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Find more Booklist Editors' Choice
Selected by the Books for Youth editors, the following titles constitute the year’s best personal reading for teenagers among adult books published in 2020. More on each book’s content and suggested audience can be found in the full-length Booklist review.
Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace. By Carl Safina. Holt, $30 (9781250173331).
Safina’s involving, even addictive chronicle explains the many ways animals exhibit culture by way of three examples—sperm whales, scarlet macaws, and chimpanzees—which powerfully encourages readers to reconsider the uniqueness of humans.
Envisioning Exoplanets: Searching for Life in the Galaxy. By Michael Carroll. Smithsonian, $34.95 (9781588346919).
Covering the science of exoplanets, varieties of space objects that could sustain life, and the technology used to discover them, this richly illustrated guide to potential worlds beyond our solar system will captivate readers of all ages.
Gay like Me: A Father Writes to His Son. By Richie Jackson. Harper, $24.99 (9780062939777).
Jackson composes this heartfelt and insightful book as a response to his son, who came out as gay before heading off to college, hoping to provide him with some of the tools Jackson himself didn’t have.
A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom. By Brittany K. Barnett. Crown, $28 (9781984825780).
This memoir is Barnett’s moving story of growing up in East Texas and her progression from accountant to corporate lawyer to voice for those permanently incarcerated. A personal and riveting look into racial justice and prison reform.
She Votes: How U.S. Women Won Suffrage, and What Happened Next. By Bridget Quinn. Chronicle, $35 (9781452173160).
In a time when women’s-suffrage histories are in abundance, Quinn’s illustrated compendium stands out with its inclusive examples, dynamic artwork by 100 women artists, and shift away from the typical stories to include a much richer perspective of history.
Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon through North America’s Stolen Land. By Noé Álvarez. Catapult, $26 (9781948226462).
Álvarez’s powerful coming-of-age story explores his identity as a Mexican American who seeks to embrace his heritage while forging his own path forward, literally achieving the latter by participating in an epic Peace and Dignity run celebrating North America’s Indigenous peoples.
b, Book, and Me. By Sagwa Kim. Tr. by Sunhee Jeong. Two Lines, paper, $16.95 (9781931883962).Two misfit teen girls contend with bullying, neglect, abuse, and a severed friendship when b’s secrets are exposed. At turns raw and piercing, dreamy and surreal, Kim’s novel delivers a pressing indictment of the onerous transition toward uncertain adulthood.
Eartheater. By Dolores Reyes. HarperVia, $24.99 (9780062987730).
A teenager in Buenos Aires can see the fates of the missing when she ingests earth connected to them, prompting many to seek her help. This gracefully written novel stirringly laces crime fiction with magic realism.
A Girl Is a Body of Water. By Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Tin House, $27.95 (9781951142049).
Teenaged Kirabo’s journey to reconcile her rebellious origins and reconnect with her family is both rich in Ugandan folklore and an arresting exploration of what it means to be a modern girl in a world that seems determined to silence women.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. By V. E. Schwab. Tor, $26.99 (9780765387561).
Tired of her uneventful village life, Addie strikes a Faustian deal with a devil that lets her travel the world, with a catch: she will never age or be remembered by those she meets. A thought-provoking, deeply romantic genre-blender.
The Lying Life of Adults. By Elena Ferrante. Europa, $26 (9781609455910).
In the late 1970s in Naples, Giovanna sets out to meet her sharp, enigmatic aunt, Vittoria, and in a confessional, gut-wrenching narration she learns about Naples, sex and romance, and the idea that adults can be wrong.
Otaku. By Chris Kluwe. Tor, $26.99 (9781250203939).
In a future dominated by a virtual reality game, Ashley is attacked in person and online for her success in the game. As she fights to protect herself and her family, she learns dangerous secrets about the VR system.
Plain Bad Heroines. By emily m. danforth. Illus. by Sara Lautman. Morrow, $27.99 (9780062942852).
Dark, affectionate, and creepy, danforth’s meta-fiction mishmash fuses queer fantasy, romance, and a dread-filled, suspenseful boarding school story in their first adult novel, featuring three teens who make a film about their school’s haunted history.
Sweet Sorrow. By David Nicholls. Houghton/Mariner, $17.99 (9780358274278).
In this clever teen romance set against a summer production of Romeo and Juliet, Fran and Charlie experience first love in a narrative that sparkles with terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes.
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