Young Adult fiction with environmental themes

In 2011 I was working on an article about Young Adult fiction with environmental themes, for a review magazine which serves (I believe) mainly school librarians. During that process I published a “call for recommendations” here on Green Path with a short list intended to jog readers’ memories. It elicited several good suggestions, so I left the invitation open.

That article was published in Viewpoint Vol 20/2, Winter 2012, but I continued passively collecting recommendations for future reference. Suggestions up to 2017 have now been incorporated into the body of the post; the post is dated 2017 to reflect this, although the reorganisation was done in 2019.

Fiction Titles – the beginnings of a list

  • Jeannie Baker – Where the Forest Meets the Sea 1 A (http://www.jeanniebaker.com/)
  • One Less Fish 2 A
  • Aboriginal myths and legends often 2
  • The Lake at the End of the World 3
  • Lucy Christopher – Flyaway C, D
  • The Man Who Planted Trees 2 (war veteran in Europe)
  • The Blue Feather E (set for Yr 12 English but read and enjoyed a couple of years earlier)
  • Carl Hiaasen – novels specially for YA 2 D
  • Le Guin – The Word for World is Forest E  Plot is very similar to Avatar.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson – Forty Signs of Rain trilogy 2, 3 E briefly discussed here.
  • Carl Hiaasen – most of his novels 2 E

Themes
  • 1. Closeness or spiritual connection to natural world
  • 2. Conservation activism/protecting the environment
  • 3. Post-apocalyptic settings – but only where the disaster was environmental.
Age-groups
  • A. Picture books / under 8
  • B. Young readers 6 – 9
  • C. Pre-teens 9 – 12
  • D. Younger teens 12 – 15
  • E. Mid-teens – adult

Nonfiction which may be worth mentioning

  • Heller: Whale Warriors non-fic but a great yarn and still relevant to current affairs.
  • Last Chance to See

Suggestions received

The suggestions, in block quotes, are added exactly as they were received. Any words in plain text are mine.

Alice said in March 2012:

May I suggest two YA books with environmental activists themes carried to the extreme: Nokosee: Rise of the New Seminole (http://bit.ly/Nokosee) and its sequel Nokosee & Stormy: Love & Bullets (http://amzn.to/fqOoph) are written from a 17-year-old girl’s POV. These coming-of-age tales come with lots of action, adventure and romance layered over a twisted save-the-environment plea.

Thanks, Alice, they are just the kind of book I’ve been looking for and I will try to track them down. The setting reminds me, of course, of Carl Hiaasen’s books. Age-wise, they slot in neatly between his children’s books (Flush, Hoot, etc) and his adult fiction, but the descriptions you have linked to suggest these books don’t play for laughs the way he does.

Claire Datnow said in March 2012:

May I suggest the Eco mystery series for middle grades, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six with a strong environmental theme. Good luck with your list.

I have also composed an on-going list of Young Adult Environmental Fiction. To view the list please visit my Environmental Blog at:

http://www.mediamint.net/page7/files/category-environment.html

Interestingly, the fourth book in my eco mystery series is set in Australia. I look forward to seeing new additions to the list.

I replied:
Thanks for your comments. I have looked at your links and approve entirely: exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. Anything that doesn’t make it into the article will turn up somewhere else in due course (some of it already has – see The Shaman’s Quest).
When the article is finished I will come back to this page with updates. Meanwhile, you may like to explore two other lists –

On World Environment Day each year, the Wilderness Society announces the winner of its Environment Awards for Children’s Literature, for fiction and non-fiction in the categories of picture book, primary readers and secondary readers. More recent awards are at http://www.wilderness.org.au but not easy to find.
In the US, the Newton Marasco Foundation presents a very similar set of awards, listed here.

Corina Vacco said in October 2012:

Check out the book MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN, which comes out on June 11, 2013. Publisher is Delacorte Books for Young Readers (Random House). It won the 30th Annual Delacorte Prize for a First YA Novel.

