Diversify YA Life: Diverse Debuts

Who says the little man can’t make waves?  No one in the book business can say it, just ask the We Need Diverse Books movement. With every new year comes new authors and with 2016 we are seeing not only debuts of color but characters of color. Below is a list of YA debut authors of color and books from debuts that feature characters of color.

Diversify YA Life diverse debuts 2

Debut Authors of Color

Inspired by Indian Mythology, Maya’s future life of love is cursed with death. When Maya is forced to marry for political reasons, her new reign as the queen of Akaran soon becomes marked with magic and mystery.

Seeking a change and a little adventure, Julie travels to New Orleans with her youth group to build houses.  When she doesn’t find the change she so desperately needs with her group, she sets out on her own to discover the city when she meets and falls in love with Miles.

Reshma is a high school senior and has made it her mission in life to get into Stanford. When a literary agents seeks her out to write a novel, Reshma soon realizes that no one wants to read about a boring over achiever so she sets out to live the life of the average teenager.  Reshma discovers that there’s more to life than studying.

In this steampunk debut, Avrilis changes history and saves a life that she shouldn’t have saved and she finds herself a fugitive in two different worlds.

Taylor’s rep goes from ice queen to the girl who gets around when she’s found drunk and in the bed of the school’s bad boy.  In order to reclaim her good rep, she convinces the bad boy to pretend to be her boyfriend and not just another notch on his belt.


Joss Byrd is just trying to please a demanding director and an overbearing mother in the glamorous world that is Hollywood.

Latoya Williams is a black girl in an all white school and makes a wish to make her life easier and to be white.  Find out what happens when Latoya’s wish comes true.

Paloma High School is shrouded with rumors of a teacher student relationship and everyone begins to find someone to blame.

Vika and Nikolai are enchanters and they are being sought by the Ottoman Empire for political gain.  In order to find the best enchanters, the Tsar announces a duel where the losers must die.  Vika and Nikolai see this as an opportunity of varied reasons but what will happen when they fall in love knowing that they both can’t survive?

After the murder of Sefia’s parents, she’s sent to live with her aunt until her aunt is taken.  Armed with survival and combat skills, Sefia sets out to find her aunt and the answers surrounding her father’s murder.

Set in Victorian London, Rose sets out to find her missing sister and discovers that they both might possess special powers.


Debuts with Diverse Characters


Tristan and Robbie are estranged twins until they are forced to share a room to keep Robbie from hurting himself. Tristan soon discovers that Robbie is gay and is scared to come out in the world of pro hockey.  When Robbie plans to run away with someone he met online, will Tristan turn him in or go with him?

The lives of four teens will be forever changed when a shooter enters their auditorium.

Amanda is the new girl in town and when she meets Grant she must decide if she should share her secret and let him in or push him away.

Riley is gender fluid, the new teen in town, and has a father who is a congressman. On the advise to start a blog to vent, Riley’s blog becomes viral and someone discovers the blog and Riley’s secret.  Riley must decide abandon the blog or come out.

Kaycee’s southern town is all about Friday night football, boyfriends, and being a good girl.  Kaycee has no interest in boys but will she openly date that girl everyone gossips about?

In his rural hometown, a gay teen must decide to openly date the love of his life or remain in the closet.

In this world, cities are run by clocks and if a clock breaks, time stops.  Danny has been sent to fix a clock when he falls in love with the clock spirit.

A princess must decide to go with duty and marry her betrothed prince or follow her heart and be with his sister.

Diverse Protagonists

Set in Puerto Rico, Isabel is a legend of a girl with green skin and grass for hair. When Lucas’ family moves to town, he wants to believe especially after a heart break. When mysterious letters begin to appear, Lucas believes.

Nix is a member of a four man crew aboard The Temptation-captained by her father.  Captain Slate is fiercely searching for a map from 1868 to go back into time to save his one true love.  Will Nix help him or sabotage his search?

Amani lives in Dustwalk where nothing happens.  When her sharpshooting skills fails to aid in her escape, she finds a wanted stranger to help.

What was Blackbeard, the pirate, like as a teenager?  Blackhearts imagines Blackbeard as a teen as he falls in love with Anne, his father’s bi-racial servant.

Breezy woke up from a shallow grave but that’s impossible because she was murdered.  Not sure what she is, Breezy travels the country looking for murderers until she encounters a church who can answer all her questions.

Cas’ family business is to raise beasts to defend ships in the pirate waters but when her first mission fails, will she become a Reckoner she so longs to be?

Elena Martinez has an eidetic memory and when she volunteers to go into the future to bring back data, she must use her hidden gift to save her and her friends.

Diverse Supporting Characters

Hope’s mother has died and her father ships her off to an aunt she’s never met in Scotland.  After only a couple of hours in Scotland, Hope learns that she comes from a family of time travelers and she must help stop their nemesis.

In this reimagination of Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte Holmes is a distant relative of Sherlock and a high school student in America.  James Watson, a distant relative of Dr. John Watson, is student at the same school and Watson and Holmes eventually meet up to solve a murder.

Do you know of any diverse debuts that we missed? Please share in the comments!

— Dawn Abron, currently reading The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin


9 thoughts on “Diversify YA Life: Diverse Debuts”

  1. Great list! Here are a couple more:
    My book Future Shock has a Latina main character.
    The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie has an Asian & LGBTQ main character.
    Of Fire And Stars by Audrey Coulthurst has an LGBTQ main character.

  2. So great to see this list! However, Tarun Shanker is a debut author of color. Would be good to add him.

  3. Unfortunately Jerkbait author Mia Siegert is not a debut author. She published Outgrown Horses.

    1. I looked it up and it looks like Outgrown Horses about a 20 year old and that could be considered adult fiction. Since this is her first YA book, she still falls under the category of debut YA author.
      Thanks for the catch.

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