What's Up in YA

LEGEND Adaptation News, Supply Chain Challenges, and More YA News and New YA Books: December 2, 2021

Hey YA Readers!

I hope you’re finding whatever it is you need in this final month of 2021: comfort, joy, rest….a sigh of relief? As someone who struggles with this time of year, I see those of you who are in the same space. I’m still in early October mentally, finding solace in mainlining YA horror books (I like them all year, but usually not in this quantity!).

Since last week there wasn’t a newsletter on Thursday, let’s catch up on the last couple of weeks of book news and new books.

YA Book News

New YA Books

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives.

These releases include the books which hit shelves last week, as well as this week. We’re hitting a quieter time in publishing, so anticipate shorter roundups here through the end of 2021.


You'll Be The Death of Me book cover

You’ll Be The Death of Me by Karen M. McManus


Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield

Killer Content by Kiley Roache

Outer Banks by Alyssa Sheinmel (tie-in novel)

Ruinsong by Julia Ember

Still With Me by Jessica Cunsolo

Warmaidens by Kelly Coon

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

YA Book Talk on Book Riot

As always, thanks for hanging out. I hope you’re reading your next favorite book, and we’ll see you again on Saturday with some YA ebook deals.

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram

What's Up in YA

Essential YA Nonfiction: A Guide to Reading Widely

Hey YA Readers!

I debated what kind of nonfiction focused newsletter to draft to wrap up a month long celebration of YA nonfiction . . . especially given that I try to include YA nonfiction within these newsletters all the time. Certainly, we know YA nonfiction isn’t as popular as YA fiction for a host of reasons and I’ve written here numerous times about how it’s often forgotten or left off lists of “the best” or “most influential” YA titles.

YA nonfiction, even if it’s not as easy to “sell” to a reader with a simple pitch, is popular with teens. I only wish it could get the same recognition from adult readers and advocates. Award-winning titles don’t see the same level of love as fiction does, and even the fantastic range of Young Reader Editions made available now are often overlooked as “just” simplified versions of the adult texts.

And though I think a lot of the reasons mentioned over the last few years of exploring about this are true, another component might be much simpler: where do you start with YA nonfiction? For readers who haven’t been invested in it or picked it up readily, it can be intimidating to begin. Children’s nonfiction writer Melissa Stewart is one of my favorites to point to for helping navigate youth nonfiction and specifically, her guide to understanding the five types of nonfiction. I always saw nonfiction in two categories, narrative and nonfiction, but I think the identification and explanation of five categories makes perfect sense. Those categories, as Stewart explains, really solidified over the last 25 or so years as nonfiction itself expanded.

It’d be unfair and disingenuous to try to compile “essential” guide to YA nonfiction. But instead, what’s possible to do is offer a roadmap for navigating the other side of YA, with some ideas of what’s within these categories, to better discover exciting, compelling, and fun reads — as well as books that may “simply” be the kinds of books readers turn to for writing a report or learning a new skill (“simply” because they’re both anything but and because the days of being stuck with just a handful of pricey educational tomes that cost a lot of money are long gone!).

Let’s take a look at the five categories Stewart offers and how they apply to YA nonfiction. Once you’re able to see the different styles of nonfiction, it becomes easier to see what it is that might interest you as a reader or how you can better book talk or create displays of these books for young readers.


The idea behind the traditional nonfiction is that it serves as a tool to offer as much information about a topic as possible and includes an excellent appendix of references and primary sources. It likely has a narrative to it, but it’s not required to be driven by that narrative. In YA this is a little more tricky to explain than it is in children’s nonfiction.

Stewart, in the above-linked piece, showcases a book about rain as an example of a traditional nonfiction book: it’s as comprehensive as possible about the who, what, where, when, why, and how of rain. It’s the kind of book you’d pick up if you want as large a scope on a topic as possible, and it’s the kind of a book you might hand a teen reader who has a report to write or who wants to know as much about something as possible.

revolution in our time book cover

While it’s true many teens would head straight to adult nonfiction for their report needs, there are plenty of excellent traditional nonfiction titles for young adult readers. We’ve seen a few really solid ones this year alone, including Revolution In Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon and Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by Brandy Colbert. These make for outstanding introductions to a large topic, and in the case of both of these books, they’re noteworthy explorations specifically designed for teenagers to become intrigued, knowledgable, and eager to act upon that knowledge by applying it to today’s world. Both of these books have a strong narrative to them, but the narrative isn’t as specific as will be seen in later examples. Rather, the traditional nonfiction looks big, even if it’s within a tight timeframe or topic.

