Storytelling is one of the greatest tools we have for creating empathy between cultures around the world. Readers can meet characters, enter environments, and see perspectives they never would have encountered if not for authors. This year, to honor the International Day of Peace on September 21, gather friends and family for a book club discussion dedicated to fostering a more peaceful society. Keep scrolling to check out some of our favorite reads to International Day of Peace YA books.
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE’S 100 BEST YA BOOKS OF ALL TIME! This is the story of Anita de la Torre, who never questioned her freedom in the Dominican Republic. But by her twelfth birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have immigrated to the United States, and the government’s secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition to the government. Before We Were Free is a fictional story about adolescence, perseverance, and a young girl’s struggle living under the rule of a dictator. This book will take you back to the 1960s to explore the importance of family and the true meaning of freedom.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
This moving piece of historical fiction is the perfect choice for the International Day of Peace and the Jewish high holy days that occur every September. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas takes us back to the Holocaust, following the story of two eight-year-old boys: Bruno, the son of a Nazi commander, and a young Jewish prisoner he befriends. After reading, you can experience the movie adaptation with your family. This story is a reminder of the importance of working toward a peaceful world where the dignity of all human life is respected.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
The #1 New York Times bestselling book turned major motion picture Just Mercy is the true story of Walter McMillian, who was sentenced to death in Alabama for the murder of a teenage girl in 1988. His trial lasted only two days. Just Mercy focuses on the fight to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality. Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, offers readers an emotionally complex journey into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned. Stevenson’s efforts to fight for their freedom are inspirational. This book is not only perfect to read with your friends, but after you finish the book, you can all come together and watch the movie adaptation featuring acclaimed performances from Michael B. Jordan and Oscar winners Jaime Foxx and Brie Larson.
Left for Dead by Peter Nelson
If you are a fan of adventure, war stories, true stories, and sea battles, Left for Dead by Peter Nelson is our pick for you. Left for Dead is the epic true story of a boy, Hunter Scott, who helps to bring closure to the survivors of the tragic sinking of the USS Indianapolis and exonerate the ship’s captain. Hunter Scott first learned about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis by watching the movie Jaws when he was just eleven years old. This dramatic read shows the power of youth and of standing up for justice. Grab some popcorn and take the weekend to rewatch Jaws to get into our protagonist’s mindset. Then read Left for Dead for an immersive trip into this forgotten piece of American history.
Refugees by Catherine Stine
In the dark shadow of September 11, 2001, two teenagers on opposite sides of the globe flee everything they know. Sixteen-year-old Dawn runs away from her unhappy foster home in California and travels to New York City. Johar, an Afghani teenager, sees his world crumble before him. He flees his war-ravaged village and the Taliban to trek to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Through emails and phone calls, Dawn and Johar begin to share and protect each other’s secrets, fears, and dreams. This book explores the intense struggle to cope with tragedy, rebuild families, and discover the power that exists inside each one of us. The bond between Dawn and Johar offers hope and courage to readers and will encourage impactful discussions about the longest American war in history.
Shattered by Jennifer Armstrong
Shattered is a powerful story of war, bringing together twelve unique and powerful voices that explore the realities of war from a child’s perspective. The settings vary widely—the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, an attempted coup in Venezuela, the American Civil War, and the Middle East—but the effects are largely the same. In war, no life is left untouched, and many are shattered. This collection examines all of war’s implications for young people—from those caught in the line of fire to the children of the veterans of wars long past. Shattered will not only educate us on the immediate and long-term effects of war, it will also have you on the edge of your seat. You’ll be laughing and crying through this captivating page-turner.