We Need Diverse Books For Teens

The We Need Diverse Books movement began in 2014 as a call to reform the publishing industry. It is now a nonprofit organization which promotes young people's literature that is reflective of many diverse backgrounds. The titles below represent a sample of books showcasing main characters of color, LGBTQIA characters, and characters with disabilities or mental illnesses. For more suggestions, visit Where To Find Diverse Books or the Walter Award

BIPOC Characters

After her mother's suicide, grief-stricken Leigh Sanders travels to Taiwan to stay with grandparents she never met, determined to find her mother who she believes turned into a bird.

Three Mexican-Americans--Juan, JD, and Fabi--each try to overcome their individual struggles as they all grapple with how to make a better life for themselves when it seems like brown lives don't matter.

A girl like that by Tanaz Bhathena

Brilliantly told story of a girl as scandalous in death as in life. About a 16-year-old orphan Zarin Wadia, born in Mumbai, now living in Jeddah, with her maternal aunt and uncle. Zarin is considered half-Zorastrian as she is the illegitimate child of Khorshed’s sister. She is vilified by almost all except by her childhood friend from Mumbai, Porous Dumasia, who reappears in her life after 12 years.

This book follows the story of seventeen year old Maya Aziz. Her India-born parents want her to go to college and marry a suitable Muslim boy. While Maya wants to go to film school and date her classmate, Phil. Then a terrorist attack changes her life forever.

Odd one out by Nic Stone

High school juniors and best friends Courtney and Jupe, and new sophomore Rae, explore their sexuality and their budding attractions for one another.

Punching the Air by Omar T. (ILT) Yusef (CON)/ Pasha Ibi/ Salaam Zoboi

Instant New York Times bestseller! From award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

Pride by Ibi Aanu Zoboi

Zoboi skillfully depicts the vicissitudes of teenage relationships, and Zuri's outsize pride and poetic sensibility make her a sympathetic teenager in a contemporary story about race, gentrification, and young love.

Secrets of the Casa Rosada by Alex Temblador

Sixteen-year-old Martha and her mother move constantly, never staying anywhere for long. So she knows better than to ask if they've been evicted again when her mom says they're going on a "vacation" to meet the grandmother Martha didn't know existed.

LGBTQIA+

A collection of historical fiction featuring a transgender soldier, two girls falling in love while mourning Kurt Cobain, and forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent.

 

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

High school senior Tanner Scott has hidden his bisexuality since his family moved to Utah, but he falls hard for Sebastian, a Mormon mentoring students in a writing seminar Tanner's best friend convinced him to take.

In Hawaii, Jaya Mehta is a transgender outsider with depressive tendencies. The stunningly beautiful Rasa Santos thinks sex is her only power. Rasa meets Xander, who beats her, cuts her, and makes her prostitute herself. Will their love transcend and pull them forward or will they remain stuck, separate, in the chaos of their pasts?

Let's talk about love by Claire Kann

In this young adult novel, Alice, afraid of explaining her asexuality, has given up on finding love until love finds her.

The music of what happens by Bill Konigsberg


It is summer in Phoenix, and seventeen-year-old Maximo offers to help a Jordan, a fellow student in high school, with the food truck that belonged to Jordan's deceased father. The boys are strongly attracted to each other, but as their romance develops it is threatened by the secrets they are hiding--and by the racism and homophobia of those around them.

None of the above by I. W. Gregorio

Kristen discovers that she is intersex and possesses male chromosomes, a diagnosis that is leaked to the whole school, throwing Kristin's entire identity into question.

Upset about her on-again, off-again relationship with her girlfriend Laura Dean, Freddy Riley depends on her friends, a local mystic, and a relationship columnist for help in dealing with her situation.

Disabilities

Because you'll never meet me by 1989- Leah Thomas

Ollie, who has seizures when near electricity, lives in a backwoods cabin with his mother and rarely sees other people. Moritz, born with no eyes and a heart defect that requires a pacemaker, is bullied at his high school. When a physician who knows both suggests they begin corresponding, they form a strong bond that may get them through dark times.

Not if I see you first by 1965- Eric Lindstrom

Blind sixteen-year-old Parker Grant navigates friendships and romantic relationships, including a run-in with a boy who previously broke her heart, while coping with her father's recent death.

Pinned by Sharon Flake

Adonis is smart, intellectually gifted and born without legs; Autumn is strong, a great wrestler, and barely able to read in ninth grade--but Autumn is attracted to Adonis and determined to make him a part of her life whatever he or her best friend thinks.

A quiet kind of thunder by Sara Barnard

A girl who can't speak and a boy who can't hear go on a journey of self-discovery and create a unique bond with each other.

Sick kids in love by Hannah Moskowitz

Isabel has one rule: no dating. It's easier-it's safer-it's better-for the other person. She's got issues. She's got secrets. She's got rheumatoid arthritis. But then she meets another sick kid. He's got a chronic illness Isabel's never heard of, something she can't even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father, who's a doctor. He's gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her. Isabel has one rule: no dating. It's complicated-it's dangerous-it's never felt better-to consider breaking that rule for him.

Meet me in outer space by Melinda Grace

Edie Kits, who has an auditory processing disorder that makes it hard to understand words, gets help from a cute teaching assistant, Hudson, to pass her college French class.

An anthology of stories in various genres, each featuring disabled characters and written by disabled creators. The collection includes stories of interstellar war, a journey to Persia, a dating debacle. The teenaged characters reflect diverse colors, genders, and orientations-- without obscuring the realities of their disabilities.

Mental Illness

10 things I can see from here by 1975- Carrie Mac

Maeve, a sufferer of severe anxiety, moves in with her recovering alcoholic father and her very pregnant stepmother and falls for a girl who is not afraid of anything.

Anger is a gift by Mark Oshiro

Struggling with panic attacks and grief over his father's death, high school junior Moss, in the face of a racist school administration, decides to organize a protest that escalates into violence.

Clinically-depressed Darius Kellner, a high school sophomore, travels to Iran to meet his grandparents, but it is their next-door neighbor, Sohrab, who changes his life.

Every last word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off, a girl coping with Purely-Obsessional OCD learns to accept herself and take control of her life through her experiences in poetry club.

Grace, sixteen, fears that she will succumb to the schizophrenia that took her mother away, while she and her father work for a genetics lab rushing to find a cure.

This impossible light by Lily Myers

Fifteen-year-old Ivy, feeling a lot of stress about her expanding body, her parents' divorce, and her best friend's distance, develops an eating disorder.

This story is a lie by Tom (Tom H.) Pollock

Seventeen-year-old mathematical genius Peter Blankman battles his lifelong panic attacks as he tries to find his missing twin sister, Bel, and those who nearly assassinated his mother, a famous scientist.