Upcoming College Set YA Novels

Epic Reads: 16 Books Set in College, Full of Endless Possibility

Jen Ryland Reviews: YA Books Set in College

So now, I have to go and make college packing checklists and check them twice. I hope you enjoy this journey to and in college through YA literature.

Some Other Links of Interest

Have Some Upcoming August Books; By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

This Saturday, Riley is heading off to college. Before she goes, she rounds up a couple of upcoming August YA lit releases for us. And she’ll still be reading and reviewing and posting, just from college.

The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore

Zuretta never thought she’d encounter a monster—one of the world’s most notorious serial killers. She had resigned herself to a quiet life in Utah. But when her younger sister, Ruby, travels to Chicago during the World’s Fair, and disappears, Zuretta leaves home to find her.

But 1890s Chicago is more dangerous and chaotic than she imagined. She doesn’t know where to start until she learns of her sister’s last place of employment…a mysterious hotel known as The Castle.

Zuretta takes a job there hoping to learn more. And before long she realizes the hotel isn’t what it seems. Women disappear at an alarming rate, she hears crying from the walls, and terrifying whispers follow her at night. In the end, she finds herself up against one of the most infamous mass murderers in American history—and his custom-built death trap.

Post It Note Review: This was a fascinating look at a historical serial killer case and it was really quite interesting.

Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin

After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn-and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town-and within her family-that she never could have predicted.

Inspired by what they see as Mara’s political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara’s lumped in as one of the girls-one of the girls who can’t throw, can’t kick, and doesn’t know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara’s crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara’s nemesis-the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara’s preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.

Post It Note Review: This book was about the complexities of identity and internalize misogyny and I kept rooting for the main character to experience character growth and learn that we can accept everyone for who they are. A hard but ultimately empowering read.

Fresh by Margot Wood

Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer—from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . .

Post It Note Review: My mom read this one and thought it was fresh, funny and warmhearted.

(Me) Moth by Amber McBride

Moth has lost her family in an accident. Though she lives with her aunt, she feels alone and uprooted.

Until she meets Sani, a boy who is also searching for his roots. If he knows more about where he comes from, maybe he’ll be able to understand his ongoing depression. And if Moth can help him feel grounded, then perhaps she too will discover the history she carries in her bones.

Moth and Sani take a road trip that has them chasing ghosts and searching for ancestors. The way each moves forward is surprising, powerful, and unforgettable.

Here is an exquisite and uplifting novel about identity, first love, and the ways that our memories and our roots steer us through the universe.

Post It Note Review: We haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on our TBR and think it should be on yours as well.

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends–Krystal, Akil, and Alexander–are the prime suspects, thanks to “The Proctor,” someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app.

They all used to be Jamie’s closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow The Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford, like Nancy’s full scholarship. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too.

Post It Note Review: My mom also read this one, and it’s a really good thriller that fans of One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus will like. It really captures the stress of trying to do well in school to get into college.

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

From the award-winning author of The Serpent King comes a beautiful examination of grief, found family, and young love.

Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen.

But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind.

Post It Note Review: This is another book on our TBR list, and Zentner is a solid author that captures the heartache of teen life so well.

And that’s a look at just some of the amazing new YA lit books coming out in August 2021.

Reading Your Way Through High School, a book gallery by grade

At my day job, I recently began making some RA tools for the youth services staff that highlighted novels for youth that featured a main character in each grade, K-12. I knew when I got to YA that it would be both harder and easier. Easier, because I’ve read a lot of YA and already had some books I wanted to recommend. Harder, because I knew that finding books that specified that a character was in the 9th or 10th grade would be harder. YA tends to skew towards the upper end of High School, featuring characters in their junior or senior year, and they are typically 17 years old. Middle grade tends to feature a character in middle school or typically in the 8th grade. So here are some of the titles that I have found that specificy the grade of the main character in high school. Please note, though I struggled to find books with 9th or 10th grade main characters, I could go on and on for 11th and 12th grade main characters. This is by no means a complete list. In fact, if you have recommendations please leave them in the comments.

