In an earlier post, I wrote about diverse books for middle school readers. Now, just in time for summer (yay!), I’m presenting my current Top 10 list of books for high school readers. I’m defining diversity broadly, with books written by and about authors and characters who may feature any of the following: people of color, differently abled or LGBTQI. I’m also defining high school as students who are enrolled in grades 9-12, with a reading level that matches those grades. This list is meant only as an introduction to diverse texts, but should in no way be considered adequate for reading widely and wisely. Instead, this should be enough to get you started. I encourage you to speak to teachers, local librarians and booksellers for more. Happy reading!
- This Side of Home by Renee Watson: identical twins Nikki and Maya have college dreams. They live in Portland, OR, a neighborhood that is changing quickly. Amidst those changes, the sisters must figure out who they are and what it means for their future.
- Catfish by Nina Foxx: two friends get caught up in some cyber trouble in their quest to find the “perfect” guy. This book is great for thinking about how to keep it safe in cyber space.
- Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero: Gabi is a high school senior who loves her family, her friends and food (but, depending on the situation, not in that order). She also writes amazing poetry as she tries to live her life with a troubled father and other difficulties that might prevent her from going to her dream school, the University of California-Berkeley.
- The Secret Side of Empty by Maria Andreu: Because of M.T.’s fair looks, she’s able to get by without many knowing she’s an undocumented young person from Argentina. The story takes place during her senior year: with everyone around her preparing for college, will she have the same options?
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: Lara Jean has loved exactly five boys in her life and has secretly written love notes to them which she never mails. Then, something happens, involving the letters actually getting mailed and the aftermath. Talk about an OMG moment! This seems like the perfect beach read (and the sequel is now available, too!) Additional good thing: Jenny Han created a playlist for Lara Jean on Amazon. Kind of a fun way to think about characters (i.e., what playlist would you create for one of your fave books?)
- The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina: Kids with supernatural abilities are on the run from the government. One gets caught after betrayal by a supposed “friend.” If you’re in the market for dystopian reads, this one looks great!
- This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki: award winner alert! This graphic novel was a Printz and Caldecott Honor book and is beautifully illustrated. Two friends look forward to their summers, but this summer, life is different. VERY DIFFERENT.
- One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva: Alek has to go to summer school to bring up his grades. Just when he thinks he’s going to have the worst time ever, he meets Ethan, who convinces him to cut school, attend a concert and…the rest makes for a great beach read!
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: Lydia is supposed to make her parents proud…until she is found dead in a lake. This is a great thriller. What happened to her?!
- The Shadow Hero by Gene Yang: the Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero. This graphic novel is the origin story (once you read this one, check out the others).
- Knockout by G. Neri: maybe you’ve heard a lot about the “Knockout Game”? This book is about a boy who wants to film his knockouts and a girl who can help him. Then, though, something happens…
- Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang: this memoir is a couple of years older, but it’s worth reading, particularly now that the TV series is getting lots of attention. Eddie is irreverent and hilarious as he talks about growing up in a Tawainese American home to become the famous chef he is today.
- Taking Hold: From Migrant Childhood to Columbia University by Francisco Jimenez: a true account of the author of The Circuit about leaving everything he knows (including his girlfriend) to move across the country from California to Columbia to pursue his education.
Note: Books are not listed in any particular order. Full disclosure: these are books I’m either in the process of reading or have on my To Read list.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Can you recommend more? Leave them in the comments below!
Check out these resources to learn more:
- Crazy QuiltEdi: Diverse Young Adult Books Blog
- Diversity in YA
- American Indians in Children’s Literature
- Rich in Color
- Disability in KidLit
- The Pirate Tree: YA and Social Justice
- I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?
Dr. Kimberly N. Parker is a 2014 Mass Literacy Champion and English teacher at the Cambridge, Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, MA. She has received several honors, including the Marion Gleason Most Promising New Teacher Award from the New England Association of Teachers of English (NEATE). Additionally, she serves as the Secondary Representative At-Large for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and is the President-Elect for NEATE.