With the new year comes a new crop of exciting nonfiction for young adults. Find below a list of upcoming nonfiction YA books hitting in the first half(ish) of the year. This isn’t comprehensive, as it’s really challenging to track down nonfiction lists in a way that it’s less so for fiction. YA nonfiction is becoming more focused on teen readers, but in many cases, it’s more accurate to call the category nonfiction for young readers, as many books perfect for YA nonfiction readers are marketed for 10-14 year olds.
As in previous round-ups, these are books that aren’t educational publications/library bound nonfiction titles that are part of a series or intended for research purposes only. The titles absolutely include books perfect for research and reference, but these titles also serve as more recreational nonfiction reading for teens.
If you know of other nonfiction for teen readers hitting shelves before June, drop ’em in the comments. I’ll revisit this in the summer and again in the fall, offering up as wide a picture of the state of upcoming YA nonfiction as possible.
Until then, here are some excellent-sounding titles to kick off your year. Titles are listed alphabetically with publication dates beside them. Descriptions come from Goodreads.
2019 YA Nonfiction Books
Bad Boys of Fashion: Style Rebels and Renegades Through The Ages by Jennifer Croll, illustrated by Aneta Pacholska (April 1)
A daring and different look at men’s fashion rule-breakers and icons
First came the bad girls. Now Jennifer Croll turns the spotlight on fashion’s bad boys. From Louis XIV to Kanye West, Bad Boys of Fashion takes us on a tour of the iconoclasts, leaders, and mistfits throughout history who have all used fashion to get what they want. Just as she did in her award-winning Bad Girls of Fashion, Croll shows us the power of clothes and the links between fashion and politics, art, social movements, and more. Croll’s lively and engaging prose draws the reader in, providing enough information to satisfy both budding fashionistas and pop-culture junkies alike. Aneta Pacholska’s illustrations are modern and fun, perfectly complementing the text and making the book as exciting to look at as it is to read.
In-depth features include Louis XIV, Oscar Wilde, Marlon Brando, Malcolm X, Andy Warhol, Karl Lagerfeld, Clyde Frazier, Malcolm McLaren, David Bowie, and Kanye West, with a diverse array of shorter biographies on subjects like Che Guevara, Basquiat, and Prince enriching the text.
“I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.”
Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him.
A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality.
Thankfully Shaun survived, and over time, came to embrace how grateful he is and how to find self-acceptance. In this courageous and deeply honest memoir, Shaun takes readers through the journey of what brought him to the edge, and what has helped him truly believe that it does get better.
Naval aviator Jeremiah Denton was shot down and captured in North Vietnam in 1965. As a POW, Jerry Denton led a group of fellow American prisoners in withstanding gruesome conditions behind enemy lines. They developed a system of secret codes and covert communications to keep up their spirits. Later, he would endure torture and long periods of solitary confinement. Always, Jerry told his fellow POWs that they would one day return home together.
Although Jerry spent seven and a half years as a POW, he did finally return home in 1973 after the longest and harshest deployment in US history.
Denton’s story is an extraordinary narrative of human resilience and endurance. Townley grapples with themes of perseverance, leadership, and duty while also deftly portraying the deeply complicated realities of the Vietnam War in this gripping narrative project for YA readers.
In this book consisting of real writing questions from real teens, in-depth answers in Ally’s voice, and occasional, brief answers from guest authors, Ally Carter gives teens the definitive how-to guide on writing their first novel. From getting started, to creating conflict, all the way through to a guide to the publishing industry, Ally covers it all.
Dramatically narrated case histories from Justice Ginsburg’s stellar career are interwoven with an account of RBG’s life—childhood, family, beliefs, education, marriage, legal and judicial career, children, and achievements—and her many-faceted personality is captured. The cases described, many involving young people, demonstrate her passionate concern for gender equality, fairness, and our constitutional rights. Notes, bibliography, index.
Weaving together the behind-the-scenes history of the Eiffel Tower with an account of the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris for which the tower was built, Jonnes creates a vivid, lively pageant of people and cultures meeting–and competing.
The book opens a window into a piece of the past that, in its passions and politics, feels timelessly modern: art, science, business, entertainment, gossip, royalty, and national pride mingle in an unforgettable portrait of a unique moment in history, when Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley became the toasts of Paris and Gustave Eiffel, builder of the tower, rose to the pinnacle of fame, only to suffer a tragic fall from grace.
