Each year, the Alex Award committee works to select ten titles published for adult readers that might have special appeal to young adults, ages 12-18. One of the 2021 selections is Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi.
RiotBaby is a slim novel, but it is loaded with powerful references, images, and questions centered around Ella and her younger brother, Kev, born during the 1992 riots in L.A. following the acquittal of the officers involved in the beating of Rodney King. Employing plenty of magical realism, Onyebuchi builds fully-fleshed characters with the barest of strokes – an art and a magic all its own. As Ella grapples with her Thing (unexplained powers that she works to harness through the book) and Kev grapples with the distance between who he is and who the world thinks he will be, we see through them glimpses of our past and visions of a possible future, one where freedom means something for all.
This book will leave readers reeling (in the best ways), and this incredible interview with author Tochi Onyebuchi is likely to do the same. We are indebted to Tochi for his words and work.
THE HUB: A drumbeat making itself heard underneath the whole book is anger – who feels it, who’s allowed to show it, how it might manifest. And in your acknowledgments, you write of the gift you received from N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, saying “I did not know how to write angry, the type of angry that still leaves room for love.” What does anger offer you as a writer? And what do you hope it offers your readers?
Though it might be a bit unsettling, there are undoubtedly teens who see all the hurt and disruption in the world today and turn to dystopian futures or post-apocalyptic tales as the remedy. With those readers in mind, here is a list of titles that dive into the dark realities of an uncertain future.
A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher
This 2020 Alex Award winner holds more than a few surprises, and it is a great title to suggest to the reader who has already worked through the more common dystopian titles. Griz is a finely-drawn and fully-complex character who teens will connect with, and the hunt for loyal dog Jess will keep them turning pages until the unexpected and remarkable ending.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
This book. It haunts me. Set in the early 2020s, but written in the early 1990s, it is a prescient and terrifying look at the kind of chaos and social disorder that could descend upon us. Climate change has led to massive water outages, and safety is dependent upon avoiding the mobs bent upon destruction. 15-year-old Lauren is wise beyond her years, but she is an ideal guide through this world and into a possible future.
Click here to see all of the current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins Publication Date: March 5, 2019 ISBN: 978-0062748379
If you could save someone you loved, would you? That is the premise of Opposite of Always with an added Groundhog Day twist. Jack has no idea he is going to fall for Kate until he meets her at a party while he is doing a college visit. Her charm and sense of humor provides the antidote Jack needs to get over his crush on Jillian–one of his best friends who also happens to be dating Franny, his other best friend and basketball phenom. Things get complicated when Kate begins acting shady and Jack discovers that she suffers from sickle cell anemia, the life-threatening disease that ultimately kills her. . .over and over. Each time Kate dies, Jack is thrown back in time to the party when they met and is given the opportunity to try and save her, but with each changed decision he discovers there are changed consequences.