For some of us growing up, curling up in our bed and hiding away in our room with a good book was how we preferred to spend our days. Meanwhile, others preferred to go out and spend their free time in different ways — playing sports, playing video games, or simply not being glued to a book. But it’s never too late to fall in love with literature in all its different forms: physical books, audiobooks, or e-books.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 7 of our favorite audiobooks specifically targeted (but not limited) to young adult audiences. From audiobooks on the queer experience, growing up in an immigrant household, breaking free of societal pressures, and books focusing on dystopian futures — the teens in your life will without a doubt enjoy and learn so much from these characters and stories.
All Boys Aren’t Blue, a memoir-manifesto published in 2020, by journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson is a must-read. Through a series of personal essays, the author explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years. Throughout the book, Johnson also recalls memories of being bullied at a young age, memories of his family, to memories of his first sexual relationships.
Johnson explores themes such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, and Black joy. This beautiful young-adult memoir is a necessary read for young Black queer teens navigating their youth and a useful primer for teens that are eager to be allies to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Erika L. Sanchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter will be one of the best books you ever read (or in this case, listen to). While this book is fiction, it often reads like a memoir since many young Latinx readers will often find themselves relating to our protagonist, Julia. It’s safe to say they’ll see so much of themselves in her.
From grappling with the death of her sister to struggling with the guilt that comes from wanting more for yourself when you come from an immigrant family — such as moving away to college and leaving your parents “behind,” Julia takes us on a journey of self-discovery.
Sanchez’s contemporary YA book is funny and heartbreaking all in the same breath. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is about the importance of family but also the importance of choosing yourself, and finding yourself amid the pressures of growing up in a Mexican-American home.
Written by the co-founder of the Women’s March, Paola Mendoza, makes her YA debut with Sanctuary. A dystopian story where a young girl and her brother are forced to escape a xenophobic government and find sanctuary, this book is most definitely reminiscent of our current political climate.
Sanctuary is the perfect book to introduce these loaded topics to a younger audience in a way that they can both engage with and understand. It’s a must-read (and listen).
The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante is a beautiful YA debut about healing, faith, and freedom. The science fiction novel for young adults was published in 2019 and tells the story of two sisters from El Salvador, Marisol, and Gabi, who have to flee from an immigrant detention center on the American border.
Published in 2017 by Cormorant Books through its Dancing Cat Books imprint, The Marrow Thieves is a stunning young adult novel by Métis Canadian writer Cherie Dimaline. The Marrow Thieves is set in a dystopian future in which people have lost their ability to dream. However, Indigenous people who are still able to dream are hunted and used for their marrow in order to create a serum that is consequently used to treat those who can’t.
The audiobook’s themes surrounding genocide and the historical oppressive events that Indigenous communities have experiences is written in a way that will keep a young reader engaged and interested in learning more about these issues long after they’re done.
What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado tackles the issue of casual racism and allyship in a way that’s accessible to young readers.
Using current pop culture references to drive his message home, Maldonado writes a touching and poignant story of a biracial young boy, the importance of friendships, and self-discovery. It’s a quick read that’ll leave you craving for more from Maldonado.
Imaginary Borders by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky, narrated by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez
A part of the Pocket Change Collective series, born out of a need to hold space for underrepresented voices, Imaginary Borders is a short but powerful read that’ll stay with you. In this book, Earth Guardian’s Youth Director and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez shows us how his passion for music also feeds his environmental activism and vice versa.
Through Imaginary Borders, Martinez explores how he uses his art and activism to show that climate change is a human issue we need to face head-on. It’s an important call to action that will leave you reflecting on issues currently affecting our society.