When things are going crazy, it can be nice to use books as an escape. You can read about a different world with different problems, and maybe forget about your own world for a while. We also need to read books that reflect our own realities. Books that take what we’re going through, what we’re feeling, and put them down on paper so we can see ourselves in them. Books that you know will break your heart, but kind of want them to.
YA is great at this, as everyone knows. Some of the best young adult books are about things like racism and police brutality or socioeconomic insecurity or sexual orientation or gender identity or gun violence.
These books can make you laugh. They can make you smile. They are sure to make you cry. You might think about things more and have a better idea of the world around you because of this. You can read on for a list of great young adult books that deal with real-world problems.
THAT DEAL WITH IMPORTANT SOCIAL ISSUES
We Can Be Heroes by Kyrie McCauley
Kyrie McCauley, the author of the William C. Morris YA Debut Award winner If These Wings Could Fly, has written a powerful contemporary YA novel about friendship and three girls who fight for each other in the aftermath of a school shooting. Fans of Laura Ruby and Mindy McGinnis will love this book.
For Cassie, Beck and Vivian never liked each other. They always did their best for Cassie, who they both cared about. After the town moves on from Cassie’s death too quickly, Beck and Vivian finally agree on one thing: vengeance.
In a way, they remember Cassie by painting murals of her around town. This is a way for the world to know that Cassie won’t be forgotten. The third person in Beck’s VW bus with them is Cassie’s ghost.
Murals by Bell Firearms caught the attention of a podcaster who was covering Cassie’s case. They started a debate that Bell Firearms can no longer ignore. Beck and Vivian hurry to give Cassie the closure she needs by giving justice to the people who killed her. With law enforcement closing in, they do this quickly.
Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach
Eliza Quan is the best person to be the editor in chief of her school paper. Until ex-jock Len DiMartile decides to run against her for the office on the spur of the moment. It doesn’t matter how many years of experience she has now, as long as Len looks like a leader.
When Eliza’s frustration spills out in a viral essay, she finds herself starting a feminist movement that she didn’t want to start. She’s caught in the middle of people who think she’s a champion for gender equality and people who think she’s just crying misogyny.
The school wants Eliza and Len to work together to show that they can be civil. After getting to know each other, Eliza realizes she might be falling for the face of the patriarchy itself, which makes her feel even more trapped.
Junk Boy by Tony Abbott
They call him that because his house looks like a junkyard, but also because they want to put him down. At school and at the home he shares with his angry, neglectful father, Bobby develops a kind of proud loneliness because he wants to stay out of the way. People don’t seem to notice him because he loves the long, wooded trail between school and home.
Bobby’s life moves along slowly and without hope until he meets Rachel. People haven’t seen him like Rachel has. She’s an artist, and no one else has. A parent who doesn’t like what Rachel is: gay. It takes two people to clean up the mess in their lives, looking for hope and redemption in the face of all odds.
Act Cool by Tobly McSmith
August Greene, who wants to be an actor, just got a spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. They don’t like that he’s transgender, so there’s only one problem. And to stay with his aunt in the city, August must say he won’t change.
August is sure he can play the part his parents want while acting cool and confident in the company of his new friends who are very good at their jobs.
In August, the lights go out. So, where will he go when the roles start getting close to home?
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam
My life didn’t start the day I was born.
Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet, but now she is even more of both. However, even in a school where there are a lot of different kinds of people, he is seen as disruptive and unmotivated because of a biased system. Then one fateful night, a fight in a gentrifying neighborhood turns into a tragedy. A lot of people say “Boys are just boys.” This is true only when the boys are white.
Today, I think the story that I think will be my life starts.
Just when Amal was 16, he was sentenced to prison for a crime that wasn’t even his. He was just 16 years old. It’s almost too much for him, but he turns to his words and art as a place of safety. This was not his story. But can he make it different?
That Night by Amy Giles
The year after a mass shooting rocked their Queens neighborhood has been different for Jess and Lucas. Both of them were affected in eerily similar and deeply personal ways by that night, but the way they were affected was different.
In the middle of caring for Jess’s depressed mother and Lucas’s boxing lessons, their paths come together. As time goes on, they become friends and then more. They learn how to heal and move forward together.
Afterwards, what does it mean to love?
Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
“Grown reveals the dark side of a difficult conversation by giving a hard look at misogynoir, rape culture, and the vulnerability of young black girls.” The book is “groundbreaking, heart-wrenching, and must-read for everyone in the #MeToo era,” says the teacher. It was written by New York Times best-selling author, Dhonielle Clayton, who wrote the book The Belles.
As soon as Korey Fields spots Enchanted Jones at an audition, her dreams of being famous as a singer take off. Enchanted doesn’t remember anything about the night before until she wakes up with blood on her hands and no memory of the night before.
The person who killed Korey Fields was not Korey Fields
It was already bad for Enchanted before there was a dead body around. She had a controlling dark side that was hidden behind her charm and star power, so Now that he’s dead, the police are at the door, and everything points to Enchanted.
The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo
In Cottonwood Hollow, a town in Kansas, things are very different. Everyone born in the last century has had a special ability that they can use to fix things or heal wounds or find things that have been lost.
Rome, Lux, and Mercy are best friends, but their abilities often make them feel like they have a bad thing on their hands instead. Even though Rome can fix anything she touches, her mom won’t be able to pay the rent. Lux’s ability to make any man fall in love with her with a smile has always been dangerous. When her friendship with Rome and Lux is put to the test, even if Mercy can make Enough of whatever is needed, that won’t be enough to keep them happy.
You can follow three best friends as they learn that friendship is stronger than curses, trusting people pays off, and sometimes what you want is right in front of you.
Butterfly Yellow by Thanh hà Lai
In the last days of the Vietnam War, Hng takes her little brother, Linh, to the airport. She wants to find a way to get to the U.S. Linh is taken from her arms in a split second, and Hng is left behind in the war-torn country.
Six years later, Hng has been through a very difficult journey from Vietnam and is now living in Texas as a refugee because of the war. She doesn’t know how she will find the little brother who was taken away from her until she meets LeeRoy, a city boy who dreams of becoming a rodeo cowboy. LeeRoy agrees to help her.
When Hng and Linh meet again, she is overjoyed. Her heart breaks when she finds out he doesn’t remember her, their family, or Vit Nam. Hng has come so far that she will do anything to make up for the distance between them.
Dear Justyce by Nic Stone
New York Times best-seller Dear Martin’s sequel, Dear Martin II, is a stunning and hard-hitting follow-up. Quan, a teen who is in prison, writes letters to Justyce about his experiences in the American prison system.
In the short time that passes after Quan says he is not guilty, he is put in prison and will have to wait for his trial. By writing flashbacks and letters to Justyce, the main character of Dear Martin, Quan’s story comes to light.
Nic Stone’s new book looks at how the U.S. justice system treats African American boys and other minorities unfairly. It starts with a troubled childhood and bad timing, then moves on to a coerced confession and prejudiced police work.