I went to a very small religious school growing up. As such, many electives and perks my public school friends had, I never got exposed to. By the time I got to high school, the numbers had dwindled so much that there wasn’t theater or art offered, because there weren’t enough students to put on a play and there was no one available to teach art. Another missing piece from my school experience was a library. Honestly, I didn’t even know schools that weren’t universities had libraries until I became a teacher myself.
Ever since I found out about libraries in schools, I’ve loved reading about kids adventuring in theirs. I want all of them: school libraries, local libraries, magic libraries, dangerous libraries, animal libraries, wacky libraries. I can’t get enough. For anyone else who’s making up for a lost childhood library experience, or maybe for those who want to extend that experience for as long as they can, I’ve put together a list of YA novels (and middle grade) set in or about libraries. Sometimes, being surrounded by books just isn’t enough. I also have to read books about books. And now, sometimes working in a library isn’t enough either. I need to read books about libraries.
A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan
Jamie Bunn has to spend all summer volunteering at her local library after she got in trouble at school. It’s not how she wanted to spend her summer vacation time, but she can escape the mean girls and her crush for a while. Jamie encounters all kinds of interesting patrons from really tall painter/baker, an elderly movie buff, and even a dog without a home. What she doesn’t expect is to come face to face with her nemesis and her crush.
Theo and the Stolen Library by Melanie Ansley
The final installment in this trilogy wraps up with Theo, an intelligent rabbit, is fighting with his Order to save their civilization. In this world, all books have been banned, and literacy is a criminal offense. Even though most readers have been snuffed out, Theo has the ability to read. He and his allies must seek out a secret power on a perilous quest. It’s their last hope. Everything they know and love hangs in the balance.
By Your Side by Kasie West
Autumn Collins is living my childhood dream and her annoying nightmare: she’s locked in the library for the weekend. Only, she’s not locked in alone. Dax Miller, a loner who spend time in juvie, is locked in with her. Autumn is sure that her almost-boyfriend will notice he left her behind and come back for her. Except he doesn’t, and she and Dax have to live off vending machine snacks for a few days. Dax wants as much to do with Autumn as she wants to do with him, but after a few days just the two of them, their dynamic starts to change.
Ink and Incantation Edited by E.V. Everest
This is an anthology of bookish stories by YA sci-fi and fantasy authors. There are stories about a haunted steampunk bookstore, an ill-fated love story set in the last library in the world, brothers searching a library for forbidden knowledge, an ancient book at the center of a fae war, and so many more. Sci-fi and fantasy lovers who also can’t get enough of libraries like me are going to devour these stories.
The Library of Broken Worlds by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Freida is the daughter of a Library god. She’s spent her entire life in conversation with the gods and in the sprawling Library’s ever-changing tunnels. When she meets a mortal boy, who is determined to save his people, and a disciple of a persecuted religious group, she’s convicted to help them in any way she can. In order to help, she has to be willing to learn about atrocities of the past and to explore parts of the Library she’s never known. Freida must face an ancient god of war before he massacres innocent people, and she must get out alive.
Suggested Reading by David Connis
Clara Evans is shocked by the censorship her school administration is forcing on the library and student body. They’ve compiled a “prohibited media” hit list of titles that are forbidden at school, and anyone caught with one will be punished. Clara won’t stand for it when so many of the books on the list have changed her life, so she starts a secret library out of her locker. But when a book from the list that she loves is connected to a devastating incident, she is forced to examine her own prejudices around censorship.
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Irene works for the Library as a spy, gathering fiction from alternate realities. She’s assigned to an upside-down London with her assistant Kai to get back a dangerous book. When they get there, the book is missing and everyone in this world wants to get their hands on it. Not only do Irene and Kai have to deal with people, but in this world supernatural creatures exist and magic can go haywire. With all the different forms of reality on the line, Irene cannot fail in her mission. Steampunk lovers should definitely check this one out.
Library Wars: Love & War Vol. 1 by Kiiro Yumi (Story & Art) Hiro Arikawa (Original Concept), and Kinami Watabe (Translator)
In a society where the federal government has created a censorship committee for books, libraries and local governments have teamed up to defend their collections creating a militarized unit called the Library Force. Iku Kasahara saw a Library Force hero in action as a child when they intervened to keep her favorite book from being confiscated at her local bookstore. Ever since, she’s dreamed about joining Library Force. But now that she’s old enough and been recruited, it’s not exactly the fantasy she pictured as a little girl.
Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake
Gia Kearn’s crush, Arik, disappears from the Boston Athenaeum. Of course she goes to investigate and when she’s reading the book of world libraries he left behind, she and her friends get pulled into photograph that transports them to a Paris library where she does find Arik, but also finds a demonic hound. Using portals to jump from library to library would normally be Gia’s ideal fantasy, but she has to deal with her warring feelings and warring magical beings who want to battle humans. Gia has to make a decision about which world to save and whether to follow her head or her heart.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
This one is technically a middle grade read but would work for younger YA readers, and it’s just delightful. Kyle Keeley loves all things games and puzzles. When Luigi Lemoncello, the most famous game maker in the world and Kyle’s hero, designs the new town library, Kyle cannot wait to visit. He wins a spot to be one of 12 lucky kids in the library for an overnight adventure. It all starts as fun and games, but when morning comes and the library doors remain locked, he and the other 11 kids have to solve every clue, secret, and puzzle in order to find the hidden path out.