Reading Across Borders: Translated YA Titles for the New Year

In search of fresh new titles to expand the diversity of your YA collection in the new year? Challenge your teens (and yourself!) to read widely across borders this year.

Reading international literature exposes readers to fresh perspectives; it challenges us, and like any good literature, it entertains. While international adult hits such as Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and Fredrik Backman’s books have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, translated YA titles remain under the radar of most readers and librarians. In future posts, the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative will recommend tips and resources for discovering recently published international YA books. For now, here is a taste of what’s hitting shelves this month.

translated YA 2016

In this post we highlight a few of the exciting international titles being published in January. This selection includes books from Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Germany, running the gamut from fantasy to adventure and historical fiction to satisfy readers of all stripes. By including these books in our collections, we can help expose teen readers to a diversity of perspectives outside of our own borders, and give them a taste of what teens across the world are reading.

Maresi: the Red Abbey chronicles by Maria Turtschaninoff; translated by Annie Prime (Finland)

This trilogy opener from Finland tells the story of Maresi, a 13-year-old novice in the Red Abbey on the island of Menos, a safe haven for women. Her idyllic existence is shaken when a new girl, Jai, arrives with a  dark past not far behind her. When the island is invaded by men bent on violence and revenge, Maresi must take all the knowledge she has learned during her time at the Abbey and act.

Booklist (starred review): “It’s rare to find a YA fantasy with such polished writing, and almost impossible to find a YA title so committed to a sympathetic portrayal of a matriarchy…Utterly satisfying and completely different from standard YA fantasy, this Finnish import seems primed to win over American readers.”

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius; translated by Peter Graves (Sweden)

When her best friend, the sailor Henry Koskela, is falsely accused of murder, a gorilla named Sally Jones visits the run-down docks of Lisbon, embarks on a dizzying journey across the seven seas, and calls on the Maharaja of Bhapur’s magnificent court–all in an attempt to clear Henry’s name. This mystery adventure story from Sweden has garnered multiple starred reviews.

Booklist (starred review): “This story was originally published in Sweden to great critical acclaim, and numerous black-and-white drawings throughout add to its unusual appeal. For American readers, this will have a distinctly old-fashioned feel. While the sheer length and thoughtful pace of Sally Jones’ journey might discourage some, those who persevere will have a richly imagined and thoroughly unique adventure in store.”

Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin; translated by Rosie Hedger (Norway)

It’s October 1942, in Oslo, Norway. Fifteen-year-old Ilse Stern has had a crush on boy-next-door Hermann for as long as she can remember, but what Ilse doesn’t know is that Hermann is secretly working in the Resistance, helping Norwegian Jews flee the country to escape the Nazis. As life under German occupation becomes even more difficult, particularly for Jewish families like the Sterns, the choices made become more important by the hour. In this internationally acclaimed debut, Marianne Kaurin recreates the atmosphere of secrecy and uncertainty in World War II Norway in a moving story of sorrow, chance, and first love.

Kirkus:  “The spare, lovely prose, translated from Norwegian and shifting narrative perspective from character to character, is wrenching for readers with context to extrapolate all that’s unsaid… a subtle, hard-hitting book for readers who have the background to understand its oblique approach.”

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser; translated by Romy Fursland (Germany)

A teen girl discovers she is a book jumper –  she can leap directly into books, meet the characters, and experience the world of the book – in this fantasy import from Germany. Amy Lennox doesn’t know what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother’s childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay. Amy’s grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House―but not in the usual way. It turns out that Amy is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy’s new power is, it also brings danger: someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts―at whatever cost.

Publishers Weekly: “The lore of the two families and German author Gläser’s descriptions of Stormsay and the library are meticulous and moody, creating a gothic atmosphere that serves this star-crossed love story well. Meetings with book characters, like Kipling’s Shere Khan and Dickens’s Oliver Twist, offer entertaining moments that balance the grimmer elements of the story as it builds to a bittersweet ending.”

— Jenny Zbrizher, currently reading The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Jenny is a Reference and YA librarian at the Morris County Library in New Jersey. She is a member of the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI), a group whose aim is to promote international youth literature in libraries. Follow her on Twitter @JennywithaZ, or GLLI on Twitter @GlobalLitinLibs

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