I'll be posting themed book lists with book giving ideas for a variety of ages and interests every day Dec. 1 - 12. Check the label Twelve Days of Giving for all the lists. Shopping for someone specific? Drop me a comment with ages/interests (including adults!) and I'll be happy to make some suggestions. Don't forget your local indie bookstore and if you don't have a favorite indie, might I suggest ordering from The Bain Lair Bookstore?
If you're shopping for socially conscious tweens or teens this year, there are lots of great choices for books that will make young readers think and that make for great discussions.
For middle graders:
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018). When Amal has a run-in with a powerful man at her Pakistani market, she finds herself in debt to him. Her family is poor and the only way she can pay off the debt is by working in indentured servitude at the Khan estate. For kids who are interested in the plights of kids in other countries or reader's of Malala's book, this is a super choice.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown, 2018). Narrated by the ghost of a boy shot and killed by a police officer, this is a middle-grade novel for kids interested in The Hate U Give but not quite ready for teen novels. The only person who can see Jerome's ghost is 12-year old Sarah, the daughter of the officer that shot him, so we see how that tragic mistake has affected her family, too. This is a heart-wrenching book for kids ready to enter into some heavy discussion or who are concerned about stories they're seeing on the news.
P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (Feiwel & Friends, 2018). Evie misses her big sister Cilla. Cilla did what no good Catholic girl does: she got pregnant and her parents sent her away to have the baby. Evie misses her sister and doesn't understand why Cilla won't write her back. Evie could really use Cilla's advice... because Evie's got her first crush... and it's on a girl. This middle-grade novel deals with a lot of big issues and I especially appreciated how Evie deals with all of it in light of the faith she's been raised in.
Refugee by Alan Gratz (Scholastic, 2017). Told in multiple perspectives, this novel shows refugee journeys from three different time periods in history. It's a riveting adventure story and a heart-wrenching drama that will appeal to kids who like action-filled stories or kids who have been hearing about refugees on the news.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt, 2018). This is a riveting fantasy story that's great for fans of magical stories, but with its focus on class and oppression, this is also a great choice for teens noticing oppression in the world around them. When the magic disappeared from their world, the monarchy attacked the maji, making them into the lowest class. Zelie has a chance to bring the magic back to her world, but it's going to take a harrowing journey to make it happen.
Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth (Scholastic, 2018). All Carson really wants to do is win Battle of the Bands and get a start on his music career. But when his brother has an altercation at the local, racist restaurant Custard's Last Stand (a particularly offensive name to the Indians living on the nearby Tuscorora reservation), Carson finds himself getting involved and his actions have repercussions beyond what he could have imagined. This is a particularly good choice for young musicians and fans of classic rock, but hand this to any teen interested in activism.
Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2018). Not only is this a great character-driven story about a teen figuring out what she wants in relationships and life, but I love how protagonist Louise stands up to the microagressions she experiences as a Muscogee (Creek) woman. This is a great choice for readers who like strong characters to identify with or books about contemporary teens figuring life out.
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon (Henry Holt, 2014). When 16-year-old Tariq is shot, different people have different ideas of how it went down. This novel is told from multiple perspectives and will really get teens thinking about how the same event can look different to different people as Tariq's community struggles to deal with the tragedy.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (HarperTeen, 2018). Set in 2002, just post 9/11, this book is about a Muslim-American teen Shirin navigating high school in a hostile world. She knows exactly how cruel people can be, which is why she usually tunes them out, taking advantage of her hijab to hide her earbuds. But her new lab partner Ocean is impossible to tune out and before long Shirin wonders if she could actually be falling for him. But Shirin knows that it could never work out between her and a white guy. Even if her parents would accept him, she'd be putting him in the crossfires of racism that he's never experienced before. This is a good choice for readers who like love stories, but not necessarily romance.
Any of these might make great choices if you're buying for tweens or teens interested in current events, social justice, and improving their world.