Diverse YA Titles to Look for at ALA Annual

Photo Jun 22, 6 52 28 PMAs a follow-up to Hannah Gómez’s post #DiversityatALA about the current movement to be vocal about the need for more diversity in YA literature (#weneeddiversebooks), and Kelly Dickinson’s post featuring LGBTQ titles, I’m here to list some upcoming YA books that contain non-white, non-heterosexual, non-cisgendered or differently-abled characters that you should be on the lookout for. If you are attending the ALA Annual Conference this weekend in Vegas, ask the publishers about ARCs for many of these. Not all of them will be available as ARCs because some aren’t being published until 2015, but publishers’ reps should still be able give you the scoop on them.

To start, I’m including a few recent notable books that you probably know about and a few that aren’t as obvious because the reviews might not have mentioned their diverse content, or you can’t tell from their jacket flaps.

Photo Jun 23, 2 15 16 AMFreakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) is a novel about a transgendered boy while a strong pick for a nonfiction book about transgendered teens is Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.

I wasn’t aware that  the main character Chevron “Chevie” is descended from the Shawnee Native American tribe in Eoin Colfer’s Warp: Book 1 the Reluctant Assassin until I started reading it. The second book in the series, Hangman’s Revolution is coming out today. Park in Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2014 Printz Honor book) is half-Korean.

In Stick by Andrew Smith the main character “Stick” is differently-abled because he was born without an ear & his older brother is gay. Chasing Shadows by Swati Avashi has a main character of Indian descent and there’s a lot about Hindu mythology in the book.

Photo Jun 19, 11 31 11 AMPadma Venkatraman’s A Time to Dance is about a classical Indian dance prodigy whose life seems to be over after she becomes a below-the knee amputee.

Erin Bow’s Sorrow’s Knot is a fantasy flavored by Native American cultures and Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore features a lesbian character.

Now that you’re up to speed on recently-published diverse titles, here are some upcoming books with diverse content to keep an eye out for at ALA Annual and other conferences:

  • Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks, August  2014) is Photo Jun 22, 11 44 43 AMa ghost story about Okiko, whose spirit has wandered the world for centuries delivering punishment to monsters who hurt children,  but when she meets teenaged Tark, she tries to free him from the demon that invaded him.
  •  Blind by Rachel DeWoskin (Penguin, August 2014) A 15-year-old teen girl loses her eyesight the summer before high school after a firecracker misfires into a crowd.
  •  Positive: a Memoir by Paige Rawl (HarperCollins, August 2014) (NF). Memoir of Paige Rawl, HIV positive since birth, who was bullied in school once she disclosed her HIV-positive status and from that moment forward, every day was like walking through a minefield. 
  •  Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier (Scholastic, August 2014, sequel to Born Confused, 2002). Dimple Lala thinks she’s heading to Bombay for a family wedding — but really she is plunging into the unexpected, the unmapped, and the uncontrollable.
  •  Taken by David Massey (Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic, Photo Jun 22, 6 57 54 PMAugust 2014). A crew of extreme athletes, including four that are teen military veterans disabled in combat, are sailing around the world on a grueling charity challenge until they are taken hostage and their trip turns into a struggle for survival in the heart of the African jungle.
  •  Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane (Farrar Straus Giroux, September 2014) is about a teen with Asperger’s  Syndrome who goes missing and everyone has a theory about what happened to him.
  •  Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews (Simon & Schuster, September 2014) (NF). Memoir by seventeen-year-old Arin Andrews who shares all the hilarious, painful, and poignant details of undergoing gender reassignment as a high school student.
  •  The Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley (Harlequin Teen, September 2014). In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.
  •  Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin (Egmont USA, September Photo Jun 22, 7 05 44 PM2014). SF thriller about sixteen -year-old half-Latino teenager who is being held in a remote facility being systematically operated on to erase her memories.
  •  In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang (First Second, October  2014) is a graphic novel about a girl who loves an online role playing game who befriends   a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn.
  •  Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw (Roaring Brook Press, October  2014) (NF) is his memoir that describes the challenges he faces as a twenty-one-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy.
  •  Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, October 2014 – third in The Raven Boys series) Without spoiling the previous books, one of the main characters is gay or questioning his sexuality.
  •  Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios (Balzer + Bray, an imprint Photo Jun 22, 7 08 32 PMof HarperCollins, October 2014). Middle Eastern inspired fantasy about eighteen-year-old jinni  who is pitted against two magnetic adversaries, both of whom want her—and need her—to make their wishes come true.
  •  How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon (Henry Holt, October 2014). A multiple-viewpoint novel about how a community responds to the tragic death of a boy named Tariq who lived among them. (fictionalized Trayvon Martin case)
  • The Walled City by Ryan Graudin (Little Brown, November 2014). Photo Jun 22, 6 32 35 PMJin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs.
  • Diamond Boy by Michael Williams (Little, Brown, December 2014). Set against the backdrop of President Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime in Zimbabwe, this is the story of young man who succumbs to greed but finds his way out through a transformative journey to South Africa in search of his missing sister, in search of freedom, and in search of himself.
  • Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner (Amulet, January 2015). Two teenaged Haitian cousins have to fend for themselves after an earthquake strikes in Haiti in 2010.
  • Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein (Disney-Hyperion, Photo Jun 22, 7 44 33 PMFebruary 2015). In 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is not accepted so they move to Ethiopia where their peaceful existence is shattered by the threat of war with Italy.

