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No doubt the next 50 years of YA books will be partly shaped by the Michael L. Printz Awards, administered by ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and sponsored by Booklist. This year, the top prize goes to John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell’s March: Book Three, while Honor Book status goes to Louise O’Neill’s Asking for It, Julie Berry’s The Passion of Dolssa, Neal Shusterman’s Scythe, and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star. More teen readers will be finding these three outstanding novels; here’s how to extend their reading with similar titles.
March: Book Three, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
This stirring, nuanced graphic memoir of Lewis’ experiences during the civil rights movement cogently recounts this pivotal, galvanizing moment in history in a stunning cinematic art style.
Black Panther, v.1: A Nation under Our Feet. By Ta-Nehisi Coates. Illus. by Brian Stelfreeze. 2016. Marvel, $16.99 (9781302900533). Gr. 10–12.
Coates infuses his update of this classic Marvel superhero with a strong sense of political philosophy, which echoes contemporary concerns about racial justice that are the continuation of the fight at the heart of March, Book Three. Though solidly in the realm of superhero-adventure story, this has real-world resonance.
In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives. By Kenneth C. Davis. 2016. Holt, $17.99 (9781627793117). Gr. 7–10.
The inequality Lewis and his compatriots fought against during the civil rights movement took root early in America, and Davis’ trenchant, illuminating account of four slaveholding U.S. presidents pulls back the curtain on how deeply racism is embedded in American culture and the reverberating effects still felt today.
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March. By Lynda Blackmon Lowery and others. Illus. by PJ Loughran. 2015. Dial, $19.99 (9780803741232). Gr. 7–12.
Though Lowery describes some of the same events covered in March, Book Three, her experience as a teenager in the civil rights movement will be particularly inspiring for teen readers, who might be spurred on by reading about someone their own age participating in civil action.
Asking for It, by Louise O’Neill (Quercus)
After disturbing photos of beautiful, popular Emma being drugged and raped are posted online, she presses charges, but she’s the one who becomes the object of scorn and vitriol.
All the Rage. By Courtney Summers. 2015. St. Martin’s/Griffin, $18.99 (9781250021915). Gr. 10–12.
Like Emma, Summers’ protagonist, Romy, becomes a pariah in her small town after she accuses a classmate of rape. But Summers homes in on Romy’s simmering anger at both her own treatment and rape culture in general, which comes to a head when her rapist attacks another girl.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear. By E. K. Johnston. 2016. Dutton, $17.99 (9781101994580). Gr. 9–12.
Johnston’s loose retelling of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is also a rape story, but unlike Emma, Hermione has a solid network of adults and friends to rely on. Her experience is no less harrowing, but the contrast between these novels emphasizes how critical support can be for victims of rape.
Infinite Sky. By C. J. Flood. 2014. Atheneum, $17.99 (9781481406581). Gr. 9–12.
When Iris befriends an unwelcome newcomer to her town, her neighbors start gossiping and her family starts to crumble. Flood’s novel is a study in the taut, sometimes toxic dynamics of small towns, echoing the competitive, snide atmosphere of Emma’s community, particularly after the townsfolk turn against her.
The Passion of Dolssa, by Julie Berry (Viking)
In a chorus of voices, Berry tells the story of a thirteenth-century girl, who’s been branded a heretic, as she hides out with three sisters.
The Betrayal of Maggie Blair. By Elizabeth Laird. 2011. HMH, $16.99 (9780547341262). Gr. 8–11.
Whereas Berry’s novel suggests true divine intervention, in Laird’s story, about a girl and her grandmother accused of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Scotland, there are no otherworldly influences. And yet, the upshot is the same: frenzied believers targeting innocent people and inciting all-too-human mob mentality.
Incantation. By Alice Hoffman. 2006. Little, Brown, $10 (9780316154284). Gr. 9–12.
Hoffman’s novel of a secret community of Jews at the turn of the sixteenth century in Spain touches on many of the same things as Berry’s book: the Inquisition and religious persecution, secretive religions, rich historical context, and young women at the center of key moments in history.
The Inconceivable Life of Quinn. By Marianna Baer. 2017. Abrams/Amulet, $18.95 (9781419723025). Gr. 9–12.
When Quinn discovers she’s pregnant, despite never having had sex, rumors start spreading that she’s carrying the second coming of Christ, and followers congregate on her Brooklyn stoop. Baer’s thought-provoking, magic-realist novel examines doctrinaire religious fervor, faith, and free will in a contemporary setting.
Scythe, by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster)
Shusterman’s brainy, compelling story of a postmortal Earth poses a thought-provoking question: In world without death, what becomes of life?
Away We Go. By Emil Ostrovski. 2016. Greenwillow, $17.99 (9780062238559). Gr. 9–12.
In a future world, where most teens contract a life-ending virus, Noah is quarantined at a special school that offers education and enrichment, despite its students’ truncated life expectancy. The messy struggle to thrive when survival is impossible is an evocative complement to Scythe.
The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, v.1: At the Edge of Empire. By Daniel Kraus. 2015. Simon & Schuster, $18.99 (9781481411394). Gr. 9–12.
Although Kraus’ vainglorious narrator dies, he certainly doesn’t stop living, and as he experiences historic moments firsthand, as a slowly rotting corpse, he takes on such big questions as the meaning of life, the purpose of death, and good versus evil.
Never Let Me Go. By Kazuo Ishiguro. 2005. Knopf, paper, $16 (9781400078776). Gr. 10–12.
As in Shusterman’s novel, Ishiguro’s story involves a world where death is uncommon. His protagonists, clones raised to be organ donors, have much shorter, prescribed lifespans, but as their destinies approach, they ponder the same sort of questions as those explored in Scythe.
The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon (Delacorte)
Yoon weaves swirling threads of connection in this story of one New York City day, but Natasha and Daniel’s chance meeting is the strongest of all.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. By Benjamin Alire Sáenz. 2012. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781442408920). Gr. 9–12.
Like Natasha and Daniel, Aristotle and Dante struggle with the weight of their parents’ expectations and undue responsibility. Ari and Dante’s relationship unfolds over a longer period and with more obstacles, but it’s no less empowering than Natasha and Daniel’s.
Eleanor & Park. By Rainbow Rowell. 2013. St. Martin’s/Griffin, $18.99 (9781250012579). Gr. 9–12.
The touching relationship that grows between beleaguered Eleanor and half-Korean Park as they share comics and music in the back of the school bus shares many elements of Yoon’s novel—alternating voices, swoonworthy romance, and poignant conversations about identity.
Little & Lion. By Brandy Colbert.
2017. Little, Brown, $17.99 (9780316349000). Gr. 9–12.
Although romance isn’t at the forefront of Colbert’s novel, Suzette’s relationship with Emil is steamy, and her struggle to reconcile her responsibility to her brother, Lion, with her personal desire recalls Natasha’s reluctance to get swept up with Daniel while she strives to protect her family from deportation.
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