Freshman Year of High School

Book Covers Pictured: The Worst Night Every by Dave Barry, Freshman Tales of 9th Grade Obsessions, Revelations and Other Nonsense, Time Travel for Love and Profit by Sarah Lariviere, Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi, Evolution Me and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande and Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford

Sophomore Year of High School

Book Covers Pictures: We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra, Just Breathe by Cammie McGovern, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, This is the Part Where You Laugh by Peter Brown Hoffmeister, It’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali, Fat Angie by E. E. Charlton-Trujillo, The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes, Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro, I Was a Non-Blonde Cheerleader by Kieran Scott, Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen, Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti, Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah STohmeyere and Bombshell by Rowan Maness

Junior Year of High School

Book Covers Picture: Every Single Lie by Rachel Vincent, Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu, Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, The Meet Cute Project by Rhiannon Richardson, A Song Below Water by Methany C. Morrow, Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles, Odd One Out by Nic Stone, Tell Me AGain How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan and Overturned by Lamar Giles

Senior Year of High School

Book Covers Pictures: Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney, Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Love is a Revolution by Renee Watson, The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor, Admission by Julie Buxbaum, We Regret to Inform You by Ariel Kaplan, Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe, Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid, Gabi a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, Concrete Rose by Angie thomas, Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian, Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott, Golden by Jessi Kirby, Deadline by Chris Crutcher, 500 Words or Less by Juleah Del Rosario, Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen, Swagger by Carl Deuker, 10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, They’ll Never Catch Us by Jessica Goodman

TLT Turns 10: The Top 10 YA Books I’ve Read of the Last 10 Years, by Karen Jensen

Today is the day! 10 years ago today, I wrote the very first post here at TLT. I thought I would end this week of celebration by talking about the books. I have always been a reader, so the books are one of my favorite parts of both librarianship and this blog. In the last 25+ years as a teen librarian, I have literally reads 1,000s of YA books. I know because up until last year, I kept track and I was well over 3,500. So here are my favorite books of every year for the past 10 years. I am not a person who does well with favorites, so I cheated and added a lot of honorable mentions.

2011 : Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Contestants on the way to the “Miss Teen Dream” contest crash on an island and have to find a way to survive, both the elements and each other. This feminist take on Lord of the Flies is by far one of the funniest novels I have ever read while also being deeply profound and moving. Do yourself a favor and listen to the audio read by the author, Libba Bray. This is Riley’s go to comfort book when she needs to be cheered up.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Hourglass by Myra McEntyre – Great for fans of Doctor Who
  • Human.4 by Mike Lancaster – Save the bees, but it feels like a Twilight Zone episode
  • Legend by Marie Lu – When dystopian was strong
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver – love is outlawed in this other favorite dystopian
  • Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King – one of A. S. King’s first and best looks at trauma and who am I kidding, it’s A. S. King and I love it

2012 : Ask the Passengers by A. S. King

A teenage lesbian named Astrid talks to the planes that pass overhead as she wrestles with self acceptance in a small town full of gossip. This is by far the most profound reading experience I have ever had. Riley and I are both huge fans of A. S. King and I know that this novel is one that we have both read more than once. A moving exploration of what it means to be human.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater – just beautifully written look at family, friendship and magic
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – The only historical fiction novel I like, best friendship ever
  • The Immortal Rules by Kendara Blake – amazing take on vampires and what it means to be human with a great discourse on what happens if we ban reading
  • This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers – If zombies existed in The Breakfast Club
  • A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand – 2 boys chase down a voodoo doll while it’s being used against them in this hilarious novel

