Diversity and the Teen Reader

General Interest

By: Naomi Bates

Diversity is definitely something that should be put into the public eye for awareness, but equally important is that teens and readers of young adult literature know the abundance of books there are with diverse themes and characters. Well-written books about diversity are out there, waiting to be devoured, but where does one begin to find books that fit this category? Fear not! There are amazing librarians out there creating equally amazing sites and blogs to help readers and fellow librarians alike find books about diversity. Here are some books and sites that reflect diversity:

Young Adult Books

(synopses from publishers)

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds “The Boy in the Black Suit” by Jason Reynolds (African American) Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down.
Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.
The Game of Love and Death “The Game of Love and Death” by Martha Brockenbrough (African American) Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now… Henry and Flora.  For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.  Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?
X “X: A Novel” by Ilyasah Shabazz (African American)  Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s a pack of lies.  There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer. But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.
The Living “The Living”  (sequel The Hunted) by Matt de la Pena (Mexican American) Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all. But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.  The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living 
The Memory of Light “The Memory of Light” by Francisco X Stork (Mexican American)  When Vicky Cruz wakes up in the Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward, she knows one thing: She can’t even commit suicide right. But for once, a mistake works out well for her, as she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force.  When a crisis forces the group to split up, sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide, Vicky must try to find the strength to carry on.
Out of Darkness “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez (Mexican American)  Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.
Dark Energy “Dark Energy” by Robison Wells (Native American)  We are not alone. They are here. And there’s no going back. Five days ago, a massive UFO crashed in the Midwest. Since then, nothing—or no one—has come out.  If it were up to Alice, she’d be watching the fallout on the news. But her dad is director of special projects at NASA, so she’s been forced to enroll in a boarding school not far from the crash site. Only one thing is clear: everything has changed.
Paper Hearts “Paper Hearts” by Meg Wiviott (Jewish)
An act of defiance.
A statement of hope.
A crime punishable by death.
Making a birthday card in Auschwitz was all of those things. But that is what Zlatka did, in 1944, for her best friend, Fania. And she kept it hidden, through the bitter days in the camp and through the death marches. She kept it always.  This novel is based on the true story of Fania and Zlatka, the story of the bond that helped them both to hope for the best in the face of the worst.
Girl in the Blue Coat “Girl in the Blue Coat” by Monica Hesse (Jewish)  Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. A Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke  is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance.
Enter Title Here “Enter Title Here” by Rahul Kanakia (East Indian American) A perfect high-school student will do anything to get into Stanford. When she lands herself a literary agent, she finds the perfect university application hook. But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores, like making friends and having a boyfriend. She even crafts a perfect sentimental ending, but even with a mastermind in charge, things can’t always go as planned.
Gates of Thread and Stone “Gates of Thread and Stone” by Lori M. Lee (Asian) Seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. Then Reev disappears. Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.
Tyrants Daughter “The Tyrant’s Daughter” by J.C. Carleson (Middle Eastern)  THERE: In an unnamed Middle Eastern country, fifteen-year-old Laila has always lived like royalty. Her father is a dictator of sorts, though she knows him as King. Then everything changes: Laila’s father is killed in a coup. 
HERE: As war surges, Laila flees to a life of exile in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Overnight she becomes a nobody. Far from feeling guilty, her mother is determined to regain their position of power. So she’s engineering a power play. Laila can’t bear to stand still as yet another international crisis takes shape around her. But how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?
I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister “I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister” by Amelie Sarn (Muslim American)  Sohane loves no one more than her beautiful, carefree younger sister, Djelila. And she hates no one as much. They used to share everything. But now, Djelila is spending more time with her friends, partying, and hanging out with boys, while Sohane is becoming more religious. When Sohane starts wearing a head scarf, her school threatens to expel her. Meanwhile, Djelila is harassed by neighborhood bullies for not being Muslim enough. Sohane can’t help thinking that Djelila deserves what she gets. But she never could have imagined just how far things would go. . . .
Wrath and the Dawn “The Wrath & The Dawn” by Renee Ahdieh (Middle East) Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls.


Blogs and Websites

  • Crazy Red Pen is a blog about books by Asian American authors. It offers diversity, a list of books by 23 Asian Americans  and other people of color authors.
  • Native American Literature is curated by  best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith.
  • Rich in Color Blog promotes YA books about or written by people of color or people from First/Native nations.
  • The Brown Bookshelf dedicates itself to novels written and illustrated by African American authors for all levels of readers.
  • Muslim Teen Reads Top 10 Teen Reads is an online bookstore and book club for teenagers.


Naomi Bates is a teacher librarian at Northwest High School in Justin Texas.  She has worked with students K-12 in both small and large school districts in Texas.  Currently, she is serving as a school library representative-at-large for the Texas Library Association.  She can be reached via Twitter @yabooksandmore or email at nbates@nisdtx.org

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