In the 52 years since its founding, Earth Day has stood as an ever-more urgent call to act on climate change. Soaring temperatures, rising sea levels and a choked atmosphere are all results of modern society’s interference with nature, and just as these changes affect the whole of humanity, it’s in all our best interests to take a stand in conserving nature. After all, when it comes to combating climate change, we’re striving to protect more than just ourselves. Whether it’s our family, our friends or future generations — we’re all fighting for something bigger than the base need to survive.

The authors of these following books understand that sentiment well, using it as a catalyst to create imaginative and evocative works of storytelling. From grim survival thrillers to magical eco-fantasies, these tales span the full breadth of the eco-fiction genre. But along with the lesson of environmentalism, another vital theme is felt on every page: the connections we forge with others, even in times of great danger. Here are six books that show how far we’ll go to protect our loved ones, our communities and the place we all call home.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find
by Joan He (Roaring Book Press)

“Sharp, devastating and brimming with invigorating questions.” — TOR.com

Winner of both the YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults and Excellence in Children’s and Young Adult Science Fiction awards, it’s no secret that The Ones We’re Meant to Find is an exceptional read. In this exhilarating story, the world has been so marred by climate change that the surviving human population must live in enclosed eco-cities, the world’s only protection from deadly pollution. Two sisters, Kasey and Celia, live within what remains of society — until Celia sets out in a boat into the unforgiving world outside that bubble. No one has heard from Celia in years, but despite knowing that her sister is most likely dead, Kasey is determined to find out what happened — holding out hope that there’s even a ghost of a chance Celia can be saved. This heart-pounding sci-fi story combines thrilling action, intrigue and the lengths we’ll go to in order to protect those we love.

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Green Rising
by Lauren James (Walker Books)

Sometimes, doing the right thing means going against the wishes of those we love. That’s the dilemma Hester faces in the near-futuristic and magical story Green Rising. She’s the daughter of an oil tycoon and is set to inherit her family business  — until she becomes one of the teens across the world who are suddenly gaining “Greenfingers,” the strange ability to grow plants from their own bodies. Alongside her is Gabrielle, a young climate activist, and Theo, the son of a struggling fishing family. Author Lauren James seamlessly weaves real consequences of climate change into the narrative, making the story’s stakes feel all too real. And James’ depiction of complicated family dynamics is just as hard-hitting; even amid ecological disaster, Hester, Gabrielle and Theo still struggle with what their loved ones expect from them. At once fantastical and relatable, Green Rising tells an inspiring story of the power we have when we come together, even in the face of unbelievable odds. “Lauren James isn’t just headed for the stars,” says Samantha Shannon, author of The Priory of the Orange Tree. “[S]he’s already there.”

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The Dreamcatcher Codes
by Barbara Newman (Green Writers Press)

Protecting the earth from climate change can’t be done in a heartbeat; it’s a continuous process that spans generations. No one knows that better than Maia, Ava, Falcon and Yue — the latest members of the Earth Guardians. Each entrusted with one of the four elements of nature, these girls must use their ancestors’ guidance to help them on a dangerous mission to recover a long-lost relic. And the stakes couldn’t be higher: while this intergenerational quest has the potential to save the earth, its failure will surely seal Mother Nature’s fate. Despite the gravity of the mission, The Dreamcatcher Codes avoids feeling weighed down with any sense of bleakness. Rather, the book shines with a revolutionary hopefulness, daring to imagine a future in which our connection with the earth can be strengthened and renewed. Alexis Estes, a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, describes the book as “a call to action to heal humanity’s relationship with the planet.” It’s a message Barbara Newman cares deeply for: the author is planting two trees with TreeSisters.org for every book sold from Earth Day through May 30.

Read our full review of The Dreamcatcher Codes here.

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Queen of the Warrior Bees
by Jean Gill (The 13th Sign)

“An epic fight for nature … a compelling story with life-like characters and a fast-moving plot.” ― author Deb McEwan

In a world where every aspect of nature has untapped potential, just one chance encounter can bring that power to full force. That’s the situation Mielitta stumbles upon in the imaginative eco-fantasy Queen of the Warrior Bees. Orphaned and mistreated, she flees from the human settlement of the Citadel and into the wild Forest where she unknowingly sets off a series of events that will lead her to the found family she’s always craved. But she also makes another discovery, one far more troubling: the balance between the Citadel and the Forest is liable to collapse at any moment, throwing nature into disarray and threatening to take humanity down along with it. While magic pervades through the story, its themes of environmental disaster and human connection are all too relatable. Burdened with the knowledge of this impending disaster, Mielitta must fight to protect the family she’s only just gained before it’s too late.

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Dry
by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

In 2019, the American Library Association named Neal and Jarrod Shusterman’s haunting thriller Dry as one of their picks for the Best Fiction for Young Adults. But it doesn’t take an awards panel to know that this is an exceptional read. The authors hold a mirror to our modern society, forcing us to see our own grim reflection. The characters of Dry have been dealing with “The Tap-Out” for months now — the harsh water-shortening measures that California has taken to combat the ongoing drought. But it isn’t enough to stop the inevitable, and when the taps do run dry, former friends and neighbors become bitter enemies in the hunt for drinking water. In their starred review, Described by Booklist as “terrifyingly realistic,” this novel takes an honest look not just at global warming but at the effects such cataclysms have on human nature. With impossible decisions at every turn, Dry will have readers asking themselves difficult questions alongside the characters. In desperate times, what would you do to ensure your own survival? And what lines would you cross to protect the ones you love?

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Orleans
by Sherri L. Smith (Speak)

“A harrowing and memorable ride.” —  Kirkus Reviews

In the face of insurmountable loss, hope can seem far too frail to make a difference. That’s the sentiment Fen has accepted after years of living in the Delta — the now-ruined acreage formerly known as New Orleans. After a series of catastrophic hurricanes and the outbreak of Delta Fever, the Outer States built a wall around the Gulf Coast, isolating the illness but dooming the citizens of Orleans. In the wake of their abandonment, tribes of survivors now roam the land, completely at the mercy of their uncaring surroundings. But when the rest of their group is killed, Fen is left to look after the only other remaining member — the tribe leader’s newborn baby. Now, Fen is fighting for more than her own survival; she’s determined to get the baby out of the Delta, away from the danger that threatens to overtake them at every turn.  Here, Smith captures both the horror and hope that encompasses current climate advocacy, and offers us a glimpse at a possible future — one where even in the face of dire circumstances, we take a stand to reroute the trajectory of our environment, ensuring a better future for everyone.

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