Ten YA Novels By BIPOC Authors You Need To Check Out!

Hi all! Today I’ll be talking about some YA novels by authors of color that I believe need more recognition. I tried to pick books that aren’t necessarily as present in the book community so that you could discover some new voices!

Disclaimer: Some synopsis’ are summarized by me, others are taken from goodreads.)

(PS: To add the books to goodreads, simply press on the book covers.)

1. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

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The story centers around seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan. By day, she works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. By night, Jo writes for a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” And the story takes off from there in such an intriguing way.

This is a young adult historical novel about fighting racism and gendernorms, and I am 100% here for it!

2. Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Raybearer (Raybearer, #1) by Jordan Ifueko

Raybearer revolves around Tarisai, a teen who has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. However, The Lady wants Tarisai to kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust, as she as compelled to obey this order. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

Doesn’t this sound like such a unique fantasy story? I definitely think so!

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3. Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

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Butterfly Yellow is a story about a young Vietnamese girl and her little brother. As they get ready to go to America, her brother Linh is ripped from her arms, leaving Hằng behind in Vietnam. After six long years, she makes it to Texas, USA as a refugee. Once Hằng finally reunites with her brother Linh, he doesn’t remember her! She has come so far, and will do anything to bridge the gap between them.

This is an incredibly heart wrenching and beautiful novel.

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4. The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves

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The New David Espinoza revolves around a teenage boy named David. When a video of him getting knocked down by a bully’s slap goes viral at the end of junior year, David vows to use the summer to bulk up— do what it takes to become a man—and wow everyone when school starts again in the fall. Soon David is spending all his time and money at Iron Life, a nearby gym that’s full of bodybuilders. Frustrated with his slow progress, his life eventually becomes all about his muscle gains. As David falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world, pursuing his ideal body at all costs, he’ll have to grapple with the fact that it could actually cost him everything. 

Male body dysphoria is something I rarely see present in books, so I’m happy to see the issue being addressed! This is also an own voices novel.

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5. This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams

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This is a young adult romance featuring two New York teens; Isabelle and Alex. Isabellle is a dancer, and Alex, a baseball player who wants to be a poet. Over the course of multiple subway encounters spanning the next three years, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most.

This is an authentic young adult drama with one of the best family dynamics I have ever seen!

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6. Once Upon an Eid by A Collection of Authors

Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices: Amazon.ca:  Ali, S. K., Saeed, Aisha, Alfageeh, Sara: Books

This is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid!

This book is just the cutest thing ever! If you’re looking for an own-voices Muslim rep, this is definitely the book for you!

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7. Want by Cindy Pon

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Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost. With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary. Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

This is a perfect novel for all the science fiction and dystopian lovers out there!

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8. Internment by Samira Ahmed

Internment

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Despite being fictional, Internment tells the story of many people today. It’s an eye-opening book perfect for those who enjoyed The Hate U Give.

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9. Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids by A Collection of Authors

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids

This is a collection of intersecting stories set at a powwow that bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride. In a high school gym full of color and song, Native families from Nations within the borders of the U.S. and Canada dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. They are the heroes of their own stories.

If you want to read more Indigenous own voice books, then this is 100% the book for you!

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10. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet

Pet is a rather unusual, but gripping tale about a girl named Jam. In her city Lucille, there are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question — How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

Pet is a bizarre yet astounding tale that I just know whimsical fiction lovers will come to adore!

I hope you found some great books to add to your TBR! Have you read any of these? I’d love to know. Stay safe everyone! 💙

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Together, Apart | A Review

Hey everyone! Today I bring you a review of the novel Together, Apart. It’s actually the first time I’ll be reviewing a collection of short stories. Anyways, let’s get right into it!

Together, Apart: Craig, Erin A., Desombre, Auriane, Hahn, Erin, Konigsberg,  Bill, Lippincott, Rachael, Morris, Brittney, Patel, Sajni, Preston,  Natasha, Yen, Jennifer: 9780593375297: Books - Amazon.ca

Erin Craig “delivers” on a story about a new girl in town and the cute pizza delivery boy, Auriane Desombre captures our hearts with teens communicating through window signs, and Bill Konigsberg takes us along on daily walks with every step bringing us closer to love. There’s flirting and romance from Rachael Lippincott, a tale of a determined girl with a mask-making business from Erin Hahn, and a music-inspired love connection from Sajni Patel. Brittney Morris turns enemies to lovers with the help of a balcony herb garden, Jennifer Yen writes an unconventional romance that starts outside a hospital, and Natasha Preston’s teens discover each other–and their love story–in a storybook oak tree.

