Young Adult Lit
I THINK I WILL FOREVER be just a little bit in love with young adult (YA) literature, no matter how old I get. While I’m not terribly discriminatory about genres, I do have steadfast favorites: fantasy, dystopian, historical fiction, and sci-fi. There are popular tropes that show up across all—found family, fake dating, enemies to lovers, reluctant royalty, etc.—and it’s enjoyable to dive into a book that doesn’t hold any punches and jumps right into the story.
YA isn’t afraid to wrestle with big questions or tackle difficult topics, and the books’ main characters are often saving the world while also dealing with the soul-crushing monotony of high school. There’s been a rise in BIPOC YA literature showcasing different identities and cultural backgrounds. We all have different frameworks for how we view the world based on our experiences and how we grew up, but I love seeing the world from another perspective. Whether that’s through how an Iranian immigrant daughter handles culture shock after moving to America or an Afro-Latina navigating high school while raising a toddler, I always learn when I read a novel from a different perspective and am better for it.
Yamile Saied Méndez
Algonquin Young Readers
Set in Argentina, Furia follows Camila (La Furia), who wants to pursue her fútbol dream but feels trapped by family obligations and a narrow view of what women can do with their lives. She has to keep her ambitions a secret from her parents, but inside she longs to see how far her talents could take her. This novel touched on so many emotional and poignant aspects—family dynamics, trust, first love, pursuing your dreams, and standing up for yourself. I was completely mesmerized and rooting for La Furia the entire time. The overall story carefully and beautifully weaves Camila’s love for her family and her growth in figuring out her dreams while fighting for them.
Six Crimson Cranes
Knopf Books for Young Readers
I was pretty much destined to fall in love with Six Crimson Cranes because it features one of my favorite genres: diverse fairy-tale retellings. If you’re familiar with the Six Swans story, then you’ll love this rendition, which pulls from Asian mythology and expertly draws in new elements, like a dubiously helpful and mysterious water dragon and an enchanted paper bird sidekick. Princess Shiori has forbidden magic, and on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, she accidentally loses control and is cursed by her stepmother. Her six brothers are turned into cranes and she isn’t able to talk, for if she utters one word, one of her brothers will die. She has to find a way to break the curse and turn her brothers back into humans, all without speaking. Elizabeth Lim has written a beautiful and lyrical story that captures you from the beginning with her rich world development and captivating portrayal of magic, mythology, romance, and adventure.
The Ones We’re Meant to Find
Roaring Brook Press
If I had one word to describe this novel, I’d use unsettling, but in the best possible way. You’re quickly pulled into this dystopian-esque environmental thriller, and the novel switches back and forth between two young women. Cee can’t remember how she ended up on this abandoned island, but all she knows is that she needs to find her sister, Kay. Kasey Mizuhara is a STEM prodigy and lives in a carefully maintained eco-city that protects its residents from natural disasters due to climate change. Kasey’s sister, Celia, is missing, and she’s determined to find out what happened. The story has an eerie quality that pulls you in instantly, giving you just enough glimpses to make you think you know what’s happening, before turning everything on its head in the next chapter. Even when I thought I had figured out how the stories intersected, the author would reveal a new detail that would leave me astonished.