“We live by the best landfill ever. I flipped my dirt bike there once. Plus I’ve got a sketchbook full of uranium monsters. My friend Cornpup likes to show off the weird bumps on his back for a dollar. And Charlie, he’ll drink red creek water on a dare.”

Rocked by his father’s recent death and his mother’s sudden compulsion to overeat, Jason lashes out by breaking into the abandoned mills and factories that plague his run-down town. Always by his side are his two best friends, Charlie, a fearless thrill junkie, and Cornpup, a geek inventor whose back is covered with cysts. The boys rage against the noxious pollution that suffocates their town and despise those responsible for it; at the same time, they embrace the danger of their industrial wasteland and boast about living on the edge.

Then one night the boys vandalize one of the mills. Jason makes a costly mistake—and unwittingly becomes a catalyst for change. In a town like his, change should be a good thing. There’s one problem: change is what Jason fears most of all.

In June 2013 she added:

Hi Malcolm,
Just wanted to let you know my eco-fierce YA debut, MY CHEMICAL MOUNTAIN (Random House 2013) just went on sale on June 11th. It was inspired by my short stay in western New York near an extremely toxic town. I joined a local fight against a landfill that was leaking radiation into a nearby creek, and I even wrote the first outline of this novel while parked in my car at the foot of an ominous, snow-covered landfill, just so I could breathe the air and feel the fear. The book has been called “THE OUTSIDERS of a green generation” and I’m really excited to spread the word! hope you get a chance to check it out. Thanks again for your blog! Much love,
Corina

David Milne said in January 2013:

My first book, The Ghost Shirt, available on Amazon Kindle is an Eco-lit book for Children and YA. Aimed at the crossover market it is based on Scottish and Native American folklore but set in the present day. Angus and his sister must bring together the legendary Warriors of the Rainbow to stop the destruction of the Sioux spirit realms. The realms are under attack by miners looking for sacred salt to power computer games on earth.
The Ghost Shirt was chosen by the publishers Harper and Collins for review on their Authonomy program in November 2012.
The second book in this series, The Tiger Farm, is currently being planned.

Sysco said in April 2013:

Sysco, the Worst Disaster Ever Created, is the first book in the ongoing Sysco Series by R.M. McNutt. The series revolves around three teenagers with extraordinary abilities and traumatic pasts involving industrial pollution and science gone evil. The series takes place mainly in Atlantic Canada, especially in the infamous Sydney Tar Ponds, which in real life are still under cleanup.

There was a flurry of activity in April 2015 –

I’m really late in discovering this and getting information to you, but my YA novel Cry of the Sea has an environmental theme. It is about an American Indian teen girl who discovers mermaids caught during an oil spill. Please consider taking a look. More info at the publisher’s web site: http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/dgdriver/crysea.html

I am building a Facebook page of Young Adult Climate-change fiction, it might interest you: https://www.facebook.com/yaclifi

Then there was a gap of two years until Christie Nieman said in March 2017:

What a great idea. I just thought I should put forward my Australian YA novel of a couple of years ago, As Stars Fall. It was longlisted for the CBCAs, and is accompanied by a PhD I’m doing in ecocriticism and creative writing. The novel uses as its driving force the process of recovery after disturbance, both ecological and emotional. It covers species extinction, grief, fire ecology, and a range of ideas drawn from environmental philosophy.

More additions are always welcome; you can contribute by commenting at any time.

One thought on “Young Adult fiction with environmental themes”

  1. Here’s one I salvaged from a primary school library: The Greenhouse Effect by David Reiter (Lothian, 2004) is recommended for ages 8-12. Tiger, a smart cat, and Alexander, his human, move to Canberra where Tiger discovers and joins a group of native animals committed to saving the environment. Tiger is so believable that I’m sure Reiter is Alexander’s doppelganger, while the brisk action and rich supporting cast make for an entertaining yarn.

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