10 Best Books for Teens of 2020
Librarians nominated more than 50 young adult novels that came in 2020. Our teen reviewers couldn’t put down these titles.
The Kingdom of Back
Written by Marie Lu
Lyrical and fast paced, this fictionized retelling of Mozart’s legacy made our teen reviewers aware that the composer had an older sister who was just as musically talented. “It touches on themes of sibling rivalry and how it feels to be forgotten,” says Becca, a high-school senior. “The conclusion was satisfying, and several parts of the book had me gripping in suspense.”
All The Days Past, All The Days To Come
Written by Mildred D. Taylor
The final book of a series that started with the 1976 classic Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, this novel also works as a stand-alone read. It focuses on the experiences of a Black family between the end of World War II and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. “I liked how Cassie, the narrator, saw history being made on her journey,” says Ethan, an eighth-grader.
The Black Flamingo
Written by Dean Atta
This collection of thought-provoking, emotional poems follows Michael, a mixed-race, gay boy, from his toddler years to college. “The novel took on difficult, personal issues such as race, sexuality, and the yearning to fit in, and presented Michael’s struggles in a way that’s relatable and educational for almost anyone,” says Sasha, 16.
Written by Kelly Yang
Told in alternating voices of new housemates—a high-school scholarship student and a Chinese teen whose parents forced her to move to California—this book addresses immigration, privilege, and consent head-on. “It deals with sexual assault in a way I haven’t seen in a novel,” says Regina, a high-school senior. “It educates and empowers .”
More Than Just A Pretty Face
Written by Syed M. Masood
This romantic comedy works in substantive issues without getting weighed down. “The narrator had me engrossed in his story from page one with his jokes, charisma, and passion for food,” says Jackie, a high-school freshman. “Plus, there’s a strong female character and an opportunity to learn about a culture that is quite possibly different from your own.”
We Are Not Free
Written by Traci Chee
Set three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, this book—written in verse and letters—is a moving account of 14 young Japanese Americans who were removed from their San Francisco neighborhood and forced to go to incarceration camps. “I got invested in the characters,” says Sonya, a high-school sophomore. “I liked how the story went from person to person, and each person was different in how they wrote and how they saw the world.”
Clap When You Land
Written by Elizabeth Avecedo
This novel-in-verse follows two teens, Yahaira and Camino, who have the same father but completely different experiences growing up. “The author does a good job of showing how they reacted to secrets kept from them for most of their lives,” says Clara, an eighth-grader.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
Written by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
On page after page, our teen reviewers found historical accounts that surprised them. “The authors talked about famous figures who weren’t as antiracist as we’d like to believe,” says Sonya, a high-school sophomore. Adds Kyra, a high-school junior: “I definitely learned from it what I had not in any history lesson.”
You Should See Me in A Crown
Written by Leah Johnson
A queer Black girl hatches a plan to get out of her Midwestern town, and into an elite college where she can shine. “I loved how, as the weeks progressed, the battery percentage on the phone screen went down as the main character’s feelings and moods changed,” says Lili, a high-school senior.
Written by Kat Leyh
Our tween and younger teen reviewers thought this graphic novel about a girl who realizes she has magical powers was epic. They described the illustrations as “mysterious” and enjoyed the storyline too. “I was surprised at some of the relationships in the book, and liked the theme of love and friendship,” says 11-year-old Zachary.