What's Up in YA

🚘 ⛵ Take A Trip With YA Road Trip Stories

Hey YA Readers: Let’s go on a road trip!

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Road trip novels are the best kinds of novels, though up until recently, they were very, very white. I’m so happy to see more inclusive road trips making their way into the YA world.

Let’s hit the road . . . and things that aren’t exactly the road . . . with these excellent YA reads. I’ve kept to titles out in the last year or so, as well as those you’ll want on your radar that’ll be coming soon.

American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott

If you haven’t already listened to the Hey YA episode where Eric and I brought Patrick on as a guest, you should — we go deep into the world of YA road trips and especially on why it is it’s rare to see road trips which feature characters of color.

When Teo’s brother Manny comes home from a tour of duty, he’s not who he was before. Not a bit. But it’s their sister Xochitl who decides it’s time to deal with both Manny’s challenges — and T’s own struggles — by taking them from their rental by SeaTac down to Hatch, New Mexico, where they’ll spend the summer helping Manny find treatment for his PTSD with their uncle who himself struggles post-service.

This book takes on the road, as well as mental health and economic challenges in such a realistic way. It’s especially heartening how much this family looks out for one another and loves on another. Bonus? It’ll make you crave hatch chilies.

A Heart In A Body In The World by Deb Caletti

This book is just beautiful, and seeing it pick up a Printz honor this year, I hope, helped propel it onto more people’s radars. This is a book about a girl named Annabelle who has been dealing with something traumatic, and, as a means of clearing her mind and coming to terms with the experience, she decides she’s going to run across country from her town outside Seattle to Washington, DC. Her grandfather follows along in an RV behind her, and all of the characters she meets along the way are so well rendered. It’s a tough read, but it’s also hopeful, and it’s one for every feminist.

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

This book has been sitting on my TBR for far too long, but I’m determined to read it before the summer ends.

Chloe’s mom forbids her from trying out for a spot in her dream dance conservatory so, rather than do nothing about it, Chloe devises a plan to travel 200 miles to get to an audition anyway. The hitch is that she has to share this trip with her annoying neighbor (under the threat he’ll tell Chloe’s mom if she doesn’t allow him to come with) and his dog.

Mariam Sharma Hits The Road by Sheba Khan

Khan’s book, which came out last year, was the first I read that featured an entire cast of brown characters on a road trip. When a scandalous photo of her friend Ghaz hits a NYC billboard, Mariam realizes this summer will be unlike any other (and it certainly won’t be one where she relaxes after her first year of college!). Mariam and Umar decide that the best course of action to protect Ghaz from the fury of her parents is to hit the road. It’s a story about closure, about change, and about the realities of racism and sexuality, particularly for Pakistani and Muslim American teenagers.

Start Here by Trish Doller (August 13)

This one hits shelves soon and it’s a nice twist on the road trip story, being that it’s not actually set on the road.

Willa, Taylor, and Finley were inseparable friends, though Finley was the glue holding the trio together. When they were young, they made a promise to sail from their home in Ohio through the Great Loop and down to the Florida Keys to celebrate the end of high school. Unfortunately, Finley dies from leukemia before she gets to take the trip but leaves Willa and Taylor with a set of clues for their trip that will honor her memory, as well as allow the two of them to bond outside of their relationship to her.

Willa is a mixed-race girl and Taylor is bisexual, and their identities play a big role in the story as Willa confronts the realities of her race, as well as her economic challenges, while Taylor, who has access to much more than Willa, grapples with that as well as with who she feels she’s ready to share her sexuality with.

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you on Saturday for some sizzling ebook deals!

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Instagram and editor of (Don’t) Call Me Crazy and Here We Are.