2013 : The Archived by Victoria Schwab

There exists a library of souls and the keeper’s job is to help make sure they don’t escape the archives into our world. This is such a fantastic twist on libraries and a great read for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Doctor Who.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – another great take on vampires
  • Canary by Rachel Alpine – a searing look at one of the most infamous sexual violence cases in high school history
  • Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller – a heartbreaking look at the long term effects of sexual violence and childhood trauma
  • Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian – a compelling tale of a young man who wrestles with unlearning toxic masculinity
  • This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales – friendship, family and the power of music

2014 : A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

The town is Midnight Gulch, a place where magic used to exist. The girl is 12-year-old Felicity, who has moved around a lot and now they have come here, a place her momma used to call home. It is here and now that Felicity learns about friendship, family, magic, and hope. Technically, this is a middle grade novel. But it is my go-to-recommendation for anyone looking for a joyful read, a hopeful read, or a family read. This is a book that will remind you of childhood favorites as it becomes a new family favorite.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Uses for Boys by Erica Loraine Webb – a heartbreaking and far too real look at what life can be like for teen girls in this world
  • Panic by Lauren Oliver – an elaborate game of truth or dare highlights the desperation that teens in small towns feel to try and escape poverty and small town life
  • Noggin by John Corey Whaley – Like The Breakfast Club, but set in a time where we can transplant a healthy head on a different body, which causes a lot of wrestling with identity
  • Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King – Girls eat bat dust and imagine a future where they lose reproductive rights in this far too eerily real feminist novel
  • Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican – There are a lot of great books out there about bullying, but this one talks about the fact that sometimes, teachers are the bullies as well

2015 : More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Aaron Soto wants to forget the love of his life, so he heads to the Leteo Institute in an attempt to have his memory erased. But the heart can not always forget, no matter how much we want it to. This is a glorious, heartfelt speculative fiction novel that also highlights what it is like to live in very real poverty. Older readers will recall Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but this is a moving and original tale about love, loss, and trying to accept yourself in a world that very much does not want you to.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle – A dystopian with religious cult highlights
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes – another twisted tale about cults and feminism
  • The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds – a simple and beautiful exploration of grief and character
  • Hit by Delilah Dawson – a searing take on capitalism where the banks that own your debt turn teens into hitmen to work of said debt
  • The Accident Season by Moria Fowley-Doyle – a beautiful, lyrical look at family secrets and lies

2016 : Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston

In the aftermath of her rape, head cheerleader Hermione wrestles with abortion, her classmates, and the idea of justice. Johnston has said that this book is a fantasy because it’s everything she wishes would happen after a girl has been raped. A powerful testament to friendship, resilience, and finding justice in a world in which far too few survivors of sexual violence and rape get justice.

Honorable Mentions:

  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab – my favorite take on monsters and politics, ever
  • The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – a revenge fantasy for every survivor of sexual assault
  • Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova – after making her family accidentally disappear, a girl journeys into a magical realm to try and save them
  • And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich – one of the creepiest haunted life stories I have ever read
  • Rocks Fall Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar – I love a good this town is weird story
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley – a great look at mental health issues in the lives of teens

2017 : Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

When Will’s older brother is killed, he wants revenge. And he knows just how to do it. But in one long elevator ride down to exact that revenge, he sees how the cycle of violence is never ending and is forced to reconsider the rules he lives his life by. Told entirely in verse, this is a profoundly amazing novel that looks at revenge and the cycle of violence in the life of our youth.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson – the most mind blowing twist ever written
  • We Are Okay by Nina LaCour – a beautiful exploration of grief
  • Moxie by Jennifer Matthieu – a fun, fabulous feminist read (see also another favorite of this year, The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed)
  • The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy – another great this town is cursed read
  • Sadie by Courtney Summers – uses the popular concept of podcasts to explore a mystery and feminism

