Best of 2020: Young Adult

Rounding off our Best of 2020 series, today our WorldKidLit Champions recommend their favourite 2020 Young Adult discoveries

Lawrence Schimel recommends… Here the Whole Time and Where We Go From Here

“My favorites from 2020 are the two Brazilian gay YA novels translated by Larissa Helena, Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins and Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha, both published originally by Scholastic in the US and also published in the UK. Funny, endearing, moving snapshots of contemporary queer life, with a focus on aspects of it (body shame/positivity & HIV positive youth) that I’d not read about before.”

Read Lawrence’s interview with translator Larissa Helena here.

Johanna McCalmont recommends… Waterbirds on the Lakeshore 

edited by Zukiswa Wanner (Ouida Books)

“A fantastic collection of short stories that carried me across Africa. I was blown away by the wealth of perspectives, themes, and genres packed into this anthology featuring 17 young African writers worth watching. I also love the story behind the collection and how editor Zukiswa Wanner nurtured, supported, translated, and showcased new work written specifically for the next generation of African readers.”

Read the full WorldKidLit review here.

Karen Van Drie recommends … No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference

by Greta Thunberg (Penguin Random House)

This book takes less than 1.5 hours to read.  In this slim volume, Greta explains our timeline for saving ourselves, how we are currently choosing not to act, and she tries to light a fire under grownups to do so. I recommend reading it immediately. The species you save could be one near and dear to your heart, including your own.

Mathew Tobin recommends… The Beast Player

by Nahoko Uehashi, translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano, illustrated by Yuta Onoda (Pushkin Press)

Set within a fantasy world deftly tapestried in Japanese culture, The Beast Player follows the life of Elin, part Ahylo (a race of people known to be able to communicate with the land’s wild beasts) as she tries to uncover her mysterious heritage whilst surviving the divisive politics of a divided world. This is a coming-of-age story of a young woman that focuses more on aspects of right and wrong and what makes us human rather than anything sweepingly romantic and I loved the book more for that.

Avery Fischer Udagawa agrees!

To read more about The Beast Player, take a look at the WKL blog here.

Nanette McGuinness recommends… Witch Hat Atelier, vol. 1

by Kamome Shirahama, translated from Japanese by Stephen Kohler (Kodansha Comics)

Beautiful art combines with an engaging story and meaningful, relevant themes (exclusion based on birth and inherited ability vs. the desire to excel and inclusion) in this  YA manga, plus the overarching meta-message comparing the magic of the artist’s skill on paper to the witches’ magic in the story.

Find out more from Nanette on the GLLI blog.

Claire Storey recommends… Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands

by Sonia Nimr, translated from Arabic by Marcia Lynx Qualey (Interlink Books)

This has to be one of my favourites from this year. I loved being transported to distant lands and times, travelling with camels across the wide open desert or on elephant back in the jungle. As a book lover, I really felt the power of the Wondrous Journeys book that resurfaced throughout the plot. And the writing conveyed so many different emotions and feelings. Just wonderful.

Read our interview with the Sonia and Marcia here.

Claire Storey also recommends… The Moon is Red and Under the Welsh Not

by Myrddin ap Dafydd, translated from Welsh by Susan Walton

These books are both historical fiction. The Moon is Red was fascinating to learn about the links between Wales and the Basque Country and the evacuation of children during the Spanish Civil War. Under the Welsh Not was a challenging but important read about the English suppression of the Welsh language and cultural identity.

Find out more in my review here.


Please share your recommendations on Twitter (#worldkidlit): what are your favourite young adult books in translation that you read this year?


Go to Best of 2020 Picture Books
Go to Best of 2020 Chapter books for emerging readers
Go to Best of 2020 Middle Grade


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