A series of books is really an investment, and sometimes, if you’re anything like me, you just want a “one and done” read. Just one book, and then maybe it will need to another by the author, or another in the same genre … or just another book that’s completely different. I’m here to share with you 6 Amazing (Y)oung Adult Stand Alone Novels. Put these books on your reading list stat!
The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead knows how to tell a story! This is a coming of age story in the Jim Crow era … but that coming of age occurs in a school for boys in segregated Florida – where many atrocities are perpetuated. This book is based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children.
Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called The Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.” In reality, The Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors, where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear “out back.”
Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik
Spinning Silver completely did me in … in all the right ways. The audiobook narration by Lisa Flanagan was amazing from the start. The story is lush, deep, imaginative, emotional – so, so good. The narration will just suck you right into the novel and hold you into the World and lives of the characters – Myriem, the Ice King, Irina and Wanda. There’s so much going on in this book, and many characters, yet the narrator was able to make each distinct and unique enough so that it was easy to distinguish between them
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Soon she gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold, but an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk – grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh – and Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered.
American Street, Ibi Zoboi
I couldn’t put this book down. It’s told from the point of view of a newly immigrated Fabiola. She’s sometimes irritatingly naive, but it’s because of this that you’ll fall in love with this story.
On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie — a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.
New Boy, Tracy Chevalier
Othello is not a favorite of mine – simply because I don’t like tragedies – plus, I’m also am not a huge fan of books that revolve around kids – it’s just not my thing. So I was predisposed to not like New Boy – and imagine my surprise to find out just how much I did get into it. Chevalier’s idea of rewriting Othello with a cast of kids turned out to be a genius move. I think it worked out so well because it was short and all took place in one day, plus – yeah, kids can be brutal! This book worked for me – despite having some issues with the grown-up actions of the young ‘uns. Still, I would recommend it.
Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat’s son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.
The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
This book tackles the serious subject of the disproportionate violence with which African American males experience at the hands of the police – and truly captures all the conflicting emotions that we experience. I don’t know how the author did it, but she wrote a brilliant complex novel and made it relatable / educational for everyone. Seriously – give this book a try no matter how you think you may not relate. I guarantee you’ll fall for the characters and this book.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
On the Come Up, Angie Thomas
This is the story of dreaming, fighting for your dream and navigating through the bullshit of life. It’s about Bri – a young wannabe hip-hop artist on the come up, but trust me, you don’t have to be into hip-hop to enjoy this book – after all, hip-hop lyrics are really just poetry on a page.
Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill. But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral … for all the wrong reasons.
Have you read any of these books? Do you have any recommendations for standalone young adult novels that you read and loved?