What's Up in YA

The Perfect Immigrant, Climate Justice, and More YA Book Talk: March 13, 2023

Hey YA Readers!

We blinked and we’re now almost half-way through March. I’m still on track to eat something green everyday this month, and I hope whatever (silly or serious) goals you’ve set for this lionness month, you’re making the progress you desire.

Let’s dive into this week’s new books and talk about another feminist topic in honor of Women’s History Month: climate justice.

Bookish Goods

VOTE vinyl sticker

VOTE Sticker by LunitaDesigns

I did not expect as a young voter that, as I strode toward middle age, that I would be voting on fundamental human rights still–the right to read, the right to love, the right to healthcare, etc. But here we are.

This VOTE sticker is excellent, and the books which compose the “V” are all titles under regular fire by censors. AKA: they’re diverse. $4.

New Releases

Let’s dive on into this week’s new hardcover releases. I’ve pulled out two very different contemporary realistic titles that both sound fabulous.

Want more? You can peep the entire roundup of new YA books out this week here.

dear medusa book cover

Dear Medusa by Olivia A. Cole

Alicia is 16, and she’s subject to nonstop judgment from her classmates. It comes because she has sex, so she’s, of course, seen as easy. A slut. Every other name you can imagine for a girl like her.

Except: Alicia was sexually abused by a teacher. She’s a survivor. And of course, it’s a popular teacher who did that to her.

As Alicia begins to drop out of everything that brings her joy, she finds a series of letters from someone else at school. Someone who claims they’ve been a victim, too. Now, she wants to get to the truth of that story and her own.

This verse novel is one for readers who are itching for a compelling and powerful story of redemption, race, power, and maybe even love.

the next new syrian girl book cover

The Next New Syrian Girl by Ream Shukairy

One part I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and one part Furia, Shukairy’s debut follows Khadija and Leene, two teens at a suburban Detroit high school. Khadija is determined, and she sets her sights on traveling the world to leave behind her sheltered life. So when she collides with Leene, a girl who is a Syrian refugee and struggling with anxiety and nonstop pressure from her family, things are rocky, fast. Both girls see each other as the opposite of who they should be as Syrians in America.

Khadija, though, finds a secret in Leene’s past and it brings the girls together in a way neither expect…but in a way that will ultimately help them understand themselves, each other, and their realities as Syrian immigrants.

Riot Recommendations

Continuing the month of feminist values as seen through YA is the topic of climate justice. Late last year, I had the honor of writing about some of the YA authors, teachers, and young activists who’ve been doing and writing about on-the-ground work when it comes to climate justice. You can dig into that in-depth article over on School Library Journal, and it includes several compelling documentaries, books, and other media to help you expand your knowledge in this arena.

Because the above highlights a number of my go-to fiction authors and books on the topic, I encourage you to dig into those titles, as well as these additional nonfiction books below, to better understand the movement (& how you can get involved and/or encourage young people to get involve, too).

Note: one of the biggest issues worth addressing when it comes to the climate crisis is that individuals themselves cannot change the course of reality. You cannot personal responsibility your way out of systemic issues, particularly when the bulk of climate change can be attributed to businesses and industries that make billions of dollars. That said, individuals can and do make changes that help them and their small pocket of the world a more sustainable and just place, and the books below showcase how and why that matters, even if it is not the be-all, end-all solution.

how to change everything book cover

How to Change Everything by Naomi Klein and adapted by Rebecca Stefoff

For readers who want to be inspired and motivated, this book is a winner. It includes a look at the realities of climate change while highlighting stories of young people across the globe working for environmental justice. But it doesn’t end at inspiring stories; it’s also a guide to getting on the ground and involved in the movement.

imaginary borders book cover

Imaginary Borders by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

This title in Penguin’s “Pocket Change Collective” series is an inspiring essay from environmental activist and hip hop artist Martinez. In it, he talks about how he weaves his art into the movement for climate justice and why it is young people should care to make change for the betterment of the planet.

the story of more book cover

The Story of More (Young Reader Edition) by Hope Jahren

I read the original, “adult” version of this title, which would be perfectly appropriate for teen readers. But it is really wonderful Jahren put out an edition specifically for young readers.

This would be an excellent starting place for readers who may not be familiar with what the climate crisis is or what it looks like, as Jahren–a geochemist and geobiologist–explains is clearly. But beyond explaining the dire reality of the globe, she offers ways in which every person can push back and make the world a better place.

this book will save the planet book cover

This Book Will Save the Planet by Dany Sigwalt and Aurélia Durand 

If you haven’t looked at the “Empower the Future” series yet, you should. It’s an excellent set of books aimed at middle and high school students on big, juicy topics that empower them to take action. This is the third in the series, and it focuses on how young people can get involved in the movement for climate justice. The book is intersectional and offers at the end of each chapter calls to action and ways the reader can do something or think about the topics being presented and how they are impacted.

As always, thanks for hanging out. We’ll see you on Thursday with your YA paperback releases and your YA book news.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, currently listening to Poverty by America by Matthew Desmond.