YA Books for Older Teens

Each week we share a list of books we recommend to our school community. We try to include books for a wide range of interests and ages, but sometimes it can be tricky to include young adult books alongside titles for children.

This post is just for the fans of YA books. Each title is a 2021 award-winner, including the various awards associated with the Young Adult Library Services Association. We thought it might be helpful to include this important note from the YALSA’s site:

While these books have been selected for teens from 12 to 18 years of age, the award-winning titles and the titles on YALSA's selected lists span a broad range of reading and maturity levels. We encourage adults to take an active role in helping individual teens choose those books that are the best fit for them and their families.”

YALSA's Book Awards & Booklists | Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

Everything Sad Is Untrue: (a true story) by Daniel Nayeri

This autobiography of an Iranian refugee won the 2021 Printz Award, along with being named a National Indie Bestseller, an NPR Best Book of the Year, a New York Times Best Book of the Year, an Amazon Best Book of the Year, a Booklist Editor’s Choice, a BookPage Best Book of the Year, an NECBA Windows and Mirrors Selection, a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year, a Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year, and a Today.com Best Book of the Year.

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming

Like so many of our historical heroes, Charles Lindbergh was far from the perfect man many imagine him to be. Winner of the 2021 YALSA award for nonfiction, this book gives readers a sense of the complicated truths that define human beings.

Kent State (audio book) by Deborah Wiles, narrated by Christopher Gebauer, Lauren Ezzo, Christina Delaine, Johnny Heller, Roger Wayne, Korey Jackson, and David de Vries

Winner of the 2021 Odyssey Award, this is the only audio book on our list. The Odyssey Award highlights exceptional audio books, a format which is rising in popularity and is a great way to appreciate literature in a different format. During the Vietnam War, four student protestors were shot and killed. This story is told from the perspectives of four very different people.

The Edwards Award is different from many in that it recognizes not just a single title, but a body of work attributed to a particular author. The author is celebrated for making a lasting contribution to young adults by honoring their need to “become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world.” The 2021 winner of the Edwards Award was Kekla Magoon, who has published the following four novels:

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon

If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley

The William C. Morris Award recognizes one YA book each year by a new author. If These Wings Could Fly deals with themes familiar to many teens like dating and college acceptance, and other, more challenging themes such as generational trauma and violence.

Each year the Alex Awards selects ten exceptional books that are written specifically for teen audiences. We should mention, when considering these and other books in the article for your teen, that many adults enjoy YA fiction as well. Whether you read a book before passing it along to your child, or you both read it simultaneously, these books are equally enriching for parents and their teens alike. The 2021 winners of the Alex Awards are:

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky) by Rebecca Roanhorse

House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice―Crossing Antarctica Alone by Colin O’Brady

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf