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The young adult genre is including more and more representation, and it is thriving. As the scope of its reach broadens, it becomes increasingly important for readers of all backgrounds to see themselves within their favorite stories. As writers continue to step up to the task , here are five young adult books to add some intersectionality to your bookshelf.
1. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
This book has a gorgeous cover, and the story inside is just as enthralling. Faizal, who is Muslim and Arab-American, crafts a rich story of magic and mystery through luscious prose. She not only sets up an Arab-inspired fantasy universe with vast potential, but also creates strong female characters and twisty storylines that are sure to keep your attention from the very beginning, all while developing her own signature take on the beloved fantasy genre. After her sparkling debut novel plowed its way through the New York Times bestseller list and became one of the inaugural books for the Barnes & Noble YA Book Club, Faizal has truly made waves through the young adult world, and we can expect to see her lush world and poetic prose make a comeback in the sequel next year.
2. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Jenny Han’s adorable teen romance burst through the pop culture headlines for months on end in the summer of 2018, after Netflix released the movie adaptation--and for good reason. Not only does Han portray the emotional trials and tribulations of high school relationships, but she also delves into the hardships of losing family members, going off to college, and being mixed race. Lara Jean’s story of being a Korean-American adds a much-needed voice to the contemporary YA romance genre. As Han further illustrates Lara Jean’s struggles throughout the series, she opens up new topics for discussion, all while keeping an air of lightness to counter life’s hardships.
3. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
When Angie Thomas’s debut novel, The Hate U Give, was released in February of 2017, she received international acclaim, as she addressed police brutality in American communities. Her next novel brought with it another storm--the main character Bri, struggles against poverty as well as racism, bringing light to the lack of socioeconomic diversity in many young adult novels that receive the spotlight. The book emulates the true voice of the teenage generation as it criticizes systematic poverty and oppression, masterfully bringing rightful anger to the center of attention. If you are looking for a read that truly fits the current teenage generation, this is it. Only good things can be said about Thomas’s understanding of the world we have made for the future.
4. I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
Pride month is the perfect time to open up your shelf to more books with LGBTQ+ characters, and I Wish You All the Best is the perfect start to expanding your knowledge of the different experiences within the community. The main character, Ben, struggles with coming out to their family as nonbinary while simultaneously dealing with romantic relationships and the stress of senior year. There is a strong need for gender diversity in the young adult community, and Deaver’s debut begins to fill that lack, bringing a fresh perspective of a battle millions of children have had to silently face as their viewpoint is passed over and they have no one to look to. Diversity encompasses all types of overlooked minorities, and I Wish You All the Best is a read that is sure to broaden your views regarding that.
5. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
Cordova is a Latina author bringing representation to the Latinx community with her bisexual Latina main character. She crafts a story around family and magic, romance and mystery--and skillfully threads her Ecuadorian background into the fine details of her work. The gorgeous worldbuilding and rich characters make for a thrilling magical adventure through the streets of a deadly New York as Alex, a bruja, attempts to find her family after a spell gone wrong. The paranormal and fantastical aspects of the book create a chilling atmosphere--one that pulls you in from the very start and doesn’t let you go. With its unique take on magic and cultural ties, Labyrinth Lost is sure to make you fall into a new world and stay for a very long time.
The young adult genre is ever-changing. With new perspectives constantly being added to the conversation, minorities are receiving more representation and more time in the spotlight. Though the genre will never truly reach perfection, new readers and writers are gradually opening up a welcoming space for others to have their share of representation. One can only hope that, eventually, everyone will be able to find themselves in a book that they love.
Isra is a book blogger, Ravenclaw, and introvert focused on bringing diversity and representation into the mainstream media. As someone who has never seen herself represented in the media growing up, she focuses on making sure others feel included. When she isn't ranting about injustice or raving about one of the many fandoms she finds herself a part of, she can be found reading, watching Netflix, or singing show tunes.