2018 : Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany D. Jackson is arguably one of the greatest YA authors writing right now. And she is queen of the plot twist. Claudia is the only one who seems to notice that her friend, Monday, is missing. So she tries to get the adults, the police, her teachers – anyone really – to help her find her friend in this exploration of a world in which Black girls go missing far too often and no one wants to do anything about it. It’s a moving exploration of missing Black girls and how the media doesn’t seem to care. It’s also one of the very few YA novels that talk about Dyslexia.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – a profoundly moving novel of identity written in verse
  • Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand – another this town is cursed novel, with feminism; great for Stephen King fans
  • Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson – a great friendship story, if you and your friends were witches and you had to raise your friend from the dead because issues
  • White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig – a mystery that looks at the opioid epidemic

2019 : The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

What if everything you thought you knew about your life, your town, and even your family was a lie? Girls have a very specific role to play and rules to follow in Garner County, and Tierney James is not a fan of them. They don’t feel right. But she is placed outside the community with others during what is called The Grace Year, and here they learn shocking truths about what it means to be a girl, about violence, and about the lies that run and ruin their lives.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Internment by Samira Ahmed – a look at anti-Muslim hate through the lens of a dystopia that reads as far too possible in current times
  • Wilder Girls by Rory Power – a science fiction and feminist take on Lord of the Flies that will disturb you
  • Heroine by Mindy McGinnis – small town life, girls in sports, and the opioid epidemic come together in this moving contemporary tale
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson – Anderson shares herself in verse in this beautiful look at finding your voice after surviving sexual violence
  • I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones – this novel set in a day combines with Black Lives Matter for this moving contemporary novel that looks at police violence
  • Dig by A. S. King – the way all the pieces come together will always blow my mind in this surrealistic exploration of toxic families and white privilege

2020 : We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

In the midst of cultural discussions about refugees and immigrants, Sanchez writes a searingly honest and painful novel about what it means to flee your home and try to find sanctuary in the United States, and what that journey looks like. Jenny Torres Sanchez is one of my favorite YA authors of melancholy explorations of grief, and she really hit it out of the park with this timely novel.

Honorable Mentions:

  • You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson – if you are looking for pure joy, you will find it here
  • Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold – one of the best fairy tale retellings
  • The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes – for fans of The Westing Game, a fun mystery with twists, puzzles to solve, and Barnes witty dialogue
  • Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson – one of the best books that highlight what grooming looks like
  • Punching the Air by Iba Anu Zoboi – many books talk about how art can heal, and this one does so while also talking about incarceration

2021 : The Nature of Witches by Rachel M. Griffin

What if witches were the key to saving the world from Climate Change? I love this interesting take on witches that also explores Climate Change, grief and guilt. Each type of witch controls a different season, except for Clara. Clara is an Everwitch, the first in a century. So she controls all of the seasons, but it’s a power she doesn’t want because it has caused her great grief. When the world is on the verge of destruction from climate change, everyone needs Clara to use her powers, but she very much wants to get rid of them because of what they have cost her.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Off the Record by Camryn Garrett – a moving exploration of body acceptance and dealing with trauma
  • The Taking of Jake Livingston – a fantastically creepy book with a Black boy who sees ghosts
  • The Project by Courtney Summers – another fantastic exploration of cults and feminism
  • Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley – a mystery that explores the world of sports and the opioid epidemic while exploring the very real and long term effects of grief

And there you have it, a look at some of my favorite YA reads of the last 10 years. This was actually pretty hard, because there are a lot of great YA book out there. There are a lot of other books I love that didn’t get mentioned, because I could be here all night – or for another 10 years – talking about YA lit. Seriously, YA lit is amazing (and not a genre!) What books would be on your list? Leave us a comment and let us know. We love talking about books! And here’s to another 10 years of reading and reviewing books here at TLT. Thank you for taking this journey with us.