Something exciting about the traditional form is how it’s shifting in YA. For years when working in libraries, I had to buy pricey texts for teen readers on a topic that were often short — they’d hit the necessary page number for a report requirement for a class assignment — and the writing itself would be serviceable at best. It made far more sense at that point to send teens to the adult books, which offered more comprehensive options with better writing.

It’s clear now with better offerings how weak this area was for a long time. Keep an eye here because it’s only going to get more exciting and dynamic and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is where more adults turn to learn about a topic first because the writing is tight, well-researched, and offered in a compelling, engaging manner.

Other traditional nonfiction examples:


girlhood book cover

Browsable nonfiction can take a number of forms, but this is the kind of quick hit literature that readers can pick up and put down without losing anything. They’re often — though not always — image heavy, and while they might offer a wide view of a topic like traditional nonfiction does, they’re not interested in being as comprehensive as possible.

Stewart offers the DK books as an example in children’s nonfiction. But what about in YA nonfiction?

One that comes to mind immediately is the fantastic Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices by Masuma Ahuja. This book features short narratives about girls around the world who are sharing their daily lives through journal entries, photos, and other scrapbook-style elements.

Likewise, the growth in collective biographies in YA nonfiction fall perfectly into the browsable category, too. Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science, Women in Art, and similar titles engage readers through lively illustrations and one or two page entries about individual women who’ve contributed to their fields. While some readers will absolutely read these books cover to cover, the books are, by nature, welcoming to short bursts.

Books about “taboo” topics in nonfiction do especially well in the browsable style, particularly in libraries. “Taboo” in quotes because there’s nothing shameful or taboo about gender, sex, or sexuality, but for teen readers, there may be shame or guilt they feel in seeking out these texts. This is where the browsable format can be so great — they’re able to peruse at their leisure, perhaps at a library or bookstore, when they feel safe to do so.

Other browsable nonfiction examples:

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Readers who are most tentative about nonfiction would likely find narrative nonfiction to be the ideal place to begin. These books have a structure that’s similar to fiction, in that there’s a lot of fluid movement in the text and often an arc similar to fiction with rising and falling action throughout.

undefeated book cover

Narrative nonfiction includes memoirs, can include biographies, and includes the kinds of stories which compel a reader to keep going. In YA, a lot of these are books that home in on a single story within a bigger event, such as The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix, Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman, and the array of fantastic books by Steve Sheinkin, including The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, and Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team.

Where some might argue the books mentioned in the traditional category might fit better here, Stewart explains the distinction best: “The scenes, which give readers an intimate look at the world and people being described, are linked by transitional text that provides necessary background while condensing parts of the true story that aren’t relevant to the author’s purpose.” In other words, in a book like Hendrix’s, we get the background off World War II and the context to Bonhoeffer’s moment in time, without that becoming the story. These are more narrow than broad, even within a tight time frame.

Further examples of narrative nonfiction (this list could be the bulk of this look at nonfiction in YA!):


The expository category is a little trickier to explain without context, which Stewart offers in her guide. With the rise of great information websites, the need for straightforward traditional nonfiction shifted and with it, the rise of expository nonfiction that explores a topic with delight and information. As it relates to YA nonfiction, there’s certainly some overlap with narrative, but there are a number of great examples of expository nonfiction — and indeed, a lot of these fall in that zone of nonfiction perfect for older middle grade and younger YA readers.

bubonic panic book cover

Gail Jarrow does this well with Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America (among many of her other nonfiction books), as does the team of Mark Aronson and Marina Budhos with Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science. Both are STEM-forward titles, which is one of the strengths in expository nonfiction — it’s a place to put science and technology in context of history and modernity in clever and compelling ways. You’ll see below, too, some true crime focused stories that allow a reader to zoom outward to today’s world.

Further examples of expository nonfiction:


It’s tempting to call this the “fun” nonfiction and in a lot of ways, it is. This is where you have your how-to books, your cookbooks, your guides to getting creative and learning new skills. But equally important in active books are activism books — guides to getting involved in politics, in climate justice, in racial justice, gender justice, and more.

taking on the plastics crisis book cover

The active nonfiction category in YA continues to grow, thanks to books like Feminist AF: A Guide to Crushing Girlhood by Brittney Cooper, Chanel Craft Tanner, and Susana M. Morris, Rise Up: How You Can Join The Fight Against White Supremacy by Crystal Marie Fleming, and Taking on the Plastic Crisis by Hanna Testa (along with various other books in the “Pocket Change” collective series).

