We’re skipping our monthly “Get Genrefied” series this month for a couple of reasons. The first is that we’re curious what genres we haven’t explored that are worth devoting an entire post to writing about — and that’s where we ask straight out if there’s a topic we should write about, we’d like to know about it in the comments. Should we look at some subgenres? Rework some of our previous posts with updated titles? Let us know.
The other reason is that we haven’t spent a lot of time talking about YA non-fiction. Part of it has to do with the fact that, like YA memoirs, there really isn’t a whole lot out there about it. There’s the Excellence in Non-Fiction Award, as administered by YALSA, and many of the writing awards for YA books do fold non-fiction into them (Morris and Printz, for example, as well as the National Book Award). There’s also a nice selection of teen adaptations of adult non-fiction titles, which is even larger than this list written last year suggests.
But it wasn’t until the last few years and the implementation of Common Core in education standards that YA non-fiction grew. It used to be tough to find, and now, it’s becoming more and more visible and not only is it becoming more visible, it’s approaching topics in new, interesting, inventive, and novel ways.
Though I’m a non-fiction reader, I don’t tend toward YA non-fiction as much as I do adult. As a teen, there wasn’t good non-fiction for a YA audience and I found what it was I wanted in the adult section. I never shook the habit, though the more I read about non-fiction for YA readers, the more I want to read it.
And as Malinda Lo pointed out:
Here’s a round-up of recent YA non-fiction that’s hit shelves in the last few months, as well as a pile of forthcoming titles worth knowing about. I’m avoiding replicating titles you can find on the Excellence in Non-Fiction Award list. I’m also sticking to major publishers and titles that aren’t part of an educational series; in other words, these are the kinds of non-fiction titles you’d most likely find for sale in a retail bookstore. I’ve included memoirs and biographies that have not otherwise been mentioned here before. As has been talked about before, non-fiction can take on multiple formats, so some of these titles are graphically-driven or otherwise non-traditional narrative formats. I’ve included those titles reaching the 10-14 age group, as well as those targeting the 14 and older group, so there’s some stuff that will work better for the younger YA readers, as well as some better for the older YA readers.
All descriptions come from Edelweiss, and I would love to hear about not only what we should be considering for future installments of “Get Genrefied,” but also, what YA non-fiction have you read recently that would be a great place to start reading? Is there something you’re looking forward to reading that should be on my radar? Let’s talk non-fiction.
The Bullies of Wall Street by Sheila Bair: Can knowing how a financial crisis happened keep it from happening again? Sheila Bair, the former chairman of the FDIC, explains how the Great Recession impacted families on a personal level using language that everyone can understand.
As the former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Sheila Bair worked to protect families during the crisis and keep their bank deposits safe. In The Bullies of Wall Street, she describes the many ways in which a broken system led families into financial trouble, and also explains the decisions being made at the time by the most powerful people in the country—from CEOs of multinational banks, to heads of government regulatory committees—that led to the recession.
Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey by Ozge Samanci (November 17): Growing up on the Aegean Coast, Ozge loved the sea and imagined a life of adventure while her parents and society demanded predictability. Her dad expected Ozge, like her sister, to become an engineer. She tried to hear her own voice over his and the religious and militaristic tensions of Turkey and the conflicts between secularism and fundamentalism. Could she be a scuba diver like Jacques Cousteau? A stage actress? Would it be possible to please everyone including herself?
In her unpredictable and funny graphic memoir, Ozge recounts her story using inventive collages, weaving together images of the sea, politics, science, and friendship.
“In that case, it’s the worst thing I ever read.”
So Stephen Sondheim kept writing. He kept composing and in time he became the greatest composer Broadway had ever seen.
Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle (August 4): In this poetic memoir, Margarita Engle, the first Latina woman to receive a Newbery Honor, tells of growing up as a child of two cultures during the Cold War.
Then a revolution breaks out in Cuba. Margarita fears for her far-away family. When the hostility between Cuba and the United States erupts at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Margarita’s worlds collide in the worst way possible. How can the two countries she loves hate each other so much? And will she ever get to visit her beautiful island again?
This is the true story of a city under siege: the triumph of bravery and defiance in the face of terrifying odds. It is also a look at the power—and layered meaning—of music in beleaguered lives. Symphony for the City of the Dead is a masterwork thrillingly told and impeccably researched by National Book Award–winning author M. T. Anderson.
I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda: It started as an assignment. Everyone in Caitlin’s class wrote to an unknown student somewhere in a distant place.
That letter was the beginning of a correspondence that spanned six years and changed two lives.
