We all know that representation matters—now more than ever. But the CBC’s latest report on diversity numbers in kid lit and YA shows that while we’re still making strides slowly but surely toward increasing the number of protagonists of color and from other marginalized communities in the books we read, the bottom line is that many of these representations are not created by writers who share that marginalization—or #ownvoices writers, as the term has become known (as coined by author Corinne Duyvis). What can we, as readers, do about that? Support those marginalized voices when they do have books on shelves, by buying, sharing, reading, and reviewing! Here are some diverse #ownvoices must-reads hitting shelves from July through December.
See all 2018 previews here.
Finding Yvonne, by Brandy Colbert (August 7)
Colbert—the author of Pointe and Little & Lion—returns with her third YA contemporary, and it’s a stunner. Violin protégé Yvonne’s life is all laid out for her. But is she good enough for the future she’s always imagined? And what if she walks away from it all? She falls hard and fast for street musician Omar, and when she ends up pregnant, she has to decide what her future will really hold. Colbert’s known for her deft touch on heavy topics—managing to focus on story, rather than drilling home a message—and this riveting read doesn’t shy away from deep exploration, either.
Our Stories, Our Voices, edited by Amy Reed (August 14)
Okay, okay—I’m one of the contributors to this anthology. But it’s so kickass, I couldn’t leave it off this list. Edited by Amy Reed, this stunning collection of thirty-one YA voices—including Nina LaCour, Brandy Colbert, Maureen Goo, Julie Murphy, Somaiya Daud, Aisha Saeed, Anna-Marie McLemore, and others—it takes a real, hard look at the experiences of female-identifying people and the ideas and experiences that shaped them, tackling topics from religion and racism to sexism, sexuality, and sexual assault. These voices are loud and proud, and refuse to be silenced.
Mirage, by Somaiya Daud (August 28)
Empire, colonialism, stars, and space? Yes, please! Daud’s stunning debut is a space opera with a decidedly brown bent—sumptuous world-building with Moroccan-inspired details. Amani lives on an isolated moon, but she dreams of a world much bigger than the one she’s known, one filled with adventures. But then she’s kidnapped by the regime and dragged to the royal palace, where she learns she’s a clone to the cruel Princess Maram, and that she’ll serve as a public stand-in for the princess in case of an assassination attempt. Fun. Still, Amani is drawn into her sparkling new world. Will she mistake the glitter for gold?
Darius the Great is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram (August 28)
All he wants to be is all-American. But geeky, depressed Darius Kellner is about to take his first trip to his mother’s native Iran, and it’s a lot. His grandfather is dying, he’s meeting much of his mom’s Persian family for the first time ever, and it is intense (and entertaining—for us, at least). Then he meets boy next door Sohrab, and everything changes. A touching, funny, and insightful look at a clash of cultures, the spaces between, and the way friendship can profoundly change our understanding of ourselves.
Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree, by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and Vivianna Mazza (September 4)
Cowritten by Nigerian journalist and author Nwaubani, based on deep research into the Boko Haram kidnappings, including talking to some of the girls who were kidnapped, this is a heartrending look at what really happened to the more than two hundred schoolgirls taken by the terrorist group. This is a dark, heavy read, but a critically important story, told by an unnamed narrator in vignette-style prose, peppered throughout with articles and other pieces that frame the events of the story in greater context.
A Spark of White Fire, by Sangu Mandanna (September 4)
This follow-up to Mandanna’s debut, The Lost Girl, is a Mahabharat retelling—set in space. YES! Bring it! The potential heir to the throne of Kali, Esmae was sent away (abandoned) by her mom, the Queen, as a baby because of a curse. Now she has returned to a kingdom ravaged by the new king, and has only one chance to save it. She enters the tournament held by the King of Wychstar, planning to reveal herself for who she really is—and must join forces with her twin brother, Alexi, a stranger, to reclaim the throne. Confounding connections, stunning worldbuilding, and manipulative gods mark this epic, whirling space opera.
