As a child, I read novels well above my comprehension level. The summer before I entered the third grade, I devoured The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Now that I’m in my 30s, the majority of the items I read fall under the genre of young adult (YA). Even though my reading life may have been a bit backward, I’ve always felt the need to consume diverse books. As an urban woman, I want to read about the individuals I encounter, and it is my pleasure to share 12 diverse authors who produced spectacular books for the YA genre.
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by Daniel José Older
Older’s novel tells the story of heroine Sierra Santiago, an artist whose world is forever altered when she takes on the task to save the last of the supernatural order known as Shadowshapers. Sierra’s story is set against a NYC landscape, with heavy doses of ancestral magic, oral history and music. Once you start this book, you will not want to put it down.
2. Everything, Everything
by Nicola Yoon
Yoon weaves a story of illness, love and loss while showing how parents need to learn how to let their child make decisions about their lives, no matter what the outcome might be. In all, Everything, Everything is everything!
3. More Happy Than Not
by Adam Silvera
More Happy Than Not brings the reader to a near-future Bronx, where 16-year-old Aaron Soto, in the midst of trying to reconcile his feelings for another boy, is willing to have a memory-alteration procedure. Aaron hopes this will make life easier — regardless of the consequences. Be prepared for all the feels when you sit down to read this glorious piece of work.
4. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel
by Sara Farizan
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel is a wonderful book that shows how protagonist Leila finds herself despite her fears. Along the way, she learns that others are walking similar paths to hers, which can make the world seem like a much smaller place. This is a beautiful story with diverse characters that will take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride.
5. Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson
Brown Girl Dreaming is a series of poems in which Woodson shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and ’70s under the remnants of Jim Crow. With poetry this vivid, your imagination can transport you to the moments she so wonderfully describes.
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6. Shatter Me
By Tahereh Mafi
Shatter Me is set in a dystopian world, where heroine Juliette has a fatal touch, one that the powers that be plans to use as a weapon. She begins the fight to reclaim her freedom and possibly find love along the way. The Shatter Me series contains three books and three novellas.
by Ellen Oh
Prophecy introduces us to Kira, a girl with yellow eyes, the prince’s bodyguard and the only female in the king’s army. Talented, powerful and the greatest warrior many have seen, she is hated by most, but she is their only hope. The book opens a trilogy with a fantastic bang, and you won’t want to put it down until you’ve devoured each moment.
8. The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano
by Sonia Manzano
Many associate the name Sonia Manzano with her portrayal of Maria on Sesame Street, but her talents go far beyond this. Manzano crafted a beautiful story in which Evelyn Serrano, a girl growing up in Spanish Harlem, begins to learn about her Latin heritage and the role it played in the creation of a movement and nation. The story is brilliantly told around actual events from 1969.
by Marie Lu
Legend tells the story of two 15-year-olds: one looking to survive and the other on a quest for vengeance. Pit June, the prodigy on the “right” side of the government against Day, the criminal! Under normal circumstances, they would never meet, but an event draws them together, and they must try to decipher what is real and what is a web of lies. This is the first of a series, but just get all the books at once because you aren’t going to have enough patience to wait for the next piece in this majestic thriller.
10. Ball Don’t Lie
by Matt de la Peña
Ball Don’t Lie might revolve around basketball, but in earnest it is a story of survival. Sticky must find a way to make it in a world where he feels like an outsider and far behind his peers. It’s an excellent read and will hopefully let you see the Stickys you encounter a bit differently. Ball Don’t Lie was adapted into a film in 2008 and is definitely worth a viewing.
11. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian combines the story of Junior with drawings by Ellen Forney. The book is based on experiences Alexie had growing up and tells a hilarious and heartbreaking story of a Native American boy who attends an all-white high school. If you want a book that will bring forward all sorts of emotions and provide you with laugh-out-loud moments, then this is the one for you.
12. Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen
by Arin Andrews
Some Assembly Required is on my must-read list. I’ve heard amazing things about this book, and I’m impatiently awaiting my turn to pick up a copy from the library. Here is an excerpt of the synopsis: “Some Assembly Required is a true coming-of-age story about knocking down obstacles and embracing family, friendship and first love. But more than that, it is a reminder that self-acceptance does not come ready-made with a manual and spare parts. Rather, some assembly is always required.”
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