In this compelling dual memoir, Caitlin and Martin recount how they became best friends –and better people–through their long-distance exchange. Their story will inspire you to look beyond your own life and wonder about the world at large and your place in it.
From her beginnings with the American Youth Soccer Organization to her key role in the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Alex shares the details that made her who she is today: a fantastic role model and athlete who proudly rocks a pink headband.
Chocolate by Kay Frydenborg: A fascinating account for teen readers that captures the history, science, and economic and cultural implications of the harvesting of cacao and creation of chocolate. Readers of Chew On This and The Omnivore’s Dilemma will savor this rich exposé.
Chocolate hits all the right sweet–and bitter–notes: cutting-edge genetic science whisked in with a strong social conscience, history, and culture yield one thought-provoking look into one of the world’s most popular foods. Readers who savored Chew on This and Food, Inc. and lovers of chocolate will relish this fascinating read.
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown (August 4): Marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, this companion to The Great American Dust Bowl combines lively drawings and authoritative memoir in graphic novel form to recount one of the most destructive and devastating natural disasters in our American history.
Don Brown’s kinetic art and as-it-happens narrative capture both the tragedy and triumph of one of the worst natural disasters in American history. A portion of the proceeds from this book has been donated to Habitat for Humanity New Orleans.
The Prisoners of Breendonk by James M. Deem (August 4): This absorbing and captivating nonfiction account (with never-before-published photographs) offers readers an in-depth anthropological and historical look into the lives of those who suffered and survived Breenkdonk concentration camp during the Holocaust of World War II.
With access to the camp and its archives and with rare photos and artwork, James M. Deem pieces together the story of the camp by telling the stories of its victims–Jews, communists, resistance fighters, and common criminals–for the first time in an English-language publication. Leon Nolis’s haunting photography of the camp today accompanies the wide range of archival images.
The story of Breendonk is one you will never forget.
Just Add Water by Clay Marzo (July 14): Clay Marzo has an almost preternatural gift with a surfboard. From his first moments underwater (he learned to swim at two months old) to his first ventures atop his father’s surfboard as a toddler, it was obvious that Marzo’s single-minded focus on all things surfing was unique. But not until late in his teens, when this surfing phenom was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, did the deeper reasons for his obsession—and his astonishing gift for surfing—become clear.
Just Add Water is the remarkable story of Marzo’s rise to the top of the pro surfing world—and the personal trials he overcame in making it there. Marzo endured a difficult childhood. He was a colicky baby who his mother found could be soothed only with water. Later, as he entered school, his undiagnosed Asperger’s made it tough for him to relate to his peers and fit in, but his relationship with the wave was elemental. Marzo could always turn to surfing, the only place where he truly felt at peace.
Unflinching and inspiring, Just Add Water is a brave memoir from a one-of-a-kind surfing savant who has electrified fans around the world with his gift and whose story speaks boldly to the hope and ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
Fight Like A Girl by Laura Barcella (January 5, 2016): Nearly every day there’s another news story, think piece, or pop culture anecdote related to feminism and women’s rights. And today’s teens are encountering these issues from their own unique perspective-but what’s often missing from this discussion is an understanding of how we’ve gotten to this place. Fight Like a Girlintroduces readers to the history of feminist activism in the U.S. through profiles of fifty incredible women, including Hillary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Roxane Gay, and more.
It’s Getting Hot in Here by Bridget Heos (February 23, 2016): Tackling the issue of global warming head-on for a teen audience, Bridget Heos examines the science behind it, the history of climate change on our planet, and the ways in which humans have affected the current crisis we face. It’s Getting Hot in Here illustrates how interconnected we are not just with everyone else on the planet, but with the people who came before us and the ones who will inherit the planet after us. This eye-opening approach to one of today’s most pressing issues focuses on the past human influences, the current state of affairs, the grim picture for the future—and how young readers can help to make a positive change.
Last of the Giants by Jeff Campbell (December 1): More than 40,000 years ago, the earth was ruled by megafauna: mammoths and mastodons, saber-toothed tigers and giant sloths. But evolution and the arrival of the wildly adaptive human species have led to extinction for many of these giants. Globalization, beginning with Columbus, has already destroyed the black rhino, the giant tortoise, and the great auk; but for other species, there is still time. Last of the Giants chronicles these giant animals, and provides an astonishing portrait of an ancient world that is vanishing before our very eyes.
