Indigenous Teen Reads

By Rachael Bild

From "heart-achy" romance to trippy dystopian, this list celebrates Native voices all year long.

  • Elatsoe

    2020 by Little Badger, Darcie

    Magic, monsters, and murder. . .anyone have another word that starts with "m"? When our main character Ellie's cousin is killed, it's up to her to get to the bottom of the tragedy—despite living in a small town with plenty of secrets. My two reading comfort zones are fantasy and mystery, and this book has both.

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  • Walking in Two Worlds

    2021 by Kinew, Wab

    This realistic novel about a young Anishinaabe gamer has garnered great reviews. Publishers Weekly says it "gives readers a unique and moving portrait of young life—and the possibilities for gaming life—from a tribally specific corner of the world." Kirkus added that it's "a thrilling, high-tech page-turner with deep roots." Someone read this with me (right after we gush about the lush cover art)!

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  • Healer of the Water Monster

    2021 by Young, Brian

    This was the first book I read out of Harper Collins's Heartdrum imprint, and it made such an impression that I've put all their books on my "to read" list! Nathan's quest to save a beast from his Navajo legend and to understand the unfamiliar (and sometimes sobering) conflicts surrounding his Uncle Jet made me tear up at times. His heart is so good.

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  • Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids


    Even though the subtitle includes "for kids," this anthology is a celebration of Indigenous culture and family for any reader. I relished the different points of views, authors, issues, and traditions explored. If you hear anyone referring to Native Americans as a monolith, this book should keep them humble.

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  • Fire Keeper's Daughter

    2021 by Boulley, Angeline

    The story is told in the voice of a strong-willed, hockey-playing, chemistry-mixing, proud Ojibwe girl who goes undercover in her community to reveal the corruption and poison threatening her family and friends. Honestly, I rooted for her from page one! If you're a fan of thrillers and mysteries with real issue-driven impact, this tender and twisty book is a must-read.

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  • The Marrow Thieves

    2017 by Dimaline, Cherie

    I loved this book both for the dystopian setting and its concentration on climate change, an issue that is increasingly urgent. Also, consider that Native and First Nation peoples have cared for our natural habitats before anyone else ever set foot on this land, so the book's dark premise feels even more like a kick in the gut (but in a good and impactful way, I promise).

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  • Hearts Unbroken

    2018 by Smith, Cynthia Leitich

    Enough scary stories, please! I want some romance, and this looks perfect. What? There is also issue-driven drama centering about the school play? A strong Muscogee (Creek) protagonist bent on exposing racism in a small Kansas town and bashing through Native stereotypes? Hold my coffee, I'm going in!

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  • Trickster: Native American Tales : A Graphic Collection


    In this anthology of perfectly crafted graphic stories, I relished becoming familiar with the many manifestations of "Trickster" in Native American tradition. While they are totally appropriate for tweens, I definitely picked up a bit of delicious darkness and spooky malice in a few stories. Each tale is different in tone and style because there are 40 contributors.

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  • Race to the Sun

    2020 by Roanhorse, Rebecca

    I cannot get enough of all the books published under Rick Riordan's imprint that celebrate Own Voices authors writing fantasy in their own cultures' myths and magic. This book drew me in immediately because of the breakneck pace, achingly relatable heroine (who can see monsters, by the way!) and the accessible and joyous way Roanhorse includes and explains Navajo history and culture.

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  • An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People

    2019 by Mendoza, Jean

    This book made me want to go back in time to my high-school American History class and slam it down on my teacher's desk. I felt empowered, responsible, and galvanized to make a difference. Only the tip of the iceberg, it's a powerful way to begin pulling back the glossy veneer painted by our traditional textbooks.

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  • I Can Make This Promise

    2019 by Day, Christine

    This book was written beautifully—words trip across the tongue and meaningful tension is woven into the structure of the sentences. It also opened my eyes to unknown truths about America's relationship with Native Americans and family separation. Chicagoland author Betsy Bird agrees, calling it “A truly enticing, beautifully written story that delivers a historical reveal at just the right time.”

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