These YA books are *perfect* for politically active teens
Historically, young adult fiction has been an inherently political genre. YA protagnoists are often morally conscious, politically aware individuals that fight for postitive change—take Annie on My Mind's Liza Winthrop and The Hate U Give's Starr Carter, for example. Not only are these two heroines phenomenally written characters, but they serve as *amazing* fictional role models as well.
As the 2020 election is quickly approaching, it is more important than ever for young people to remain civically engaged. We've compiled a list of the *best* politically-inspired YA books that address many of the issues teenagers are facing today.
THE VOTING BOOTH by Brandy Colbert
Voting is one of the most impactful ways to make a difference. In The Voting Booth, Brandy Colbert tells the story of Marva and Duke, two teenagers who met at their local polling location after Duke was denied the right to vote. Marva, who had always been civically engaged, takes it upon herself to ensure that he will be able to cast his ballot by the end of the day. As the two strangers race to combat voter suppression, it becomes clear that the duo has an indisputable connection. This novel, which is based entirely on the events of Election Day, also covers pertinent issues like police brutality, voter suppression and white privilege. The Voting Booth, which serves as a timely reminder of the importance of youth voter turnout, is a *must-read* for politically involved teens leading up to the 2020 election.
DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone
Justyce McAllister defeated the odds. He made it out of his "rough" neighborhood, he is the top of his class in school, and he is Ivy League-bound. When he senses scorn or criticism from his former classmates or new peers, he turns to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to guide him through. He is eagerly chasing his dreams and awaiting his future. But none of that matters when he and his best friend get pulled over by a white police officer. All that matters in that moment, is that he is black. Words are tossed back and forth, shots ring out, and suddenly, Justyce is being criminalized in the media. Though fiction, Dear Martin tells the story of every Black boy in America. Every Black boy, girl, man, and woman who hopes people will see them not for their skin color or what they associate with it, but for who they really are and what they want to achieve. Dear Martin is a powerful read on biases, police brutality, and race relations in America.
THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT by Jenn Marie Thorne
Being the child of a politician is *anything* but normal. Jenn Marie Thorne's The Wrong Side of Right follows the story of Kate Quinn, a 17-year-old girl who, after the death of her mother, unexpectedly learns that she is the daughter of a prominent United States Senator—who just so happens to be the Republican Party's nominee for President. Without warning, Kate is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to help with her father's presidential campaign. When Kate's beliefs clash with her father's campaign platform, Kate must reevaluate her values and relationships with those around her. Throughout this novel, Kate learns a lot about family, forgiveness and, of course, politics, making this book a heartfelt read in the midst of our present day political chaos.
THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
It is easy to forget that Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give is a work of fiction. The book tells the story of Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old Black girl who struggles with conformity, identity, and self-expression as she navigates between two opposing worlds: her wealthy, white private school, and her predominantly Black neighborhood. Starr’s entire world comes to a halt when she witnesses the murder of her best friend Khalil, a young, unarmed Black boy, at the hands of a white police officer. As she fights to stay afloat in a sea of opinions, news stories, and social clashes, she must choose when to speak up and when to stay silent. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against police brutality, this book will make you feel heartbroken, hopeful, confused, and content all at once. It will make you cry at some moments and laugh at others. But most importantly, it will make you feel inspired.
MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick
My Life Next Door follows the slow burn romance between Samantha Reed and Jase Garrett, two next door neighbors whose lives could not be more different. Samantha, whose mother is a state senator, was raised in an orderly, regimented household, bound by her mother's conservative ideals. Jase, on the other hand, was raised as one of eight children in a chaotic, albeit affectionate home. When tragedy strikes and Samantha's mother prioritizes her political career over her morals, Samantha must choose between her biological family and the family that has welcomed her as one of their own. This book, written from the lens of a politician's daughter, explores the effects that government and politics have on the everyday lives of people, whether they recognize it or not.
THE REVOLUTION OF EVELYN SERRANO by Sonia Manzano
Inspired by her own childhood, Sonia Manzano tells the story of a young Puerto Rican-American girl growing up in Spanish Harlem in the late 1960s. Evelyn Serrano is afraid to tell her parents how she really feels about living in their Spanish Harlem neighborhood. She is afraid to tell her parents how she really feels about having her Abuela from Puerto Rico come stay with her family. Then, all of a sudden, the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group, start a fiery protest in the street that entangles her family in a series of tumultuous and complicated events. Evelyn is forced to confront her true heritage and all of the history behind it, and figure out where she fits in. Set during a time of widespread social unrest, this novel follows Evelyn on her journey to find, create, and express her personal identity in a complicated cultural context. Sonia Manzano gives a voice to young Latin-American teens, and she gives readers a peek into what life was really like for the Latinx community in the late 1960s.