What's Your Story?

Stories help us empathize. They transport us when we want to escape. They feed our souls when we're running on empty (like about right now.) Stories help us to understand the humanity in each other. They help us to build larger meaning in the uncertain world around us. Stories help us to find ourselves by finding others in the pages we read; they validate our own existence and remind us that we are not alone. What's your story? Here are some of my favorite (mostly from 2020) YA stories.

Punching the Air

Ibi Aanu Zoboi

Black Lives Matter, Young Adult

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. The story that I thought was my life didn't start on the day I was born. Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he's seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. "Boys just being boys" turns out to be true only when those boys are white. The story that I think will be my life starts today. Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal's bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn't commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it' With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both. Ages 12+

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This book, written in verse is a masterpiece very loosely based on the exonerated 5 member Yusef Salaam, who co-authors the book. This book touched me to my core and brought the inhumanity of the school-to-prison pipeline blatantly into view.
- Victoria

With the Fire on High

Elizabeth Acevedo

Young Adult, Fiction

"Teen mother Emoni Santiago struggles with the challenges of finishing high school and her dream of working as a chef." --

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Elizabeth Acevedo's writing transcends the YA mold she has been put into and rather her writing cracks that mold wide open creating a whole new world of authentic stories, characters and lessons that identify life's priorities; highlighting the fact that we can make mistakes but we are not the sum of them and that while we might not fit prescribed notions of what is expected of us from family or society, we can find ourselves and still thrive. Check out Poet X and Clap When you Land, also by Acevedo. Ages 14+
- Victoria


Darcie Little Badger

Young Adult, Paranormal

"Imagine an America very similar to our own. It's got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream. There are some differences. This America has been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day. Seventeen-year-old Elatsoe ("Ellie" for short) lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect façade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family" --

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Fast-paced suspense with magic, intrigue and murder-mystery.
- Victoria

The Upside of Falling

Alex Light

Young Adult, Romance

A fun, flirty teen debut from Wattpad phenom Alex Light about a fake relationship and real love. It's been years since seventeen-year-old Becca Hart believed in true love. But when her former best friend teases her for not having had a boyfriend, Becca impulsively pretends she's been secretly seeing someone. Brett Wells has it all. As captain of the football team and one of the most popular guys in his school, he should have no problem finding someone to date, but he's always been more focused on his future than who to bring to prom. When he overhears Becca's lie, Brett decides to step in and be the mystery guy. It's the perfect solution: he gets people off his back for not having a meaningful relationship and she can keep up the ruse that she's got a boyfriend. Acting like the perfect couple isn't easy, though, especially when you barely know the other person. But with Becca still picking up the pieces from when her world was blown apart years ago and Brett just barely holding his together now, they begin to realize they have more in common than they ever could have imagined. When the line between what is pretend and what is real begins to blur, they're forced to answer the question: Is this fake romance the realest thing in either of their lives?--

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An upbeat romantic tale. 12-16.
- Victoria

One of Us is Next

Karen M. McManus

Mystery, Suspense, Young Adult

A year after the Bayview four were cleared of Simon Kelleher's death a ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up, but no one's been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. Now a game with dangerous consequences is targeting students at Bayview-- and if the creator isn't found soon, dangerous could prove deadly. If you choose not to play, it's a truth. And Phoebe is the first target. Maeve is next. By the time Knox is tagged, the dares have become deadly. -- adapted from jacket

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If you enjoyed One of us is Lying, you won't be disappointed with the sequel. 14+
- Victoria

The Marrow Thieves

Cherie Dimaline

Young Adult, Dystopian

"In a future world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America's indigenous population - and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow - and dreams - means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a 15-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones, and take refuge from the "recruiters" who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing 'factories.'"--

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Gripping dystopian climate change fiction where the mass populous is unable to dream making them mad. The only ones capable of dreaming is a group of Indigenous Americans and the only method? Harvesting their marrow. A slow read in parts but so worthwhile. Ages 14+
- Victoria

They Called Us Enemy

George Takei

940.547273 /Takei
Young Adult, Biographies

"A stunning graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei's childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon -- and America itself -- in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love. George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's -- and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future. In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten 'relocation centers', hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard. They Called Us Enemy is Takei's firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother's hard choices, his father's faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future. What is American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do?"--Provided by publisher.

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The story of the aftermath of Pearl Harbor for Japanese Americans. What does it mean to be a US immigrant from Japan during World War 2? A fascinating read about the former helmsman of the Starship Enterprise, author and activist. Ages 14+
- Victoria

Grown : a novel

Tiffany D. Jackson

Black Lives Matter, Young Adult

"When legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots Enchanted Jones at an audition, her dreams of being a famous singer take flight. Until Enchanted wakes up with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night. Who killed Korey Fields? Before there was a dead body, Enchanted's dreams had turned into a nightmare. Because behind Korey's charm and star power was a controlling dark side. Now he's dead, the police are at the door, and all signs point to Enchanted"--

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Based very loosely on R.Kelly's allegations and conviction, this is a page-turning story of something author Tiffany D. Jackson experienced. Warning: this book describes sexual assault and kidnapping. Ages 14+
- Victoria

Cemetery Boys

Aiden Thomas

Young Adult, Paranormal

Yadriel, a trans boy, summons the angry spirit of his high school's bad boy, and agrees to help him learn how he died, thereby proving himself a brujo, not a bruja, to his conservative family. 14+.

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Summoning spirits to provide closure results in a ground-breaking paranormal transgender romance.
- Victoria

Dear Justyce

Nic Stone

Black Lives Matter, Young Adult

Incarcerated teen Quan Banks writes letters to Justyce McCallister, with whom he bonded years before over family issues, about his experiences in the American juvenile justice system. 13+.

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Great sequel to Dear Martin for those boys who have not had the same opportunities as the Justyce McAllister's.
- Victoria

Six of Crows

Leigh Bardugo

Young Adult, Fantasy

"Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction--if they don't kill each other first"--

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Action-packed fantasy story of a genius leader and his fallible but identifiable crew. 14+
- Victoria

When Stars are Scattered

Victoria Jamieson


"Omar and his younger brother Hassan live in a refugee camp, and when an opportunity for Omar to get an education comes along, he must decide between going to school every day or caring for his nonverbal brother in this intimate and touching portrayal of family and daily life in a refugee camp"--

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An insightful and moving biography. 12+.
- Victoria