Romantic, realistic, sweet and uplifting, TOGETHER, APART is a collection of finding love in unexpected places during an unprecedented time . . . each with the one thing we all want: a guaranteed happy ending.

 Love, Delivered by Erin A. Craig

Love, Delivered is a relatable story about what it’s like to move during a pandemic. It was interesting to see what it’s like to spend quarantine alone via the main character’s point of view. That’s something very hard to deal with, especially with the thought of constantly being worried about one’s parents. (The main character’s parents work outside the house.) Overall, it was sweet and enjoyable!

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 out of 5 stars)

The Socially Distant Dog Walking Brigade by Bill Konigsberg

This was such a warm and fuzzy romance about two teens walking their dogs. It had it’s funny moments, but also it’s serious ones. I really liked how the story touched on mental illness and friendship breakups. It had a nice balance of silly and serious!

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4.25 out of 5 stars)

One Day by Sajni Patel

I liked how One Day touched on fatigue and boredom, it was very relatable. 😂 However, the main character was so rude and arrogant. She literally threw her shoe at a guy who was playing his guitar because the sound annoyed her, and she threw her favorite shoe too. It just didn’t make sense. The love interest also came off as annoying rather than cheeky.

⭐⭐ (2.25 out of 5 stars)

The Rules of Comedy by Auriane Desombre

This was a fun tiktok-themed love story that was fairly enjoyable. Unfortunately however, I was bored halfway through the story. I did like seeing how the older and younger sister dynamic played out between the main character and their sibling.

⭐⭐⭐ (3 out of 5 stars)

The New Boy Next Door by Natasha Preston

The New Boy Next Door was unfortunately, not my thing. The original concept of hanging out in a tree was cute. However, the story came off as flat and cringe-y. The main characters were very annoying. The girl was sort of pushy and made way too many Twilight references, and the boy was just rude for no reason whatsoever.

⭐ (1.5 out of 5)

Love With a Side of Fortune by Jennifer Yen

This was a light and fluffy read that left me feeling very hungry. It gave off such dark academia vibes, and I am totally here for it! However, I disliked how there was no real character development nor any relationship development between the main character and their mother. I also felt as though the main character was a bit rude to her mom. Moreover, I liked how the book touched upon having parents that work in healthcare, especially during these times. Overall, if you’re looking for a restaurant themed love story, this is the one for you!

⭐⭐⭐ (3.25 out of 5 stars)

The Green Thumb War by Brittney Morris

I loved this one! The concept of a plant war was absolutely hilarious and totally unique! The execution was pretty good too. I only wish it was a bit funnier, but that’s just my taste. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 out of 5 stars)

Stuck with Her by Rachel Lippincott

This was a cute story about what it’s like to live with a loud and messy roommate. I liked how the love interest was 🌟mysterious🌟. Moreover, I felt as though the romance escalated so quickly. One second the main character hates her roommate, then the next second they kiss? It just didn’t make sense. It also felt very repetitive as well. However, I do think people who live in similar circumstances will enjoy this short story more than I did.

⭐⭐⭐ (3 out of 5 stars)

Masked by Erin Hahn

Masked was a rather imaginative story that I ultimately feel like could have turned into an actual novel. It was fun, light, and exciting. I also thought it was cool that the main character cut fabric out of her prom dress to create masks for people working outside their homes. It was very kind of her.

⭐⭐⭐ (3 out of 5 stars)

Overall, this was a comforting book containing stories related to COVID-19, and I am totally here for it!

Age Rating: 12 and up

TW: Talk of friendship breakups and mental illness in The Socially Distant Dog Walking Brigade. Talk of deaths relating to COVID-19 in some of the stories.

Final Rating: 7/10 or 3.5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐

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What did you all think of this collections of short stories? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have a wonderful day!

This Train Is Being Held | A Review

Hiya everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams. Before I get into my review, look at this beautiful cover! I say this in every review, but I can always, ALWAYS, appreciate a stunning book cover. This was easily my most anticipated YA novel of 2020, so I’m super excited to have finally read it! Without further ado, let’s jump right into it!

This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Amiel Williams

When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the downtown 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and his gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her untroubled happiness, something he feels all rich kids must possess. That, and her long dancer legs. Over the course of multiple subway encounters, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most.