Believe it or not, there are more, but I don’t have space to cover all of them all in one post– or I’ve missed some, so please comment with any suggestions to add to this list!

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Vicious by V. E. Schwab

14 thoughts on “Diverse YA Titles to Look for at ALA Annual”

  1. Thanks for this list! My YA fantasy book The Skinwalker’s Apprentice is also a diverse title at this years AlA annual. It’ll be at booth 636 and I’ll also be doing a signing and giving them away on Saturday from 2-3 :)

  2. Thank you, Claribel! That’s great to know about your book and that you’ll be doing a signing at ALA Annual. I hope I’ll get the chance to stop by the booth.

    1. You’re welcome :) Thank you for sharing this list with everyone, really excited about the call for diversity at this year’s show. I hope you get a chance to stop by too! Either way have an amazing time and stay cool!

  3. Oh, I hadn’t heard of some of these! I’ll certainly have to check them out. Thanks for compiling the list.

    My own diverse YA fantasy OTHERBOUND came out last week from Amulet Books. I’ll be signing Saturday at 1pm at the Amulet booth. :)

  4. Great list! I enjoyed “The Lost Girl” by Sangu Mandanna; about a clone-esq girl named Eva who has to take the place of her “original” a rich girl named Amarra who lives in India. The story was inspired in part by Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

  5. Corinne, thanks for letting everyone know about your book. I love Fantasy/SF and your book sounds intriguing. I’m so glad you included LGBTQ identified characters. I also noticed it’s received 4 starred reviews from review journals! Congrats! I will definitely stop by the Amulet booth to check it out.

  6. @Tara. Thanks for mentioning The Lost Girl. I’m not familiar with it and it sounds really good! I love books that are inspired by the classics and take place in other countries.

  7. Keep the suggestions coming, everyone! There are so many titles to add to your to-read list, even if, like me, you can’t make ALA!

  8. I’d also add that if you’re looking for diverse books, stop by the Lee & Low booth and those of other small presses dedicated to diversity, where it’s all diverse books all the time.

  9. Check out SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS by Bethany Crandell. Rich and self-centered protagonist learns about humility and diversity working at a camp for disabled youth. She’s signing on Sunday at 1:00, booth 334 (Running Press/Perseus)

  10. Hi Everyone, I will also be signing galleys of my new Cinco Puntos Press title–Pig Park–on Monday 6/30 at 9am at the Consortium Books booth.

  11. Great list!

    I’ll be signing my book PUSH GIRL, which features a main character who uses a wheelchair, on Saturday at 9am in the Macmillian booth. :-)

  12. @Jessica & Elizabeth. Thanks for mentioning Push Girl. I should have remembered it!

    I also forgot The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi, a novel of forbidden love in Afghanistan (Philomel, imprint of Penguin, September 2014) & Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill (Simon and Schuster, September, 2014), who shares her personal journey of undergoing gender reassignment.

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