Also, check out Amanda MacGregor’s Top 10 List for more great reads, because there are a lot of books here I love as well: https://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2021/07/tlt-turns-ten-ten-fav-books-ive-reviewed/

What it Means to be The Wild Ones, Teen Librarian Lisa Krok interviews author Nafiza Azad

Lisa Krok: Nafiza, thank you for joining Teen Librarian Toolbox for a Q&A about your forthcoming book, The Wild Ones. Your book was born out of traumas that so many women have experienced. I found this quote to be so compelling, “Would giving specific names to our tragedies make you know us better? Get black paint then and mark us victims of rape, sexual, physical, and verbal abuse. Stalked. Sold. Made destitute. Abandoned. Hated. Silenced. Do these words make us more or less to you?”. The naming of the specific traumas is not important. The damage left behind in the women who survived speaks for itself. You state in the book that the wild oneslive in the Between, which is not a world, but a pathway. I interpreted this pathway as their road to healing. Can you tell us about that?

Nafiza Azad: In my experience, when something that immense happens to you, you are changed in irrevocable ways. The spaces you used to occupy are no longer safe for you and the spaces you will occupy in the future are still somewhere to reach after you’re done healing. The Between is a liminal space that shelters you as you heal, space that allows you to regress before progressing, a place to be messy but a space that is always safe.

LK: Having that safe space is so important. These women are fierce and feminist in their sisterhood, bound together by their varied traumas, anger, and rage. What about this sisterhood do you think was most empowering for the women as they find their voices on their healing journey?

NA: The most empowering aspect of this sisterhood, any sisterhood really, is in the knowledge that. no matter what happens. you are not alone. The wild ones don’t always get along but they know that even if they are in horrible fights, they won’t break up. The liberation in not having to be pretty and polite all the time. The freedom in falling and knowing there is someone behind to catch you.

LK: The misogyny in The Wild Ones was pervasive. How do you think this sparked the women to break up the patriarchy?

NA: The wild ones are all survivors of various kinds of abuse. When something like that happens to you, in addition to the pain and the sorrow, the emotion you struggle most with is anger. The question that keeps you up at night is what was it about you that said you deserve to be treated the way you were. And the anger that comes in the knowing that the person or people who caused you to feel the way you do will most probably walk free with nary a pat on their hand. The emotion the wild ones celebrate most fiercely is this anger. They answered the question above and found that no, they didn’t deserve to be treated the way they were. No girl or woman or person deserves that treatment. So how dare men and society excuse what happened to them and put labels on them, recreating them as statistics?

LK: Indeed, and I imagine this is validation for many readers. I sincerely hope that this book brings catharsis to those who need it, and a sense of that unconditional sisterhood to all.

Switching gears a bit now, food from many cultures is woven into the storyline in the different places the women travel. How do you feel these vivid descriptions added to the story (besides making me hungry, of course)?

NA: Food is a language you do not need to learn to understand. It crosses borders and transcends cultures and races. A full table is an invitation in real life and in The Wild Ones. I use it as a way to invite the reader in, to join the wild ones at the table, and into the story.

LK: Thank you, Nafiza, for this exquisite story and this Q & A!

The Wild Ones releases August 3, 2021 from Margaret K. McElderry books. Please see order links below.

Amazon ; Indiebound

Resources for assistance:

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network  (RAINN)  1.800.656.HOPE(4673)

Domestic Violence Hotline   1.800.799.SAFE (7233)

Suicide Prevention Lifeline   1.800.273.TALK (8255)

National Alliance on Mental Illness    1.800.950.NAMI 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 

Photograph (c) Jasdeep Deol

Nafiza Azad is a self-identified island girl. She has hurricanes in her blood and dreams of a time she can exist solely on mangoes and pineapple. Born in Lautoka, Fiji, she currently resides in British Columbia, Canada where she reads too many books, watches too many K-dramas, and writes stories about girls taking over the world. Her debut YA fantasy was the Morris Award–nominated The Candle and the FlameThe Wild Ones is her second novel.

Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the Adult and Teen Services Manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians (ABC-CLIO). In addition to the TLT, blog, she reviews YA fiction for School Library Journal. Her passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. Lisa served on the Best Fiction for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s teams. She can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.               

