Book List

Best YA Nonfiction of 2019

A significant people’s history and call to action for youth.



This YA adaptation of Anderson’s breakthrough 2018 book of the same name for adults demonstrates her scholarship on racial discrimination and voter disenfranchisement, presenting an urgent case for political intervention.

“The millions of votes and voters that disappeared in 2016 were a long time in the making,” begins this deep historical investigation. The excitement of the Reconstruction era, when newly enfranchised black men were able to leverage such transformative policies as the shaping of the public school system, led to white people inventing de facto and de jure mechanisms to prevent black America from having any real political power. Civil rights struggles achieved the 1965 Voting Rights Act in a period of U.S. global ideological competition, but simmering anger and backlash from whites strove to undo voter protections for black citizens. Coverage of the controversial 2000 presidential election results shows how the GOP–led reinvention of voter disenfranchisement strategies undermined federal government–backed voter protections in order to focus on eliminating voter fraud. Persuasively emphasized throughout the book is the disproportionate impact of these policies on black citizens, as Anderson argues with clarity that predatory racial animus lies at the center of the American democratic project, culminating with the winner of the 2016 presidential election. Bolden’s (Inventing Victoria, 2019, etc.) adaptation will fire up a new generation of civic activists through its gripping presentation.

A significant people’s history and call to action for youth. (discussion guide, resources, notes, photo credits, index) (Nonfiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0107-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

Engaging and historically accurate; highly recommended.



Brimner (Blacklisted!, 2018, etc.) revisits the history of injustice in America.

Brimner has extensively researched the heartbreaking story of the suffering and stolen futures of nine African American teens falsely accused of the rape of two white women in Alabama in 1931, laying all the facts on the table in a concise, gripping volume. The engaging, easy-to-follow text will draw readers into a historical account that mirrors many of today’s headlines. Ultimately, it took over 80 years for justice to finally be served for these young men; they were not fully exonerated until 2013. In the meantime, they were nearly lynched, attacked and beaten by guards, and faced execution. Even after they were released from prison, their lives were ruined, and they were never able to fully recover. The text is enhanced with primary sources including photos, newspaper clippings, ephemera, and court documents that give readers a sense of immediacy. The author’s note provides context about the enduring impact of the trials. This volume stands as a reminder to readers that lies have consequences and that no matter how long it takes, “We need to right the wrongs that have been done in the past.” The parallels between the perils the Scottsboro Boys endured and current news stories show the continued relevance of this history, making this a must-have for both school and public libraries.

Engaging and historically accurate; highly recommended.   (author’s note, bibliography, source notes, index, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62979-775-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

An excellent read, dismantling American mythologies and fostering critical reasoning about history and current events.


From the Revisioning American History for Young Readers series , Vol. 2

A young readers’ adaptation of the groundbreaking 2014 work, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, offering an important corrective to conventional narratives of our nation’s history.

Questioning the ideologies behind the belief systems that gave birth to America’s dominant origin stories, this book not only challenges the standard tale of European explorers “discovering” America, it provides an Indigenous perspective on key events. The book urges students to think critically about private property and extractive industries, land conservation and environmental rights, social activism, the definition of what it means to be “civilized,” and the role of the media in shaping perceptions. With an eye to the diversity and number of Indigenous nations in America, the volume untangles the many conquerors and victims of the early colonization era and beyond. From the arrival of the first Europeans through to the 21st century, the work tackles subjects as diverse as the Dakota 38, the Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee, the American Indian Movement’s takeover of Alcatraz, and the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance. A deeply felt connection to the Earth’s health permeates the text, along with the strength and resiliency that have kept Indigenous cultures alive. Maps, photographs, informative sidebars, points for discussion, and a recommended book list round out this accessible, engaging, and necessary addition to school libraries and classrooms.

An excellent read, dismantling American mythologies and fostering critical reasoning about history and current events. (further reading, recommended titles, notes, image credits, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8070-4939-6

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

A grim, harrowing, and important read with insights into the troubled juvenile justice system.



The history of a reform school that abused and tortured the young people sent there.

The Florida State Reform School, opened in 1900 and later named after former superintendent Arthur G. Dozier, was intended to be a place where youth could be educated and given the skills they’d need to become independent citizens. However, almost from the beginning the school was problematic for the boys: The work was dangerous, and strict discipline protocols involved severe beatings, deprivation, psychological torture, and, some claimed, outright murder. Until 1968 the facilities were racially segregated, with black youth receiving more hazardous work assignments. In the early 21st century, survivors began telling their stories, and a 2007 case of physical abuse was caught on surveillance cameras. State-led investigations into the school cemetery and the survivors’ stories drew attention from media and activists. The author, herself a forensic scientist, explores how the school operated without much oversight or reporting and the ways criminal science was used to piece together a picture of the horrors many endured. The testimonies of the survivors and the forensic research into those who died at Dozier are the most compelling aspects of the book. The many photographs and sidebars will make this accessible for young readers.

A grim, harrowing, and important read with insights into the troubled juvenile justice system. (source notes, glossary, selected bibliography, further information, index) (Nonfiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-1978-7

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Well-researched and visually appealing, this is a boon for those seeking clear, comprehensive information from the...



A nonfiction book about reproductive justice focusing primarily on the U.S. and Canada.

Stevenson’s (Pride, 2016, etc.) stated goal in writing this book was to spark conversation and destigmatize this common medical procedure. The introduction makes the work’s abortion-rights stance clear: Medical abortion is 10 times safer than childbirth, and without legal abortion, women die from unsafe ones. Chapter 1 provides historical context for the criminalization of abortion and contraception in the U.S., linking it directly to racism and white supremacy. This sets the stage for the fight for legal abortion in the U.S. and Canada, which is discussed at length in Chapter 2. Subsequent chapters focus on a range of topics related to attacks on abortion rights in the U.S. and Canada, challenges to abortion access globally, and key issues surrounding racial justice, trans inclusion, and concerns of the disability rights community. Each chapter includes information about activists, with young people featured in the last chapter. The book is visually appealing, with bold design that includes photos, cartoons, sidebar quotes, and maps in eye-popping full color. Minor quibble: Many photos are undated.

Well-researched and visually appealing, this is a boon for those seeking clear, comprehensive information from the perspective of the reproductive rights movement. (author’s note, glossary, resources, references, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1712-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.


A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

For readers invested in military and/or feminist history, this important book soars.



In her first work of nonfiction for teens, Wein (The Last Jedi, 2017, etc.) details the complex and inspiring story of the only women combat pilots of World War II.

The “Great Patriotic War” was already under way by the time Marina Raskova—a famous, record-breaking pilot—convinced the Soviet Union to create women’s air regiments. Using photographs and primary source quotations, Wein brings these regiments of young women to life, tracing their harrowing experiences before, during, and after the war. A detailed overview of the Russian political and social landscape in the first half of the 20th century is interwoven throughout the narrative, contextualizing the Soviet Union’s involvement in World War II. Wein thoughtfully addresses her readers’ contemporary understanding of identity politics, acknowledging the homogeneity of her white (despite the ethnic diversity of the USSR), straight subjects and the ways that Soviet ideologies about gender align with or differ from the expectations of contemporary American readers. The Soviet women’s experiences are placed in context through comparisons with the roles of women pilots in the Royal Air Force and the United States military. Vivid descriptions of their personal sacrifices and the deep bonds they formed connect readers to the story. Careful footnotes provide information about unfamiliar vocabulary, and pagelong sidebars round out the history with tangential but fascinating facts.

For readers invested in military and/or feminist history, this important book soars. (source notes, bibliography) (History. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-245301-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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