This week’s Top Ten list is a topic that is dear to our hearts: diversity. We have always been committed to reading and recommending books that feature diverse characters and themes. Every month we co-host the YA Diversity Book Club (which we’ve been running for a year this month), and Sandie is a Social Media Team Member at We Need Diverse Books. There are so many wonderful books that celebrate diversity, and we are happy to share 10 of them here. Our hope is that there will be more and more books with diverse characters in the future of YA.
1. “Like No Other” by Una LaMarche: This story about the forbidden relationship between Devorah, a Hasidic girl and Jaxon, a Caribbean boy was both interesting and enjoyable. One of my favorite things about the book was learning about Hasidic families in New York.
2. “Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass” by Meg Medina: In this book, Medina gives us a picture of life for Latina girls in Queens, NY. Despite being about bullying, I truly enjoyed reading about the girls and Queens. it brought back many memories from when I grew up in Queens.
3. “Say What You Will” by Cammie McGovern: Amy was born with Cerebral Palsy and she grows close to Matthew who has Aspergers and OCD and Anxiety. Together their special friendship helps them in ways they never imagined.
4. “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli: My son and I both enjoyed this book about Simon Spier a boy who is gay, but is not ready to come out to his family and friends. This book is about friendship, family, and love.
5. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before/P.S. I Still Love You” by Jenny Han: I know I keep bringing these books up, but one thing that I really enjoyed was how Jenny Han shares about protagonist Lara Jean’s Korean culture. Throughout both of the books we learn about Korean food and holiday traditions.
6. “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson”: I love this book with all of my heart. I think it’s Nelson’s masterpiece, and she so beautifully depicts a boy-boy first love that will make everyone who reads it weep (OK, maybe just me). There’s also a supporting character who’s a Colombian artist, so there’s LGBT *and* cultural diversity.
7. “Gabi, a Girl in Pieces” by Isabel Quintero: Like “Yaqui,” the voice here is so breathtakingly genuine that I felt a visceral connection with Gabi, even though we don’t share the exact same background. Kudos to Quintero for an amazing debut and an unforgettable main character dealing with love, friendship, self esteem, and a dysfunctional family.
8. “Proxy” by Alex London: Readers looking for diversity in sci-fi/fantasy books should pick up London’s fabulous duology that tackles sexual identity, race, class, and revolution. Main character Syd is black and gay and poor — a Proxy with a wealthy Patron, Knox. Every time Knox does something wrong, it’s Syd who’s punished. When the two meet, they question everything on which their society is based.
9. “Pointe” by Brandy Colbert: Look no further than the recent announcement of Misty Copeland as the first African-American principal ballerina at the ABT for a reason to delve into a story about Theo, a young black ballerina dealing with an incredibly heavy burden.
10. “North of Beautiful” by Justina Chen Headley: One of my earliest posts about diversity in YA was about the lack of cute Asian boys. There are more and more Asian girls, but not a lot of boys. Jacob is a happy exception. He shows Terra, who obsessively covers the port-wine stain on her face a map to her heart she didn’t know existed.