Other active nonfiction for teens include books like:

While not all nonfiction fit neatly into a single category — a great example might be Disability Visibility: Young Reader Edition edited by Alice Wong, which is a series of narrative essays about disability, falling both into narrative and browsable, as well as even into expository — knowing the distinctions can be super helpful in approaching these books. Once you’re able to discover what it is you like about nonfiction, the easier it becomes to find similar styles.

Thanks as always for hanging out. We’ll see you on Thursday for your YA news and new books roundup.

Happy Reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

What's Up in YA

The Best YA Gifts to Give This Year

Hey YA Readers!

One of the most enjoyable trends I’ve seen this year is how creative YA readers are getting with their bookish goods and specifically, I’ve been lusting over so many of the YA books with painted and decorated edges being offered across Etsy.

In putting together this gift guide, I have really had to hold back from not doing an entire roundup of gorgeous decorated books. I included some, but I do encourage you to seek out some of your favorite titles and see what folks have made from them.

Included in this roundup are title-specific finds, as well as broader book lover goods. There’s a little of everything, ranging from stickers to tees, keychains to DIY cross stitch patterns and more. These make perfect gifts for YA lovers you know, and, of course, your own damn self (I’ve really come to appreciate as an adult that no one will throw you a parade, so you have to do it yourself–the humor of Parks and Rec’s “Treat Yo Self” hits a little different when you’re in your 30s, as you realize you have to do it because no one will do it for you).

Let’s begin with some of these luscious book edge paintings.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

Image of the book Legendborn with red and blue painted edges.

This edition of Legendborn is beautiful and perfectly mimics the color palette of the cover. $37.

Image of the book The Dead and The Dark. The edges are sprayed pink and purple.

I especially love that this creepy book’s juxtaposition with the brightly colored edges. $26.

All These Bodies book with red pages and a silver knife.

Although this edition of All These Bodies is labeled “imperfect,” it looks pretty dang good to me. I love the blood red and the weapon on it. $17.

Image of a non-US edition of Six Crimson Cranes, with sprayed edges in a light color palette.

I began with swooning over this sprayed edge edition of Six Crimson Cranes and then read the description closer — you can have this creator make such art on any book. The examples in the reviews are just stunning. $27.

Image of the three books from the Aurora Rising series, each with a colorful galactic edge painting.

If you want to splurge, maybe the Aurora Rising trilogy with three different galaxy-inspired edges is where you do so. I’m in AWE of how gorgeous these are. $120.

Image of three enamel pins. Each is a sword with roses and a banner. The banner reads "enemies to lovers."

For fans of the enemies to lovers trope in fantasy, an awesome enamel pin. $15, with a trio of color choices.

Pile of stickers that read "main character energy" in light brown. The background colors on the sticker are green, maroon, black, and light brown.

Talk about a sticker with some real main character energy. $3.50.

Image of a yellow candle in front of four ya books.

Forever reminder that YA isn’t a genre but a category, but because this genre YA candle is so fun and smells of Rose Gelato, Grapefruit, Mint, Hibiscus, Palm, Raspberry Sangria, I’ll let it go. $8.50.

Image of a colorful lion sticker with the words "We can't defeat monsters we won't face." It's in front of the books Raybearer and Redemptor.

Every single thing about this Raybearer-inspired holographic sticker is perfection. Roar! $5.

Back of a black, long sleeved t-shirt which reads, in white ink, "no matter howe choose to live, we both die at the end."

Whether you’re a long-time Adam Silvera fan or new to the fold (big thanks to TikTok!), this tee inspired from They Both Die at The End will make for a great reading uniform. $30, S-2XL, with some color options.

Image of a rainbow of queer YA books on a cream bookmark with a rainbow tassel. It is on top of a stack of queer YA books arranged in a rainbow color scheme.

Read with pride and this LGBTQ+ book stack bookmark. I love the rainbow tassel on top. $6.50.

Firebird cross stitch pattern
Serpent cross stitch pattern

Grab one of these two cross stitch patterns for fans of the Grishaverse! They’re $3.50 each and instant downloads. Make it yourself to gift or give the pattern with some thread to a recipient for their own creation.

Image of a light blue bookmark with the quote "the problem with broken hearts isn't that they can kill you. it's that they don'." The quote is from Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon.

This bookmark with a quote from Instructions for Dancing is for all of the readers who just love feeling feelings. $3.

image of a peach colored keychain being held by a white hand in front of a light pink background. The keychain reads "read book books."

Short and sweet: a pretty read more books keychain. This will be weird to say but I cannot be alone in being able to taste the style of this keychain, right? $8.

