Quick access:

Go directly to content (Alt 1) Go directly to first-level navigation (Alt 2)

New books for young adults
Much Ado About Diversity

The post-reunification period, upheavals, queerness, ethics, and morality: new books for young people offer a wide range of topics.

By Holger Moos

Blum: Kollektorgang © Beltz & Gelberg Mario, 13 years old and just killed in a fight with a gang, observes from his gravestone how life goes on in the cemetery and among the people who visit him. He remembers his childhood and early youth in the block of flats – with violent friends, ever-quarrelling parents, a neo-Nazi gang, and the newly arrived boy Rajko, a boxer whose sister he loves. David Blum’s novel for teens, Kollektorgang, in its unusual literary language, in which every scene, every conversation touches with its directness and dispenses with empty phrases, combines the memories of a youth in an East German prefab building with the historical figure of the boxer Johann Wilhelm “Rukeli” Trollmann, famous in the 1930s, a Sinto who was persecuted and killed during the Nazi era. Blum received the 2023 Peter Härtling Prize for the manuscript of the novel, the jury was won over by its unusual perspective: “With this device, the oppressive and violent atmosphere of a post-reunification youth in a large East German city is portrayed extremely vividly and at the same time from an otherworldly distance.”

Engaging with queer lives

Sandjon: Die Sonne, so strahlend und Schwarz © Thienemann The acceptance of diversity and the fight against discrimination and racism is a group of themes that has often – and rightly – been addressed in recent years, also in children’s and youth literature. In her youth novel Die Sonne, so strahlend und Schwarz  (The Sun, So Bright and Black), Chantal-Fleur Sandjon tells of domestic violence, the love of two young women, racism and self-assertion. The Afro-German author and spoken word artist thus takes up multiple subjects. In addition, she wrote her novel in an unusual style: in verse. But the result is not a problem book that is difficult to read. Quite the opposite: Sandjon has succeeded in writing a book full of beauty, lightness and joie de vivre, says Heike Nieder in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The jury of the 2023 German Youth Literature Award was also delighted, nominating Die Sonne, so strahlend und Schwarz in the category of youth books: “Chantal-Fleur Sandjon tells of a complex identity in a hauntingly condensed verse language with uncommon metaphors.”

Köller / Schautz: Queergestreift © Hanser This year, a book that promotes respect and openness towards diversity in lives and love was also nominated for the German Youth Literature Award in the non-fiction category: Queergestreift. Alles über LGBTIQA+ by Kathrin Köller and illustrator Irmela Schautz. It offers well-founded education in terms of content and outstanding design, again in an unusual form: “This non-fiction book turns the familiar ABC book on its head right from the start: The representative letters of the queer community (LGBTIQA+) structure the chapters here and introduce the diverse cosmos of queer identities... Queergestreift is an important handbook that not only offers queer young people a safe space for experience and testing, but also invites everyone else to engage with queer lives” (from the jury statement).

Floundering days and dark sides

Sonneson: Stolpertage © Carlsen In Josefine Sonneson’s novel for teens, Stolpertage, 13-year-old Jette experiences times of change and renewal. Her best friend has moved away and they’ve lost touch with each other. Her parents have separated. Jette’s mother wants to move in with her new partner. The move is imminent and with it the final loss of the parental home. As if that wasn’t enough change, Jette’s grandfather, who has dementia, is dying and her older sister and closest confidante is about to graduate from high school and plans to move out. Sonneson’s debut novel was nominated for the 2023 German Youth Literature Award in the “New Talents” category. The jury writes: “Nothing is certain, everything is possible in these floundering days, which function as a metaphor for the feelings of the young protagonist. Adolescence appears here, in content and language very convincingly condensed, as a kaleidoscope of mosaic pieces, whose composition and meaning are placed entirely in the perception of the reader.” 

Muser: WEIL. © Carlsen Five school leavers spend a weekend in a holiday home. When they pick up a hitchhiker on the way who makes them uncomfortable with his “racist shit,” they leave him at the petrol station and throw his backpack out of the car. A day later he shows up again, accompanied by two young men, and brutally threatens them. Each reacts differently to the violence and the fear that comes with it. Martin Muser received the Lynx of the Month for May 2023 for his youth novel WEIL., which deals with questions of ethics and morality. The jury was impressed by the “sadistic chamber play,” saying the author only needed “120 very dense and excellently composed pages” to turn the young people’s world upside down: “Every rule with which the young people have divided their lives into good and bad up to now is suspended, instead they are confronted with their own weaknesses and dark sides.” Another strength of the book is that it doesn’t provide any answers, but raises many questions with which the readers can examine their own morals, therefore making it “perfect material for the ethics A-level, no, for life!”


Logo Rosinenpicker © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank David Blum: Kollektorgang
Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg, 2023. 121 p.
ISBN: 978-3-407-75734-0 (from 14 years)

Kathrin Köller / Irmela Schautz (Illustrations): Queergestreift. Alles über LGBTIQA+,
München: Hanser, 2022. 288 p.
ISBN: 978-3-446-27258-3 (from 11 years)

Martin Muser: WEIL.
Hamburg: Carlsen, 2023. 128 p.
ISBN: 978-3-551-58493-9 (from 14 years)

Chantal-Fleur Sandjon: Die Sonne, so strahlend und Schwarz
Stuttgart: Thienemann, 2022. 384 p.
ISBN: 978-3-522-20286-2 (from 14 years)

Josefine Sonneson: Stolpertage
Hamburg: Carlsen, 2022. 176 p.
ISBN: 978-3-551-58462-5 (from 12 years)
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.