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose At the outset of World War II, Denmark did not resist German occupation. Deeply ashamed of his nations leaders, fifteen-year-old Knud Pedersen resolved with his brother and a handful of schoolmates to take action against the Nazis if the adults would not. Naming their secret club after the fiery British leader, the young patriots in the Churchill Club committed countless acts of sabotage, infuriating the Germans, who eventually had the boys tracked down and arrested. But their efforts were not in vain: the boys’ exploits and eventual imprisonment helped spark a full-blown Danish resistance. Interweaving his own narrative with the recollections of Knud himself, here is Phil Hoose’s inspiring story of these young war heroes.
The Making of a Navy SEAL by Brandon Webb (August 25): Members of the Navy SEAL elite sniper corps must complete some of the toughest and longest military training in the world. This is the dramatic tale of how Brandon Webb overcame a tough childhood to live his dream and enter the exciting and dangerous world of Navy SEALS and Special Forces snipers. From his grueling years of training in Naval Special Operations to his combat tours in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan, THE MAKING OF A NAVY SEAL is a rare look at the inner workings of the U.S. military through the eyes of a covert operations specialist.
But it is Webb’s second career as a lead instructor for the shadowy “sniper cell” and Course Manager of the Navy SEAL Sniper Program that trained some of America’s finest warriors—including Marcus Luttrell (LONE SURVIVOR) and Chris Kyle (AMERICAN SNIPER)—that makes this story so special. THE MAKING OF A NAVY SEAL is Webb’s tale of overcoming the odds to be the best, and a secret look inside one of the finest and most difficult military training courses ever.
Most Dangerous by Steven Sheinkin (September 22): From Steve Sheinkin, the award-winning author of The Port Chicago 50 and Bomb, comes a tense, exciting exploration of what the New York Times deemed “the greatest story of the century”: how Daniel Ellsberg transformed from obscure government analyst into “the most dangerous man in America.” On June 13, 1971, the front page of the New York Times announced the existence of a 7,000-page collection of documents containing a secret history of the Vietnam War. Known as the Pentagon Papers, they revealed a decades-long pattern of deception that forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicans claiming to represent their interests. A provocative book that interrogates the meanings of patriotism, freedom, and integrity, Most Dangerous further establishes Steve Sheinkin as a leader in children’s nonfiction.
Tommy: The Gun That Changed America by Karen Blumenthal (June 30): John Taliaferro Thompson had a mission: to develop a lightweight, fast-firing weapon that would help Americans win on the battlefield. His Thompson submachine gun could deliver a hundred bullets in a matter of seconds—but didn’t find a market in the U.S. military. Instead, the Tommy gun became the weapon of choice for a generation of bootleggers and bank-robbing outlaws, and became a deadly American icon. Following a bloody decade—and eighty years before the mass shootings of our own time—Congress moved to take this weapon off the streets, igniting a national debate about gun control. Critically-acclaimed author Karen Blumenthal tells the fascinating story of this famous and deadly weapon— of the lives it changed, the debate it sparked, and the unprecedented response it inspired.
Turning 15 On The Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery: Jailed eleven times before her fifteenth birthday, Lynda Blackmon Lowery refused to give up the fight for equal rights. She was the youngest marcher on the historic 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Lynda vowed that she would make a difference—and she did. In her own words, she shows today’s young readers what it means to fight nonviolently (even when the police are using violence, as in the “Bloody Sunday” protest), and how it felt to overcome terror and win a battle that affected the entire country.
Straightforward and inspiring, this memoir brings us into the middle of the Civil Right Movement and offers compelling proof that young adults can be heroes.
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba: When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba’s tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season’s crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. The family was starving, and they could hardly find money for food, let alone school fees. Forced to drop out, William began to explore the science books in his village library. There, he came up with an idea that would change his family’s life forever: He could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William’s windmill would bring electricity to his home and help his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.
FDR and the American Crisis by Albert Marrin: The definitive biography of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt for young adult readers, from National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin.
Brought up in a privileged family, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had every opportunity in front of him. As a young man, he found a path in politics and quickly began to move into the public eye. That ascent seemed impossible when he contracted polio and lost the use of his legs. But with a will of steel he fought the disease—and public perception of his disability—to become president of the United States of America.
FDR used that same will to guide his country through a crippling depression and a horrendous world war. He understood Adolf Hitler, and what it would take to stop him, before almost any other world leader did. But to accomplish his greater goals, he made difficult choices that sometimes compromised the ideals of fairness and justice.
FDR is one of America’s most intriguing presidents, lionized by some and villainized by others. National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin explores the life of a fascinating, complex man, who was ultimately one of the greatest leaders our country has known.
