Reading List: Journey to the Middle East
A mysterious and noteworthy place, the Middle East has not always been viewed favorably. However, as the birthplace of modern civilization, the Middle East has shaped modern society. The books in this list are selected for young adult readers and feature authors and characters from and settings within the Middle East. Realistic fiction and fantasy tell stories that connect young adult readers of all backgrounds with this unique part of the world.
Contributed by: Mary Lanni
|Does My Head Look Big in This?
By: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Year Eleven at an exclusive prep school in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, would be challenging enough. Still, it is further complicated for Amal when she decides to wear the hijab, the Muslim headscarf, full-time as a badge of her faith—without losing her identity or sense of style.
|Down and Across
By: Arvin Ahmadi
His friends know what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott Ferdowsi can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion. With his parents pushing him to settle on a “practical” career, Scott sneaks off to Washington, DC, seeking guidance from a famous psychologist who claims to know the secret to success. He meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. Now Scott is sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try. Will he be able to find out who he is—and who he wants to be?
|An Ember in the Ashes
By: Sabaa Tahir
Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars claiming that they will help save her brother from execution.
|A Girl Like That
By: Tanaz Bhathena
In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, sixteen-year-old half-Hindu/half-Parsi Zarin Wadia is the class troublemaker and top subject for the school rumor blogs, regularly leaving class to smoke cigarettes in cars with boys. Still, she also desperately wants to grow up and move out of her aunt and uncle’s house, perhaps realizing too late that Porus, another non-Muslim Indian who risks deportation but remains devoted to Zarin, could help her escape.
|The Glass Collector
By: Anna Perera
A fifteen-year-old boy lives amongst the rubbish piles in Cairo’s slums and collects broken glass while hoping to find a future he can believe in.
By: Naomi Shihab Nye
Fourteen-year-old Liyanne Abboud, her younger brother, and her parents move from St. Louis to a new home between Jerusalem and the Palestinian village where her father was born. There, they face many changes and must deal with the tensions between Jews and Palestinians.
By: Somaiya Daud
In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, sixteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that she, too, will have adventure and travel one day beyond her isolated moon. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty and her time with the princess’s fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear, and one wrong move could lead to her death.
|Rebel of the Sands
By: Alwyn Hamilton
Amani is desperate to leave the dead-end town of Dustwalk, and she’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to help her escape. But after she meets Jin, the mysterious rebel running from the Sultan’s army, she unlocks the powerful truth about the desert nation of Miraji…and herself.
|Rebels by Accident
By: Patricia Dunn
Mariam, a troubled teenage Egyptian American, is sent to live with her grandmother in Cairo. There, she meets Asmaa, a girl who calls Egypt’s people to protest against their president. Now Mariam finds herself in the middle of a revolution and falling in love for the first time.
|A Very Large Expanse of Sea
By: Tahereh Mafi
A year after 9/11, Muslim teenager Shirin has completely withdrawn from social life until she meets Ocean James in her biology class and is tempted to actually let her guard down.
|We Hunt the Flame
By: Hafsah Faizal
Zafira, who disguises herself as a man to become The Hunter, and Nasir, an assassin for his father, the sultan, are both seeking a lost artifact that could return magic to their cursed world.
|Where the Streets Had a Name
By: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Thirteen-year-old Hayaat of Bethlehem faces checkpoints, curfews, and the travel permit system designed to keep people on the West Bank when she attempts to go to her grandmother’s ancestral home in Jerusalem with her best friend.