(12/20) Punching the Air – “20 YA Novels for Adolescents”

Punching the Air is a young adult fiction novel written by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam. It was published on September 1, 2020 and it consists of 400 pages. The awards and nominees for the novel are:

  • 2020 Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction.
  • 2020 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature.
  • 2021 Association for Library Service to Children’s Notable Children’s Recordings.
  • 2021 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry.

Punching the Air is about a 16 year old boy who was a talented artist and had a good future, but he ended up going to prison when he punched someone. Although the novel does focus on how he went to prison for throwing a punch, the novel also focuses on how a prejudiced system could have already put him a way a long time ago. The novel is very heavy on injustice and a system that treats POC unfairly.

I chose to read this novel because I’ve been on a streak lately reading various novels about POC lives, struggles, and experiences, whether the novels are based on a true story or a fictional one that attempts to tackle the this societal issue that exists. I was particularly interested in this novel due to how it focuses on how someone with decent plan for the future and with a talent that they are trying to hone in could struggle maintaining it simply due to the color of their skin. It is something that we have seen time and time again.

I recommend this novel to sixth graders and up. I would read this novel as a group and I would also specifically recommend the novel to POC kids who might want to see themselves and the life struggles they may face in a novel. I feel that it’s a great way to show them that they aren’t alone, that we hear them, and that we can see the struggles. I know that as a POC myself, I would have loved it if my teachers had recommend these types of novels to me when I was younger.

For read alouds, I would especially read:

  • Pg. 14, “Courtroom”.

Pg. 21, “White Space”.

I really enjoyed this novel and I want to explore more novels that discuss the struggles of POC. Recently, I have been reading a lot novels like this and I have been exploring a lot more novels like this, but I want to keep exploring these types of novels. When I was younger, I wasn’t really exposed to novels where I got to see characters who are POC like I am or when I did, the POC characters weren’t that important to the story. It’s good to know that more novels like this with not only excellent representation, but true representation of POC struggles exist.

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