In the YA Diversity Book Club, we chat about the latest YA books that celebrate diversity. Our book club includes Sandie @ Teen Lit Rocks, Kristan @ We Heart YA and Kristina @ Gone Pecan. Each month we focus on one book with a book review (our discussion chat) and bonus features, and aim to bring attention to diverse books.
For book club this month we are celebrating our favorite diverse titles of 2014! This year we saw a focus on diversity in books with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. I’ve done okay with reading LGBTQ books but knew I could do better with reading more diversely overall. And as a parent I want my teen to be able to find representation in the books that they read.
I read some awesome books with the YA Diversity Book Club this year and with my own reading. These are the 2014 books that made the biggest impression on me:
1. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – I just finished reading this one this week, so I don’t have a review up just yet. But wow, I was blown away! This book has been popping up on several “best of” lists and is a finalist for the William C. Morris Award. Gabi is about Gabi Hernandez, a young poet who journals her thoughts on life, family, friendship, sexuality, body image, race, and identity. This debut is a breath of fresh air and I didn’t want to put it down.
2. The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi – This book was intense! From my review: “In The Secret Sky, a forbidden love affair tears one Afghan community apart. This book is Romeo & Juliet-esque and as suspenseful as an episode of Homeland. Debut author Atia Abawi doesn’t pull any punches in this riveting story of family, friendship, faith, love and war.”
3. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming is the first book I’ve read by Jacqueline Woodson but it won’t be my last. This memoir-in-verse chronicles Woodson’s family life growing up in the 60s and 70s in South Carolina and New York, and how she got interested in writing. It’s powerful, poetic, and real gem.
4. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley – This debut is a hard but important read. It’s about school desegregation in 1959 Virginia, and includes the viewpoints of one of eight new students, and one of the students who oppose desegregation. Sexual orientation also comes into play in this one. This book gave us a lot of food for thought in book club!
5. One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva – One Man Guy is a cute story about coming out, cultural identity, cuisine, and the city. Barakiva’s debut features a humorous and heartwarming Armenian family and a sweet lgbt romance. A fresh, witty debut with substance.
6. Tomboy by Liz Prince – Tomboy is a graphic memoir that talks about gender identity. Yes! I think books about gender roles are under represented in YA and I’m thrilled that this book exists. From my review: “Tomboy is fantastic, funny, relatable and relevant and should ring true for anyone who feels like they don’t fit into society’s gender stereotypes.”
7. Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle – I read both books in the “Nate” series this year and they are both terrific. In this book thirteen-year-old Nate gets to act in the Broadway show E.T. the Musical and finally feels like he fits in. Nate learns to accept his sexuality and who he is in this book with lots of LOL moments. I’m smiling just thinking about this book!
8. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour – What a gorgeous book! From my review: “This book is part love story, part mystery, and has a Hollywood film set backdrop. The love story happens to be between two girls, and I think this is the first YA I’ve read where the characters’ sexuality isn’t the “conflict” of the book.” I’d love to see more LGBTQ stories like this that are not “coming out” stories.
9. To All the Boy’s I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – This book recently won the “We Need Diverse Books” Book Shimmy award. It’s about Lara Jean, a Korean-American girl who gets into quite a pickle when her secret love letters (meant for her eyes only) get sent out to the objects of her affection. The book is sweet and adorable, with a compelling family and romantic storyline. And there are some interesting discussions of Korean culture as well.
10. Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern – Say What You Will is about a relationship between two outsiders – a girl with cerebral palsy and a boy with OCD. It’s an emotional read that made an impression on me, even though it gets a little dramatic at the end. From my review: “Amy and Matthew both have their challenges to overcome, though McGovern shows that they have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else. Everyone has their issues, as we see in Amy and Matthew’s friendship circle, and some are just more visible than others.”
That’s my list! What were your favorite diverse titles of the year?
Be sure to check out all our best-of lists!
- Sandie from Teen Lit Rocks shares her favorite diverse books of the year.
- Kristan from We Heart YA shares her favorite diverse books of the year.
Check back in January when our book of the month is The Way We Bared Our Souls by Willa Strayhorn.