YA Around the World

Georgetown LibraryStaff Picks

YA Around the World

A List of Young Adult Novels Set Around the World

There a lot of amazing young adult books that are set right here in America.  While these books can serve as mirrors for some teens by representing characters and settings to which they can relate, books that act as windows into the lives of other teenagers and cultures are also important.  Plus, for those who are unable to travel foreign countries, sometimes being able to read about them can be one of the next best things.  Below is a list of seven different young adult novels set around the world.

When eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in the hospital, she’s eager to embark on her six week class trip to Italy with her best friend, Simone.  Jill quickly learns that she and Simone have both been to Italy, but that only Jill returned alive.  Unfortunately, Jill can’t remember any of her time in Italy, including causing the car accident that killed Simone.  Not only do the Italian police believe that Jill may have intentionally murdered Simone, but the case has garnered international interest, and nasty rumors are being spread about Jill all over the Internet.  Will Jill be able to remember what really happened the night Simone died?  Told partially through police transcripts and blog posts, With Malice may not be set entirely in Italy, but is perfect for readers who want a thriller that has the added tension of being set in another country.

Nalia’s Pakistani-American parents are conservative, but they still grant her some choice: how she wears her hair and what her profession will be.  Her marriage, however, will be arranged, and she is not allowed to date.  When Nalia falls in love with Saif and sneaks out to attend prom with him, Nalia’s parents are furious and decide that the family must travel back to Pakistan so Nalia can rediscover her roots.  What is meant to be a month long stay in Pakistan turns into forever when Nalia’s parents not only find her a husband, but force her to marry against her will.  Will anyone come to rescue Nalia, or will she be forced to accept her new life?  With an author’s note that explains the differences between arranged marriages and forced marriages, Written In the Stars will have readers turning pages late into the night.

While seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd’s parents are on a six-week anniversary  cruise, Kiri and her older brother are left alone for the summer without any supervision.  Kiri’s parents expect that she will spend her time practicing for the International Young Pianists’ Showcase and rehearse for Battle of the Bands with her best friend and longtime crush, Lukas.  Instead, shortly after her parents leave, Kiri gets a phone call from a complete stranger to pick up some items that belonged to Sukey, her now deceased sister.  When Kiri bicycles to a part of Vancouver that is mostly new to her, she learns that her sister’s death was not an accident, as she was led to believe.  As the summer goes by, Kiri starts to spiral out of control as she chases the truth regarding Sukey’s death, makes reckless decisions, and practices piano at five in the morning.  Along the way, she meets Skunk, a musician and bicycle repairman with whom she falls in love.  When Kiri learns about Skunk’s mental health problems, she starts to realize that the mania she’s been experiencing isn’t normal.  A stunning story about grief and love, anyone who wants to read a story with gorgeous prose will adore Wild Awake.

Japanese sixteen-year-old Abe Sora doesn’t live the life of an average teenager.  Sora has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and now that he is confined to a wheelchair, is no longer able to attend school.  Knowing that he will eventually die, Sora turns to the ancient wisdom of the samurai for comfort, but it’s not enough.  As he tries to comprehend what lies ahead, Sora makes friends online who see past his illness and accept him for who he is.  Can Sora’s friends help him make peace with what lies ahead?  Readers who love stories full of sadness and beauty should pick up The Last Leaves Falling.

When she’s at the Bangkok airport, Gemma is en route with her family to a vacation in Vietnam, until she meets a strange man named Ty.  Ty pays for Gemma’s drink, drugs it, and takes her with him back to the remote and dangerous Australian Outback.  Gemma and Ty are the only two people for miles, and Ty is desperate for Gemma to love him, but can she grow to love the person who has stolen her?  Written as a letter from Gemma to Ty, Stolen explores the complex emotions Gemma feels as a victim of his kidnapping.  Stolen is a great choice for readers who want a story about the harsh things that happen amidst a beautiful and dangerous landscape.

Sahar has been in love with her best friend Nasrin since they were six years old.  As much as the two girls want to be together, they live in Iran, and if they are caught together, they risk execution.  When Nasrin’s parents announce that they have arranged for her to be married, however, it is not enough for Sahar to continue to be with Nasrin.  She wants their romance to be monogamous and to be open with the world about their relationship.  So Sahar considers an option that is legal in Iran: a sex reassignment.  Readers who want a story that’s full of pain and longing should pick up If You Could Be Mine.

When fifteen-year-old Amadou and his younger brother Seydou leave their home in Mali, their goal is to find work so that they can earn money to bring back to their family.  Instead, the two brothers wind up on a farm that harvests cacao seeds where they are forced into modern-day slavery.  The brothers,  along with several other boys, are never paid, never given a day off, and beaten when they don’t pick enough cacao pods or try to escape the farm.  Amadou has been told that he and his brother can leave when the farmers earn back the money they have spent on them, but aren’t told how much money they owe.  When a young girl named Khadija arrives at the farm, she is fiery and tricks Seydou into helping her escape, much to Amadou’s frustration.  Amadou quickly learns how much harder life on the farm is for Khadija, and when Seydou suffers a horrible accident while harvesting cacao pods, Amadou decides that the three of them must leave.  Will Amadou, Seydou, and Khadija ever see freedom again?  Anyone who wants a fast-paced story that deals with global issues will be moved by The Bitter Side of Sweet.
    With Malice by Eileen Cook