Image of a white mug with a splash or purple. The white text inside the purple reads "YA reader."

I’ve shared this before but it’s worth sharing again. Get yourself or another YA book lover this YA reader mug. $19 and up.

Image of a white hand holding a sticker that reads "Edward as if you could outrun me Cullen."

Twilight is back, whether we like it or not, and this Edward Cullen sticker feels way too appropriate for this renaissance. $3.50.

I hope you found something for yourself or someone else here. We’re taking Thursday off for American Thanksgiving, so you’ll get the next edition of What’s Up in YA in your inbox on Saturday with deals and again on Monday with some great YA nonfiction talk.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen,  @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

What's Up in YA

UGLIES on Screen, TikTok YA Book Success, and More YA Book News and New Books: November 18, 2021

Hey YA Readers!

The last week has sure been a mixed bag. For those of us who were young in the early 00s have seen some of the most shamed young women get freedom and find love (see: the end of conservatorship for Britney Spears, a marriage for Paris Hilton, and Jessica Simpson getting ownership of her name and brand again–it’s impossible, of course, not to see that the positive stories are cis, presumed-heterosexual white women.). But now, we’re seeing a war on young people, as right-wing groups attack their rights to access queer, Black, and Brown literature, as well as push back against mental health discussions and help in schools. It’s unbearably frustrating to see change happen at a glacial pace — change that will hopefully help the most vulnerable among us find their own autonomy — while seeing more and more efforts to stifle the rights of young people TO that autonomy.

I know I’ve shared this before and will continue to share, but there are things you can do to help support intellectual freedom and the rights of young people. This toolkit gives you action items, whether you have time and energy to invest or you are passionate, but have limited resources to utilize.

I’ll link to last week’s censorship news below, but I urge anyone who can to speak up and take action. You’re here because you love young adult literature, and as such, you’re a believer in the rights of teenagers. It’s impossible to divorce the two.

That all in mind and charge offered, let’s dig into this week’s YA book news and new books.

YA Book News

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

YA Books Out This Week

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives.


Book cover for Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

The Diamond Keeper by Jeannie Mobley

Game Changer by Abbi Glines (series)

The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by Mackenzi Lee (series)

Our Violet Ends by Chloe Gong (series)


Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins

Making a Play by Abbi Glines (series)

This Week at Book Riot

Thanks for hanging out, y’all. Because next week is a holiday week here in the US, I’m going to take a week off nonfiction discussion for a roundup of some great YA gift ideas for the gifting season. I’ll come back to nonfiction the following Monday, since I don’t want to shortchange highlighting these excellent reads.

Happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

What's Up in YA

YA Nonfiction and Reckoning with America’s Past and Present

Hey YA Readers!

On the latest episode of Hey YA, Erica and I talked about recent and upcoming YA nonfiction titles and during the discussion, I talked about Brandy Colbert’s recent release Black Birds in the Sky. It’s an incredible read about the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, highlighting Tulsa’s Black Wall Street and the thriving Black communities there and in other parts of Oklahoma. This book is packaged in an extremely appealing way for both young adult readers who may not usually gravitate toward nonfiction, as well as those who do, and the book being available on shelves at Target gives it both big visibility for the category of YA nonfiction but also for its look at a topic that’s been under-explored in classrooms (and likely will continue to be, thanks to anti-“Critical Race Theory” legislation). Black Birds In The Sky a riveting and vital read — and it’s one of a number of excellent YA releases on the topic this year. Across The Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Massacre by Alverne Ball and Stacey Robinson explores this history in their graphic novel released in May, while Hilary Beard adapted the work of Tim Madigan’s The Burning: Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 for young adults earlier this year, too.

Collage of three books about the Tulsa Massacre: Black Birds in the Sky, Across the Tracks, and The Burning

When I finished Colbert’s book, I fell down a number of research rabbit holes, which is one of the things that makes nonfiction so great. I’m someone who is fascinated by stories we don’t get to hear, and usually, those stories are from and by marginalized communities. Wherever you live, especially in the United States, you’ll find these histories around you. For me, finishing the book reminded me of my endless fascination with Cairo, Illinois (pronounced Kay-roe), a community at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. It’s a town that’s dealt with a significant loss of population over the last half century or more, and it’s one that’s been rattled by its racist history. Equally fascinating, though, is the discrimination within the town led Black residents to choose to develop their own suburb outside Cairo called Future City. There’s very little information about that town’s history, though thanks to its geography, it, like Cairo, has struggled to withstand flooding. It’s not flourished nor grown and though a handful of residents still live there, it’s essentially a ghost town.

