The best books for teens this autumn

With COP26 on the horizon, there are plenty of environmentally-themed books for young readers hitting the shelves, writes Anna Broomfield


With the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 taking place in Glasgow next month, lots of exciting climate fiction is being published for young people. Giften by Leyla Suzan (Pushkin Children’s, £7.99) stands out thanks to its beautiful writing and intricate world-building. Set in a dystopian world devastated by climate change, the story follows Ruthie, a teenage girl with the power to make plants grow from dead soil. Known as Giften, people with this power are hunted by a brutal army and kidnapped from their communities. Suzan cleverly weaves the plot together and builds tension by starting each chapter with oral histories from characters with different allegiances. This is an absolutely thrilling story with a unique and memorable voice.

Continuing the environmental theme, Edinburgh-based author William Sutcliffe highlights the passion behind climate activism in the hilarious family drama The Summer We Turned Green (Bloomsbury, £7.99). When Luke's sister moves in with the climate rebels across the road, it turns the whole family's life upside down. But the more time Luke and his family spend with the climate activists, the more they understand their passion and urgency. Sutcliffe writes satire with such a brilliant wry humour that you're guaranteed to laugh out loud as you read. This is the perfect book to inspire action against the climate crisis and to lift your spirits.

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For something entirely different, older teens will be blown away by The Upper World (Penguin, £7.99), Femi Fadugba’s mind-bending sci-fi debut. The dual narrative begins with Esso, who passes out in a car accident and witnesses a series of violent events involving local rival gangs that will take place later that day. Fifteen years into the future, Rhia is a rising football star in foster care who meets an unusual physics tutor determined to teach her the logistics of time travel. As a physics professor himself, Fadugba incorporates physics theory in an exciting, accessible and realistic way. Furthermore, the story brims with tension and emotion thanks to the authentic, relatable characters.

The Summer We Turned Green
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Anyone passionate about social justice will love Allies: Real Talk About Showing Up, Screwing Up, And Trying Again edited by Shakirah Bourne and Dana Alison Levy (DK Children, £12.99). This non-fiction title features 17 essays by YA authors exploring many different ways to be an ally. From uplifting accounts of finding community to unflinchingly honest conversations about how complicated allyship can be, this thought-provoking book approaches complex topics in a way that is easy to understand but never talks down to the reader. This collection particularly stands out for its focus on intersectionality and the breadth of representation in the essays. Allies will leave young people feeling seen, heard and inspired to keep learning about social justice.

The graphic novel Cheer Up! by Crystal Frasier and Val Wise (Oni Press US, £13.99) is a beautifully uplifting story of two teenage girls competing together on their high school cheerleading squad. Antisocial lesbian Annie is made to join the squad in order to improve her teamwork skills, where she rekindles a friendship with transgender girl Beatrice. Although Beatrice’s parents supported her transition, she is under a lot of pressure to perform well at school and in the squad, where she also faces outright discrimination from some, and more subtle micro-aggressions from others. Cheer Up! tells a really interesting story about the challenges trans youths face today, even those who have support. The sweet, gentle romance is well handled, and the dialogue sparkles with humour.

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The stunning poetry collection Tomorrow is Beautiful, edited by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury, £12.99), is perfect company for anyone needing a bit of comfort as the colder, darker seasons set in. Featuring a mix of classic and contemporary poets, plus brand new poetry by Crossan herself, the collection focuses on finding light in dark times. Readers are encouraged to engage with the poems on a personal level, as the pages have space for annotation as well as commentary from Crossan on why each poem was selected. A delightful collection, with a variety of styles that will provide calm, comfort and joy to a range of readers.

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