The California Reads Committee offers teacher-approved quarterly book recommendations for multiple age groups. View all recommendations for Grades 9-12.
By Angeline Boulley
With four starred reviews, Angeline Boulley’s debut novel, Firekeeper’s Daughter, is a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, perfect for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.
Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. She dreams of a fresh start at college, but when family tragedy strikes, Daunis puts her future on hold to look after her fragile mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team.
Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into an FBI investigation of a lethal new drug.
Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, drawing on her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine to track down the source. But the search for truth is more complicated than Daunis imagined, exposing secrets and old scars. At the same time, she grows concerned with an investigation that seems more focused on punishing the offenders than protecting the victims.
Now, as the deceptions—and deaths—keep growing, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go for her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.
Publish Date: March 16th, 2021
Children of Blood and Bone
By Tomi Adeyemi
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.
Publish Date: March 6th, 2018
The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country
By Amanda Gorman
On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation and brought hope to viewers around the globe with her call for unity and healing. Her poem “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” can now be cherished in this special gift edition, perfect for any reader looking for some inspiration. Including an enduring foreword by Oprah Winfrey, this remarkable keepsake celebrates the promise of America and affirms the power of poetry.
Publish Date: March 30th, 2021
WATCH US RISE
By Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan
Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.
Publish Date: February 12th, 2019
WE ARE NOT FROM HERE
By Jenny Torres Sanchez
A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña have no false illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Though their families–both biological and found–create a warm community for them, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the three teens know they have no choice but to run: for the border, for the hope of freedom, and for their very lives.
Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico with their eyes on the U.S. border, they follow the route of La Bestia, a system of trains that promise the hope of freedom–if they are lucky enough to survive the harrowing journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and the desperation that courses through their very veins, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know that there’s no turning back, dangerous though the road ahead might be.
In this powerful story inspired by real–and current–events, the plight at our southern border is brought to painful, poignant life.
Publish Date: May 19th, 2020
THE BEAST PLAYER
By Nahoko Uehashi and Cathy Hirano
In epic YA fantasy about a girl with a special power to communicate with magical beasts and the warring kingdom only she can save.
Elin’s family has an important responsibility: caring for the fearsome water serpents that form the core of their kingdom’s army. So, when some of the beasts mysteriously die, Elin’s mother is sentenced to death as punishment. With her last breath she manages to send her daughter to safety.
Alone, far from home, Elin soon discovers that she can talk to both the terrifying water serpents and the majestic flying beasts that guard her queen. This skill gives her great powers, but it also involves her in deadly plots that could cost her life. Can she save herself and prevent her beloved beasts from being used as tools of war? Or is there no way of escaping the terrible battles to come?
Publish Date: 2006
STAMPED: RACISM, ANTIRACISM, AND YOU
By Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
This is NOT a history book.
This is a book about the here and now.
A book to help us better understand why we are where we are.
A book about race.
The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.
Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.
Publish Date: March 10th, 2020
By Samira Ahmed
Rebellions are built on hope.
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.
With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.
Publish Date: March 7, 2019
By Nic Stone
Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.
Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.
Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.
Publish Date: October 17, 2017
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
By Erika L. Sánchez
National Book Award Finalist!
Instant New York Times Bestseller!
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican-American home.
Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family. But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.
Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.
But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
Publish Date: October 17, 2017
A New York Times Bestseller
Stonewall Book Award Winner—Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award
YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist
One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.
If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.
The Upside of Unrequited
By Becky Albertalli
From the award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda comes a funny, authentic novel about sisterhood, love, and identity.
Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?
Publish Date: April 11, 2017
The Hate You Give
By Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Publish Date: February 28, 2017
All American Boys
By Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
In this Coretta Scott King Honor Award–winning novel, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.
A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?
Publish Date: September 29, 2015
By Julie Murphy
Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Publish Date: September 15, 2015
The Sympathizer: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
By Viet Thanh Nguyen
The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as seven other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.
Publish Date: April 2, 2015
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces
By Isabel Quintero
Named to Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014
Named to School Library Journal Best Books of 2014
Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.
July 24: My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it.
Publish Date: August 18, 2014
This One Summer
By Mariko Tamaki, illustrator: Jillian Tamaki
Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. One of the local teens – just a couple of years older than Rose and Windy – is caught up in something bad… Something life threatening.
It’s a summer of secrets, and sorrow, and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.
This One Summer is a tremendously exciting new teen graphic novel from two creators with true literary clout. Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the team behind Skim, have collaborated on this gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of childhood – a story of renewal and revelation.
Publish Date: May 1, 2014
By Kwame Alexander
“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander (He Said, She Said 2013).
Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.
