Engaging YA Books

Help your high school students find engaging YA books to read that are in a variety of interesting formats.

YA (young adult) novels have come a long way since the development of the genre. Now, these novels represent a diverse selection of plots, characters, settings and themes. Students will enjoy reading YA novels that are not just the traditional realistic fiction genre. Recommend that your students try novels in verse, a memoir, non-fiction books or graphic novels.

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Novels in Verse

Clap When You Land
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
A novel in verse that explores grief, loss, and the bonds between people that are forged in trying times. Clap When You Land entwines two main characters’ secrets and lives when tragedy hits.

The Poet X
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Xiomara feels seen and not heard in her neighbourhood – at school, on the street, in all aspects of her life. But she needs to be able to make her voice heard, so when she learns about her school’s slam poetry club, she joins in hopes that she can find her voice.

Punching the Air
Punching the Air by Yusef Salaam and Ibi Zoboi
This novel in verse takes a critical look at the American juvenile prison system with the story of Amal. Amal is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit at 16 years old and sent to prison. Can he use his words and art to change the course of his life?

Long Way Down
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Told in 60 seconds, during an elevator ride, Jason Reynolds follows Will, who has decided to take care of the guy who murdered his brother. He grabs his brother’s gun and gets in the elevator, but is unprepared for the ghosts of his past and present who tell a different story than the one he thinks he knows.

Solo (Blink)
Solo (Blink) by Kwame Alexander
Blade will do anything to make sure he’s not like his drug addict and rockstar father. Then a family secret is revealed and a letter is found. Can it bring Blade redemption or loss?

Swing (Blink)
Swing (Blink) by Kwame Alexander
Noah and Walt, best friends, want to make junior year their best ever. But when Noah’s secret crush is revealed to the public, he knows he must make a choice.

Graphic Novels

This One Summer
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
Rose and her parents go to Awago Beach every summer. But this summer is different- her parents are fighting all the time, and Rose and her best friend Windy find secrets there that they must figure out.

Speak: The Graphic Novel
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson & Emily Carroll (Illustrator)
During the summer between the middle and high school, Melinda is sexually assaulted by a senior student at a party. She calls 9-1-1 to report this incident but loses her voice and does not speak to the dispatcher. The police arrive at the party and Melinda’s fellow students know she called the police, but do not know why. Her peers do not treat her kindly until the truth is revealed.

Memoirs

All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
In their memoir-manifesto, George M. Johnson recounts their childhood and their journey to who they are today- an unapologetic queer Black man. Through stories of their intersecting identities of race, gender, and sexuality, along with topics of family, friendships, and relationships, George M. Johnson tells LGBTQ+ teens that it’s ok to be who you are, and shows allies how to stand in solidarity.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
In the memoir of Trevor Noah who was born in South Africa to biracial parents which was not permitted, his mother spent his early years hiding him from the government until they were able to live freely.

Educated: A Memoir
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Tara lived with her family in the mountains of Idaho and never attended school until she was seventeen and then found a love of knowledge that took her across the world.

Non-Fiction

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning
Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds (non-fiction)
This “not a history book” has been remixed for young adults and takes readers through history to show how the construct of race has been used to oppress people of colour. But Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi also offers hope to readers through the ideologies of abolitionists and anti-racists.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (Young Reader Edition)
Bryan Stevenson takes a hard look at the American criminal justice system. In this Young Reader’s Edition, teens and young adults will learn about the Equal Justice Initiative and what it means to truly fight injustice.

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives (Thorndike Press Large Print Mini-collections)
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
Two teens’ lives overlap for only 8 minutes each day on the bus. One reckless act will change each teen forever.

Additional Resources

  1. Middle School Book Recommendations
  2. High School Book Recommendations

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