This year is an election year in the United States, which means politics are even more in the limelight than usual and campaigns stickers can be found everywhere from backpacks to car bumpers. While this year’s election is arguably the biggest media circus in recent history (and it proves to be somewhat slim pickings, just saying) the focus on politics has reminded me of how much I love contemporary YA with political undertones. I’ve read a few great ones, and the political thread that runs through these novels impacts so many aspects of the story dynamics, from family tension to romantic relationships to the protagonist critically reflecting on their own stance on important issues. I’ve decided to highlight my recommendations for my favorite YA novels that feature politics as a major dynamic, whether at the local or national level, and some that I really want to try soon!
Recommendations for YA Books with Political Themes
The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne
Kate Quinn’s mom died last year, leaving Kate parent-less and reeling. So when the unexpected shows up in her living room, Kate must confront another reality she never thought possible—or thought of at all. Kate does have a father. He’s a powerful politician. And he’s running for U.S. President. Suddenly, Kate’s moving in with a family she never knew she had, joining a campaign in support of a man she hardly knows, and falling for a rebellious boy who may not have the purest motives. This is Kate’s new life. But who is Kate? When what she truly believes flies in the face of the campaign’s talking points, she must decide. Does she turn to the family she barely knows, the boy she knows but doesn’t necessarily trust, or face a third, even scarier option?
Why You Should Read It:
- Family dynamics that are tough but real, they never verge on cheesy and it showcases how strong bonds can be formed even in mixed families.
- Politics are really brought to the forefront in this one, and Kate reflects on her feelings on a lot of political issues, especially the ones which her and her father stand on opposites sides of.
- The political aspects are extremely well-balanced. I never felt while reading that one side was being bashed or given preference to over another. Readers affiliated with either political party can probably read this novel without being offended.
- The Wrong Side of Right was my favorite contemporary of 2015!
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.
As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?
Why You Should Read It:
- The political aspects in this story are a little more subdued, as it has to do more with local elections than a presidential race. However, it serves as a constant running tension throughout all of the other themes, relationships, and decisions in the novel.
- This book features a lot of different types of families, and showcases how each type has their strengths and weaknesses. There’s not the typical “perfect” political family here.
- The climax of the story really takes a look at how morality can be tested in the face of politics.
Political Books on my YA TBR
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Andie had it all planned out.
When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks). But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing – if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?
Why It’s On My TBR:
- Um, first of all, THAT COVER
- I’m really intrigued by this “scandal” that’s mentioned.
- I’m really hoping that it may focus on both the great and hard things about a father-daughter relationship, which I feel like I don’t see highlighted enough in YA!
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?
Why It’s On My TBR:
- I love that this focuses on politics outside of a contemporary setting, back when politics meant fighting for your rights, not just idling watching the news and voting when your absentee ballot comes in.
- The women’s right movement and first wave feminism is something I LOVED studying in college, so I’m excited to see it as the main setting for a fiction novel!
- Also I love anything with balls gowns and sparkly plots so I’m really interested to see how this is juxtaposed with the political aspects!
I absolutely love political elements in YA books, however I find it so hard to find it in non-contemporary novels! Fantasy is rife with fictional political systems, but there’s something so intriguing to see characters grapple with political issues and institutions that are the ones we are dealing with, or have dealt with.
Do you have any books that feature politics that you’d recommend? Are politics a theme you enjoy reading about, or do you find yourself shying away from them? Have you ever had a really great or really terrible experience with politics in a novel? Let me know in the comments!
While politics in the U.S. make me want to scream, I love this look at YA books with political aspects. I had no idea Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything had plot lines with this subject. I’ve only read Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour but now I really want to pick up her new one.
The US political situation this year is pretty dire, that is for sure! However I think politics is a super interesting subject in general, so I really appreciate it when it appears in YA books, especially with more and more young people have access to political information and involvement these days with the internet.
Totally loved My Life Next Door and The Wrong Side of Right! Great political recs. I guess The Fixer is also kind of politically oriented? I enjoyed that one so much. The other two on here are definitely on my TBR!
Hahaha I never bothered to read the synopsis for The Fixer until reading your comment (I for some reason always assumed it was dystopian because of the cover design…haha fail on my part). Adding it to my TBR right away!
I only have read A Mad, Wicked Folly earlier this year (and even just posted my review for it yesterday XD) and while I dislike the main character, I really love the political and historical aspects of the story. It’s unbelieveable how hard women had to fights for our rights like voting or having a job. I’m glad that most of women at that time already understand the importance of our political rights and joined the fight though! And what I love the most about this book is how it gives lots of information how the society lives at that time and the suffragattes movement. I have to check out the other 3 books on your list though!
I’ve heard A Mad, Wicked Folly does a great job with showing the historical struggles and triumphs of the women’s rights movement, and I love that they chose to set it in the YA genre and show how young women were impacted and/or drawn to it. Curious to know what about the main character you found offputting!
The Wrong Side of Right is definitely the one I’d recommend, so I’m happy to see you mention it on this post! I’ve actually read all of the ones you’ve included, and really liked them all too (so you have some good reading ahead of you). Loved this post!
Thank you, Alexa! I’m super excited for Jenn Marie Thorne’s new book as well!
I read A Mad, Wicked Folly a couple of months ago and I really enjoyed how serious passages about politics were broken up a bit so it didn’t feel so heavy. I haven’t read any of the other books although they’re on my TBR as well! They say that the two things you aren’t supposed to discuss with people in polite conversation are religion and politics but I really enjoy hearing from the other side of issues. Great post, Cristina!
A Mad, Wicked Folly looks so good! I find the whole women’s right movement so fascinating and a really great time period to explore the young adult genre in, because those changes would have impacted young women the most drastically I think- they would’ve grown up in completely different ways then the previous generation before them. I agree, I’m a big fan of reading and talking about those potentially “taboo” social topics, because they’re just so interesting!
I think the politics in The Winner’s cycle are fascinating! Since it’s fantasy it’s another world’s politics, but I think I prefer that since American politics frustrate me!
I wanted to focus on “real” politics for this post to go with the whole election theme, but you’re right, that series has some great politics (and I feel as though the politics play a huge role, rather than being a background fantasy element). I’m actually in the middle of The Winner’s Kiss right now, and I really can’t predict who is going to come out victorious- the Valorians or the Herrani!
[…] Cristina @ Girl in the Pages recommended books for the politically inclined. […]