Books for Young Adults

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Fiction; recommended for older teens)

This beautifully written book is about two teenagers, a blind girl in France and an orphan boy in Germany, and how each experiences WWII. Werner, fascinated with radios and mechanical gadgets ends up in a special unit dealing with electronic interception in the German army, while Marie-Laure ends up in St. Malo, taking care of her elderly uncle. This book beautifully chronicles the deprived lives civilians lead during war, and the brutality of war. There is also a mystery involving a rare gem that Marie-Laure’s father has hidden and Werner’s commanding officer is obsessed to find.

children's books

Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton (Fiction; recommended for older teens)

Chanda is a bright, hard-working 16 year old in southern Africa with dreams of becoming a teacher when her world falls apart, first with her mother becoming ill, and then with the death of her stepfather.  No one mentions HIV/AIDS in her community, but it has torn her family apart. Chanda, the eldest, becomes the one responsible for her younger siblings, and she may have to give up her schooling.  (A later book, Chanda’s War, chronicles her attempts to save her siblings kidnapped by a warlord to become child soldiers.)

Children's books

Copper Sun by Sharon Draper  (Historical fiction; recommended for older teens)

In 1738, Amari is stolen from her central African home, sold to slavers, and endures the horrors of the Middle Passage to arrive at colonial America.  She is bought by a plantation owner for his 16 year old son;  there, she is befriended by a friendly slave, and after terrible events she either witnesses or experiences, Amari manages to escape.  This is a powerful story, and while the reading level is at middle school level, this is a book for high school students.

children's books

Facing the lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna by Joseph  Lemasola Lekuton and Herman Viola  (Non-fiction)

Joseph Lekuton grew up in Kenya as a member of the nomadic Kenya Maasai tribe.  He herded cattle as a young boy, attended boarding school on the opposite side of the country from his homeland, and came to the United States for college.  This account of his life in Kenya is vividly told, as is his struggle for an education.

children's books

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan (Fiction)

Koly, a 13 year old girl in India, finds herself in an arranged marriage to a sickly young boy because his parents want her dowry money to take their son to bathe in the Ganges River.  When he dies, she cannot return to her family, and is maltreated by her mother-in-law.  Finally abandoned in a strange city, she finds her way to a shelter where she discovers her inner strength and her talent to make beautiful fabric and remake her life.

children's books

Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai  (Fiction)

A 12 year-old Vietnamese American girl is taken to Vietnam to be a companion to her grandmother while her father, a doctor, works in rural Vietnam.  Initially angry about not being able to stay home and have beach time during summer vacation, Mia (Mai in Vietnamese) comes to understand her grandmother and the war that changed her family’s life, and to appreciate her rich background.

children's books

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (Memoir; recommended for older teens)

Ishmael Beah, now a humnan rights advocate, was forced to become a child soldier during the civil strife in Sierra Leone in the 1990’s.  He is compelled to kill, and becomes angry and hostile.  Finally rescued by a UN agency and placed in a rehabilitation center, he slowly begins to heal and realize he can choose a better way to live.  This is a powerful story, and the violence and cruelty he experiences  is that of many child soldiers around the world.

Children's books

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (Memoir)

An excellent memoir of Malala’s desire for education, the horrific shooting in Afghanistan by the Taliban that changed her life, her recovery in England, and her life now.  Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, and has dedicated her public life to promoting education for girls worldwide.

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen (Fiction)

An angry teenage boy, neglected by his parents but always bailed out of trouble by them, grievously injures a schoolmate and faces serious jail time.  He is offered a Native American “Circle Justice” opportunity  (Restorative Justice) to spend time in a remote deserted island instead of jail and he chooses that punishment, planning on escaping as soon as possible.  Instead, he is mauled by a bear and left for dead.  When rescued and healed in body, he decides to return to the island to finish his year in isolation and reflect on the roots of his anger and how he can take responsibliity for his actions and his life.