Ron Powers discusses Cairo, Future City, and other Illinois communities that have a notable racist past in his 1991 adult nonfiction book Far From Home: Life and Loss in Two American Towns, but it’s one of the only titles out there exploring communities like it. James W. Loewen, another white author who did earlier this year, dug into communities across the country that were — and some which still are — sundown towns in his adult title Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. This book, as well as Powers, talk a bit about Anna, Illinois, which ProPublica took a deep dive into in 2018, specifically looking at its racist history and the acronym associated with its name.

book cover for the overground railroad young reader edition

It’s not hard to understand why, then, tools like The Green Book were vital resources for Black Americans in the 20th century. Candacy Taylor’s forthcoming adaptation for young readers of her own adult book, Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America (January) offers a look at not just the essential role the Green Book played for Black people who wanted to travel, but that it also served as a tool of resistance — those who had their businesses listed as places where racial segregation wasn’t de facto or de jure took a courageous stand.

Some Black people believe a modern adaption of The Green Book wouldn’t be a radical idea today.

As racial violence continues, finding places that are safer to rest in, to dine in, and to patronize is crucial. Places like Cairo and Anna were among the communities unsafe for Black people to pass through, let alone rest in, and as Colbert and others explained in their books on the Tulsa Massacre, even in communities where Black life flourished, the undercurrent and indeed, the retaliation against Black excellence, remained.

A not-small number of these communities still exist today.

Young adult nonfiction is flourishing right now, and it’s not hard to understand why. Not only are the titles timely, but they’re timeless, and as the above-mentioned explore, they offer a window from the past into the whys and hows of modern society. We haven’t moved much from what allowed The Tulsa Massacre to happen, and certainly, we haven’t made travel across the country safer for marginalized people — the reality is, so many have forgotten the real and grave dangers that Black people especially encounter going about daily life in a white supremacist driven America. So many of us don’t recognize or think about the fact communities like Cairo and Anna, as well as Tulsa and countless others that can be named and those which can’t, not only have a charged history but that history remains part of the fabric which makes them what they are today.

And indeed, even where there was and is hope for utopian communities for people of the global majority in America, those stories haven’t been told, haven’t been recorded, and remain under explored in literature, in research, and in the public view.

This is where books like Colbert’s do tremendous service, especially for young readers. They offer a look at under-told stories of the past, encouraging exploration into one’s own backyard, and, as the case is in America, a reminder that this country has been colonized, and even groups which are marginalized now have a tangled and complicated relationship with the Native and Indigenous communities from whom this land was stolen and settled.

Thanks for hanging out today and I hope you’ll find the time to dig into the stories of your own community between picking up the incredible books above.

We’ll see you on Thursday for your YA news and new books.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

What's Up in YA

What’s *On* That List of Books Texas Lawmakers Want Removed?: Your YA News and New Books, November 11, 2021

Hey YA Readers!

Somehow, we’re almost half-way through another month. The end of the year sure does seem to fly by.

With that, it won’t be a huge surprise that the next couple of months will be lighter on news and new book releases as the publishing world begins to wrap up their years and prepare for the new one ahead.

Let’s dive into what’s going on this week.

YA Book News

New YA Books

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives. This goes, too, for any books you might be planning to purchase for the holidays — the sooner you pick up the hard copies, if that’s your preference, the better.


Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (series)

Ballad of Dinah Caldwell by Kate Brauning

Catch the Light by Kate Sweeney

Court by Tracy Wolff (series)

Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza

I’ll Keep You Close by Jeska Verstegen and translated by Bill Nagelkerke

Roxy by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

A Snake Falls To Earth cover

A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger

Starling by Isabel Strychacz

The Year I Stopped Trying by Katie Heaney

Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier


Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro

The Ever-Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco (series)

Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma (series)

Lies Like Poison by Chelsea Pitcher

The Nemesis by S. J. Kincaid (series)

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Sasha Masha by Agnes Borinsky

Stormbreak by Natalie C. Parker (series)

YA Book Talk at Book Riot

Thanks for hanging out, y’all, and we’ll see you again on Saturday for some YA ebook deals, then on Monday with some more YA nonfiction talk.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

What's Up in YA

New YA Nonfiction Comics For Your TBR

Hey YA Readers!

November is all about nonfiction, and as someone who loves nonfiction — and young adult nonfiction specifically — it’s the perfect opportunity to explore the depth and breadth of titles out there. Let’s begin by getting to know some recent young adult nonfiction in comic form.

Many of the nonfiction comics in YA are memoirs, but not all of them are. Some of them are biographies, while others take a look at any number of topics and dive in, pairing information with art.