About THE WILD ONES

From William C. Morris Finalist Nafiza Azad comes a thrilling, feminist fantasy about a group of teenage girls endowed with special powers who must band together to save the life of the boy whose magic saved them all.

Meet the Wild Ones: girls who have been hurt, abandoned, and betrayed all their lives. It all began with Paheli, who was once betrayed by her mother and sold to a man in exchange for a favor. When Paheli escapes, she runs headlong into a boy with stars in his eyes. This boy, as battered as she is, tosses Paheli a box of stars before disappearing.

With the stars, Paheli gains access to the Between, a place of pure magic and mystery. Now, Paheli collects girls like herself and these Wild Ones use their magic to travel the world, helping the hopeless and saving others from the fates they suffered.

Then Paheli and the Wild Ones learn that the boy who gave them the stars, Taraana, is in danger. He’s on the run from powerful forces within the world of magic. But if Taraana is no longer safe and free, neither are the Wild Ones. And that…is a fate the Wild Ones refuse to accept. Ever again. (Publisher’s Description)

Have Some LGBTQ+ Books, By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

I came across the book Cool for the Summer recently and thought the cover looked really cool and the premise sounded interesting. That sent me down the rabbit hole of upcoming LGBTQ+ books, which I am rounding up for you here. This is just a small sampling of some books coming out that sounded interesting to me. The descriptions are the publisher’s book descriptions. These are all 2021 releases.

Cool for the Summer By Dahlia Adler

Lara’s had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He’s tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he’s talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe…flirting, even? No, wait, he’s definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara’s wanted out of life.

Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers.

Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl?

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen

After losing spectacularly to her ex-girlfriend in their first game since their break up, Scottie Zajac gets into a fender bender with the worst possible person: her nemesis, the incredibly beautiful and incredibly mean Irene Abraham. Things only get worse when their nosey, do-gooder moms get involved and the girls are forced to carpool together until Irene’s car gets out of the shop.

Their bumpy start only gets bumpier the more time they spend together. But when an opportunity presents itself for Scottie to get back at her toxic ex (and climb her school’s social ladder at the same time), she bribes Irene into playing along. Hijinks, heartbreak, and gay fake-dating scheme for the ages. From author Kelly Quindlen comes a new laugh-out-loud romp through the ups and downs of teen romance.

In Deep Waters by F.T. Lukens

Prince Tal has long awaited his coming-of-age tour. After spending most of his life cloistered behind palace walls as he learns to keep his forbidden magic secret, he can finally see his family’s kingdom for the first time. His first taste of adventure comes just two days into the journey, when their crew discovers a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel.

Tasked with watching over the prisoner, Tal is surprised to feel an intense connection with the roguish Athlen. So when Athlen leaps overboard and disappears, Tal feels responsible and heartbroken, knowing Athlen could not have survived in the open ocean.

That is, until Tal runs into Athlen days later on dry land, very much alive, and as charming—and secretive—as ever. But before they can pursue anything further, Tal is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom in a plot to reveal his rumored powers and instigate a war. Tal must escape if he hopes to save his family and the kingdom. And Athlen might just be his only hope…

The [Un]Popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez

Vaseline on the teeth makes a smile shine. It’s a cheap stunt, but Mark Adams knows it’s optics that can win or ruin an election.

Everything Mark learned about politics, he learned from his father, the congressman who still pretends he has a daughter and not a son. To protect his father’s image, Mark promises to keep his past hidden and pretend to be the cis guy everyone assumes he is. But when he sees a manipulatively charming candidate for student body president inflame dangerous rhetoric, Mark decides to risk the low profile he assured his father and insert himself as a political challenger.

