Erika Romero

a student and teacher of children's and young adult literature

Top 5 Diverse Young Adult (YA) Novels I’m Looking Forward to Reading This Year

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As I’m in the middle of teaching my Young Adult Literary Narratives course for the first time, I’m currently rereading a novel a week as part of my preparation for class discussions. With all my other responsibilities -and the fanfiction I read – I haven’t had much time to read novels not directly related to my class in the past few weeks. I’m the type of reader who has trouble not finishing a book in one sitting (or at least one day) if I am really enjoying it. With this lack of willpower in mind, I’ve compromised by making a list of books I want to read once I have a bit more time on my hands. Spring break is only a couple weeks away, and I’m definitely planning on doing some non-work reading during that time. In today’s post, I’ve listed five of the books I’m most looking forward to reading along with a short explanation as to why I’m feeling this way.

 

Every Day by David Levithan

Book Blurb:

“Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan, bestselling co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.

My Interest:

I saw the trailer for this book’s movie adaptation when I went to see The Greatest Showman in theater. I heard a presentation on this book during the ChLA conference last year (or was it the year before?) and I had made a mental note to read it. Now that a movie adaptation is coming out, I have a more concrete deadline  for when to read it. The plot of this book sounds so fascinating. I love reading romances, and unconventional ones appeal to me even more because I’m less likely to correctly guess plot points that appear later on in the storyline (or, worse, the ending). I can see myself enjoying this book as a reader, and I also think it has a lot of potential as a novel to teach in future semesters.

 

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Book Blurb:

“Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

 

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

 

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.”

 

My Interest:

I heard/read about this book all the time in connection to The Hate U Give last year. Considering that novel was part of my Top 5 books of 2017, it seems obvious that this book is a must read for me. I definitely want to read it before I have to submit my booklist for next semester. I’m curious to see how I’ll respond to reading a book like this (about police shootings) that is told from the perspective of a male protagonist. My brother suggested I read The Hate U Give after he had such a strong reaction to the novel. I have a feeling I’ll be suggesting this one to him in return.

 

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Book Blurb:

“Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful. But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be.

Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision. With the future of Orleans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever. Dhonielle Clayton creates a rich, detailed, decadent world of excess and privilege, where beauty is not only skin-deep, but a complete mirage. Weaving deeper questions about the commodification of women’s bodies, gender equality, racial identity, and vanity with high-stakes action and incredible imagery, The Belles is the must-read epic of the season.”

My Interest:

I became aware of this book when the sensitivity reader social media debate first started gathering steam in January. Fantasy is probably my favorite literary genre, but I have to admit that most of the fantasy I’ve read features white female protagonists. The discussion of sensitivity readers has made me curious about what I’ve been missing out on by not taking the time to look for fantasy novels with diverse representations that aren’t solely metaphorical in nature. I’m looking forward to branching out through reading this book, as I have a feeling it’ll motivate me to read outside of my literary norm more often once I reach the end.

 

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Book Blurb:

“Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As.

You probably think that they are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and she is a girl.

They don’t. They make a podcast.

In a world determined to shut them up, knock them down, and set them on a cookie cutter life path, Frances and Aled struggle to find their voices over the course of one life-changing year. Will they have the courage to show everyone who they really are? Or will they be met with radio silence?”

My Interest:

I was so happy when the character of Raphael Santiago was so open about his asexuality on the television series, Shadowhunters. He didn’t use that exact term, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes up in a future episode. I’ve read quite a bit of fanfic that features asexual versions of the stories’ main characters, but I’ve never read any novels that include representation of this sexual orientation, or others like demisexuality and pansexuality. Once again, I want to branch out when it comes to reading, in this case with books that feature LGBTQIA+ characters. I’m teaching Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in a couple weeks, and bringing picture books to class like And Tango Makes Three and I am Jazz is a staple of my ENG 170 course. Nevertheless, I really want to delve more into books with characters that identify with sexual orientations less commonly discussed in our popular culture.

 

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Book Blurb:

There are three kinds of people in my world:

1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.

 

2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.

 

Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.

But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?

3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.

Like the monster at my mosque.

People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.

Except me.”

My Interest:

I received this book when I tried the PageHabit subscription box at the end of last year. They had revamped their services, and this was the novel sent out in their first box. I didn’t get around to reading it during winter break, but the blurb sounds amazing and I’ve seen some great reviews online. This is another potential book to teach, as religious diversity has not been a priority in my booklists in the same way other forms of diversity (race/ethnicity/sexuality) have been. I reviewed Amina’s Voice for RISE: A Children’s Literacy Journal last year, and I’ve taught Holocaust literature in my children’s literature course, but I’m looking for YA novels that fall into this category, rather than only children’s lit.

 

Final Thoughts:

I’ll be reading at least 40 books this year for my reading challenge, but these are definitely some of the ones I’m looking forward to the most. I’ll likely end up reviewing all of them on this blog, as most of them were published very recently. Creating this list made it very evident to me that even when I’m reading novels for non-work purposes, my mind is still on the pedagogical potential of what I read. Further proof of teaching being my calling, it seems.

 

What book(s) are you most looking forward to reading this year? Let me know in the comment section below.

 

In this blog post, I list 5 books on the top of my to-read list. Blurbs for each are provided, along with brief descriptions of my interest in them.

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1 Comment

  1. So many! Currently Reading Malcom X’s Autobiography, We Were Eight Years in Power, and next will be Between the World and Me.

    After that, the list remains long 🙂

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