First, let’s talk about the plot. The original premise of ‘This Train Is Being Held’ sounded, rather generic. We’ve all heard the story of ‘they meet one day on a train.’ However, going into the story, I knew I wouldn’t be delving into a creative plot. And you know what? I’m okay with that. I prefer contemporary, so it was nice to be met with a rather simplistic story. The plot was executed pretty well, so I had no issues with that aspect of the novel. Unfortunately though, it was a bit too insta-love for my liking.

Furthermore, with that said, the characters were complex. It was amazing to see an almost all Latinx and Hispanic cast. The diversity within the cast was so cool! The main characters; Isa and Alex weren’t bland. Alex wants to be a poet, and Isa wants to be a dancer. In many immigrant households, pursuing the arts is a rather taboo topic. So it was great to see that they were showing colored people in the arts. However, I was hoping for more communication between the characters. From the parents to the children, to Isa and Alex, there was so much miscommunication! That part of the story left me a bit frustrated. Without giving away spoilers, for a large part of the story, Alex kept on trying to talk to Isa, but she would constantly respond to him indirectly. And Alex always kept on assuming things without even trying to communicate with other people.

“Because it doesn’t matter where you come from. If you work hard enough, you can do anything. Become anyone.”

― Ismée Amiel Williams, This Train Is Being Held

The side characters were also well crafted. First we have Isa and Alex’ parents. Their parents were complex, and I loved that. In a lot of stories, the parents literally have no personality. In This Train Is Being Held, Isa’s mom and older brother are bipolar. I can’t say for sure how accurate the illness was portrayed in the novel because it simply isn’t my place to comment on that. However, Isa’s mother has a fascinating backstory. (You’ll have to find out what is it for yourself. 😏) I also liked how Alex has a sweet relationship with his parents. He has a great relationship with his mom, and step mom; Yaritza. His dad however, not so much. I like how the family dynamic was explored throughout the book. Alex’s dad is hard on him and his little brother Robi. Robi is just such a cutie, and I love how Alex was protective over him. Alex’s friends; Danny and Bryan are great characters as well. In the story, the police constantly target Alex and his friends because of the color of their skin. They assume they’re in a gang, much like the one Danny’s brother was in. The book readily explores police brutality, and I thought it was so amazing and unique to see such topics present in contemporary novels. Another interesting side character was Kiara; a girl that likes Alex. Without giving away too much, in the beginning I didn’t like her. However, she proved to be an empathetic character in the end! Isa also has a loving relationship with her older brother Merrit. She looks up to her brother, and cares for him. It was refreshing to see a brother-sister dynamic where the dialogue isn’t just “GeT OuT oF My RoOM.”

Looking back, I realize that there wasn’t much dialogue between Alex and Isa for the last 3/4 of the book. For the dialogue that there was, I would say it was rather unrealistic. Within the first 20 pages, they kiss….um what. Nevertheless, I was very intrigued with the dialogue between Alex and his friend Danny. A portion of the narration was in Spanish. Personally, I found it to be rather refreshing. Although I don’t understand the language, it was still nice to see another language other than English spoken in a American YA novel.

“I want to be with you through the bad. Not just laugh next to you during the good.” He tells me what his mami told him. That falling in love is easy but fighting for it is hard. “You, this.” He points to the two of us. “It’s worth fighting for.”

― Ismée Amiel Williams, This Train Is Being Held

The writing style was raw, and I loved that. It was nice to see Alex and Isa’s inner thoughts. The point of view is in first person, and in present tense. Present tense writing is something I don’t encounter often within the Young Adult Genre. I enjoyed the writing because it was very ‘in the moment.’ This allowed the readers to immerse completely into the story. Unfortunately though, the pacing was incredibly awkward, and the words girlfriend and boyfriend, were only mentioned till way later. That made me extremely confused as to whether or not they were dating, or simply just liked each other. On a side note, the description of the foods present in the novel where done so well. I’ve never tried guava pastries, but I really want to now!

The overall enjoyment level of the book will be different for everyone. If you enjoy contemporary, then I recommend This Train Is Being Held! However, if romance isn’t your thing, then you might not enjoy this book as much as I did. What others would define as boring, I define as nail-biting suspense. The author had me hooked throughout the entire story!

I will admit, I was going to give this one three stars. The middle proved frustrating, but the ending was phenomenal. So I bumped it up to four stars!

Age Rating: 15 and up

TW: Police brutality, gang violence, some mature content

Final Rating: 7.5/10 or 3.75 stars

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

What is your favorite YA contemporary novel? Have a fabulous day everyone!

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