Above all, the 1889 World’s Fair revolved around two nations, whose potent symbols were the twin poles of the fair. France, with its long history of sophistication and cultivation, and with a new republican government eager for the country to take its place at the forefront of the modern world, presented the Eiffel Tower–the world’s tallest structure–as a symbol of national pride and engineering superiority. The United States, with its brash, can-do spirit, full of pride in its frontier and its ingenuity, presented the rollicking Wild West show of Buffalo Bill Cody and the marvelous new phonograph of Thomas Edison.
Eiffel, Cody, Oakley, and Edison are just a few of the characters who populate Jonnes’s dramatic history. There are also squabbling artists, a notorious newspaperman, and a generous sprinkling of royalty from around the world. Some of them emerged from the World’s Fair of 1889 winners, some losers, but neither they nor any among the vast crowds who attended the fair ever forgot it.
A lively and accessible book for teens on the history, pioneers, theories, questions, arguments, and daily reality of feminism today.
What is feminism? Combining insightful text with graphic illustrations, this engaging book introduces young adult readers to a subject that should matter to everyone. Feminism is… tackles the most intriguing and relevant topics, such as “Are all people equal?”, “Do boys and girls learn the same things?” and “Why do women earn less than men?” Find out what equality for women really means, get a short history of feminism, and take a look at the issues that affect women at work, in the home, and around sex and identity. Meet, too, some great women, such as Gloria Steinem, Frida Kahlo, and Malala Yousafzi, “rebel girls” who refused to accept the status quo of their day and blazed a trail for others to follow.
With more than 50 topics that address key feminist concerns, Feminism is… takes on the issues, is informative, and always thought-provoking.
Fly Girls Young Readers’ Edition: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien (March 5)
In the years between World War I and World War II, airplane racing was one of the most popular sports in America. Thousands of fans flocked to multiday events, and the pilots who competed in these races were hailed as heroes. Well, the male pilots were hailed. Women who flew planes were often ridiculed by the press, and initially they weren’t invited to race. Yet a group of women were determined to take to the sky—no matter what. With guts and grit, they overcame incredible odds both on the ground and in the air to pursue their dreams of flying and racing planes.
Fly Girls follows the stories of five remarkable women: Florence Klingensmith, a high‑school dropout from North Dakota; Ruth Elder, an Alabama housewife; Amelia Earhart, the most famous, but not necessarily the most skilled; Ruth Nichols, a daughter of Wall Street wealth who longed to live a life of her own; and Louise Thaden, who got her start selling coal in Wichita. Together, they fought for the chance to race against the men—and in 1936 one of them would triumph in the toughest race of all.
Complete with photographs and a glossary, Fly Girls celebrates a little-known slice of history wherein tenacious, trail-blazing women braved all obstacles to achieve greatness.
With one grand leap off the stage at the 1909 premiere of the Ballets Russes’s inaugural season, Nijinsky became an overnight sensation and the century’s first superstar, in the days before moving pictures brought popular culture to the masses. Perhaps the greatest dancer of the twentieth century, Nijinsky captured audiences with his sheer animal magnetism and incredible skill.
He was also half of the most famous (and openly gay) couple of the Edwardian era: his relationship with Serge Diaghilev, artistic director and architect of the Ballets Russes, pushed boundaries in a time when homosexuality and bisexuality were rarely discussed. Nijinsky’s life was tumultuous–after marrying a female groupie he hardly knew, he was kicked out of the Ballets Russes and placed under house arrest during World War I. Unable to work as he once did, his mental health deteriorated, and he spent three decades in and out of institutions.
Biographical narrative is interspersed with spotlights on the ballets the dancer popularized: classic masterworks such as Afternoon of a Faun, The Firebird, and of course, the shockingly original Rite of Spring, which caused the audience to riot at its premiere. Illustrated with elegant, intimate portraits as well as archival art and photographs.
High: Everything You Want to Know About Drugs, Alcohol, and Addiction by Nic and David Sheff (January 8)
From David Sheff, author of Beautiful Boy (2008), and Nic Sheff, author of Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines (2008), comes the ultimate resource for learning about the realities of drugs and alcohol for middle grade readers.
This book tells it as it is, with testimonials from peers who have been there and families who have lived through the addiction of a loved one, along with the cold, hard facts about what drugs and alcohol do to our bodies. From how to navigate peer pressure to outlets for stress to the potential consequences for experimenting, Nic and David Sheff lay out the facts so that middle grade readers can educate themselves.
