Many of the people I know enjoy traveling, but I do not. Instead of packing, flying, booking hotel rooms, and sleeping in a bed that’s not my own, I like to visit new places through books. Whether you love or hate traveling, there’s something to be said for books with vivid or unique-to-you settings. Those are the types of books I’m sharing today. These books would make for a great display or might be just the thing to hand to that teen who can’t wait to get on a plane and never look back.
Books Set in Africa
This Book Betrays My Brother by Kagiso Lesego Molope: Naledi has always looked up to her brother Basi, but when she witnesses him committing a horrific act, she is torn between exposing the truth and being loyal to her sibling.
City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson: Sixteen-year-old Tina and two friends leave Kenya and slip into the Congo, from where she and her mother fled years before, seeking revenge for her mother’s murder but uncovering startling secrets.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor: Twelve-year-old Sunny Nwazue, an American-born albino child of Nigerian parents, moves with her family back to Nigeria, where she learns that she has latent magical powers which she and three similarly gifted friends use to catch a serial killer.
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney: After her tribal village is attacked by militants, Amira, a young Sudanese girl, must flee to safety at a refugee camp, where she finds hope and the chance to pursue an education in the form of a single red pencil and the friendship and encouragement of a wise elder.
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi: In 2172, when much of the world is unlivable, sisters Onyii and Ify dream of escaping war-torn Nigeria and finding a better future together but are, instead, torn apart.
Books Set in Antarctica
Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo: Devastated when her dream of becoming a professional ballerina falls through, seventeen-year-old Harper Scott takes a job as a research assistant, wintering over at McMurdo, a U.S. science station at the tip of Antarctica where, for the first time, she considers other possible futures.
The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean: When her uncle takes her on a dream trip to the Antarctic wilderness, Sym’s obsession with Captain Oates and the doomed expedition becomes a reality as she herself is soon in a fight for her life in some the harshest terrain on the planet.
Into the White: Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey by Joanna Grochowicz: The enthralling and harrowing true story of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition, with evocative photographs, and illustrations by Sarah Lippett.
Books Set in Asia
Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh: The daughter of a prominent samurai in feudal Japan is targeted by a dangerous gang of bandits who want to prevent her political marriage, a situation that compels her to disguise herself as a boy and infiltrate the gang’s ranks in order to stop the individual behind the plot.
Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine: In this loose retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, set in a reimagined industrial Asia, a ghost becomes obsessed with sixteen-year-old Wen, the daughter of a staff doctor in a slaughterhouse, who falls in love with one of the Noor, a despised group of men, racially different, hired as cheap factory labor.
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman: Fifteen authors of Asian descent reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia, in short stories ranging from fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge.
Wicked Fox by Kat Cho: After eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung, a nine-tailed fox surviving in modern-day Seoul by eating the souls of evil men, kills a murderous goblin to save Jihoon, she is forced to choose between her immortal life and his.
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, but 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.
Books Set in Australia
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde: Three friends go to a convention and find love–and themselves.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley: Teenagers Rachel and Henry find their way back to each other while working in an old bookstore full of secrets and crushes, love letters and memories, grief and hope.
The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah: A story about the power of choosing tolerance by the award-winning author of Does My Head Look Big in This? finds basketball enthusiast Michael attending anti-immigration rallies with his parents until a friendship with a Muslim refugee newcomer from Afghanistan compels him to question his family’s politics.
White Night by Ellie Marney: In Bo Mitchell’s country town, a ‘White Night’ light-show event has the potential to raise vital funds to save the skate park. And out of town, a girl from a secretive off-the-grid community called Garden of Eden has the potential to change the way Bo sees the world. But are there too many secrets in Eden? As Bo is drawn away from his friends and towards Rory, he gradually comes to believe that Eden may not be utopia after all, and that their group leader’s goal to go off the grid may be more permanent – and more dangerous – than anyone could have predicted.
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak: Upon their father’s return, the five Dunbar boys, who have raised themselves since their mother’s death, begin to learn family secrets, including that of fourth brother Clay, who will build a bridge for complex reasons, including his own redemption.
Books Set in Europe
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: Keeping close secrets in the wake of the Exposition Universelle in 1889 Paris, a wealthy hotelier and treasure-hunter is tapped by a powerful order to lead an elite team on a quest to track down an ancient artifact of world-changing significance.
The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse: Told from two viewpoints, Rae, Aubrey, Clara, Jonah, and Gabe travel through Europe by train for ten days, working through their relationships just before setting off in different directions for college.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee: Two friends on a Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe stumble across a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt shaped by pirates, highwaymen and their growing attraction to one another.
White Rose by Kip Wilson: Tells the story of Sophie Scholl, a young German college student who challenges the Nazi regime during World War II as part of the White Rose, a non-violent resistance group.
Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch: In order to fix their shattered sibling relationship–and Addie’s broken heart–Addie and Ian take a road trip across Ireland filled with unexpected detours and a stop at a major music festival.
Books Set in North America
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline: In this futuristic dystopian novel for teens, the Indigenous people of North America are on the run in a fight for survival.
Disappeared by Franciso X. Stork: Four months ago Sara Zapata’s best friend, Linda, disappeared from the streets of Juarez, and ever since Sara has been using her job as a reporter to draw attention to the girls who have been kidnapped by the criminals who control the city, but now she and her family are being threatened–meanwhile her younger brother, Emiliano, is being lured into the narcotics business by the promise of big money, and soon the only way for both of them to escape is to risk the dangerous trek across the desert to the United States border.
The Go-Between by Veronica Chambers: Both of sixteen-year-old Cammi’s parents are stars in Mexico, but everything changes when her mother accepts a role in an American sitcom.
Color Me In by Natasha Diaz: A coming-of-age story of friendship, first romance and religious intolerance finds a 16-year-old girl in an affluent New York City suburb confronting her biracial identity for the first time when she relocates to her divorced mom’s family home in Harlem.
All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor: A long-awaited conclusion to the story that began in the Newbery Medal-winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry finds young adult Cassie Logan searching for a sense of belonging before joining the civil rights movement in 1960s Mississippi.
Books Set in South America
The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer: When her dad calls with an offer to join him to film the next episode of his popular survivalist show, Danny jumps at the chance to prove she’s not the disappointment he left behind. Being on set with the hottest teen movie idol of the moment, Gus Price, should be the cherry on top. But when their small plane crashes in the Amazon, and a terrible secret is revealed, Danny must face the truth about the parent she worships and falling for Gus, and find her own inner strength and worth to light the way home.
An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder: When his father is sent to jail after being falsely convicted of a crime in 1999 Bolivia, teen Francisco is forced to choose between living with his father in prison and relocating to the mountains, where people have lived for centuries without education or modern conveniences.
The Queen of Water by Laura Resau and María Virginia Farinango: Living in a village in Ecuador, a Quechua Indian girl is sent to work as an indentured servant for an upper class “mestizo” family.
The Head of the Saint by Socorro Acioli: Having arrived in Candeia, Brazil, starving and footsore, after walking sixteen days to fulfill his dying mother’s last wishes, young Samuel takes up residence in an enormous, broken statue of Saint Anthony and finds that he can hear the prayers of the townspeople, despite his lack of faith.
What books would you add to this list? Leave a comment and let us know!