I’m sticking with YA nonfiction comics from the last year or two, and they range from stories of migrants to stories of groundbreaking reporters and more. In many cases, I’ve also included even more great nonfiction for further reading (and that’s one of the things I love so much about nonfiction: once you find a topic that interests you, the number of books out there to take you further in your reading journey is almost limitless!).

the american dream book cover

The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Man, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito by Shing Yin Khor

Growing up in Malaysia, Shing had seen what life in America was life in the media, and when they immigrated to Los Angles, they were exposed to some of those media features, as well as more through American media. It was the Grapes of Wrath that led them to thinking about American road trips and the idea of the American dream.

This immersive graphic memoir is about a (reverse) trip on Route 66, about nostalgia culture, and what it means to be an American. Shing doesn’t shy away from highlighting the racist realities of said nostalgia — see “American owned” signage at hotels — while also discussing that alongside the kitsch and stunningly bad replicas of Native American art and culture, their trip led them to seeing and learning more about Native Americans than they had before. There’s a lot of fun quirk here, too, including a neat aside about the history of Muffler men. The art is an excellent companion to the text and despite being quite simple, conveys so much in that simplicity.

huda f are you book cover

Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy (November 23)

Huda moved from a community where she was the only Muslim-American hijabi in her class to Dearborn, Michigan, and when she does, she has an identity crisis. No longer was the thing that once made her stand out a thing that made her unique in her school — Dearborn has a huge Muslim-American population, and now, Huda is unsure who she is or where she fits in.

This is a funny and relatable comic, and I loved how Huda wrote it as a lengthy flashback through her identity crisis, bringing readers from the watershed moment in the first couple of pages back to it in the last few. But that timeframe is only a few months, and yet, so much transpires and it’s hard not to absolutely root for Huda (even when she does some cringeworthy things).

The art is bright, expressive, and really fun.

the incredible nellie bly book cover

The Incredible Nellie Bly: Journalist, Investigator, Feminist, and Philanthropist by Luciana Cimino, illustrated by Sergio Algozzino, and translated by Laura Garofalo 

I’ve read a LOT of books about Nellie Bly and while this one wasn’t my favorite entry, I’m including it because of its graphic rendering and because this is a book in translation, which is fascinating. There’s little nonfiction in translation for YA readers and even less in graphic format.

Framed with a fictional character named Miriam, the book follows Miriam as she interviews Bly as a means of getting courage to stand up for women’s rights at the Columbia School of Journalism in 1921. The focus is on the bigger pieces of Bly’s life, and it includes references to some of the fun anecdotes about her trip around the world.

This is a nice introduction to one groundbreaking woman’s work in investigative journalism, and the digital art is pleasant to look at as well. Once you read this one, I’d recommend picking up the YA nonfiction title Ten Days a Madwoman and/or the adult crossover title Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s “Girl Stunt Reporters.”

kent state book cover

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf

This one’s on my TBR and the only reason I haven’t yet picked it up is that it’s an oversized tomb (good to know if you’re someone who has limited shelf space). But Backderf wrote one of my favorite crossover comics, My Friend Dahmer, and I suspect this crossover comic is just as powerful.

Published last year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shooting, Backderf dives deep into interviews and the primary documents surrounding the events. He offers perspective of the students who were murdered and what it means to dissent. This one could be paired nicely with Deborah Wiles’s fictional take in Kent State.

passport book cover

Passport by Sophia Glock (November 30)

Though Sophie is American, she spent very little of her young life in America. Her parents’ jobs required a lot of moving. Now, living in Central America, Sophie discovers a letter she was never supposed to see and learns the truth behind her parents’ jobs: they’re agents working for the CIA.

Now Sophie has to figure out what of her life is the truth and what of it is but a web of intricate lies.

Not having yet read this one, I can’t speak to the art, but if the cover is any indication, it looks like a lush and gorgeous comic.

run: book one book cover

Run: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Illustrator), and L. Fury (Illustrator)

This companion series to the highly decorated March graphic series follows the months after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In so many ways, what’s explored here — police brutality, white supremacy, and the continued acts of suppressing the rights of Black people to vote — parallel today’s world.

Lewis may have passed, but his story and legacy continue to live on and the graphic format really allows for experiencing his work in a powerful way.

travesia book cover

Travesía: A Migrant Girl’s Cross-Border Journey/El Viaje de Una Joven Migrante as told by Michelle Gerster and illustrated by Fiona Dunnett

This one didn’t resonate for me, but I’m including it because the format and presentation are unique and for the right reader, this book will be a huge hit.

