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Find more Booklist Editors' Choice
Selected by the Books for Youth editors, the following titles constitute the year’s best personal reading for teenagers among adult books published in 2019. More on each book’s content and suggested audience can be found in the full-length Booklist review.
Boys Will Be Boys: Power, Patriarchy, and Toxic Masculinity. By Clementine Ford. Oneworld, paper, $17.95 (9781786076632).In this fiery tome, Australian agitator Ford encourages men to fight against the social trap of toxic masculinity. A timely cultural critic, she dissects recent events and long-standing societal practices, while remaining hopeful for a future of justice and equality.
Making Comics. By Lynda Barry. Illus. by the author. Drawn & Quarterly, $22.95 (9781770463691).Page after page of hand-written exercises, designed to break ingrained habits and inspire creativity, make up Barry’s guide to comics. Though the theory behind the books is serious, the playful tone, lively format, and deep focus on technique make this supremely useful and genuinely fun.
More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say). By Elaine Welteroth. Viking, $26 (9780525561583).With lyrical prose, former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Welteroth shows what it truly means to be a leader in her inspiring memoir. Teens will connect with Welteroth’s accounts of her child- and young-adulthood and admire the grace and drive behind her achievements.
She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman. By Erica Armstrong Dunbar. Simon & Schuster, $23.99 (9781982139599).Dunbar’s treatment of Harriet Tubman’s life conveys the tremendous power of Tubman’s accomplishments, all in an uplifting, accessible, and thoroughly modern tone that will leave even the least historically inclined readers in awe.
Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story. By Jacob Tobia. Putnam, $26 (9780735218826).Tobia, assigned male at birth, is a gifted storyteller who writes with insight, lucidity, occasional anger, and wit about coming to understand their gender identity and give it a comfortable name. This fascinating story is one of the best trans narratives available.
Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Us. By Ruth Kassinger. HMH, $26 (9780544432932).This enlightening dive into the wide world of algae explores the varied ways these organisms are used in everyday life, from food to fashion, bioengineering, marine biology, farming, and more. Kassinger’s winsome tone and contagious curiosity will entice readers with a broad array of interests.
They Called Us Enemy. By George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott. Illus. by Harmony Becker. Top Shelf, $19.99 (9781603094504).Takei’s graphic memoir relates his childhood experiences in internment camps during WWII and their reverberating impact on his adult life with a compelling blend of nostalgia and outrage. Becker’s emotional, manga-inspired artwork emphasizes the personal toll in this all-too-relevant account of the recent past.
The Ash Family. By Molly Dektar. Simon & Schuster, $26 (9781501144868).En route to college, freshman Berie meets the alluring Bay, who persuades her to come to his “farm,” i.e., an environmentalist cult with a Jim Jones-style leader. Berie is easily indoctrinated but soon recognizes the utopia’s dangerous underside.
The Bird King. By G. Willow Wilson. Grove, $26 (9780802129031).In a lush historical fantasy set during the Spanish Inquisition, Fatima escapes her pampered palace life to save a friend, embarking on a journey that tests their endurance and their faith. An affirming blend of Muslim culture, adventure, magic, and themes of love and power.
Curious Toys. By Elizabeth Hand. Little, Brown/Mulholland, $27 (9780316485883).It’s 1915, and a serial killer is preying on young girls in Chicago. After Vivian’s sister disappears, the 14-year-old disguises herself as a boy (for her safety) and finds herself on the trail of the killer, who is haunting the local amusement park.
Dominicana. By Angie Cruz. Flatiron, $26.99 (9781250205933).Cruz masterfully provides insight into the 1960s Dominican immigration to the U.S. through the experiences of her 15-year-old protagonist, Ana Canción. Capturing both the gritty reality of forging a new life and Ana’s fierce motivation, Cruz’s novel will resonate with young adults flexing their independence.
Escaping Exodus. By Nicky Drayden. Harper Voyager, paper, $15.99 (9780062867735).Drayden artfully explores a love story between two Black girls from different castes in this Afrofuturistic tale, set in a starship comprised of the insides of a whale-like space beast. Its mesmerizing world-building and compelling characters will hook sf readers of any age.
Gods with a Little G. By Tupelo Hassman. Farrar, $26 (9780374164461).Teenage Helen entrancingly narrates as she and her friends invent their own ways to learn about life beyond the painful confines of their religiously isolated town. Irreverent, wise, heartbreaking, and heart-mending, this account of everyday challenges is told with dazzlingly original style.
The Nickel Boys. By Colson Whitehead. Doubleday, $24.95 (9780385537070).Two Black teens at Nickel Academy take very different approaches to the racist, sadistic, and sometimes fatal treatment of students by the school’s faculty, but together they try to expose the disturbing truth about the reform school in this tautly focused novel, based on real events.
Ninth House. By Leigh Bardugo. Flatiron, $27.99 (9781250313072).Galaxy “Alex” Stern has won a place at Yale because of her ability to see ghosts. She’s the newest initiate in the ninth of the university’s notorious secret societies, but her role takes a turn after a townie is murdered. Part mystery, part coming-of-age, all delicious atmosphere.
Normal People. By Sally Rooney. Hogarth, $26 (9781984822178).Well-liked athlete Connell and antisocial outsider Marianne, two of their high school’s brightest, begin a secret, intense relationship that ends before they go to the same college. Rooney follows their subsequent reunions and realizations in this stunning, subtle, character-driven coming-of-age story.
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