Translated YA of 2017: a Year-End Roundup of the Latest Titles

At the beginning of this year we blogged about the newest translated YA titles of 2017 and the importance of reading across borders. As the year winds down, cultivating global appreciation and understanding remains more important than ever. Help your teens expand their personal borders by checking out the titles below, a roundup of translated YA titles from the remainder of 2017 hailing from far and wide, from China to Spain, France, and Sweden.

Bronze and Sunflower; by Cao Wenxuan; translated by Helen Wang; Candlewick Press, 2017 (China)

Taken in by a poor family in a rural village after the death of her father, Sunflower bonds with the family’s only child, Bronze, who has not spoken since being traumatized by a terrible fire. This title, written by Hans Christian Anderson winner and celebrated Chinese author Cao Wenxuan, has been nominated for YALSA’s 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. It is the first of his books to be translated into English.

“In Wang’s translation of his leisurely, languid prose, Hans Christian Andersen winner Cao captures both the infinite joys and harsh realities of rural farming life…While seemingly idealized, the story and its protagonists reflect the Confucian values of filial piety and society above self—the very foundation of Chinese culture. Readers of all ages should be prepared to laugh, cry, and sigh with satisfaction.” ―Kirkus, starred review

“Written by a cultural insider, this story provides a window into life as a child in rural China near the end of the Cultural Revolution…Helpful back matter provides additional insight into this specific time in China’s history.” ―Booklist, starred review


City of Sand by Tianxia Bachang; translated by Jeremy Tiang; Delacorte Press, 2017 (China)

A multimillion-copy bestseller in China, this adventure story centers around teens Tianyi, his best friend Kai, and Julie, a wealthy American, who join with Professor Chen and local guide Asat Amat to seek the lost city of Jinjue, hindered along the way by lethal creatures and an evil force.

“Filled to the brim with ancient and modern Chinese history, this translation is a fun and spooky ride. It’s not hard to see how Bachang  became a best-seller in his home country.” ―Booklist

“Chinese author Tianxia ’s English-language debut is a richly imagined and artfully translated tale of  history, adventure, and magic. Coincidences power the plot, but they’re offset by  a strong sense of  place and a wealth of  information about Chinese myth and legend.”  ―Publishers Weekly

“Translated from Chinese, this rollicking adventure rarely pauses. Tianyi is reminiscent of  Indiana Jones, escaping from one cursed trap after another utilizing feng shui, quick thinking, and plain old luck. He is an engaging narrator.” ―School Library Journal


The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe; translated by Lilit Thwaites; Henry Holt and Co., 2017 (Spain)

Based on the true story of Dita Kraus, a fourteen-year-old girl from Prague who, after being sent to Auschwitz, is chosen to protect the eight precious books that prisoners have smuggled past the guards. This book has been nominated for YALSA’s 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Iturbe’s astonishing novel spares readers none of the details of [the abominations of the Holocaust], but its focus is on the relatively unknown family camp located at Auschwitz, which featured a school for the children…The novel was originally published in Spanish in 2012, and this translation, by Thwaites, captures both the transcendence of Dita’s story and the deeply disturbing reality of the concentration camps. Like Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (2006), it’s a sophisticated novel with mature themes, delivering an emotionally searing reading experience. An important novel that will stand with other powerful testaments from the Holocaust era.”  ―Booklist, starred review

Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali; translated by Penny Hueston; Roaring Brook Press, 2017 (France)

Born in Nazi Germany in 1936 as part of Hitler’s Lebensborn program, Max is raised as the perfect Aryan but questions his teachings upon learning that his friend Lukas, a Polish boy snatched from his home to be “Germanized,” is secretly Jewish.

“Chilling and thought provoking, Cohen-Scali’s novel contemplates the legacy of Lebensborn, Hitler’s mandated mating of “racially pure Aryan” men and women…A mature, provocative perspective on a harrowing history, the effects of which reverberate today.”―School Library Journal

“This story, originally published in France—where it won the prestigious Prix Sorcières—is no doubt provocative. But Cohen-Scali straddles the lines between poignant and profane, humorous and horrific with extraordinary poise and unmistakable panache. Peppered with Polish and German phrasing and appended with an informative author’s note, Konrad’s musings, as wide-eyed as they are wise, are staggeringly singular. A heartrending portrait of unlikely friendship and fierce defiance, and an impeccably researched glimpse into a deeply disturbing point in history. Unforgettable, bizarre, and brilliant.” ―Booklist, starred review


Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lövestam; translated by Laura A. Wideburg; Flatiron Books, 2017 (Sweden)

Steffi, a bullied misfit, finds solace in jazz music and befriends Alvar, a senior citizen jazz musician who endured persecution in World War II. Their developing friendship provides Steffi with the ambition to audition for Stockholm’s prestigious music school.  This book has been nominated for YALSA’s 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

“The period details of the war years and bits of Swedish culture are rich and evocative, and Steffi’s story is universal and will appeal to music lovers and outsiders anywhere. This is an offbeat (in a good way) and engaging novel that riffs on issues of bullying, gender identity, self-esteem, and life choices. It is ultimately a coming-of-age tale of a young artist and is as soulful as it is triumphant.” ―School Library Journal

“The translation from Swedish is smooth, and the culture, though different, will feel recognizable and relevant to American readers. Sensitive and deeply moving: outstanding.” ―Kirkus, starred review

— Jenny Zbrizher, currently reading We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Jenny is a librarian at Morris County Library in New Jersey, specializing in YA and foreign language collection development. When she’s not reading, she’s thinking about the next place she’d like to travel while listening to showtunes. Follow her on Twitter @JennywithaZ