Gricelda is 15-years-old and along with her mother and younger brother, attempt to cross the Mexican border into the US for a new and better life. What’s already a tough journey becomes even more treacherous when they’re smuggled by el Guero, who promises them safety. But he may not live up to his promises.

This is intimate and raw, and in a lot of ways, reads textually and visually more like a picture book than a comic. It’s in dual English and Spanish, as well. The book would make a good introduction to the realities that migrants live, and it could be nicely paired with either the adult or young reader edition of Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us.

I hope you added some great nonfiction comics to your TBR, and prepare to add even more excellent YA nonfiction to your wish list through the rest of the month.

We’ll see you again on Thursday for all of your YA book news and new book releases.

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

What's Up in YA

The Big Library Read’s YA Thriller Pick and More of Your YA Book News and New Books: November 4, 2021

Hey YA Readers!

It’s been a quieter week in terms of YA book news, and chances are, we’ll see a quieter few weeks as we roll out of 2021 (but maybe we won’t — it’s been a weird year, so who knows?). The good news is this means you’ve got time to catch up on the latest YA book releases, as well as those books that’ve been teetering on your TBR.

Let’s dive in.

YA Book News

Note: I’ve not included book challenges, as you can follow those weekly on Book Riot. I round ’em up on Fridays, and the previous week’s are linked later in the newsletter.

New YA Book Releases

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives. This goes, too, for any books you might be planning to purchase for the holidays — the sooner you pick up the hard copies, if that’s your preference, the better.


Briar Girls by Rebecca Kim Wells

Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross

Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson

A Face for Picasso book cover

A Face for Picasso by Ariel Henley (nonfiction)

Faith: Greater Heights by Julie Murphy (series)

Fat Angie: Homecoming by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (series)

Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Girls of Fate and Fury by Natasha Ngan (series)

A Hot Mess by Jeff Fleischer (nonfiction)

In The Ballroom with a Candlestick by Diana Peterfreund

Into The Bloodred Woods by Martha Brockenbrough

Margot Mertz Takes It Down by Carrie McCrossen and Ian McWethy

The Reckless Kind by Carly Heath

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth

Skin of the Sea book cover

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen (series)

Spin Me Right Round by David Valdes

The Story of More: Young Reader Edition by Hope Jahren (nonfiction)

Sway With Me by Syed M. Masood

Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix (series)

When We Were Them by Laura Taylor Namey

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao


book cover for archenemies

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer (series)

Beautiful Wild by Anna Godbersen

Blame It On The Mistletoe by Beth Garrod

The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White (series)

Come On In by Adi Alsaid

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

Finding My Voice by Marie Myung-Ok Lee

food-related stories book cover

Food-Related Stories by Gaby Melian (nonfiction)

Going Viral by Katie Cicatelli-Kuc

The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl (series)

Lost Roads by Jonathan Maberry (series)

Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie D. Richards

Storm The Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells (series)

Supernova by Marissa Meyer (series)

Those Who Prey by Jennifer Moffett

Warriors of Wing and Flame by Sara B. Larson (series)

This Week at Book Riot

As always, thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you again on Saturday with some YA ebook deals. Monday will launch a series of newsletters focused on YA nonfiction in honor of my favorite bookish celebration, Nonfiction November.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

What's Up in YA

7 YA Books Coming in 2022 To TBR

Hey YA Readers!

As we’re running full-speed into the end of another year — somehow it is November already! — let’s take a moment to peep some of the new books hitting shelves in 2022. There’s not a unifying theme to these other than they’ve hit my radar and look like excellent reads to preorder and/or TBR ASAP.

Some of these are by names you’ll know, while others are by newer authors. It sure looks like we’re in for some outstanding books in our future to pair with the piles and piles of other books we’re going to sink into as soon as we can.

all my rage book cover

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir (March 1)

I’m really looking forward to seeing Tahir flex her writing muscles with a contemporary title. The story follows Misbah and Toufiq, who were arranged in marriage in Pakistan. A tragedy rocks their young lives and they move to rural California to start anew, opening up a small hotel.

