If you're in the market for a fresh new read, consider the young adult section. People of all ages have come to respect this genre for the groundbreaking, imaginative, and poignant storytelling found in so many YA books. Checking out the young adult novels that full grown adults are obsessed with, too, may present you with a few surprises. These books take on topics that are difficult for many adults with amazing poise and empathy.
Even if you're familiar with the YA mega-hits, there's so much more to the genre than books about wizards and dark dystopian futures (although those are great, too). Poignant looks at race relations, the American experience, gun violence, LGBT concerns, the foster care system, and mental illness are all present here. As the kids would say, these books are woke. (Did I use that word correctly?)
Plus, you get to experience life through the eyes of a teenager again, this time from the perspective of a slightly older adult. What is it like for young adults to live in this charged, conflicted climate? As these stories show, their struggles are as real and vivid as ever. Read on to find the next book that might break your heart or change your mind.
1. 'American Street' by Ibi Zoboi
When she left Haiti for America, the character Fabiola Toussaint assumed she was on her way to the good life. But adapting to life in west side Detroit presents Fabiola with unknown challenges and choices in Ibi Zoboi's American Street. This story examines the difficult realities of American life in lyrical, gorgeous prose.
2. 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas
Brilliant and honest, Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give is a must-read for humans of all ages. When 16-year-old Starr Carters witnesses the murder of a childhood friend at the hands of a police officer, her life is completely upended. This powerful story examines questions about race and reality in a nuanced, poignant way.
3. 'I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter' by Erika L. Sánchez
Humorous and tragic in equal turns, this story examines the role of parental expectations in a Mexican-American home, and what happens when one daughter dares to go against her family's wishes. When an accident leaves her sister dead, the protagonist Julia is left to bear the weight of her family's demands in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez. But as Julia questions her place in the family, she also learns surprising information about her late sister, who perhaps wasn't so perfect either.
4. 'A List of Cages' by Robin Roe
This compassionate, inspiring story will stay with you. When the character Adam Blake is reunited with his long-lost foster brother, at first the reunion is joyous. But as Adam learns more about his brother's reality, both young men have to deal with some hard truths in Robin Roe's A List of Cages.
5. 'The Living' by Matt de la Peña
If you need a little excitement on your reading list, this book is a perfect choice. All the character, Shy, wanted was a summer job on a cruise ship. But when and earthquake leaves him lost at sea, Shy has to fight for his life in The Living by Matt de la Peña. Unfortunately for Shy, the earthquake is only the beginning of his troubles.
6. 'Long Way Down' by Jason Reynolds
The action of the entire book takes place in only 60 seconds — what? — but that minute inside the mind of 15-year-old Will might change your perspective about teenage gun violence forever. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds follows Will as he wrestles with the agonizing decision of whether to shoot his brother's murderer. As he stands in the elevator with a gun in his waistband, Will faces a terrifying choice.
7. 'Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda' by Becky Albertalli
It's a coming-of-age story and a coming-out story all in one. In danger of being outed by an email, the main character, 16-year-old Simon, has to find a way to tell his friends he's gay in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. His funny, sweet story will stay in your heart.
8. 'Starfish' by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Anxious and withdrawn, all Kiko wants is to attend the art school, Prism, and escape her narcissist mother. But when faced with rejection from her dream art school, Kiko has to make her own path in Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman. Once she has the freedom to explore her half-Japanese heritage, as well as other self truths, Kiko's experience changes dramatically.
9. 'Turtles All the Way Down' by John Green
John Green has already secured fans of all ages with his prior works, and this latest release is no different. Turtles All The Way Down follows the adventures of 16-year-old Aza, who attempts to help her best friend solve a mystery and earn $100,000. But Aza also has to contend with the world of her own thoughts as she struggles with mental illness.
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