Top YA Fiction

This list is for the deep thinkers among us who long to see the world as vibrantly and brilliantly as possible, those who want to look through the lens of another's eyes and hear the rhythm of their heart. If you're a fan of poetry, vignettes, and collected essays, this list is for you.

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Kite Kè m Pale

Wait Rebecca Stevenson

In his latest collection, Kite kè m pale (Let My Heart Speak), the poet Jacques Pierre speaks lovingly and eloquently about women and others who have faced and continue to face difficulties and injustice. Jacques uses the elegance and imagery of his poetry not only to showcase the beauty and richness of the Kreyòl language but also as a poignant reminder of the issues facing his home country. His poetry sometimes resorts to uncommon forms of Kreyòl such as jagon and bolit to better express that which cannot be conveyed commonly, and expose everyone to the linguistic wealth of the country.

Kite kè m pale expresses the heart of the poet as well as the heart and soul of the Kreyòl language and those who speak it.


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Behind These Hands

following the red bird

"a richly woven, unforgettable symphony of feelings and words"
– Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

Fourteen-year-old Claire Fairchild knew from an early age that she had hands made for the keyboard and a future full of music. Entering a prestigious music contest means competing against her childhood friend, Juan, just as her feelings towards him are becoming more complicated.

Claire's younger brother, Davy, undergoes extensive tests to determine why his learning and visual difficulties are worsening. Claire struggles to balance the tension at home with contest preparations. No one is prepared for the news that Davy has an incurable childhood disease called Batten. Shortly after Claire enters the contest, DNA testing reveals that her youngest brother, Trent, also has Batten and Claire is a carrier.

While attending a conference on Batten Disease, Claire receives word that she has won the contest. Her musical dreams no longer seem relevant and she struggles to reconcile her goals with the realities of her brothers' declining health and probable early deaths. When Claire accompanies a friend on a school newspaper assignment, she meets a centenarian with a colorful musical past and only one regret in life. This inspires Claire to use her talent in a new way to celebrate the lives of her brothers before it's too late.

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Gently Between the Words

the color of together

In his latest collection of essays and poems Taylor-Troutman guides readers through seemingly simple stories of death, life, parenting struggles, successes and failures that speak to larger questions we all face: How do we best spend our time? How can we raise our kids to be kind and confident? Who gives us guidance and wisdom? What does love look like in our lives on a day-to-day basis?

In simple and important gestures like cleaning spilled milk with toilet paper, flipping the perfect pancake with your partner, and walking down the beach with your young child, readers find universal truths to guide their own lives regardless of personal circumstances.

Gently Between the Words guides and instructs our hearts to keep the endangered language of beauty, love, forgiveness, grace, and sensitivity alive in order that we all might become more and more necessary to the urgency of our times and the dreams of our children. —Jaki Shelton Green, NC Poet Laureate

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The Light of a Cuban Son

the color of together

In this semi-autobiographical novel set in mid 20th century Cuba, Lorenzo Chavez reveals the moving story of a boy determined to stay true to who he is and find happiness against all odds.

Told in a series of first-person vignettes, Martín's story covers a wide swath of the Cuban landscape and people, taking us from the lush greens and fertile soils of the countryside to the dark underbelly of a Havana as full of depravity as it is neon lights. 

After suffering a series of heartbreaking abuses, Martín struggles to find his way and claim his identity as a young gay man in an impoverished neighborhood. When the Revolution slowly begins to claim everything Martín holds dear, he takes a desperate leap of faith—one that could cost him his life.

Martín's coming of age story is one of courage and the rebirth of a brave young man who refuses to hide his light.

This novel is perfect for fans of Achy Obejas, Cristina Garcia, and Carmen Maria Machado.

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Climbing Lessons

the color of together

Climbing Lessons stays close to home, with the unflinching discoveries that come from birth, marriage, fatherhood and death, all told with Bascom’s great powers of honesty, humor, and deep sincerity.” –Thomas Fox Averill, Emeritus Creative Writing Professor at Washburn University, O. Henry Award winner, and author of the novel Found Documents from the Life of Nell Johnson Doerr

When Doc Bascom tries to show his grade school sons how to climb a huge sycamore, he ends up dropping 12 feet flat-out on his back. Stunned, he finally gasps, “So that’s how it’s done.” And in that moment, he becomes an emblem for all fathers—trying to lead the way, failing, then getting up and trying again.

This “climbing lesson” is just one of 40 playful, sometimes poignant stories by award-winning author Tim Bascom, who illustrates the special bond between fathers and sons—and how that relationship must change with time. When Tim takes his own turn at fathering, he realizes that his devoted toddlers are turning into unimpressed teenagers. No longer the hero he had hoped to be, he must accept a new, flawed version of himself, not unlike his father before him.

These brief inter-linked stories show that abiding affection can still prevail, bringing fathers and sons closer, even as they tackle the steepest parts of the climb.

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Have you read any of these books? Make sure to drop a review on Goodreads and BookBub! Or grab a copy from Bookshop.org to support a local bookstore near you from the comfort of your couch.

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