Stonewall by Ann Bausum: The first history of gay rights for teen readers, written by an award-winning nonfiction author
Not that long ago, laws throughout the country criminalized homosexual behavior, the medical community viewed being gay as a sign of mental illness, and coming out could lead to being fired, shunned, and disowned. Then came Stonewall. And things began to change.
In her dramatic retelling of the Stonewall riots of 1969, award-winner Ann Bausum introduces teen readers to the decades-long struggle for gay rights. Vividly narrated and illustrated with archival photographs, Stonewalldemonstrates how far the battle has come in the past four decades and yet how universal the struggles remain as young people of any era grow into their sexuality.
Make It Messy by Marcus Samuelsson (June 9): Marcus Samuelsson’s life and his journey to the top of the food world have been anything but typical. Orphaned in Ethiopia, he was adopted by a loving couple in Sweden, where his new grandmother taught him to cook and inspired in him a lifelong passion for food. In time, that passion would lead him to train and cook in some of the finest, most demanding kitchens in Europe.
Samuelsson’s talent and ambition eventually led him to fulfill his dream of opening his own restaurant in New York City: Red Rooster Harlem, a highly acclaimed, multicultural dining room, where presidents rub elbows with jazz musicians, aspiring artists, and bus drivers. A place where anyone can feel at home.
Jobs’s remarkable life reads like a history of the personal technology industry. He started Apple Computer in his parents’ garage and eventually became the tastemaker of a generation, creating products we can’t live without. Through it all, he was an overbearing and demanding perfectionist, both impossible and inspiring.
Capturing his unparalleled brilliance, as well as his many demons, Jessie Hartland’s engaging biography illuminates the meteoric successes, devastating setbacks, and myriad contradictions that make up the extraordinary life and legacy of the insanely great Steve Jobs.
Since uploading their first ever videos as teenagers, Dan and Phil have become two of the world’s biggest YouTube stars. Now they invite you on a behind-the-scenes journey, filled with absolutely essential advice, tons of humor, lots of awkwardness, and TMI honesty that they will probably regret. Here’s just a small sample of the fun surprises readers can look forward to:
• The inside story of that time they met One Direction.
• Excerpts from Phil’s teenage diary.
• Reasons why Dan’s a fail (so far).
• How to draw the perfect cat whiskers.
• Reasons why Phil was such a weird kid (back then).
• Quizzes! Which of their dining room chairs represents you emotionally?
• What really happened in Vegas….
In The Amazing Book Is Not on Fire, Dan and Phil are candid, heartfelt, and hilarious. Their struggles and success haven’t changed their strong friendship or their core belief that it’s okay to be weird. The cat whiskers come from within!
Becoming Maria by Sonia Manzano (August 25): Set in the 1970s in the Bronx, this is the story of a girl with a dream. Emmy Award-winning actress and writer Sonia Manzano plunges us into the daily lives of a Latino family that is loving–and troubled. This is Sonia’s own story rendered with an unforgettable narrative power. When readers meet young Sonia, she is a child living amidst the squalor of a boisterous home that is filled with noisy relatives and nosy neighbors. Each day she is glued to the TV screen that blots out the painful realities of her existence and also illuminates the possibilities that lie ahead. But–click!–when the TV goes off, Sonia is taken back to real life–the cramped, colorful world of her neighborhood and an alcoholic father. But it is Sonia’s dream of becoming an actress that keeps her afloat among the turbulence of her life and times.
Spiced with culture, heartache, and humor, this memoir paints a lasting portrait of a girl’s resilience as she grows up to become an inspiration to millions.
As the school’s first and only Japanese student, he experienced immediate racism among his fellow cadets and his teachers. The other kids’ parents complained about Allen’s presence at the all-white school. As a result, he was relegated to a toolshed behind the mess hall. Determined to free himself from this oppression, Allen saved enough money to buy a 1946 Ford for $50–then escaped to find the America of his dreams!
In this follow-up to Drawing From Memory, Allen continues to reinvent himself as an author and illustrator. Melding his paintings with cartoon images and archival photos, Allen Say delivers an accessible book that will appeal to any reader in search of himself.
Really Professional Internet Person offers both an insider’s guide to building a successful YouTube channel and an intimate portrait of the surreality of insta-fame and the harsh reality of high school.
Brimming with honesty, heart and Jenn’s patented sense of humor, Really Professional Internet Person features top ten lists, photos, screenshots, social media posts and never-before-posted stories chronicling Jenn’s journey from an anxious middle-schooler just trying to fit in, to a YouTube sensation unafraid to stand out.