Seeking a Publisher Spring 2023: Young Adult

Today translators and members of the World Kid Lit community (Isabel Stainsby, Catherine Leung, Johanna McCalmont, Melody Shaw, and Melody Winkle) present a selection of YA novels in world languages that they would love to see published in English. For additional information on the selections and their translators, please download the full list.


The Listener Naslouchač
Written by Petra Stehlíková
Original language: Czech [Czechia]
Target Age: 15-16
Publisher: Nakladatelství Host (2016)

Recommended by Isabel Stainsby

This is a YA fantasy novel with an engaging young heroine. Ilan is a vitrier, a member of the subjugated people who are skilled in working the mineral vitreite. Vitreite is toxic and as a result, many vitriers have birth defects. Vitrier girls who don’t are sent to brothels at the age of 15. Ilan is born clean but brought up as a boy to save her from this fate. This also means that she is able to learn stonecutting, a profession usually reserved for boys.

When Ilan is 13, she is chosen to become the stonecutter for the Twenty-Five, a group of elite warriors who travel around vitrier cities, protecting them against terrifying beings called nastereas, who attack without warning and always kill all their victims. Ilan does not wish to go, but has no choice. As she travels, she comes to know the warriors and learns about them, herself, the history of her people and of the Lowlands, where the warriors are based. She has many adventures and comes close to death on more than one occasion. She learns more about the powers of vitreite, using it on one occasion to save a life, and about nastereas, when she meets one and survives. The book ends as she arrives in the Lowlands and learns the truth about the war between the Lowlanders and her own people.

A post-apocalyptic world, a subjugated people with skill in working a miraculous mineral, a talented child with a secret who travels with elite warriors and discovers why her people are oppressed, this is the first book in a fantasy series with incredible world-building.

Petra Stehlíková (born 1976) is a writer of fantasy fiction. Her early works, most notably the trilogy Born from Ash / Zrozena z popela, were self-published. Prestigious Czech publishing house Host published her novel The Listener / Naslouchač in 2016, which was very well received by readers, as was the sequel Faya / Faja (2017). When subsequently published as audiobooks, both titles immediately became bestsellers in their genres. The book Naslouchač has sold nearly 20,000 copies in the Czech Republic alone. Following The Listener and Faya, Nasterea (2021) is the third part of a planned fantasy pentalogy.


What the stars dream of 
Written by Manon Fargetton 
Original language: French [France]
Target age group: 13+
Publisher: Gallimard Jeunesse (2020)

Recommended by Catherine Leung

Set against the backdrop of Brittany in France, What the Stars Dream of not only has a strong sense of place, but also succeeds in touching sensitively on a number of teenage issues relatable to young adult readers universally. Grief, social phobia, friendship, love, teenage-parent relationships, and digital social interaction are all explored, along with the central theme of isolation.

“What if there existed constellations invisible to the naked eye linking human beings like stars?”

“I wanted to write about isolation, and naturally, ended up talking about connections.” Manon Fargetton

Inspired by the concept of “six degrees of separation” – the idea that anybody on the planet can be linked to anyone else in a chain of six or fewer social contacts – this poetic story unfolds like a play. It begins with a constellation of five contrasting characters, spanning the generations, as they go about their lives in isolation, unaware of each other’s existence. 

Titouan doesn’t leave his bedroom anymore. Alix dreams of a future in the theatre. Luce remains inconsolable following the death of her husband. Gabrielle values her freedom too much to get attached. Armand has built his whole life around his daughter. What will happen when grieving Luce sends her deceased husband an SMS? All that is needed is for an unknown number to flash up on a mobile phone for these characters’ existences to become intertwined …

Manon Fargetton (1987) is a French author who grew up in Saint Malo in Brittany and now lives in Paris. In addition to writing, she also worked in the theatre for many years. She published her first novel at eighteen, and has since published more than twenty books, across all genres, and age groups, winning numerous prizes.

