Expectations—and anticipation—for Angela Thomas’s 2017 YA novel, The Hate U Give (yep, taking its name from the tattoo Tupac sported) are sky high. The novel is nothing if not timely, encapsulating some of the pain that’s marked the #BlackLivesMatter movement of the last few years.
The novel, which sold in a hot 13-publisher auction, will be published in more than 10 countries. And movie rights to the novel have already sold to FOX2000, with Amandla Sternberg set to play Starr Carter, a 16-year-old city kid who witnesses a cop shooting her unarmed best friend and decides to speak out, no matter how much it might cost her.
But it’s not hitting shelves till 2017. While we wait, here are some stellar reading options that touch on some of the same issues—race, class, poverty, political agendas, and so much more—that you can grab right this second.
All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Told in stark contrast by two narrators who couldn’t be more different, All American Boys offers startling perspective on the kinds of incidents we see in the news every day. All black teen Rashad wanted was a bag of chips. Next thing you know, he’s been put in a hospital room by a cop’s assault, and it’s front-page news. He swears he wasn’t stealing, and white classmate Quinn knows the truth. But he can’t tell—not when the cop who beat up Rashad is his best friend’s big brother. Speaking out would cost him too much. Right?
Make Lemonade, by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Just 14, LaVaughn is nothing if not ambitious. She has college dreams and she’s determined to make them come true, with the help of her overbearing but caring single mom. So she takes a job babysitting for 17-year-old Jolly, a world-weary teenage mother of two who can barely make ends meet, let alone pay LaVaughn. The two quickly form an (sort of codependent!) bond, and LaVaughn knows she can help Jolly get it together. But will she fall apart in the process? Told in free-verse, it’s a jarring and sometimes sweet look at two teens who connect in surprising ways.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Junior doesn’t fit in anywhere. Not on the rez, where he’s too smart for his own good, a fact that just gets him beat up. Not at his new school off-rez, where people look at him funny and laugh at him, too. Peppered with self-deprecation and quirky, insightful drawings, this diary—based in part on Alexie’s own life growing up—captures that turbulent, sometimes soul-shattering experience of knowing you belong neither here nor there, but being trapped nonetheless. Tackling racism, alcoholism, poverty, disability, depression, and so much more in a deceptively upbeat read, Alexie’s Diary is sure to leave a mark.
Darius and Twig, by Walter Dean Myers
How do you hold on to a dream when it seems the whole world is against you? Growing up in Harlem, pals Darius and Twig have goals. Darius wants to write, and Twig is a runner—and maybe that’s enough to get them out of there. But it won’t be easy: poverty, bullying, crime, violence, and racism mark their everyday existence, and gangs beckon with promises of security and everything, good and bad, that comes with it. Can they hold tight to their dreams and each other?
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina
Piddy Sanchez doesn’t know how it all started. She was just trying to keep her head down and her grades up. But Yaqui Delgado has decided that Piddy—too cocky, too pretty, and too ambitious—is her next victim, and there’s pretty much nothing Piddy can do about it. When Yaqui makes good on her threat, the humiliation goes viral, and the psychological and physical toll the bullying takes is devastating. A fascinating, insightful look at the dynamics between mean girls and their victims, and the vulnerabilities we all carry with us.
How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon
Everyone’s got their own opinion of what happened that night. Which one of them is the truth? We may never really know. The facts: Tariq Johnson is dead, two bullet wounds and gone. He was a black boy, shot by a white man. Told from 17 startling perspectives, Magoon’s slim but stunning book tries to unravel exactly what happened, but opinions, defenses, agendas, and strategies muddy things so much they might never become clear. Painful and truthful, this is a must read.
Gabi, A Girl In Pieces, by Isabel Quintero
Gabi Hernadez chronicles her senior year in a high school diary—her dad’s meth habit, her best friend’s pregnancy, her best guy friend’s coming out, her struggles with her weight and the weight of everyone’s opinions on it, kissing boys and slut-shaming, micro-aggressions calling her out for not looking “Mexican enough,” and dealing with her mama and her grandma and what happens next. Frank, funny, and wise, Gabi is figuring things out, pulling the pieces together, and knowing they’ll fall apart again, but that’s okay.