In honor of Earth Day, I’m sharing some YA books that will make you feel connected to nature, the environment, and the Great Outdoors. These reads will make you want to run through a meadow, learn about wildlife, dive in sky-blue oceans, fall in love with a werewolf — oops, that last one isn’t very feasible. In any case, enjoy this little list and share your own favorites in the comments.
“The Scorpio Races” by Maggie Stiefvater: I love Maggie’s lyrical prose, and I think “The Scorpio Races” is her, as Charlotte would say, magnum opus. The poetry in her phrasing works best given the setting of Thisby, a magical island where man-eating water horses emerge from the water every fall. Puck and Sean’s connection to their island is a visceral one so intense they can’t imagine leaving it, even after being orphaned. Why do they stay? Sean knows the answer: “The sky and the sand and the sea and Corr.” I’ll add that by the end of the story, he’d put Puck at the head of that list, but there it is — his connection to his home, his horse, his girl.
As the sun shines low and red across the water, I wade into the ocean. The water is still high and brown and murky with the memory of the storm, so if there’s something below it, I won’t know it. But that’s part of this, the not knowing. The surrender to the possibilities beneath the surface. It wasn’t the ocean that killed my father, in the end. The water is so cold that my feet go numb almost at once. I stretch my arms out to either side of me and close my eyes. I listen to the sound of water hitting water. The raucous cries of the terns and the guillemots in the rocks of the shore, the piercing, hoarse questions of the gulls above me. I smell seaweed and fish and the dusky scent of the nesting birds onshore. Salt coats my lips, crusts my eyelashes. I feel the cold press against my body. The sand shifts and sucks out from under my feet in the tide. I’m perfectly still. The sun is red behind my eyelids. The ocean will not shift me and the cold will not take me.
“Wanderlove” by Kirsten Hubbard: Bria’s unexpectedly solo trip to Central America starts off a boring, tour-group style visit to famous landmarks until a chance encounter with serious backpacker Rowan and his activist sister lead her to abandon her group and travel like a local. With Rowan as her guide, Bria stops to appreciate her surroundings, not just for the Kodak moments of a typical tourist, but for how her new surroundings stir something in her soul and make her see the opportunities before her. She falls in love too, of course, but Hubbard (a seasoned traveler herself) does a fabulous job of describing the locations and how wondrous it is to discover beautiful locations around the world.
“Wolves, Boys and Other Things That Might Kill Me” by Kristen Chandler: KJ is the only daughter of a fishing guide in Montana. She can hold her own on white water and in mountains and with the snobbiest of tourists. But when a wolf scholar and her handsome, fiery photographer son Virgil land in town, KJ is drawn to him — and his mother’s fight to save the Yellowstone area’s wolf population from local hunters. KJ’s abilities in the outdoors are amazing. I nearly had a panic attack taking 12 Brownies on a Girl Scout overnight without my husband — a former Boy Scout who prides himself on his survival skills — but KJ, pushed by her father, is a fierce force of nature.