Happy Earth Day! In honor of our planet, we’ve put together a list of four incredible books for teenagers that tackle climate change, environmental issues, and sustainability in imaginative, exciting ways. From dystopian futures to more realistic contemporary scenarios, these books are sure to captivate and inspire you to take action for our planet. So grab a cozy blanket, put your phone on Do Not Disturb, and get ready to dive into these engaging and thought-provoking works of young adult climate fiction!
Sherrie L. Smith
After being pummeled by multiple hurricanes, flooded New Orleans becomes a breeding ground for a novel incurable virus. The US walls off the city to contain the pathogen, and New Orleans is left for dead. Years later, residents of the Outer States assume that life in the Delta is all but extinct…but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.
In New Orleans, society realigns along blood types. Since “clean” blood can help keep diseased people alive, healthy people are captured for their blood, “blood farms” arise, and people are sold into blood servitude.
Orleans follows Fen de la Guerre, a teenager trying to get a newborn baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. In this exciting Southern-Gothic sci fi novel, Smith holds a mirror to the failure of institutions—governments, religions, academia—to serve the people and shows the resilience of the people themselves in the face of climate disaster.
Trail of Lightning
In Trail of Lightning, most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, and the resulting Energy Wars have left behind a broken world riddled with poverty and crime. Amidst this chaos, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. To seek out a missing girl, gifted Navajo monster killer Maggie enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man. Together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology. In this novel, Roanhorse reflects on the proven power of the Indigenous people to survive world-ending events, demonstrating how the cataclysmic events of colonization prepared the Navajo to rebuild after catastrophe.
The Marrow Thieves
In a hostile post-apocalyptic Canada, the effects of climate change (freshwater poisoned by oil, frequent earthquakes, etc) have mysteriously robbed people of the ability to dream — and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. Desperate to restore order, the government deploys “marrow thieves” to capture Indigenous people (the only ones who have retained the ability to dream) and extract their bone marrow as a treatment for the non-Indigenous who can no longer dream. The story focuses on Frenchie, an Indigenous fifteen year-old on the run from the marrow thieves. On his journey, he meets another diverse group of Indigenous survivors, who temporarily adopt him into their travel party. Through Frenchie’s experiences, The Marrow Thieves explores ideas about exploitation (of resources, nature, and minority groups), belonging, storytelling, and Indigenous ways of knowing.
Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
The world of Dry closely resembles our own. Because of the drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—Californians’ lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t take long showers. Teenage Alyssa and her fellow Californians have gotten used to painstakingly conserving what little water they have. But when Arizona and Nevada pull out of a vital reservoir relief deal that brings some of the country’s scarce water supply to Southern California, Alyssa and her community are left dry. Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone, neighbors turned against each other in the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive. In this novel, the Shustermans comment on the power of policy and political cooperation in mitigating the suffering brought about by climate change and promoting a sustainable future.