Diversity in 2012 Young Adult Bestsellers, Part 3: The Minority Best Friend

By Malinda Lo

In Parts 1 and 2, I focused on books with diverse main characters. As you could tell from the last two posts, the majority of PW’s YA bestseller list is dominated by series. In this post I’m focusing solely on diversity in YA series.

While only two of those bestselling series — Pretty Little Liars and The Infernal Devices — include diverse main characters, I wanted to find out how many of the other series included secondary/supporting characters of color or secondary/supporting LGBT or disabled characters.

The good news is that among the top 10 bestselling YA series (incorporating PW’s sales figures across all formats), 8 out of 10 include diversity in their supporting cast — and they’re the top 8 bestselling series overall.

1. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic; 27,700,000 sold) — Supporting characters include Rue and Thresh, who are black; Peeta Mellark and other characters deal with disabilities. There has also been a continuing discussion online among readers as to whether Katniss is biracial, although Suzanne Collins has said “They [Katniss and Gale] were not particularly intended to be biracial.”


(Amandla Stenberg as Rue, Dayo Okeniyi as Thresh in The Hunger Games movie)

2. The Divergent series by Veronica Roth (HarperCollins/Tegen; 2,054,302 sold) — Supporting characters include main character Tris’s friend Christina, who will be played by Zoe Kravitz in the upcoming movie.


(Zoe Kravitz has been cast to play Christina in the Divergent movie)

3. The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown/Tingley; 1,129,754 sold) — One of the two boys the main character Bella Swan is in love with is Jacob Black, a Quileute Indian, although there has been widespread debate over the representation of the Quileutes in the series.


(Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black, and other actors portraying Quileutes in the Twilight movies)

4. The House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast (St. Martin’s Griffin; 878,014 sold) — Supporting characters include Shaunee Cole, a biracial Jamaican American.

5. The Maze Runner series by James Dashner (Delcorte/Random House; approx. 846,034 sold) — Supporting characters include a boy named Minho, who is of Asian descent.

6. The Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard (HarperTeen; 781,972 sold) — One of the four main characters is Emily Fields, who is bisexual.


(Shay Mitchell as Emily Fields [right] kissing Lindsey Shaw as Paige McCullers [left] in the Pretty Little Liars TV series on ABC Family)

7. The Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare (Simon & Schuster/McElderry; 756,712 sold) — Supporting characters include Alec Lightwood, who is gay, and Magnus Bane, a bisexual half-Asian warlock, with whom Alec has a romantic relationship. Notably, Magnus Bane has become so popular he will have an entire series of ebook short stories about him published in 2013, The Bane Chronicles; he also appears in The Infernal Devices trilogy.


(Godfrey Gao as Magnus Bane in the City of Bones movie)

8. Fallen by Lauren Kate (Delacorte/Random House; approx. 737,684 sold) — Supporting characters include Arriane Alter, who is a lesbian (she comes out in Fallen in Love), and a gender-nonconforming character named Randy.

9. The Matched trilogy by Ally Condie (Dutton; approx. 684,711 sold) — As far as I can tell, there is no diversity in this trilogy.

10. The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore (HarperCollins; 613,653 sold) — As far as I can tell, there is no diversity in this series.

In Part 4, I’ll look at representation on covers, and draw some conclusions about YA bestsellers and diversity.