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Teen

9 YA Books That Give Hope to
Today’s Teens

by Laura Lambert

books on hope teens
Image credit: Lilly Roadstones, Stone Collection/Getty Images

Having made it through 2020, one thing’s for sure — you (and the teens in your life) have to have hope.

Hope is a belief in tomorrow, that things will look different in the morning. Even in the midst of hardship, struggle, challenges, and facing the unknown, hope gives us reason to keep going.

It’s the original form of resilience. A belief in good. An act of optimism.

When you think about it, hope is running through the veins of so much YA. Even when a plot turns on loneliness, loss, or other anguish, what pulls the story forward is a belief that things will change, and for the better. That’s exactly what these nine YA books show teens — a better future, if not tomorrow, then soon.

  • The Truths We Hold

    by Kamala Harris

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    Kamala Harris: the first female, Asian American, and Black vice president. Before that, she was the first woman and person of color to serve as San Francisco district attorney, and the first Black senator from California. Harris is an icon of hope for a generation of little girls of all backgrounds. The Truths We Hold, now adapted for young readers, is Harris’ memoir. Writes NPR political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben, “In The Truths We Hold, Harris presents herself as a potentially formidable presidential candidate. Which is to say: She efficiently makes her case, like the prosecutor she is.”

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  • Hope Is Our Only Wing

    by Rutendo Tavengerwei

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    On another continent, in another time, 15-year-old Shamiso has had her life turned upside down. Her father has died, and her mother has moved them from England to Zimbabwe to start life anew. For Shamiso, that means boarding school, where she befriends Tanyaradzwa, who has cancer. As Caitlyn Paxson writes for NPR, “One girl is the victim of actual cancer ravaging her body, while the other struggles with the cancer of corruption as a country that was ripped apart by colonialism tries to find its way into the future. Both sicknesses take their toll — on bodies as well as minds. But the bravery of two young women and their connection to each other will overcome.”

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  • Glimmer of Hope

    by The March for Our Lives Founders

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    There have been so many dark days in the fight for gun control in the United States — February 14, 2018, among them. That’s when a 19-year-old gunman, and former student, opened fire in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17. That day also sparked a powerful movement — including a massive, student-led demonstration for gun control in Washington, DC, just over a month later. Glimmer of Hope traces the students' evolution from despair to defiance, in their own words. It’s “a blueprint for launching social change,” says NPR.

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  • Hope Nation

    by Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, Nicola Yoon, Marie Lu, and more, edited by Rose Brock

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    Hope comes in many forms. In Hope Nation, editor Rose Brock brings us two dozen different tales of hope, from some of today’s most beloved YA writers — across genres. As Brock writes in the introduction, these are “stories of resilience, resistance, hardship, loss, love, tenacity, and acceptance — stories that prove that sometimes, hope can be found only on the other side of adversity.” And in lieu of their fees, each author donated to a charity or organization of their choosing, in order to create even more hope in a world that so desperately needs it.

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  • Hope and Other Punch Lines

    by Julie Buxbaum

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    Known, literally, as Baby Hope, 17-year-old Abbi Hope Goldstein just wants to escape her past — and the image of her emblazoned into the collective memory from that fateful day, September 11, 2001. As Publishers Weekly explains, “Told in alternating perspectives between the two teens, the novel sensitively depicts how definitively 9/11 split countless lives into before and after. Directly affected by the events but too young to remember them, Abbi and Noah provide distinctive points of view with which teen readers, for whom 9/11 is history, will identify.”

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  • Yes She Can

    compiled by Molly Dillon

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    In 2021, the Obama administration feels like a very different time and place. This book, Yes She Can, based on the stories of 10 young, female White House staffers from Obama’s administration, is a reminder of the hope and energy that drove their work. “We wanted to speak directly to young women because as a country we don't always tell women's stories," editor Molly Dillon told John Hopkins Magazine. "We surfaced the things that made us proud, impacted other people's lives, and changed our communities for the better to say to young women, 'There's a place for you in public service. We need you here.’”

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  • A Phoenix First Must Burn

    edited by Patrice Caldwell

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    Not every tale of hope is rooted in real life. In this anthology, which spans genres, Black girls and gender non-conforming teens seeking an image of themselves in YA that they haven’t found elsewhere may very well strike gold here. Editor Patrice Caldwell says in the introduction, “Black people have our pain, but our futures are limitless. Let us, together, embrace our power. Let us create our own worlds. Let us thrive.” A message of hope if there ever was one.

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  • Hope in the Mail

    by Wendelin van Draanen

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    For any aspiring writer, Wendelin van Draanen — the author of more than 30 YA and middle grade books — offers hope in the form of her own journey to becoming an author. Part writing guide, part memoir, Hope in the Mail is meant to instruct and inspire. And while some reviewers take issue with aspects of the book that seem a little tone-deaf, the book achieves the goal set out in its title. Says School Library Journal, “Van Draanen’s memoir can serve as a guide to embracing the creative life.”

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  • Land of Hope

    by Joan Lowery Nixon

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    Flash back from the future to Ellis Island, and you’ll find a very different take on hope. In this, the first of three books in the Ellis Island series by Joan Lowery Nixon, 15-year-old Rebekah Levinsky has escaped the pogroms of Russia with her family, only to face the challenges of a new life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Writes Kirkus, “Rebekah's indomitable courage is inspiring.”

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