The last few months of 2016 left most of us reeling—and 2017 is shaping up to be a doozy, too. Now more than ever, we need diverse books. Specifically, we need #ownvoices stories that reflect the ever-changing reality of so many teens today. Thankfully, there are a lot more of them hitting shelves this year—including titles by Anna-Marie McLemore and Nnedi Okorafor (get excited!)—and we hope publishers will continue to heed the call. But for them to do that, we have to show them diverse books sell, and sell well. Here’s a look at some of 2017’s must-read #ownvoices YA books you should be adding to your to-be-read pile right now.
History Is All You Left Me, by Adam Silvera (January 17)
Silvera’s wrenching sophomore effort—his follow-up to shattering 2015 debut More Happy Than Not—is not for the faint of heart. Griffin’s world is shattered when love of his life Theo—who’s also the one that got away—drowns. He finds solace in Theo’s new love Jackson, but that can’t stop the downward spiral of heartbreak, grief, depression, and OCD Griffin faces. A love story for the ages.
Allegedly, by Tiffany D. Jackson (January 24)
Based loosely on a real-life 2012 case, Jackson’s debut centers on Mary B. Addison, a young black girl convicted of murder—for killing a white baby. Did she do it? Now that she’s pregnant, the stakes are higher than ever, but will anyone believe Mary’s version of the truth? A searing and often difficult read, Allegedly is a frank (and sometimes terrifying) look at race, class, mental illnesss, agendas and propaganda in a system that so often fails its youngest victims by turning them into criminals.
The Empress of a Thousand Skies, by Rhoda Belleza (February 7)
A wartorn sci-fi space opera with Asian roots? Bring it on! Debut author Belleza is about to make a major splash with this stunning sci-fi fantasy. Crown Princess Rhiannon “Rhee” Ta’an is the sole survivor of a crash that killed the royal clan. But an assassination attempt the night before her crowning throws her into an odd alliance with Aly, the boy accused of trying to kill her, as they unravel a nefarious plot to steal people’s memories. Delicious and fun, while tackling meaty issues like race, class, technology, and propaganda, this space drama is timely indeed.
American Street, by Ibi Zoboi (February 14)
Zoboi’s timely, magical realism–infused debut follows a Haitian immigrant grappling with the cracks—and they are major—in the illusion of the American dream. Newcomer Fabiola lands in the United States only to see her mother detained, and must navigate her arrival in a new land, among family that’s foreign, alone. Exploring the urban underbelly of Detroit, Zoboi tackles immigration and assimilation, racism, class, drug culture, and politics with a sure hand.
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas (February 28)
Pitched as the Black Lives Matter movement in novel form, Angie Thomas’s debut has bestseller written all over it. It’s a made-for-the-movies (and headed to the screen as we speak, starring Amandla Stenberg) tale centering on 16-year-old Starr Carter, an everyteen already struggling with commuting to a posh suburban prep school from her more urban neighborhood. Then her childhood best friend Khalil is shot right in front of her—at the hands of a white cop. Caught in the spotlight in the aftermath of a horrific crime, with all her everyday reality gone, Starr must find her voice and speak out, or know that the truth dies with her.
The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli (April 11)
If you loved Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, you may know author Becky Albertalli has said she put a lot of herself into the protagonist. But wait till you meet Molly Peskin-Suso. The star of Upside is a never-been-kissed Jewish, misfit fat girl who’s stuck in her twin sister’s shadow—until a plot to get her a new boyfriend puts Molly front and center, not her favorite place to be. Funny, quippy, and decidedly (and delightfully) conflicted, Molly is an everygirl who finds that, yes, we too can be the heroines.
Always and Forever, Lara Jean, by Jenny Han (May 2)
Han’s secret surprise third installment in the lovelorn saga of the endearing Lara Jean hits shelves this year, and we are waiting with bated breath. This time around, Lara Jean’s a senior, and she has matured. Right? After all, things are going great with Peter, now that they’re officially official and all, her dad’s getting married, and big sis Margot is headed home. But college is looming, and that means the ground beneath her cozy slippers is about to shift again. Can she leave behind everything safe and familiar and strike out on her own?
Ramona Blue, by Julie Murphy (May 9)
This stunning new contemporary from Murphy, author of the amazing Side Effects May Vary and Dumplin’—already faced reader controversy because the protagonist, Ramona, is an out-and-proud lesbian who finds herself falling for the last person she expected: a boy. Murphy took to Twitter to address the controversy, saying very clearly: “I’m bisexual, this is actually about bisexuality.” Which just goes to show exactly how important #ownvoices representation is—otherwise, we let others define us and how we can be. Murphy’s Ramona is conflicted, beautiful, and authentic, a real slice of life representation that will no doubt broaden perspectives.
When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon (May 30)
Old school movie lovers will know the title of this rom-com romp is a throwback to When Harry Met Sally, and it pulls some of the same arranged love story strings. But what readers may not realize is that the title also invokes a fun Bollywood romance reference. Pragmatic and focused, Dimple Shah has her sights set on Stanford, and going to a web developer con should seal the deal. Little does she know that her parents’ willingness to send her has to do with some plotting of their own. At camp, she’s immediately wooed by the swoonworthy, heart-on-his-sleeve Rishi Patel—whose parents sent him to camp specifically to win his arranged (and clueless!) bride-to-be (in a few years, of course). Will opposites attract? You’ll have a blast finding out.
Want, by Cindy Pon (June 13)
Cindy Pon has frequently declared that her books are “all Asian, all the time.” And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Her latest, the sci-fi thriller Want, is set in a futuristic Taipei where time itself is a commodity—the wealthy can literally buy themselves longer lives in the form of special suits that protect them from the harshness of the modern environment, while the poor are left to suffer the elements. Grieving the loss of his mother, Jason Zhou is determined to infiltrate the Jin corporation, the company behind both the suits and the disastrous pollution that’s killing millions. But will an unexpected alliance get in the way?
Saints And Misfits, by S.K. Ali (June 13)
If you’re like me and have long been waiting for a YA version of My So-Called Life (and come on, who hasn’t?), then 2017 is your year. S.K. Ali’s Saints and Misfits follows Janna Yusuf, a geeky, hijabi Arab-Indian-American girl, as she navigates high school and the possibility of first love—even though Muslim girls aren’t supposed to date, right? She’s trying to figure herself out, along with her place in the world, especially if that means revealing a shattering secret that just might send ripples through her tight-knit Muslim community.