diya lists

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A Diverse Dozen

Looking for some YA books that just happen to have characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters? Here’s a diverse dozen titles with something for every reader — contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, and mystery too. (Descriptions are from WorldCat.)

Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac (Tu Books) — In a world that has barely survived an apocalypse that leaves it with pre-twentieth century technology, Lozen is a monster hunter for four tyrants who are holding her family hostage.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert (Putnam) — Four years after Theo’s best friend, Donovan, disappeared at age thirteen, he is found and brought home and Theo puts her health at risk as she decides whether to tell the truth about the abductor, knowing her revelation could end her life-long dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (Arthur A. Levine Books) — Seventh-grader Lewis “Shoe” Blake from the Tuscarora Reservation has a new friend, George Haddonfield from the local Air Force base, but in 1975 upstate New York there is a lot of tension and hatred between Native Americans and Whites–and Lewis is not sure that he can rely on friendship.

Fake ID by Lamar Giles (Amistad) — “An African-American teen in the Witness Protection Program moves to a new town and finds himself trying to solve a murder mystery when his first friend is found dead.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster) — Lara Jean writes love letters to all the boys she has loved and then hides them in a hatbox until one day those letters are accidentally sent.

Pantomime by Laura Lam (Strange Chemistry) — Gene, the daughter of a noble family, runs away from the decadence of court to R.H. Ragona’s circus of magic, where she meets runaway Micah, whose blood could unlock the mysteries of the world of Ellada.

Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu Books) — In an adventure reminiscent of Homer’s Odyssey, fifteen-year-old Odilia and her four younger sisters embark on a journey to return a dead man to his family in Mexico, aided by La Llorona, but impeded by a witch, a warlock, chupacabras, and more.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (Candlewick) — One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away?

Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Nancy Paulsen Books) — An eighth-grade girl with Asperger’s syndrome tries to befriend her new neighbor, facing many challenges along the way.

More Than This by Patrick Ness (Candlewick) — A boy named Seth drowns, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.

Prophecy by Ellen Oh (HarperTeen) —A demon slayer, the only female warrior in the King’s army, must battle demon soldiers, an evil shaman, and the Demon Lord to find the lost ruby of the Dragon King’s prophecy and save her kingdom.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe (Hyperion) — After Sophie Winters survives a brutal attack in which her best friend, Mina, is murdered, she sets out to find the killer. At the same time she must prove she is free of her past Oxy addiction and in no way to blame for Mina’s death.

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10 YA Books About African American Teens by African American Writers

It’s Black History Month, which means there are plenty of lists floating around these days about African American history. For a change of pace, here’s a selection of YA novels about African American teens of today, written by African American writers. Descriptions are from Worldcat.

Pull by B.A. Binns (Westside Books) — After his father kills his mother, seventeen-year-old David struggles to take care of his two sisters–and himself–while dealing with his grief, guilt, and trying to fit in at a tough new school while hiding his past.

Kendra by Coe Booth (Push) — High schooler Kendra longs to live with her mother who, unprepared for motherhood at age fourteen, left Kendra in the care of her grandmother.

Not a Good Look by Nikki Carter (K-Teen Dafina) — Sunday Tolliver is this close to making her music industry career dreams come true–until her mother spends her entire college fund. Now Sunday’s only chance to get to college means slaving as a personal assistant to her diva cousin, Dreya.

A la Carte by Tanita S. Davis (Alfred A. Knopf) — Lainey, a high school senior and aspiring celebrity chef, is forced to question her priorities after her best friend (and secret crush) runs away from home.

Fake ID by Lamar Giles (Amistad) — An African-American teen in the Witness Protection Program moves to a new town and finds himself trying to solve a murder mystery when his first friend is found dead.

Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson (Delacorte) — Joshua Wynn is definitely what you would call a good guy. He’s a preacher’s son who chooses abstinence and religious retreats over crazy nights and wild parties … One Sunday, Joshua’s mind drifts from his father’s sermon to a beautiful girl in the fifth row. She’s gorgeous, wearing a dress cut down to there, and she looks like the little girl he crushed on as a kid. It turns out that Maddie Smith is back in town, but instead of throwing her a welcome-back picnic, the community condemns her for her provocative clothes and the rumors about her past … But can Joshua save Maddie without losing himself?