The Lady Is a Spy: Virginia Hall, World War II Hero of the French Resistance by Don Mitchell (March 26)
When Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Virginia Hall was traveling in Europe. Which was dangerous enough, but as fighting erupted across the continent, instead of returning home, she headed to France.
In a country divided by freedom and fascism, Virginia was determined to do her part for the Allies. An ordinary woman from Baltimore, MD, she dove into the action, first joining a French ambulance unit and later becoming an undercover agent for the British Office of Strategic Services. Working as part of the intelligence network, she made her way to Vichy, coordinating Resistance movements, sabotaging the Nazis, and rescuing Allied soldiers. She passed in plain sight of the enemy, and soon found herself at the top of their most wanted list. But Virginia cleverly evaded discovery and death, often through bold feats and daring escapes. Her covert operations, capture of Nazi soldiers, and risky work as a wireless telegraph operator greatly contributed to the Allies’ eventual win.
Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories edited by Sarah Lerner (January 22)
Featuring art and writing from the students of the Parkland tragedy, this is a raw look at the events of February 14, and a poignant representation of grief, healing, and hope.
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School share their emotional journeys that began on February 14, 2018, and continue today. This revealing and unfiltered look at teens living in the wake of tragedy is a poignant representation of grief, anger, determination, healing, and hope.
The intimate collection includes poetry, eyewitness accounts, letters, speeches, journal entries, drawings, and photographs from the events of February 14 and its aftermath. Full of heartbreaking loss, a rally cry for change, and hope for a safe future, these artistic pieces will inspire readers to reflect on their own lives and the importance of valuing and protecting the ones you love.
In this quick and easy guide to queer and trans identities, cartoonists Mady G and JR Zuckerberg guide you through the basics of the LGBT+ world! Covering essential topics like sexuality, gender identity, coming out, and navigating relationships, this guide explains the spectrum of human experience through informative comics, interviews, worksheets, and imaginative examples. A great starting point for anyone curious about queer and trans life, and helpful for those already on their own journeys!
Robert E. Lee’s life was filled with responsibility and loyalty. Born to a Revolutionary War hero, Lee learned a sense of duty and restraint after weathering scandals brought on by his father and eldest brother. He found the perfect way to channel this sense of duty at West Point, where he spent his days under rigorous teachers who taught him the organizational skills and discipline he would apply for the rest of his life. The military became Lee’s life: he was often away from his beloved family, making strides with the Army, forcibly expanding the United States toward the Western coastline, and fighting the Mexican-American War. And ultimately, the military and his defining role therein–General of the Confederate Army–would prove to be Lee’s legacy. Author Brandon Marie Miller separates fact from fiction and reveals the complex truth behind who Lee was as a person, a soldier, a general, and a father. The book includes numerous archival images, as well as original quotations, a timeline, an author’s note, a family tree, source notes, a bibliography, and an index.
Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.
Margarita Engle’s childhood straddled two worlds: the lush, welcoming island of Cuba and the lonely, dream-soaked reality of Los Angeles. But the revolution has transformed Cuba into a mystery of impossibility, no longer reachable in real life. Margarita longs to travel the world, yet before she can become independent, she’ll have to start high school.
Then the shock waves of war reach America, rippling Margarita’s plans in their wake. Cast into uncertainty, she must grapple with the philosophies of peace, civil rights, freedom of expression, and environmental protection. Despite overwhelming circumstances, she finds solace and empowerment through her education. Amid the challenges of adolescence and a world steeped in conflict, Margarita finds hope beyond the struggle, and love in the most unexpected of places.
With his signature acerbic wit and hilarious voice, twenty-something author, blogger, and entrepreneur Shane Burcaw is back with an essay collection about living a full life in a body that many people perceive as a tragedy. From anecdotes about first introductions where people patted him on the head instead of shaking his hand, to stories of passersby mistaking his able-bodied girlfriend for a nurse, Shane tackles awkward situations and assumptions with humor and grace.
On the surface, these essays are about day-to-day life as a wheelchair user with a degenerative disease, but they are actually about family, love, and coming of age.
A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II by Elizabeth Wein (January 22)
In the early years of World War II, Josef Stalin issued an order that made the Soviet Union the first country in the world to allow female pilots to fly in combat. Led by Marina Raskova, these three regiments, including the 588th Night Bomber Regiment—nicknamed the “night witches”—faced intense pressure and obstacles both in the sky and on the ground. Some of these young women perished in flames. Many of them were in their teens when they went to war.
