When children and young people see themselves or those in their lives properly represented in fiction, it can be a transformative moment. Interesting children of any age in reading, and providing materials for them to represent their lived experiences, or to introduce them to new ones, is vital to helping them see the world through another’s eyes. With the recent attacks by U.S. legislators on books dealing with puberty, sex, anatomy, race, U.S. history, and more (attacking anything that isn’t Christian, white, and heterosexual, or in the words of one legislator, books that “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.”), we need to lift up diverse books for kids even more.
Continuum by Chella Man (part of the Pocket Change Collective series)
I LOVE this series. Every single entry is a brilliant, passionately written primer on a topic meaningful to modern teens. But Chella Man’s entry is particularly poignant. He’s a transgender, genderqueer, deaf, Jewish person of color and an artist, activist, and actor and his story of overcoming and persevering is inspiring and truly remarkable. I highly recommend the audio, because Chella narrates and it’s one of the only audiobooks ever recorded by a person with deafness.
My initial reaction to this book was, “THIS IS EVERYTHING I NEED!” (Yes, in all caps, I couldn’t help myself). Wyatt, a trans witch with quite a bit of power – power he lost control of one awful night – has a good life now. A best friend, a lovely adopted family, everything he could ever want. Except for resolving the little issue of his past, and the kingdom and fiancé he left behind. Now back in his former home and former life, Wyatt has to face down a ton of changes after he’s made the biggest one for himself. The book features a diverse cast of people of color, queer, trans, and nonbinary folks, and some great worldbuilding.
Camryn Garrett’s debut came out of the book publishing gates on FIRE, and rightfully so. Simone is 17 years old, a person of color, bisexual, and HIV-positive. But her outlook is bright, as she knows the way to stay safe and hidden is be celibate and tell no one. But it’s not that easy when she meets Miles and falls head over heels. But no one knows her truth, and this fear of having her status known -and likely used against her – drives the main plot of the story. It’s honest, occasionally raw, and a book everyone should read.
The joy in this book cannot be understated. I am a big fan of promoting queer books that showcase happiness and love and joy and hot damn, this book has it all and more. An adorable, glittering summer romance that also tackles masc/fem stereotypes, it starts with Randy, who loves Camp Outland and all the people there. It’s a queer/gay summer camp for teens like him, and there no one bats an eye at his love for nail polish and unicorns and anything sparkly. But this year is going to be different, because as much as he fell hard for Hudson, Hudson just didn’t feel the same. So Randy reinvents himself as Del – buff, sports-loving man’s man. Surely Hudson will fall now, right? And then Randy can return, little by little, in all his unicorn and nail polish glory.
Yes, THAT TJ Klune, of The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door! TJ is known for his adult books full of whimsy and cozy feelings and he brings that trademark style, and his tender writing, to this book. The Extraordinaires is the first in a trilogy and it is a complete delight. Nick’s claim to fame isn’t as Nick, but as the most popular fanfic writer for the Extraordinaires fandom. The fandom focuses on a group of real-life superheroes and when Nick bumps into Star Shadow, his favorite Extraordinare and focus of his biggest crush, everything changes. But left on the sidelines is Seth, Nick’s best friend. And maybe the one he’s really meant for.
Where was this book when I was a questioning fifteen year old who loved sci-fi and living in small town Ohio? (I still love sci-fi, don’t get me wrong. But fifteen year old me would have lived for this book!). Alyssa is our pansexual main character and in line for the crown, but she’s been able to squeak out of royal duties. For the time being. But when she learns that her uncle has died and a crownchase has been decreed, Alyssa and her engineer, Hell Monkey, are caught up in the dangerous game that apparently everyone wants to participate in. It’s funny, fast-paced, and thrilling, and it hits all the marks with snarky wordplay, breathless spaceship chases, and fascinating sci-fi worldbuilding.
It’s one of the most chilling, complex YA books I’ve ever read. And it freaked me out. Power’s debut novel rips into your psyche and leaves you questioning the nature of humanity, the value of a life, and the ties that bind us all. It’s a thriller, a post-apocalyptic/survival story, and a story of friendship to which you’d go to the ends of the Earth for. And the Earth is ending, as climate change affects us all and devastates the landscape in which Hetty and Byatt live. Best friends, they’re inseparable, but when the Tox hits and the teachers at their all-girls school fall ill and then die, the girls are largely left on their own. And then Byatt goes missing and Hetty knows she’ll go to the ends of the earth to find her.