Hot Girl by Dream Jordan (St. Martin’s Griffin) — Kate, a fourteen-year-old Brooklyn girl and former gang member, risks losing her first good foster family when she adopts the risqué ways of her flirtatious new friend, Naleejah.

DJ Rising by Love Maia (Little, Brown) — Sixteen-year-old Marley Diego-Dylan’s career as “DJ Ice” is skyrocketing, but his mother’s heroin addiction keeps dragging him back to earth.

Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers (HarperCollins) — Two best friends, a writer and a runner, deal with bullies, family issues, social pressures, and their quest for success coming out of Harlem.

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum) — Ali lives in Bed-Stuy, a Brooklyn neighborhood known for guns and drugs, but he and his sister, Jazz, and their neighbors, Needles and Noodles, stay out of trouble until they go to the wrong party, where one gets badly hurt and another leaves with a target on his back.

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10 Diverse Love Stories for Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here are 10 stories about love, starring people of color and/or LGBT characters. Book descriptions are from Worldcat.

He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander (HarperCollins)— When a popular football ‘playa’ and ladies man and the smartest girl in school lead a school protest, sparks fly as their social media-aided revolution grows.

Naughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman (Simon & Schuster) — In a world where the pale-skinned Naughts are discriminated against by the politically and socially powerful dark-skinned Crosses, teenagers Callum—a Naught—and Sephy—a Cross—test whether their love is strong enough to survive their society’s racism.

Between You & Me by Marisa Calin (Bloomsbury) — Phyre, sixteen, narrates her life as if it were a film, capturing her crush on Mia, a student teacher of theater and film studies, as well as her fast friendship with a classmate referred to only as “you.”

Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper (Atheneum) — Romiette, an African-American girl, and Julio, a Hispanic boy, discover that they attend the same high school after falling in love on the Internet, but are harrassed by a gang whose members object to their interracial dating.

When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer (Thomas Dunne Books) — Soledad Reyes decides to dance Carmen as part of a drum and bugle corps competition, not knowing if it will help or harm her chance of becoming a professional ballet dancer but eager to pursue new options, including a romance with the boy who invited her to audition.

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier (Scholastic Press) — Seventeen-year-old Dimple, whose family is from India, discovers that she is not Indian enough for the Indians and not American enough for the Americans, as she sees her hypnotically beautiful, manipulative best friend taking possession of both her heritage and the boy she likes.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger (Dial) — Three teenagers in Boston narrate their experiences of a year of new friendships, first loves, and coming into their own.

Street Love by Walter Dean Myers (Amistad) — This story told in free verse is set against a background of street gangs and poverty in Harlem in which seventeen-year-old African American Damien takes a bold step to ensure that he and his new love will not be separated.

Mismatch by Lensey Namioka (Delacorte) — Their families clash when a Japanese-American teenaged boy starts dating a Chinese-American teenaged girl.

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler (Simon Pulse) — Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. But as Jude begins to fall for Emilio Vargas, she begins to wonder if her sisters were wrong.

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Last month, a DiYA reader asked if we had any recommendations for “classic” YA by authors of color. We asked for your suggestions, and in the ensuing discussion a few points were raised:

  • What does “classic” mean, anyway? We’re honestly not sure, but we’re going with books that are not new and that have been critically acclaimed.
  • What does “YA” mean in this context? Well, since young adult fiction wasn’t really a publishing category until the 1960s (and YA has evolved a lot since then), in this post we’re going with books that are about the coming-of-age experience and/or are often read by young adults. Today, some of these books would be published as middle grade or possibly still as adult.

So, here are some of your recommendations (original pub. date in parentheses):

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou (1969)
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston (1975)
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (1972)
M.C. Higgins the Great by Virginia Hamilton (1975)
Monster by Walter Dean Myers (1999)
Ruby by Rosa Guy (1976)

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, so if we missed your favorite, what was it?