This is the story of Raskova’s three regiments, women who enlisted and were deployed on the front lines of battle as navigators, pilots, and mechanics. It is the story of a thousand young women who wanted to take flight to defend their country, and the woman who brought them together in the sky.
Packed with black-and-white photographs, fascinating sidebars, and thoroughly researched details, A Thousand Sisters is the inspiring true story of a group of women who set out to change the world, and the sisterhood they formed even amid the destruction of war.
Thirty-five years ago, it was a modern-day, mysterious plague. Its earliest victims were mostly gay men, some of the most marginalized people in the country; at its peak in America, it killed tens of thousands of people. The losses were staggering, the science frightening, and the government’s inaction unforgivable. The AIDS Crisis fundamentally changed the fabric of the United States.
Viral presents the history of the AIDS crisis through the lens of the brave victims and activists who demanded action and literally fought for their lives. This compassionate but unflinching text explores everything from the disease’s origins and how it spread to the activism it inspired and how the world confronts HIV and AIDS today.
We Are Displaced:
Nobel Peace Prize winner and New York Times-bestselling author Malala Yousafzai introduces some of the people behind the statistics and news stories we read or hear every day about the millions of people displaced worldwide.
Malala’s experiences visiting refugee camps caused her to reconsider her own displacement – first as an Internally Displaced Person when she was a young child in Pakistan, and then as an international activist who could travel anywhere in the world except to the home she loved. In We Are Displaced, which is part memoir, part communal storytelling, Malala not only explores her own story, but she also shares the personal stories of some of the incredible girls she has met on her journeys – girls who have lost their community, relatives, and often the only world they’ve ever known.
In a time of immigration crises, war, and border conflicts, We Are Displaced is an important reminder from one of the world’s most prominent young activists that every single one of the 68.5 million currently displaced is a person – often a young person – with hopes and dreams.
“Maybe next time they hear someone railing about how terrible immigrants are, they’ll think about me. I’m a real person.”
Meet nine courageous young adults who have lived in the United States with a secret for much of their lives: they are not U.S. citizens. They came from Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Independent Samoa, and Korea. They came seeking education, fleeing violence, and escaping poverty. All have heartbreaking and hopeful stories about leaving their homelands and starting a new life in America. And all are weary of living in the shadows. We Are Here to Stay is a very different book than it was intended to be when originally slated for a 2017 release, illustrated with Susan Kuklin’s gorgeous full-color portraits. Since the last presidential election and the repeal of DACA, it is no longer safe for these young adults to be identified in photographs or by name. Their photographs have been replaced with empty frames, and their names are represented by first initials. We are honored to publish these enlightening, honest, and brave accounts that encourage open, thoughtful conversation about the complexities of immigration — and the uncertain future of immigrants in America.
What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucile de Pesloüan and illustrated by Genevieve Darling (March 18)
What Makes Girls Sick and Tired is a feminist manifesto that denounces the discrimination against and unfairness felt by women from childhood to adulthood. The graphic novel, illustrated in a strikingly minimalist style with images of girls with varied body types and personalities, invites teenagers to question the sexism that surrounds us, in ways that are obvious and hidden, simple and complex.
The book’s beginnings as a fanzine shine through in its honesty and directness, confronting the inequalities faced by young women, everyday. And it ends with a line of hope, that with solidarity, girls will hurt less, as they hold each other up with support and encouragement.
Yes She Can: 10 Stories of Hope & Change from Young Female Staffers of the Obama White House by Molly Dillon (April 23)
Meet ten amazing young women who were so inspired by Barack Obama’s inclusive feminist politics that they decided to join his White House. Although they were technically the lowest ranked members—and all in their early to mid-twenties at the time—their high levels of responsibility will surprise you.
There’s Kalisha Dessources, policy advisor to the White House Council on Women and Girls, who recounts the day she brought a group of African American girls (and world-renowned choreographer Debbie Allen) to the White House for Black History Month to dance for Michelle Obama; Molly Dillon, who describes organizing and hosting an event for foster care reform with Vice President Biden, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, and a hundred foster kids; Jenna Brayton, one of the members of the first White House digital team, who talks about an Obama initiative to bring together students of all backgrounds and ages from across the country to showcase their vision for the future through cinema; and more.
Full of never-before-told stories, here is an intimate look at Obama’s presidency, as seen through the eyes of the smart, successful young women who (literally) helped rule the world—and they did it right out of college, too.