Pride, by Ibi Zoboi (September 18)
National Book honoree Zoboi—author of the stunning debut American Street—returns with a Brooklyn-set Pride & Prejudice retelling with a Haitian Dominican protagonist. Yes, really. Liz becomes Zuri Benitez, a Bushwick-bred teen who bristles as she watches new neighbors the Darcys move into the brownstone across the street. Gentrifiers, of course. But she can’t help but be intrigued by the wealthy Darius—he of the disarming smile to go with that prep school chic. And yes, Pride is just as confounding and swoonworthy as the Austen original.
Here to Stay, by Sara Farizan (September 18)
At long last, Farizan returns with her follow-up to Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel and If You Could Be Mine. Bijan Majidi is an everykid—kind of a dork, JV on the basketball team, happy with his friends, and smitten with popular girl Elle. But when he scores the winning shot in a playoff game, his whole world shifts, and he becomes one of the cool kids. Except, of course, that he’s brown. So when the cyberbullying starts, it takes a dark (maybe deadly) turn as Bijan—half Persian, half Arab—is photoshopped into an image that makes him look like a terrorist. People start to take sides, and Bijan is caught in the fallout. Timely and moving, but infused with Farizan’s signature humor and emotion.
Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens, edited by Marieke Nijkamp (September 18)
Another stunning roundup of critical voices, edited by New York Times bestseller Marieke Nijkamp (This Is Where It Ends), this is a collection of thirteen short stories by #ownvoices writers that include disability without making it the center. Contributors include #ownvoices hashtag creator Corinne Duyvis, Fox Benwell, Heidi Heilig, Karuna Riazi, Dhonielle Clayton (hi!), Kody Keplinger, Katherine Locke, and maybe new-to-you voices like Keah Brown and Kayla Whaley. Important, intersectional and also just a fun, delicious read—which is probably the best part.
A Blade So Black, by L.L. McKinney (September 25)
This hotly anticipated debut fantasy melds Buffy and Alice (yes, that Alice!) in a fierce protagonist who wields her blade to tackle the Nightmares, sinister creatures who lurk in the dark realm of Wonderland. But in the daytime, she’s also in a battle of wills with her overprotective mama, managing a BFF who’s a bit, uh, extra, and trying to keep her grades up. This Alice is a smart, Sailor Moon-cosplaying black girl with real life problems to manage when she’s not taking down monsters. Sign us up!
The Sisters of The Winter Wood, Rena Rossner (September 25)
Sisters Liba and Laya have always stuck close to their home, nestled in a small village surrounded by woods. And there they would stay, if a sinister secret hadn’t begun to wedge it’s way into the bond between them. Because Liba knows now that the old fairytales were true—that those who came before them could transform—and it’s a truth she must hide even from Laya. So when strangers infiltrate their small world, the cracks they make might just be the thing that leads it to shatter. Love, magic, Jewish folklore, and sisterly bonds come together in a darkly forested fairytale.
500 Words or Less, by Juleah del Rosario (September 25)
Alright, so she made a mistake. But Nic Chen refuses to let herself become that girl who cheated on her boyfriend. Nope. She’s got to claim a new identity, fast. So she starts writing college essays for her friends. And what she learns in the process changes the way she looks at everyone and everything—especially herself. A messy, flawed protagonist in a fun, searing novel-in-verse that tackles identity, questioning, and finding your footing as things shift in those critical last few moments of high school.
Home And Away, by Candice Montgomery (October 16)
For those still mourning Pitch (and let’s face it, who’s not?), this is the YA debut that will make your year. It’s senior year, and Tasia Quirk—young, Black and fabulous—is a rising star as the only girl on her private high school’s football team. She knows she has it good, so of course it’s about time for everything to unravel, right? Taze thinks she’s got it all figured out, but an unexpected discovery sends her spinning. Montgomery beautifully explores identity, race, friendship, and first love in this charming and important debut.
The Resolutions, by Mia Garcia (November 13)
Garcia’s sophomore effort (after the contemporary Even if the Sky Falls) follows four friends who decide to shake things up on New Year’s Day by making resolutions—for each other. As they head into the new year, they push each other to embrace a brave new world, to remake themselves and reimagine what their lives could look like. Like the characters in Falls, Nora, Ryan, Jess, and Lee are all Latinx, and they embody the different ways kids today embrace (and reject) their culture while trying to figure out who they really are. The book explores issues of language, cultural expectations, sexuality, and friendship gracefully.