Fast forward to today. Salahudin and Noor are close friends in rural California until a fight rocks their relationship. Now Sal works to save his family’s hotel business as his mother Misbah’s health is declining and Noor hides her college applications while working her uncle’s liquor store. Though The Fight has changed Sal and Noor, the challenges of their lives today may, ultimately, bring their friendship back together.

hell followed with us book cover

Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White (June 7)

Benji is a 16-year-old trans boy who is on the run, escaping the fundamentalist cult which raised him and has now brought Armageddon, destroying much of the world’s population. He finds refuge from the monsters brought by the Armageddon in a local LGBTQ+ shelter for teens. Benji is smitten with the good-looking leader of the group, Nick, who knows that the cult’s bioweapon is mutating Benji into a monster — one strong enough to take down the rest of the population. Nick offers Benji a safe place to stay with the group, so long as he promises not to unleash his power, except to protect the group. But then Benji learns Nick has some secrets of his own and he may not be able to keep his promise.

This looks like a super fresh apocalyptic and cult story.

the lesbiana's guide to catholic school book cover

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes (May 17)

After she was outed by her best friend and crush, Yamilet Flores is starting over. She’s hoping to not draw attention to herself at her new mostly-white, mostly-wealthy Catholic school, and that includes keeping her sexuality under wraps. But….then she meets Bo and she starts to fall. Except, Yami doesn’t know if she truly has feelings for Bo or she’s simply enraptured by Bo’s ability to be fully herself.

a million quiet revolutions book cover

A Million Quiet Revolutions by Robin Gow (March 22)

Aaron and Oliver have always been close. Their small, rural town didn’t allow them to meet many other queer young people, and they’ve shared numerous milestones together as trans teens. When Aaron moves away, the pair are rocked and challenged, but they find solace in seeking out stories of American heroes of the past they believed to be queer. It’s through reclaiming the stories of the past that Aaron and Oliver — their adopted names — are able to better understand themselves and relationship to one another.

This is a dual point-of-view novel in verse.

mirror girls book cover

Mirror Girls by Kelly McWilliams (February 8)

I adored McWilliams’s debut, and I’m so eager for this sophomore effort.

Charlie and Magnolia are twins who were separated at birth — their parents had been in an interracial romance and were lynched. It’s now the era of the Civil Rights Movement and Charlie in Harlem is a Black organizer while Magnolia, who is white passing, is to be the heir of a cotton plantation.

After a curse and a death, the sisters are unexpectedly reunited in Eureka, Georgia, where they both need to collaborate to break the curse and work to untangle the complex racial realities that exist for them as individuals, as twin sisters, and more broadly, in the shifting historical moment.

this rebel heart book cover

This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke (April 5)

Here’s a setting I don’t think I’ve seen before in YA: post-World War II Communist Budapest, during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

The story follows Csilla, whose parents were publicly murdered by the Communist police. Now she must decide whether or not she’ll work to fight for the country she loves — despite how it’s ruined her life and the lives of those she loves — or if she’ll need to make and escape and start anew in a foreign land.

Bonus on this one for a story told through the eyes of a queer main character.

queen of the tiles book cover

Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Okay, this is set at a Scrabble competition and includes a mystery to uncover the truth behind the mysterious death of the reigning Scrabble Queen. SOLD. SOLD. SOLD.

This is but the tip of the iceberg for exciting forthcoming YA, y’all. Picking seven to highlight was so hard — and I hope you’re eager for these, too.

As always, thanks for hanging out. I’ll see you again on Thursday with a look at this week’s YA news and new books. Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

What's Up in YA

YA “Best Of” Lists Begin, ON THE COME UP Filming, and More YA Book News and New Books: October 28, 2021

Hey YA Readers!

Let’s catch up on the latest in YA book news and new YA books. I hope you’ve got your favorite treats ready to celebrate Halloween this weekend and some excellent reads, too.

YA Book News

New YA Books

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives. This goes, too, for any books you might be planning to purchase for the holidays — the sooner you pick up the hard copies, if that’s your preference, the better.


i'm dreaming of a wyatt christmas book cover

Daughter of a Dead Empire by Carolyn Tara O’Neil

Disability Visibility edited by Alice Wong (nonfiction, young reader edition!)

I’m Dreaming of a Wyatt Christmas by Tiffany Schmidt

Journey to the Heart of the Abyss by London Shah (series)

The Other Side of the Sky by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Rest Easy by Warona Jolomba


A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Magic Dark and Strange by Kelly Powell

This Week at Book Riot

Image of a cream colored candle in front of YA book spines.

‘Tis the season to burn a delicious candle while you’re reading, and this YA Reader candle — orange, sandalwood, coconut scented — is perfectly fitting. $10.

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you on Saturday with some ebook deals!

— Kelly Jensen,

@heykellyjensen on Instagram.

(psst: did you know both (Don’t) Call Me Crazy and Body Talk, my two most recent anthologies, are on sale for the low price of $2 this month in ebook format? Now you do!).