One big problem? No one really knows Mark. He didn’t grow up in this town, and he has few friends; plus, the ones he does have aren’t exactly with the in-crowd. Still, thanks to countless seasons of Scandal and The West Wing, these nerds know where to start: from campaign stops to voter polling to a fashion makeover. Soon Mark feels emboldened to get in front of and engage with voters—and even start a new romance. But with an investigative journalist digging into his past, a father trying to silence him, and a bully front-runner who stands in his way, Mark will have to decide which matters most: perception or truth, when both are just as dangerous. 

The 2021 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize

The 2021 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize Winners

This past year I had the honor of being on the committee for the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize. This meant I took a deep dive into books originally written in a language other than English that had been translated into English. GLLI stands for Global Literature in Libraries Initiative and I joined a great roster of other librarians as we read through a large number of submissions and met virtually to talk about these books.

I have been a YA/Youth/Teen Librarian for 28 years now and I’m going to be honest, this is the first time I was really asked to pay particular attention to translated works. Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks! It was a fascinating journey into other worlds in such a focused way. As someone who reads primarily American YA lit, there were a lot of similarities and a few key differences.

For one, I couldn’t help but notice how many of the submissions from other countries focused on teens in war torn countries. I am not unaware that other countries have been facing horrific wars, many of them for centuries, but reading works from other countries really brought this reality into a visceral focus for me. These accounts were heartbreaking to read, but so vitally important. The stark realities of war laid bare are not an easy read, but I am glad that I read them. It is an important reminder that we must work harder to bring about peace for all nations because the damage we are doing is traumatic and generational.

In other ways, the books read exactly like YA literature in America because adolescent development and the teen brain is, well, universally the same in a lot of ways. These books featured teens wrestling with identity, acceptance, and trying to figure out what their next steps were. Any teen could pick them up and related to the eternal teen struggle of who am I and who am I becoming. So many of the books that I read had an authentic and engaging teen voice, something that many YA writers fail at, and they shared moving, universal adolescent journeys. Although each country has their own unique challenges, teens around the world are often facing the same existential challenges.

It was such a remarkable and fascinating journey around the globe that I highly recommend to any and all readers of all ages. And to help you do that, here is the press release about the winners and the short list, which is a handy little starting point in reading some global literature.

PRESS RELEASE

SEATTLE – Two titles celebrating contemporary gay life in Brazil – Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins and Where We Go from Here by Lucas Rocha (both translated from the Portuguese by Larissa Helena and published by Scholastic Press) – are the co-winners of the 2021 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize.  Administered by the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, the three-year-old prize recognizes publishers, translators, and authors of books in English translation for young adult (YA) readers.

“We are particularly excited to award these two outstanding novels from Brazil,” said David Jacobson, chair of the prize committee.  “We see far too few translations from our neighbors in Latin America and it is gratifying to see publishers making them available for teens in English.”

Here the Whole Time is a touching coming-of-age story that expresses the vulnerability of an overweight gay teen, with humor, heart, and authenticity.  Where We Go from Here, set in Rio de Janeiro, tackles the taboo subject of prejudice against those who are HIV positive with joy and humanity.  

In-depth interviews with the authors and translators of this year’s and last year’s winners of the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize will be featured in an online presentation to be released on April 14 at 2:30pm CDT as part of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival.  The festival is free and open to the public (registration required).

In a separate but related announcement, GLLI is contributing its library of titles to the new International Youth Literature Collection that is being established and announced today at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey’s Archibald S. Alexander Library, in New Brunswick, NJ.  

The Alexander Library is celebrating the opening of the new collection with an online event, which takes place today at 11am Eastern (please register).  The event will feature a tour of the collection, picture book readings in a number of foreign languages including prominent author-illustrators Peter Sís (Czech) and Roger Mello (Portuguese), as well as the live announcement of the GLLI award.

Both the GLLI and Rutgers announcements are timed to coincide with International Children’s Book Day, which falls on April 2, the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen.

