The best YA fiction on art, creativity, and chasing your dreams

The Books I Picked & Why

What I Want You to See

By Catherine Linka

Book cover of What I Want You to See

Why this book?

Linka’s art-thriller is smart, compelling, and almost impossible to stop reading. Not only does it tackle being a first-year student in an art school in Los Angeles, it examines a subject that is often glamorized without being scrutinized: living in poverty as a homeless-at-times college student and artist. The myth of the starving artist is torn apart in this contemporary, empathetic, and intriguing story as we follow Sabine Reyes into the world where she thought she belonged, only to find out it’s not as picture-perfect as it seems. There’s some good romance in here, too and Linka’s sharp, penetrating stare at the character’s choices makes us, as readers, question what would we do? Who would we trust? And what happens when we’re wrong?

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The Poet X

By Elizabeth Acevedo

Book cover of The Poet X

Why this book?

Calling all poetry (and especially slam poetry) readers, writers, and fans. Acevedo’s multiple award-winning novel focuses on Xiomara Batista, a high schooler in Harlem who is desperately trying to discover her own voice, separately from her mother’s, who is steeped in her dedication to her church and religious life. Xiomara isn’t exactly against that, but by discovering her budding wants and needs – and butting up against her own fears – she’s able to claim and speak her spirit in her own words, poetry, and the high school poetry club. A real winner and a real heart-warmer, I loved this book.

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Drawn That Way

By Elissa Sussman, Arielle Jovellanos

Book cover of Drawn That Way

Why this book?

Okay, animation enthusiasts, this contemporary look at a competitive animation training program starring Jewish protagonist Hayley Saffitz is for you. It’s fast-paced, funny, and romantic, but also deals with a lot of current issues facing young female and queer identifying creators. It’s modern, fresh, and gives a neat, albeit fictitious, look at the ways that studios are run today from the perspective of an optimistic, defiant character.

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Tell Me Everything

By Sarah Enni

Book cover of Tell Me Everything

Why this book?

This is one of my favorite YAs combining the modern influence of technology on art, friendship, and love. Quiet sophomore Ivy ends up becoming a semi-public figure at her school and the world after she starts using an app, VEIL, to help other artists and students who are asking for supplies and support. While her impact is meaningful and it all sounds well and good, her own creative steps have sent her on a more public, emotionally-vulnerable journey than she ever wanted or expected.

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The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

By Amy Spalding

Book cover of The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

Why this book?

Spalding’s book is such a fun read! It focuses on white blog writer and fashionista, Abby, who also happens to be plus-sized and wins the opportunity of a lifetime at her favorite local boutique. It’s there that she meets fellow intern and photographer Jordi Perez, a Latinx teen who makes that Los Angeles summer so much more romantic, creative, and sweeter. Add in Abby’s surprising bro-bestie Jax for some hamburger adventures and be prepared to swoon (and get hungry!) all around. It’s a great story of love and art, art and love, and how two creative spirits learn to intertwine their gifts and their goals.

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