5 Diverse YA Books
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of discussions about diversity in books – specifically, diversity in young adult literature. I’ve noticed more book bloggers and BookTubers (book bloggers on YouTube) make efforts to read and review more diverse YA books. Diversity in books can includes representations of race/ethnicity, mental health, disability, socio-economic status, sexuality and gender ideology. Also, it can mean authors who are from different backgrounds. So taking inspiration from my peers, I’ve made a list of some diverse YA books to share:
1. Mountain Girl River Girl by Ting-xing Ye
Set in current day China, Mountain Girl River Girl is the story of two Chinese teen girls who make their way to the big cities. They hope to find work to support their families in rural villages. The girls are opposites from each other in personality and destination. Pan-pan is quiet but determined, and is heading towards Beijing. Shui-lian, on the other hand, is rebellious and adventurous and aims for Shanghai. The novel is a reflection of current day China, and the struggles many young people from rural areas of the China face. Ting-xing Ye was inspired to write the novel after a trip she took to Beijing with her husband. She met two young waitresses at a restaurant, both were fifteen years old and had left their homes and families in hopes of a better future in the city.
2. Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton
The focus of this YA novel is the HIV/AIDs epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. The novel centers around sixteen year-old Chanda, who is about to take her final exams, when her baby stepsister suddenly dies. She is tasked to make the funeral arrangements, while taking care of her younger siblings and grief stricken mother. Chanda’s mother is sick and her health continues to deteriorate each day. Rumours fly around their neighbourhood as to the cause of her mother’s sickness. While it may appear to be difficult to relate to Chanda, Stratton has created a character readers will not only relate to, but also empathize with. Allan Stratton’s novel paints a picture of how HIV/AIDs impacts the lives of young people in sub-Saharan Africa, and the stigma and harm that accompanies the silence of HIV/AIDs.
3. The Perfect Cut by Julie Burtinshaw
In The Perfect Cut, Bryan is a young man struggling with depression and self-mutilation in the wake of his sister’s death. He expected himself to feel sadness, grief, even anger, but instead, he feels numbness. He knows that physically hurting himself is not the answer, but he finds cutting to be the only way to feel. Bryan closes himself in, but his family and (ex) girlfriend have not given up on him. They do their best to help Bryan and support him as he struggles to ask for help. Julie Burtinshaw’s novel looks at how depression not only impacts the person struggling with it, but also those around them. The novel highlights how important it is to talk about mental health issues, and the dangerous practice of self-mutilation some young people turn to.
4. Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Will Grayson is best friends with Tiny Cooper, a musical-loving fiend who’s trying to get Will to be in his end of term musical production. The Other Will Grayson has an annoying best friend named Maura. Will Grayson (2) is also in an online-relationship with a person whom he has never met offline. Will Grayson Will Grayson is the story of two teens that share the exact same name, who happen to bump into each other on the most unexpected night in Chicago. From there, the two form an unexpected friendship. This is a fun and quirky YA novel that looks at friendship, self-worth and sexuality. And while there are gay characters in this YA novel, they are not presented in a cliché manner and are brilliant characters on their own. John Green and David Levithan’s novel was a book I found to be full of unexpected surprises.
The Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu
Set in a dystopian America torn by civil war, the western half of the United States is now known as the Republic. June, a teenage girl born into the wealthy ranks of the Republic, is considered to be a prodigy in the militaristic society. Day, born in the slums, is the most wanted criminal by the regime. His crimes against the Republic are known to be legend. June is assigned to go undercover to follow Day and report back to her superiors with information. However, her time with Day reveals to her the disparity that exists within her country, and how the plague inspections done by the police are not as objective as she believed they were. Marie Lu’s trilogy is fast-paced and filled with twists and turns up until the very end of each book. It’s also an interesting series that touches on issues of class and the accessibility to health care.
Have you read any of the books I included in this list? If you have any diverse book to share, I’d love to hear them!