5 YA Reads Featuring Rebels With a Cause

Whether you’re dealing with parents who expect you to be someone you’re not or facing a society filled with ideas you just can’t agree with, everyone’s got something to rebel against. But battling the Man (or the Mom, as the case may be) can take its toll. Here are five novels to pick up when fighting the powers that be leaves you feeling exhausted, angry, and maybe even defeated. Because there’s nothing like knowing you’re not alone to get you back on your feet and ready to fight.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sánchez
When Julia’s older sister Olga dies in a traffic accident, all of their parents’ expectations for a perfect daughter are suddenly pushed onto Julia. But Julia has never wanted to be a quiet housewife who cooks and raises children, not like Olga. Grief and loneliness prompt Julia to learn more about the sister she was never very close to, and she slowly discovers that maybe Olga wasn’t as perfect as she seemed. Between uncovering her sister’s secret, struggling with depression, and being sent to live with her relatives in Mexico, Julia just might learn how to fight for her own hopes and dreams while still being a part of her family. Full of anger and snark, this book takes an important look at juggling cultural expectations and mental health issues, all while bludgeoning you in the feels.

Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu
Vivian is sick of her school’s sexist double-standards, where football players get away with everything and only girls have to deal with the dress code. Inspired by her mom’s Riot Grrrl days, she starts creating and distributing a feminist zine. Before long, she’s sparked a revolution, and the girls at her school begin a series of small protests. But revolution isn’t easy when you’re facing an all-male administration and a small town infused with rape culture, and Viv and her friends have a long way to go if they want to get everyone on board. If you love books featuring strong female friendships and fighting against the man, don’t miss this quick, empowering read.

Dress Codes for Small Towns, by Courtney Stevens
As the pastor’s daughter in a small, southern town, Billie is already pushing the boundaries of acceptance by dressing like a boy. She doesn’t care, though, as long as she has her tight-knit hexagon of friends. Things get slightly more complicated when Billie realizes she’s crushing on two of her best friends—one a boy and one a girl—who also happen to be falling for each other. Keeping her feelings to herself seems like the best course of acton, until community service forces the friends to spend even more time together than normal. Soon it feels like everyone is kissing someone, and Billie’s no longer sure where she’ll end up. As someone who grew up in a similar environment, I love Stevens’ take on learning to explore ideas and beliefs beyond the world you’ve grown up in.

You’re Welcome, Universe, by Whitney Gardner
When Julia covers up a slur about her best friend written on the walls of the Kingston School for the Deaf with more graffiti, she doesn’t expect her best friend to sell her out. And she definitely doesn’t expect to wind up expelled and attending a regular high school instead. So instead of focusing on her new outsider-status, Julia focuses on her art. Thankfully, her new school comes with plenty of ground to explore. But even that has its problems: there’s another graffiti artist in town, and whoever it is might be better than Julia. If you’re looking for a flawed, independent main character who’ll have you hooked from page one, look no further.

North of Happy, by Adi Alsaid
Dual-citizen Carlos and his free-spirited brother Felix both love food. So when a night spent eating their way across Mexico City ends in a tragedy that leaves Felix dead and Carlos grieving, the only thing to do is drop everything and head to a restaurant in Washington state where Felix dreamed of eating. What starts as a desperate adventure turns into the chance at a new life when Carlos somehow lands a job at the restaurant—something his parents would hate, but Felix would love. Suddenly life seems good again, until Carlos is faced with choosing between his passion for cooking and a chance at a relationship. North of Happy is a smart, engaging read that’ll leave you mouthwateringly hungry and eager to try all the recipes Alsaid has thoughtfully included.

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