Teens don’t like anything fake or stupid so anything diverse, especially if it’s #ownvoices will resonate with teenagers with relatable themes of coming of age, identity, friendships, adulting, romance, and social justice.
These books fit those qualifications…
Diverse Books for Teens
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Starr’s life is sharply contrasted between her family’s urban neighborhood and her fancy suburban school. Then when riding in a friend’s car in her neighborhood, her unarmed friend is shot by a policeman. Now people are rioting, the policeman, who works with Starr’s uncle, isn’t punished, and Starr needs to decide if she’ll speak out about what really happened. What plays out is a gut-wrenching drama that will make you think, question, and connect. This book should be required reading. It does an amazing job describing three-dimensional characters and the events that happen without vilifying or stereotyping anyone, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions and try to answer the hard questions the author raises. It’s absolutely brilliant.
*NOTE: Language and some mature content.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
Reading this exceptional book feels so real and honest– it just resonates. Julia struggles against her parent’s cultural expectations as she tries to make a life for herself on her own terms. Of course, her mom is happy to tell Julia just how much she’s failed as a daughter. Then when her perfect older sister is killed, things get even more complicated and strange because Julia finds out that her sister had a lot of secrets…It’s SOOOO good.
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Camilla and her sisters have the magic in their blood to make the citizens of New Orleans beautiful…for a price. Because, without the Belles, the people are gray and ugly. When Camilla is the second choice for the Queen’s favorite, she learns that there’s a terrifying darkness to one of the princesses. As she seeks a way to fulfill her Belle role, she must decide if it’s worth risking her life to save the oldest princess, the true heir, who has been in a lifeless coma for years. It’s a fantasy world where beauty is tightly controlled. But be warned– there’s a surprise plot twist at the end.
Solo by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess
COMING OF AGE
Blade can’t wait to graduate from High School and get away from his drug-addicted rock star father. He thinks things can’t get any worse but they do — his dad crashes his graduation, his girlfriend moves on, and he finds out he was adopted. Blade leaves to Africa on a hero’s journey of sorts to find his biological mom where he ends up finding himself. Brilliant and moving.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
What a page-turner! Indigenous peoples are being hunted for their bone marrow because it gives them — and whoever steals it– the ability to dream. But when the worst happens, Frenchie isn’t even sure he can trust other indigenous people. He eventually finds a small group of people that help him survive and maybe even thrive –only if they can stay one step ahead of the government’s Recruiters and avoid the traitors among the People…It’s a harrowing quest for survival with echos of genocide that is, unfortunately, all too familiar.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
This story is unbelievably good. I think it would help a LOT of girls to read Xiomara’s story because it will make them think about what it means to be a woman, a poet, a teenager becoming an adult, a mixed-raced individual, a faithful believer… Xiomara’s sick of boys and her parents focusing their attention on her curves. She’s sick of the church rules. She’s just frustrated. And she expresses this frustration not to her family or friends but in verse.
*NOTE: Language and some mature content.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
What a unique and mesmerizing story! In this history, Zombies rise during the Civil War. And Negro girls like Jane are either servants or trained as attendants to fight to protect their white families. Unexpectedly, Jane and her friends are kidnapped by the town’s mayor and shipped off to a sinister utopian-like western town where Jane learns the zombies are actually powering the town. Now it’s a quest to survive and stop the evil men who are running the town.
Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Lieu
GRAPHIC NOVEL / ADVENTURE
This is the diverse superhero story about the origins of the Green Turtle, a 1940’s masked Asian-American man who is a reluctant vigilante! His overbearing mother pushes him to become a hero and is disappointed in him, thinks him a failure. There’s a cool element of Chinese mythology (the turtle spirit) that comes into play, affecting Hank, who steps up to fight the Chinatown gangs, a hero at last.
Hidden Figures (Young Readers’ Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Based on Alexie’s own childhood, this is a powerful, in-depth look at the life of Junior, a boy who wants a different life, who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation but commutes to an all-white, no other native kids, high school. Highs and lows contrast his daily life — he’s bullied, his family struggles with alcoholism, he loves basketball, and he escapes by drawing cartoons. This book is one of my top 10 books I’ve ever read. Not only is the writing amazing, but the story is also powerful and will give you insight into the life of one boy growing up in poverty on a reservation.
*NOTE: There are a lot of mixed feelings and controversy about this book due to Sherman Alexie’s despicable behavior towards women. I personally have decided that the work speaks for itself and reading it does not endorse his behavior. It’s obviously a decision that you’ll have to make for yourself.
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
You don’t have to be a football fan to be mesmerized by this incredible underdog story of grit with the history of football as a backdrop. You don’t really know the history of football until you’ve read the history of Carlisle Indian School and Jim Thorpe. Did you know that a whole team played on the field all at once? Or that a president had to intervene because there were so many deaths from head injuries with no helmets? Jim Thorpe was clearly one of the greatest athletes in the world of all time, and his life wasn’t what you would ever have expected and Steve Sheinkin is one of the best writers you’ll read. The way he put together this book, which facts and how he told the story, is masterful. A must-read diverse book for teens! (Or anyone.)
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick