Category Archives: Book Lists

10 Recent Diverse* YA Fantasy and Science Fiction Novels

* Diverse = Set in a non-Western world or inspired by a non-Western world; or with a main character who is non-white, LGBTQ+, and/or disabled

2015 Rainbow List

Congratulations to all the books on the 2015 Rainbow List, “a bibliography of books with significant gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender content, and which are aimed at youth, birth through age 18.” Here are the Top 10 picks:

  • Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World by Janet E. Cameron (Hachette Books Ireland)
  • Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan (Algonquin Young Readers) — Read Sara Farizan’s interview with DiYA
  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Dial Books for Young Readers)
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe (Hyperion) — Read Tess Sharpe’s interview with DiYA
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (Dutton Books)
  • Secret City by Julia Watts (Bella Books)
  • Sweet Tooth by Tim Anderson, Tim (Lake Union Publishing)
  • We Are the Youth: Sharing the Stories of LGBT Youth in the United States by Laurel Golio and Diana Scholl (Space-Made)
  • Not Every Princess by Jeffrey Bone and Lisa Bone (Magination Press)
  • This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten (Magination Press)

Check out the whole 2015 Rainbow List here.

ALA’s 2015 Youth Media Awards

Congratulations to the diverse1 young adult books honored at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards on Feb. 2, 2015!

How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Hadley Hooper (Dial Books) — Coretta Scott King (Author) Honor

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon (Henry Holt and Company) — Coretta Scott King (Author) Honor

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) — Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín, illustrated by Lee White (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) — Pura Belpré (Author) Award Winner

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (Candlewick Press) — Stonewall Honor

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles (Candlewick Press) — Schneider Family Book Award Winner

Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw (Roaring Brook Press) — YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults (Finalist)

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook Press) — YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults (Finalist)

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (Cinco Puntos Press) — William C. Morris Award Winner

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Dial Books) — Michael L. Printz Award Winner, Stonewall Honor

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (Dutton Books) — Michael L. Printz Honor

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (First Second) — Michael L. Printz Honor, Randolph Caldecott Honor

And congratulations to Sharon M. Draper, honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults!

Check out all the winners of ALA’s Youth Media Awards here.


  1. Diverse = A book about a main character who is of color, disabled, and/or LGBTQ; or a book written by an author who is of color, disabled, and/or LGBTQ. 

Gay Without the Gay Angst: 10 Books About Lesbian/Bi/Queer Girls

By Malinda Lo

Following up on my post last month, “Gay Without the Gay Angst: 12 Books About Gay/Bi/Queer Boys”, here is a list of 10 books about lesbian/bisexual/queer girls without a lot of coming-out angst.

If you’re looking for a complete lack of coming-out angst, it’s better to stick to the fantasy and science fiction; the realistic titles listed below do address coming out, though with much less angst than in some older titles. Also note that these titles are not all happily-ever-after romances; characters do face challenges and relationships may be full of conflict, but the conflicts and challenges are not primarily due to homophobia.

Admittedly, I found it more difficult to find books about queer girls that don’t contain a lot of coming-out angst. This may be because fewer books about queer girls are published in general. All I know is: We need more of them.

Fantasy and Science Fiction

  • Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block — now available; also has a companion novel, The Island of Excess Love
  • Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis — now available
  • Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand — now available
  • Huntress by Malinda Lo — now available; Lo’s other books (Ash, Adaptation and Inheritance) also feature queer girls without the gay angst
  • Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld — now available

Realistic Fiction

  • Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan — now available
  • No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace (Flux) — now available
  • Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour — now available
  • Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters — now available; Peters has written many YA books about lesbian/bisexual girls with varying amounts of gay angst
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe — now available

10 Recent Diverse Contemporary Reads

Here’s a list of 10 diverse contemporary YA books released in the last six months. Now is a great time to check them out!

Gay Without the Gay Angst: 12 Books About Gay/Bi/Queer Boys

By Malinda Lo

Last week when I visited a high school in Seattle, a student asked me for recommendations of YA books about gay boys who didn’t have to struggle with a lot of coming-out angst. While coming out can certainly be a struggle (mine was!), I completely understand and sympathize with those who want to read books about gay main characters where they can simply be the main characters without facing a ton of homophobia. For a gay reader especially, encountering a large amount of homophobia in a novel might feel realistic and it might make them feel less alone in the world, but it can also feel like an assault on your own identity.

That’s why I’ve put together this list of a dozen YA books in which the main character is a gay, bisexual, or queer boy, but the story is not necessarily about their sexual orientation. Six are fantasy/science fiction, and six are contemporary realistic fiction. If you’re looking for a complete lack of coming-out angst, it’s better to stick to the fantasy and science fiction; the realistic titles listed below do address coming out, though with much less angst than in some older titles.

Fantasy & Science Fiction

queerboys1 queerboys2

  • The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan — Coming Nov. 11, 2014 in hardcover; features Magnus Bane from Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters series
  • Proxy and Guardian by Alex London — a science fiction/dystopian duology available now
  • Masks: Rise of Heroes by Hayden Thorne — a superhero trilogy available now
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater — the second book in the Raven Cycle, available now
  • Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey — an urban fantasy trilogy available now
  • Coda by Emma Trevayne — available now; has a companion novel, Chorus

Realistic Fiction

queerboys3 queerboys4

  • One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva — now available
  • Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg — now available
  • Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan — now available; Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy is also a classic of the no-gay-angst type
  • M or F? by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts — now available
  • Boyfriends With Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez — now available; Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys trilogy begins with some coming-out issues, but subsequent books move past that aspect of being gay
  • Fan Art by Sarah Tregay — now available

Thanks to everyone on Twitter who helped me out with recommendations! I’ll post a similar list about lesbian, bisexual, and queer teen girls in the near future.

Notable Novels for Teens About the Arab World

By Elsa Marston

Abdel-Fattah, Randa. Where the Streets Had a Name (Scholastic 2010). Palestine, MG/YA. On a secret mission of mercy, a girl makes her way—strictly forbidden without permission from Israeli authorities—from her village into Jerusalem. [Also see this author’s books about Arab immigrants in Australia: Does My Head Look Big in This? and Ten things I Hate About Me. Both have appealing teen voice.]

Al-Maria, Sophia. The Girl Who Fell to Earth (Harper Perennial 2012). Arabian Peninsula and Egypt, YA. The daughter of a mixed marriage spends time with her father’s family in a Gulf State, tries to reconcile her two radically different heritages.

Barakat, Ibtisam. Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood (Kroupa/Farrar Straus Giroux 2007). Palestine, MG/YA. Memoir of a young girl set in a time of war and displacement, but revealing solid family experience.

Carmi, Daniella. Samir and Yonatan (Levine/Scholastic 2000). Israel/Palestinians, MG/YA. A Palestinian boy being treated in an Israeli hospital relates to the children and medical staff.

Carter, Anne Laurel. The Shepherd’s Granddaughter (Groundwood 2008). Palestine, MG/YA. In a rural village under attack from a nearby Israeli settlement, a young teenaged girl starts to broaden her horizons.

Clinton, Cathryn. A Stone in My Hand (Candlewick 2002). Palestine, MG/YA. During an outbreak of violence, a young girl in Gaza copes with loss: her father’s death and her brother’s participation in the insurrection.

Laird, Elizabeth. A Little Piece of Ground (Haymarket 2006; originally Macmillan UK 2003). Palestine, MG/YA. A boy defies Israeli-imposed curfew in his efforts to claim a place to play soccer.

Nye, Naomi Shihab. Habibi (Simon & Schuster 1997). Palestine, MG/YA. An Arab-American girl visits her father’s natal village in Palestine, under occupation, and absorbs experiences both exhilarating and distressing.

Marsden, Carolyn. The White Zone (CarolRhoda 2012). Iraq, MG. Two boy cousins cope with the sectarian strife that separates them during the fighting in Baghdad.

Marston, Elsa. Santa Claus in Baghdad and Other Stories About Teens in the Arab World (Indiana University Press 2008). Several countries, MG/YA. Young teens in eight contrasting Arab societies face universal challenges of adolescence; the most adult story in subject matter is “Honor” (Jordan).

Perera, Anna. The Glass Collector (Whitman 2011). Egypt, YA. Valuable chiefly because of its setting in the “trash-collectors community” in Cairo.


elsamarstonWith an M.A. in international affairs from Harvard University in hand, Elsa Marston attended the American University of Beirut on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship. Sojourns in different countries, especially Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia, have helped inspire Elsa’a work as a children’s/YA author and specialist in literature about the region. Her most recent books are a YA biography of a remarkable Arab hero, The Compassionate Warrior: Abd el-Kader of Algeria (Wisdom Tales 2013), and Santa Claus in Baghdad and Other Stories About Teens in the Arab World (Indiana University Press, 2008), a collection of stories set in different Arab societies, focusing on growing-up experiences that young Americans can relate to. A picture book about post-civil war Lebanon, The Olive Tree, is forthcoming in 2014.  Her website is www.elsamarston.com.

 

10 Recent Contemporary LGBTQ YA Books

In honor of Pride month, here are 10 YA books about contemporary LGBT experiences just published this year. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out yet, now’s a great time!

Want More Diversity in Your YA? Here’s How You Can Help

Within the last few weeks, the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and CNN have all published articles examining the lack of diversity in children’s and young adult literature — and next month, School Library Journal plans to publish an entire issue devoted to diversity. While all this mainstream interest in diversity is to be applauded for bringing more people into the ongoing conversation about diversity, they still largely fail to tackle the problem of how we can change the status quo.

We at Diversity in YA obviously don’t have all the answers, and we aren’t the first people to talk about these issues. This conversation has been going on for decades. What we do have are ideas for how you can change the status quo right now. If you’re an ordinary reader, you don’t have to wait to show your support for books that show the world as it is. Here are five ways you can help make positive change right now:

1. Look for diversity.

Make a conscious effort to seek out books to read that feature characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters. They may not be front-and-center at your local Barnes & Noble; you may have to look around a bit or go online to find them.

2. Support diversity.

Support the diverse books that are published today by buying them, by checking them out at your library, or by requesting that your library buy them.

3. Recommend diversity.

If you use Goodreads, Facebook, social media, or have a blog, talk up the books you love that happen to have diverse characters. Tell your friends! Word of mouth is still key in bringing awareness to books. And remember: You don’t need to recommend them solely for their diversity — they’re great books to enjoy, plain and simple.

4. Talk up diversity.

When discussions around diversity in literature occur online, join in the conversation if you can to express that you do want more diverse books to read and that the issue is important to you.

5. Don’t give up.

There will always be people who dismiss “diversity” as meaningless. They are the reason we must keep fighting for representation. We’re all in this together.


Want a list of diverse YA books you can get started reading right now? Here are a dozen YA books of all kinds (contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery — something for everyone!) that happen to have characters of color, LGBT characters, and/or disabled characters. (Descriptions are from WorldCat.)

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Continue reading Want More Diversity in Your YA? Here’s How You Can Help

10 Diverse YA Historicals About Girls

In honor of Women’s History Month, here are 10 diverse young adult historical novels about girls. Descriptions are from Worldcat.

Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis (Alfred A. Knopf)

Teens Octavia and Tali learn about strength, independence, and courage when they are forced to take a car trip with their grandmother, who tells about growing up Black in 1940s Alabama and serving in Europe during World War II as a member of the Women’s Army Corps.

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland (Houghton Mifflin)

Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove is locked away in the Wildthorn Hall mental institution, where she is stripped of her identity and left to wonder who has tried to destroy her life.

The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In free verse, evokes the voice of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, a book-loving writer, feminist, and abolitionist who courageously fought injustice in nineteenth-century Cuba. Includes historical notes, excerpts from her writings, biographical information, and source notes.

Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin (Candlewick Press)

In 1848 Willow, a fifteen-year-old educated slave girl, faces an inconceivable choice – between bondage and freedom, family and love – as free born, seventeen-year-old Cato, a black man, takes it upon himself to sneak as many fugitive slaves to freedom as he can on the Mason-Dixon Line.

The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman (Arthur A. Levine Books)

When Jade Moon, born in the unlucky year of the Fire Horse, and her father immigrate to America in 1923 and are detained at Angel Island Immigration Station, Jade Moon is determined to find a way through and prove that she is not cursed.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano (Scholastic)

It is 1969 in Spanish Harlem, and fourteen-year-old Evelyn Serrano is trying hard to break free from her conservative Puerto Rican surroundings, but when her activist grandmother comes to stay and the neighborhood protests start, things get a lot more complicated–and dangerous.

Anahita’s Woven Riddle by Meghan Nuttall Sayres (Amulet)

In Iran, more than 100 years ago, a young girl with three suitors gets permission from her father and a holy man to weave into her wedding rug a riddle to be solved by her future husband, which will ensure that he has wit to match hers.

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman (Penguin)

In India, in 1941, when her father becomes brain-damaged in a non-violent protest march, fifteen-year-old Vidya and her family are forced to move in with her father’s extended family and become accustomed to a totally different way of life.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)

When young American pilot Rose Justice is captured by Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp, she finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery, and friendship of her fellow prisoners.

Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang (Delacorte)

Emmajin, the sixteen-year-old eldest granddaughter of Khublai Khan, becomes a warrior and falls in love with explorer Marco Polo in thirteenth-century China.