It’s been just over a year since the We Need Diverse Books team raised its battle cry, and while there’s still plenty of work to be done, publishers—and readers—have responded enthusiastically. Of course, one of the most important ways you can help increase the number of diverse books on shelves is by buying diverse books. And there are plenty of amazing, delicious, riveting reads to choose from. Here are 10 awesome 2015 books that We Need Diverse Books team members chose as among the best of the best this year.
All-American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Brimming with emotion, humor and page-turning action, this stunning novel tells the story of two teenagers—one black, one white—in the aftermath of a police brutality incident. Beyond its all-too-timely subject matter, the true brilliance of this exceptionally written book is its nuanced and sympathetic drawing of characters on seemingly opposite sides of a great divide. If you read one book this year, you should read this one.
–I.W. Gregorio, author of None of the Above
The Last Leaves Falling, by Sarah Benwell
Diagnosed with ALS, 17-year-old Abe Sora grapples with the knowledge that he’s going to die. He turns to the wisdom of the samurai for comfort, while it’s through internet chat rooms that he finds acceptance and, above all, friends. Last Leaves is a wonderful, lyrical book, a tender portrayal of Japanese culture, of time, of life, death, and the power of friendship. This story will tear your heart out even as it fills you with hope.
–Marieke Nijkamp, author of This Is Where It Ends
Dream Things True, by Marie Marquardt
A star-crossed love story about an upper-crust boy and an immigrant kid. I love this book because it tackles a messy issue in a very personal way. In today’s politically charged environment the lives of 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S have been turned into a few lines in a stump speech. But each of these people has their own story—stories of love, hope, and dreams. In Dream Things True, Alma’s story speaks for those 11 million untold stories. She tell us about the fear of life in the shadows and the price her family must pay for wanting to be a part of the American Dream.
–Mayra Cuevas, journalist
King, by Ellen Oh
The girl with the yellow eyes returns for the final book in Ellen Oh’s action-packed, emotionally satisfying Prophecy trilogy. In book three, demon-slayer Kira accepts the fact that she—a former outcast—is the only one who can save her kingdom from disaster. She takes on demons and tigers—and even a romance, oh my!—as she finally embraces the real power that’s been within her all along. Rich with ancient Korean mythology, this is a satisfying conclusion to one of the best YA fantasy trilogies on shelves right now.
–Dhonielle Clayton, author of Tiny Pretty Things
None of the Above, by I.W. Gregorio
One of my favorite books of 2015 was I.W. Gregorio’s None of the Above, about the fallout when a popular girl discovers she is intersex. Not only did I learn a lot about a largely ignored segment of the population (at least in terms of our bookshelves), it was a great story about a heroine triumphing against one of one of the gravest threats to civilization—high school mean girls (and boys).
–Stacey Lee, author of Under A Painted Sky
Show and Prove, by Sofia Quintero
Smiles and Nike have been best friends ever since Nike moved to the South Bronx in middle school, but going into their senior year in high school, race, romance, and different life possibilities for studious Smiles and flashy Nike threaten to drive them apart. Quintero’s Show and Prove captures perfectly the lives of poor black and Latino New Yorkers in the early 1980s, at the dawn of hip-hop and the AIDS epidemic, and she celebrates the power of community and friendship in a place many had written off and forgotten.
–Lyn Miller-Lachmann, author of Surviving Santiago and Rogue
Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
Bardugo’s latest entry in her Grishaverse has been called a YA fantasy homage to Ocean’s Eleven or Guardians of the Galaxy. The comparisons are spot-on, because it’s a high-stakes heist story featuring a motley crew of teens with unique skills from acrobatics and marksmanship to sleight of hand and the supernatural manipulation of elements. The book follows the six unlikely accomplices led by Kaz Brekker, a compelling gangster who may walk with a cane but is best known as “Dirty Hands.” Bardugo’s fantasy thriller has it all: pulse-quickening action, nuanced character development, slow-burning romance, and fabulously crafted lines readers will want to keep quoting.
–Sandie Angulo Chen, book reviewer & film critic
Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older
When I was a kid I spent a lot of time looking for, but never finding, a powerfully gifted heroine like Sierra Santiago. A brown, big-haired, badass who looks how she’s supposed to look on the cover of my fav fantasy this year. The tagline for this one reads, “Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.” I’ll add a fourth, spoiler-free directive: Buy this book. You might’ve seen that one coming.
–Lamar Giles, author of Endangered
Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste
I love scary books and movies, even though I am left TERRIFIED afterward. I devoured Lois Duncan tales as a child—couldn’t get enough even if they meant a nightlight for a while. Tracey Baptiste’s Jumbies sounded like everything I’d adore—a spine-tingler, inspired by a Caribbean story, with a brave Brown girl front and center. It was everything I wanted, and more. Baptiste knows and respects her audience; she tells a vivid and nuanced story of magic, power, culture, and ownership that’s absolutely captivating and downright fun to boot. Nightlight not included, but you might have one handy just in case.
–Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author of 8th Grade Superzero
Hardcover $16.19 | $17.99
The Wrath And the Dawn, by Renée Ahdieh
Shimmering, seductive and downright delicious, this lush, atmospheric 1001 Nights retelling follows smart, seductive storyteller Shazi on a deadly revenge plot against Khalid, the murderous Caliph of Khorasan, who takes a new bride each night, only to have them executed the next day. The only problem? The sizzling energy that binds her to him might just make her lose her footing. Rich, gorgeous writing, that killer chemistry, and a slow burning romance make this one of the most delicious reads of the year. Grab it now so you’re ready for sequel The Rose And The Dagger, on shelves in May.
–Sona Charaipotra, author of Tiny Pretty Things