January is always a time of mixed feelings for me as a reader. I look back with regret at all the books I haven’t been able to read in the past year, while eagerly anticipating all the new ones to come. These 10 teen titles, many of which have strong appeal to adult readers, will earn a spot on TBR lists throughout the first half of 2022.
Author Jason Reynolds and visual artist Jason Griffin, two great talents, teamed up to Not completely burned (Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum, January 11), a highly original illustrated verse novel that suggestively expresses the emotional tensions of the first year of the pandemic through the experiences of one family.
In addition to their National Book Award finalist title, PETAkwaeke Emezi’s Bitter (Knopf, February 15) introduces a 17-year-old artist who, after a childhood in foster care, finds shelter at an art academy. But the agitation of citizens for justice against exploiting monsters in the surrounding city is an irresistible call to action.
Ironhead, or, Once a Young Lady (Levine Querido, 15 February) by Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem, translated from the Dutch by Kristen Gehrman, is set against the grand backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. When Stance is married off to a cruel older man, she goes to war dressed as a boy and embarks on a new life path.
Once thought unattainable, the quest to run a four-minute mile is a tale of drama. Neal Bascomb does it right in The Race of the Century: The Battle to Break the Four-Minute Mile (Scholastic Focus, March 1). This gripping work introduces readers to three mid-20ecentury runners as they strive for glory.
Written and illustrated by Laura Gao, with color assistance and art by Weiwei Xu, Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanian American (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, March 8) is a timely and emotional tale of immigration, coming of age and coming out, framed by the anti-Chinese racism of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Candace Fleming’s Murder Among Friends: How Leopold and Loeb Tried to Commit the Perfect Crime (Anne Schwartz/Random, March 29) is an unforgettable account of the devastating 1924 murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks by two older teenagers. It describes the ensuing trial and discusses arguments surrounding the insanity defense and the death penalty.
The color of the sky is the shape of the heart by Chesil, translated from Japanese by Takami Nieda (Soho Teen, April 5), won awards upon release in 2016 in Japan. This is a thoughtful, textured tale of exclusion and the search for belonging.
The latest news from Kirkus Prize finalist Hanna Alkaf 2020, Queen of the tiles (Salaam Reads/Simon + Schuster, April 19), immerses readers in the world of competitive Scrabble. After the death of her best friend Scrabble champion, a grieving teen hopes to find a solution by fighting herself, but instead stumbles upon a disturbing mystery.
Dina Nayeri, who came to the US from Iran as a child refugee, is researching this topic in The waiting place (Candlewick, May 3), with photographs by Anna Bosch Miralpeix. Nayeri thoughtfully and respectfully portrays daily life in a Greek refugee camp for 10 young people from Iran and Afghanistan.
Jen Ferguson (Michif/Métis) debuts with The summer of bitter and sweet (Heartdrum, May 10), a powerful and stimulating work of realistic fiction that follows a young woman on her journey of reckoning with relationship problems with friends and family, understanding her own sexuality, and coming to terms with violence against indigenous women.
Laura Simeon is an editor for young readers.