And the Desert Shall Disappear
Written by Marie Pavlenko
Original language: French [France]
Target age group: 13+
Publisher: Flammarion Jeunesse (2020)

Recommended by Johanna McCalmont

In this fast-paced, yet poetic, YA novel we meet Samaa, a courageous young woman on the verge of adulthood who is not afraid to question the world and her culture around her. She lives in an arid, desert-like world where the men go out to ‘hunt’ trees which they can sell in order to buy the proteins, vitamins, and the bottles of oxygen her community so desperately needs to survive. It’s a man’s job, or at least that’s what Samaa is told. One day, however, she decides to break the rules, and sets out to become a hunter herself, following in her late father’s footsteps. Caught up in a sandstorm, Samaa falls into a deep hole and fears for her life. Her accident, however, will not only save her tribe, but eventually regenerate the world around her too.  

Pavlenko takes us into a world that is not a million miles from the environmental disasters already happening across the globe today. She speaks clearly yet sensitively to the concerns expressed by many young activists. She does not try to educate her readers, but rather recognises that action needs to be taken now.

Marie Pavlenko lives between Paris and the Cevennes mountains. For more than ten years, she has been creating works – for all audiences and in a variety of different formats – which focus on themes of metamorphosis, otherness, and links to living things. Funny, zany, poetic or tragic, her works are infused with her commitment to the rights of women and to nature, and portray characters on the fringes of society, who are fragile, obstinate, resilient. Her work has won numerous awards, including the Grand Prix de la Société des gens de lettres in 2020, and has been translated into ten languages.


Saint Somewhere-Or-Other (Sankt Irgendwas)
Written by Tamara Bach
Original language: German [Germany]
Target Age: 14+
Publisher: CARLSEN (2020)

Recommended by Melody Shaw

Form 10B have a certain reputation. But have they gone too far this time? Something happened on their end of year school trip, that’s for sure. But what? All the parents have been called to a meeting, and rumours abound about the entire form group being expelled…

This is the story of the school trip, told in an unusual and engaging style. The book is bracketed at beginning and end by two conversations amongst a group of 10B’s schoolmates, while the rest consists entirely of the class journal, documenting the thoughts of an ever-changing series of authors, as the book passes from one student to the next.

In the eyes of 10B’s students, a school trip should be fun, but their form teacher, Mr Utz, firmly believes in emphasising its educational aspects. No phones, tablets or computers allowed! Thanks to oppressive heat, torrential rain, traffic delays, tedious museums, Utz’s insistence that each member of the class give a talk during the trip, and missed meals due to an over-filled daily schedule, tempers begin to fray. When they reach the final day, and the final straw, opinions will differ as to whose behaviour really triggered the notorious incident…

This YA novel, written in a relatable series of voices, will appeal to any school student who has ever felt that their teacher was acting unreasonably!

Tamara Bach studied to be a teacher. Her first book, Marsmädchen (Girl From Mars) was awarded both the Oldenburg Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award and the German Young Adult Literature Prize in 2004, and published in translation in English and Spanish. Sankt Irgendwas was shortlisted for the German Young Adult Literature Prize in 2020. Tamara Bach lives and works in Berlin.

How Madness Explained the World
Written by Dita Zipfel
Illustrated by Rán Flygenring
Original language: German [Germany]
Target Age: 12+  
Publisher: Carl Hanser Verlag (2019)

Recommended by Melody Winkle

Lucie is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her mother, her mother’s boyfriend Michi, and her younger brother, Jannis. Lucie desperately misses her mother’s ex-girlfriend Bernie, who now lives in Berlin. Lucie decides she really needs to visit Bernie, but she has to find a way to pay for the train ticket. When she finds an ad for a dog walker, she goes to check it out, but instead finds a strange old man who wants a ghostwriter for his magical recipes. Lucie tries out a recipe to create a love potion for Marvin, a cute boy in her class. Marvin turns out to be a jerk, and he posts a photo of her younger brother in a ballet outfit with homophobic comments. Jannis is humiliated and furious with Lucie for letting Marvin in their apartment. Lucie starts spending more time with Leo though, who she had thought was a friend of Marvin’s, but it turns out that he’s actually a really good friend to Lucie. They plan to take revenge on Marvin. At the end of the book, Lucie has her chance to go to Berlin and the story ends as she picks up her phone to call Bernie. 

This novel is an adventure story that would appeal to young teenage girls and to boys who are curious about how girls work. The cartoon illustrations are funny and charming.

Dita Zipfel was born in 1981 and lives with her family in the smallest castle in southern France and in the biggest broom closet in Northern Germany. She writes plays and screenplays. Her YA debut “How Madness Explained the World” was awarded the Hamburg Advancement Award for Literature.