“There is no question this has been a banner year for young adult literature in translation!” commented GLLI Executive Director Karen Van Drie. “Submissions have increased by more than a third this year. That suggests growing publisher interest and commitment to global literature and their recognition of the importance of sharing perspectives from abroad.”

Fewer young adult (YA) books are translated into English than any other type of children’s literature. The GLLI prize aims to focus attention on the gems of world literature for 12-to-18-year-olds.

The committee also selected two honor books:  Almond by Won-pyung Sohn (translated from the Korean by Sandy Joosun Lee and published by HarperVia), the gritty story of a Korean teen born with a condition that leaves him unable to identify or express emotion, and The End by Mats Strandberg (translated from the Swedish by Judith Kiros and published by Arctis Books), in which Swedish teens have 4 months to come to grips with the fact that world will be ending.  

The winning books were selected from a field of titles translated from 16 languages and representing 21 countries or regions from Bangladesh to Belgium. Works published within three years of the submission deadline were considered.  The shortlist of 13 titles contains a diversity of themes and subject matter of interest to every teen imaginable:  from a horror story about a Halloween-like event gone wrong, the true voices of immigrants crossing the US southern border, and a graphic novel of friendship amid a zombie apocalypse, to a magical, fable-like tale of a stereotype-busting woman from Palestine.   

Members of the prize committee include David Jacobson, chair and author/Japanese translator; Catharine Bomhold, University of Southern Mississippi; Abigail Hsu, Morristown & Morris Township Library; Karen Jensen, Fort Worth Public Library; Lynn E. Palermo, Susquehanna University; Karen Van Drie, GLLI executive director/international literature and libraries consultant; Sujei Lugo Vázquez, Boston Public Library; and Rachel Wang Yung-Hsin, writer/translator and Kirkus reviewer.

The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative brings together translators, librarians, teachers, editors and others dedicated to helping librarians identify and raise the visibility of world literature for children, teens, and adults. Our activities include creating pan-publisher catalogs; maintaining a database of translations; sharing ideas for selecting, evaluating, using and promoting world literature for all ages; and administering the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize.  We regularly showcase and review world literature on our blog and featured Brazilian literature most recently in April 2020.  Check us out on Facebook, Twitter (@GlobalLitin), as well as at our website

For more information about the prize and instructions for 2022 submissions, see https://glli-us.org/prizes/

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The 2021 Shortlist

Abigail by Magda Szabó, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix (New York Review Books, 2020) — HUNGARY

Almond by Won-pyung Sohn, translated from the Korean by Sandy Joosun Lee (HarperVia, 2020) – SOUTH KOREA

The Blue Wings by Jef Aerts, translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson (Levine Querido, 2020) — BELGIUM

A Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Gier, translated from the German by Romy Fursland (Henry Holt, 2020) – GERMANY

The End by Mats Strandberg, translated from the Swedish by Judith Kiros (Arctis Books, 2020) – SWEDEN

Ever After written, illustrated and translated from the German by Olivia Vieweg (Lerner, 2020) – GERMANY

The Forgotten Book by Mechthild Gläser, translated from the German by Romy Fursland (Feiwel & Friends, 2018) — GERMANY

Fright Night by Maren Stoffels, translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson (Delacorte, 2020) – THE NETHERLANDS

Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins, translated from the Portuguese by Larissa Helena (Scholastic, 2020) – BRAZIL

The Other Side by Juan Pablo Villalobos, translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019) – MEXICO

Run for Your Life by Silvana Gandolfi, translated from the Italian by Lynne Sharon Schwartz (Restless Books, 2018) – ITALY

Where We Go from Here by Lucas Rocha, translated from the Portuguese by Larissa Helena (Scholastic, 2020) – BRAZIL

Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands by Sonia Nimr, translated from the Arabic by Marcia Lynx Qualey (Interlink Publishing, 2020) – PALESTINE

Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands by Sonia Nimr, translated from the Arabic by Marcia Lynx Qualey (Interlink Publishing, 2020) – PALESTINE