15 YA Novels To Pass On To The Teen In Your Life

By Keyaira Boone ·Updated November 9, 2021

Adolescence hits different when you’re a Black kid. Today’s YA authors are going into the nuances of growing up while Black in different countries, neighborhoods, family structures, and body types. They are inventing characters that speak to the unique challenges our children are facing today, and could be facing tomorrow. 

Scribes are embracing mystical traditions by tapping into ancestral knowledge to create fantasy work that highlights our history. They are allowing kids to escape through engaging storylines that provoke interest in their own cultures and those of nations across the diaspora.

They are also grounding their works in relatable mundane experiences by using a variety of settings that include back tables at open mic nights, the trails of clandestine forests, behind the other side of a Youtuber’s ring light, and the common rooms of physical rehabilitation centers. 

The stories they are telling include conflicted influencers, soulless real estate developers, disabled bodies, deceased parents, overpacked schedules, family obligations and race related climate change struggles. There are elder siblings fighting to set an example, athletes fighting to become effective leaders, young activists looking to prevent erasure, and lovestruck girls working their way to learning the lesson that who they are is enough. 

Every plot point does not center around stealing a standardized test so they can get into an Ivy or finding a perfect prom date for a picture they’ll forget about in five years. These characters are finding themselves by connecting to authentic experiences that are occurring everyday in neighborhoods across the country. The characters find out what happens when you try your best and still lose, or you’re faced with a friend whose suddenly has more clout than you know how to handle.

These books dispense wisdom by tapping into the moments that take place between the big games or the annual recitals and they’re better for it.

See 15 YA novels you should pass on to the teen in your life below.

01Feminist AF: A Guide to Crushing Girlhood – Brittney Cooper, Chanel Craft Tanner, and Susana M. Morris OverviewThis manual to mastering girlhood helps young girls, parents, and guardians of teens and tweens figure out how to handle issues that are unique to growing up Black. Photo Credit: Norton Young Readers Buy Here 02A Chorus Rises – Bethany C. MorrowAn influencer discovers the limits to her privilege and reconsiders what she wants from her platform. Macmillan Buy Here 03Turning – Joy L. SmithAfter suffering a fall that leaves her unable to use her legs, a ballerina builds a friendship with another young person on a journey of healing. Buy Here 04Honest June – Tina WellsA teenage people pleaser is forced to speak up when hit with a spell that prevents her from telling lies. Random House Pre-Order Here 05Take Back the Block – Chrystal D. GilesA sixth grader stands up in the face of gentrification. Random House Books for Young Readers Buy Here 06Happily Ever After – Elise BryantGaining admittance to a writers workshop places a teenage Black writer at the center of her very own love story. HarperCollins Buy Here 07Reach For The Skai How To Inspire, Empower, And Clapback – Skai JacksonThe young Queen of classy clapbacks shares how she keeps it cute with her fellow kids. Penguin Random House Buy Here 08Fast Pitch – Nic StoneA young leader fights to prove that she can lead her team to softball victory as challenges create curveballs in her day to day life. Crown Books for Young Readers Buy Here 09Where The Rhythm Takes You – Sarah DassA love story set in paradise follows a young girl reunited with her first love at her family’s resort. Harper Collins Buy Here 10Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry – Joya GoffneyA high-school senior is forced to face her fears when a finsta account threatens to expose her secrets. Harper Collins Buy Here 11The Black Flamingo – Dean AttaA young boy blossoms after entering the world of drag. Harper Collins Buy Here 12Ace of Spades – Faridah Abike-IyimideBilling itself as Gossip Girl meets Get Out this novel follows a group of private school students fighting off an anonymous bully. Macmillan Buy Here 13Love Is A Revolution – Renée WatsonA trip to an open mic night introduces a young girl to a relationship that teaches her the value of self-love and radical acceptance. Bloomsbury Publishing Buy Here 14Bold Words From Black Women Inspiration And Truths From 50 Extraordinary Leaders Who Helped Shape Our World – Tamara Pizzoli, Monica AhanonuPowerful Black women dispense nuggets of wisdom in this collection of affirming messages. Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books Pre-Order Here 15Paradise on Fire – Jewell Parker RhodesAfter losing her parents in a fire a young girl confronts the realities of how race and class intersect with climate change concerns. Hachette Book Group Buy Here

TOPICS:  black books black childrens book YA ya novels

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