Publish Date: March 18, 2014
Changers Book One: Drew
By T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper
Changers Book One: Drew opens on the eve of Ethan Miller’s freshman year of high school in a brand-new town. He’s finally sporting a haircut he doesn’t hate, has grown two inches since middle school, and can’t wait to try out for the soccer team. At last, everything is looking up in life. Until the next morning. When Ethan awakens as a girl.
Ethan is a Changer, a little-known, ancient race of humans who live out each of their four years of high school as a different person. After graduation, Changers choose which version of themselves they will be forever–and no, they cannot go back to who they were before the changes began.
Fans of the books of John Green, the Joss Whedonverse–and empathy between humans–will find much to love in this first of a four-part series that tracks the journey of an average suburban boy who becomes an incredible young woman…who becomes a reluctant hero…who becomes the person she was meant to be. Because, while changing the world can kinda suck, it sure beats never knowing who you really are.
Publish Date: January 13, 2014
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World
By Malala Yousafzai
Winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, young Malala Yousafzai’s bravery has ignited a ground swell of support around the world for girls’ right to education. The Young Readers version is gripping and occasionally hard to read, given the violent subject matter, but it is told in a voice that is easy for young people to latch on to. Though some young readers may not know much about Pakistan or the Taliban, Malala gently explains some very complex situations in a way that’s easy to follow. This book details Malala’s life before the shooting, her recovery, and her new life in Britain, inviting young readers to count their blessings and think about other people in the world who would love to enjoy some of the liberties we often take for granted.
Publish Date: October 8, 2013
The Beginning of Everything
By Robyn Schneider
Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a witty and heart-wrenching teen novel that will appeal to fans of books by John Green and Ned Vizzini, novels such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and classics like The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye.
Varsity tennis captain, Ezra Faulkner, was supposed to be homecoming king, but that was before—before his girlfriend cheated on him, before a car accident shattered his leg, and before he fell in love with unpredictable new girl Cassidy Thorpe.
As Kirkus Reviews said in a starred review, “Schneider takes familiar stereotypes and infuses them with plenty of depth. Here are teens who could easily trade barbs and double entendres with the characters that fill John Green’s novels.” Funny, smart, and including everything from flash mobs to blanket forts to a poodle who just might be the reincarnation of Jay Gatsby, The Beginning of Everything is a refreshing contemporary twist on the classic coming-of-age novel—a heart-wrenching story about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.
Publish Date: 2013
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
By Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Winner of the 2014 Stonewall Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.
“This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show.”
My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life.
When you think about it, I’m like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side―not heard as often, but just as good. It’s time to let my B side play.
Publish Date: October 8, 2012
By David Levithan
In his New York Times bestselling novel, David Levithan, co-author of bestsellers Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, introduces readers to what Entertainment Weekly calls a “wise, wildly unique” love story about A, a teen who wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life. This new paperback edition features six additional chapters about A’s earlier life.
Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.
With his new novel, David Levithan has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.
Publish Date: August 28, 2012
Summer of the Mariposa
By Guadalupe Garcia McCall
When Odilia and her four sisters find a dead body in the swimming hole, they embark on a hero’s journey to return the dead man to his family in Mexico. But returning home to Texas turns into an odyssey that would rival Homer’s original tale. With the supernatural aid of ghostly La Llorona via a magical earring, Odilia and her little sisters travel a road of tribulation to their long-lost grandmother’s house. Along the way, they must outsmart a witch and her Evil Trinity: a wily warlock, a coven of vicious half-human barn owls, and a bloodthirsty livestock-hunting chupacabras. Can these fantastic trials prepare Odilia and her sisters for what happens when they face their final test, returning home to the real world, where goddesses and ghosts can no longer help them? Summer of the Mariposas is not just a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, it is a celebration of sisterhood and maternal love.
Publish Date: 2012
In the Time of the Butterflies
By Julia Alvarez
It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas―“The Butterflies.”
In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters―Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and the survivor, Dedé―speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression.
Publish Date: January 12, 2010
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
By Sherman Alexie, illustrator: Ellen Forney
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
With a foreword by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike.
Publish Date: September 12, 2007
Reclamation Road Poems
By Kristy Orona-Ramirez
In her first collection of poetry, noted children’s author Kristy Orona-Ramirez (“Kiki’s Journey”) enters into a world in which the sacred and the secular are all one, discovering that myth and magic pervade all words in a journey of self-discovery through loss, love, and perseverance over adversity in the life of a young urban American Indian woman.
Publish Date: May 31, 2007
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
By Marjane Satrapi
Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.
Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.
Publish Date: 2000
Speak: The Graphic Novel
By Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrator: Emily Carroll
The critically acclaimed, award-winning, modern classic Speak is now a stunning graphic novel.
“Speak up for yourself―we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless―an outcast―because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. With powerful illustrations by Emily Carroll, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak: The Graphic Novel comes alive for new audiences and fans of the classic novel. This title has Common Core connections. Right?
Publish Date: 1999