12 Coming-of-Age Stories and Compelling Nonfiction for Teens | We Are Kid Lit Collective

From graphic novels centering underrepresented perspectives to charming rom-coms and nonfiction about climate change, these summer reading selections will inspire young adults to make positive change in their communities—and themselves.



School Library Journal has proudly partnered with We Are Kid Lit Collective to share and promote the group’s 10th annual summer reading recommendations. In the next couple of weeks, SLJ will publish individual posts featuring their recommendations for picture books, transitional books, middle grade, and young adult titles.

Amid all the challenges and disruptions that our youth face, we’re releasing our 10th We Are Kid Lit Summer Reading List as a message to young readers: We see you. We hear you. We are with you. You motivate us every day to keep moving the needle by elevating narratives that feature Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) voices while being inclusive of intersectional queer and disability representation and limiting the harms of biases and microaggressions.

From graphic novels centering underrepresented perspectives to charming rom-coms and nonfiction about climate change, these summer reading selections will inspire young adults to make positive change in their communities—and themselves.

BEVACQUA, Michael Lujan, Jack Lujan Bevacqua, Jeremy Lujan Bevacqua & Ed Alvarez. Roque. illus. by Jack Lujan Bevacqua. The Guam Bus. 2016.
Roque Babauta is a fictional Chamorro basketball player. His exceptional skills take him from Guam to mainland United States, where he plays in the National Basketball Association. As Roque’s star rises, he remains true to his homeland and his political convictions, realizing that he must use his large platform to share his voice. Though Roque works to be true to his beliefs, not everyone is ready for such honesty. Chamorro is sprinkled throughout this comic.

EUNNIE. If You’ll Have Me. Viking. 2023. ISBN 9780593403228.
Shy, trusting Momo has never had a girlfriend. When she meets PG, Momo is drawn to her, despite different personalities and PG’s reputation as a player. As friendship turns to romance, the two navigate messy pasts to find healthy communication and love.

GAO, Laura. Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American. illus. by author. Harper/Balzer+Bray. 2022. ISBN 9780063067776.
Gao’s autobiographical debut graphic novel follows the artist as she confronts racism and homophobia in her mostly white Texas hometown but faces both issues with humor (and plenty of White Rabbit candy).

JACKSON, Sharna with Zoé Whitley. Black Artists Shaping the World. illus. by various. Thames & Hudson. 2021. ISBN 9780500652596.
A collection of biographies and works of 26 Black diasporic artists who include painters, photographers, ceramists, and installation creators. Short bios, artist photos, and reproductions of their work are represented.

JAIGIRDAR, Adiba. Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. Page Street. 2021. ISBN 9781645672579.
When Bangladeshi Irish and Muslim Hani comes out to her friends as bisexual, their skepticism leads Hani to say she is dating Bengali and Indian Irish Ishu, one of the few other brown girls at school. Ishu agrees to the fake dating plan on the condition that Hani help Ishu become Head Girl at their mostly white school. But what neither girl counted on was actually developing feelings for each other!

KEENE,Adrienne. Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present. illus. by Ciara Sana. Ten Speed Pr. 2021. ISBN 9781984857941.
This biography collection, featuring striking and colorful illustrations, features a diverse group of Indigenous peoples with intersecting identities.

KHALILIEH, Jackie. Something More. Tundra. 2023. ISBN 9781774882139.
A week after receiving her autism diagnosis, Palestinian Canadian teenager Jessie Kassis starts high school, where friends, boyfriends, and boys who are friends pose new challenges. Normally a loner rather than a joiner, Jessie finds her talents in Drama Club, while her unfamiliarity with social situations leads to drama as well.

MARTINEZ, Xiuhtezcatl. Imaginary Borders. illus. by Ashley Lukashevsky. (Pocket Change Collective). Penguin Workshop. 2020. ISBN 9780593094136.
Indigenous Mexica environmental activist and hip-hop artist Martinezdiscusses his early activism, work as Youth Director of the Earth Guardians, the history and politics around climate change and its disproportionate impact on communities of color, and a reimagined intersectional call to action toward change for all.

OH, Axie. XOXO. HarperTeen. 2021. ISBN 9780063024991.
Jenny, a Korean American high school senior, has devoted her life to her cello. But this singular focus has made her life a bit dull. When her grandmother’s poor health takes her to Korea, Jenny stumbles into the world of K-pop, and she’s open to friends, love, and even new forms of creative expression. Her life seems so much brighter!

PHAM, Thien. Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam. illus. by author. First Second. 2023. ISBN 9781250809711.
Pham , whose family escaped war-torn Vietnam when he was five years old, uses food as a catalyst to share memories from his childhood. This graphic memoir is told in a clear-eyed style that plays off the nostalgic comic art.

WOODFOLK, Ashley. Nothing Burns as Bright as You. HarperCollins/Versify. 2022. ISBN 9780358655350.
The fires that two unnamed Black girls start one fateful day are a metaphor for their tumultuous two-year relationship that is all at once close friendship, romance, and rivalry. The relationship portrayed in this verse novel is toxic and necessary to them as they struggle with mental health issues and defy the racism and constraints in their lives.

YING, Victoria. Hungry Ghost. First Second. 2023. ISBN 9781250766991.
Chinese American Val’s mother tells Val from a young age to “just taste” food but not actually eat it, and Val really does try to be a good daughter. But her secret—that she makes herself vomit after eating so as not to gain weight—is becoming a burden too heavy for Val to carry alone.

Sam Bloom is a children’s collection development librarian at the The Lane Libraries in Butler County. Edith Campbell is a librarian at Indiana State University. Ariana Hussain is a teacher librarian at the Blake School, Hopkins, MN. Dr. Sujei Lugo is a children’s librarian at the Boston Public Library and an independent researcher. Lyn Miller-Lachmann is an award-winning author and translator of children’s books.

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