7 Must-Read Non-U.S. YA Books of 2016

My Sister RosaThe YA landscape is so rich and varied and awesome right now, and it’s not just a U.S. thing. Music festivals, monsters, psychopaths, revolutions, and love stories await you in these 11 genre-bending, diverse, and thrilling 2016 YA novels from around the world.

Remix, by Non Pratt (UK)
Ruby and Kaz: these girls have been besties forever, even if Kaz, who’s biracial, quiet, and academic, tends to let Ruby, who’s white, loud, and likes to party, make all the decisions. But things are changing. They’re both recovering from brutal breakups, and as they attend the grungy Remix music festival, emotional tensions run high. Ruby is facing the prospect of being held back a year, while Kaz’s brother, reeling from his own breakup with Owen, is about to leave for America. The three-day festival takes Ruby and Kaz on an epic journey that tests their bond in this gritty, witty novel about friendship and life-changing choices.

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, by Melissa Keil (Australia)
Alba has just finished high school, but she’d like life in Eden Valley, her small, desolate town outside Melbourne, to remain exactly the same: hanging with her best friend, Grady, working in the family bakery, and drawing her superhero comic about Cinnamon Girl. Yeah…not gonna happen. A video goes viral on YouTube naming Eden Valley as the only safe place to be in an impending apocalypse. So annoying, especially when the town gets swamped with eccentric characters looking for safety, including Daniel, who used to be Alba and Grady’s “heavier” friend but is now a hunky soap star. Things get complicated, of course, and Alba is forced to question everything she knows and wants. A charming tale of friendship and of working out just who you are and where you’re going in life.

Aluta, by Adwoa Badoe (Ghana)
It’s 1981. Charlotte is 18 and has just started college in Ghana. It’s a heady time for her: she’s surrounded by intense thinkers, new political ideas…and tons of parties and boys. Even better, she’s away from her controlling father. When the government is overthrown during her freshman year, things only get more exciting as Charlotte finds herself in the middle of a revolution. But what she doesn’t know is how much danger she’s in, especially as she becomes a spokesperson for the oppressed. Her high profile makes her a target, and ultimately she has to make a horrifyingly difficult decision about her future. This is an intense look at the idealism of youth as it collides with vicious political realities. Badoe shows us Ghana’s culture and politics, as well as the violence that often accompanies revolutions. Authentic and unflinching.

Another Me, by Eva Wiseman (Canada)
Fourteenth-century Europe is plague-ravaged. So far, though, Natan has led a comfortable teenaged life, working with his father, helping his mother, studying the Torah with his brother, and maybe even falling in love. But everything changes as the plague sweeps closer to his French town. Antisemitism has always been a part of life there, but now people in the town start accusing the Jews of poisoning the water. Very quickly, tensions escalate, and the town becomes an extraordinarily dangerous place for Natan and his family. In the midst of trying to expose who really poisoned the water, an act of violence changes everything for Natan. Told in narration alternating between Natan and Elena, the girl he loves, this is a novel about bravery, second chances, and facing the darkness when all hope seems lost. It’s savage and heartrending and yes, you will probably cry.

Mind Your Head, by Juno Dawson (UK YA nonfiction)
Dawson, who in 2015 announced her transition from James to Juno, leads this nonfiction look at anxiety, depression, self-harm, and personality disorders. Don’t let that list fool you: this is a very funny book, as well as being deeply heartfelt. With an assist from clinical psychologist Dr. Olivia Hewitt, Dawson tackles these challenging issues and the ways they can affect teens, offering support and guidance on how to handle and get through them. The book also includes stories and experiences from real-life teens. If you suffer from any of these issues, talking about it is really important, but can be extremely difficult to begin. This book shows you how to get started in a very supportive way.

My Sister Rosa, by Justine Larbalestier (Australia)
Che is 17 and adores his 10-year-old sister Rosa. They’re Australian, but their parents’ work moves them from country to country, and Che looks out for Rosa wherever they go. But it’s not easy, because Che suspects his sister may be a fully fledged psychopath with zero empathy. She manipulates and tortures those around her, and if he’s honest, Che is scared of her. Their parents ignore it as simple misbehavior, but when they move from Bangkok to New York City, Rosa’s behavior only gets more disturbing. While Che tries to make a life for himself, meeting new friends and pursuing his love of boxing, Rosa becomes a greater threat to him—and others—than ever. This is a chilling, suspenseful thriller, which looks closely and unsettlingly into the psychology of evil.

The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim, by Shane Peacock (Canada)
Edgar Brim’s dad always believed in monsters, so, naturally, Edgar does, too. When his father dies, Edgar is sent to a broodingly spooky school on a ghostly, remote moor in Scotland. It couldn’t be more gothic, which does NOT help Edgar. He’s constantly terrified, convinced the monsters of his nightmares are real and just waiting to come and get him. Spoiler: They so are. Edgar gets roped into a mission to track down a monster that’s been killing at the school, but when he travels to London to search for his missing best friend (Tiger, a girl who has been pretending to be a boy so she can attend the school), the monster starts hunting him. This novel does a brilliant job of making monsters seem like a very real part of Victorian Europe (there’s even a cameo from Dracula author Bram Stoker). It’s atmospheric, thrilling, and creepy, with a generous amount of horror and mystery.

 

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