The Twenty-One: The True Story of the Youth Who Sued the U.S. Government Over Climate Change

Greenwillow. Sept. 2023. 400p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063220850.
Gr 8 Up–Legal buffs and climate activists will appreciate this complex and detailed journey through the U.S. court system. In 2015, lawyer Julia Olson filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government on behalf of 21 youths on the grounds that government actions contributed to climate change, depriving them of their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Ranging in age from eight to 19, the plaintiffs’ argument was based on the fact that they had suffered numerous problems due to climate change, and since they were too young to vote, had no other legal recourse but to sue. Over the next eight years and three administrations, the Justice Department hit the plaintiffs with endless motions, arguing that dealing with climate change is the purview of the legislature, not the courts. The extensive legal proceedings read like a tennis match as the suit gets bounced from one federal court to another with the many motions, appeals, denials, hearings, and briefs. Most recently, in June 2023, they received a historic ruling putting them back on the path to a trial. Rusch smartly adds human interest into the narrative with quotes and personal stories from the lives of several of the 21. The passion and determination of the plaintiffs and their lawyer are awe-inspiring. Also included is a summary of other climate-based lawsuits, the science of climate change, a plan to help fix the climate, along with extensive and useful back matter.
VERDICT With its legal focus, this makes a compelling and important addition to the growing body of climate change literature for teens. Recommended.

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