2019 Diverse YA Books That Give Us All The Feels

Everyone has books that they anticipate being released each year. Those titles that make you giddy and excited every time you think about finally getting your greedy grabby hands on that perfect, pristine copy, with that delicious new book smell. Then there are some (like me) who have a calendar in their phone indicating the release date of some of those very anticipated titles, counting down to them like Christmas morning.

2019 has seen some pretty amazing book releases, and many of them (finally) feature a diverse cast of characters. In a time where publishing is finally catching up with the calls for representation on the page, readers are actually getting the stories, and the characters, they want. All shapes, sizes, colors, creeds and situations are featured, no longer hidden as a sidekick or background character.

And it’s about damn time.

Here are some of the best diverse titles that we are all for in 2019. Some are already on the shelf, so run out and grab your copy! Others are definite contenders to be added to the aforementioned book calendar!

  • all summaries courtesy of Goodreads

1. On the Come Up – Angie Thomas – February 5, 2019

From New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed The Hate U Give, On the Come Up, On the Come Up features sixteen-year-old Bri 3who wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

And needless to say, readers loved Thomas’s sophomore tale of strength and perseverance.

“Oh my, oh my, oh my. This was INTENSE. I have no doubt a movie will be produced. Otherwise, BIG MISTAKE because this is something the world needs and I just really want to see a teen movie with a rap battle + romance + family drama + diverse characters + fierce social involvement. Because YES.” – Lola, Goodreads reader

2. Love from A to Z – S.K. Ali – April 30, 2019

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.
An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.
Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Readers had nothing but rave reviews for this incredible tale:

“This book resonated in chambers of my heart I’d never known existed. It stirred memories too deep to claim, and it all poured out of me and onto every surface, taking something vital with it. There is still an expansiveness in my chest that reminds me of how important voices like these are, for readers like us. This feeling is a language all its own: to reach and find, to be reached for and found, to belong to a mutual certainty.” – Chaima, Goodreads reader

3. I Wish You All The Best – Mason Deaver – May 14, 2019

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

The honest and gripping story of accepting oneself and their identity resonated with readers.

“Oh the feeling of mile-high expectations actually being fulfilled: pure bliss. I have waited so long for this book to be released and it checks every single box. A wonderful, emotional, important and romantic read.” – Kai, Goodreads reader

4. Slay – Brittany Morris – September 24, 2019

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”
Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

Strong, determined and dedicated, the story of Kiera and her fight to preserve her identity is one of the most anticipated titles of 2019, and for good reason.

“Do you believe in love at first sight?  I do now. I was lusting over the cover of this book when I saw it advertised for #Bookcon2019. But now that I have finally gotten my hands on it and gotten a chance to read it I know that this is the book that I wanted to read as a little girl. As a Black woman I appreciate the depth of this novel and I’m sitting here reeling as it is Brittney Morris’s first novel. I will certainly be buying copies of this book for the Kieras in my circle. Waiting with baited breath to see what Morris publishes next.” – Michelle, Goodreads reader

5. Frankly In Love – September 10, 2019

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

Adorable, relatable and with a diverse cast that holds nothing back, Frankly In Love was one of THE most popular titles fans grappled for at Book Con 2019.

“YOU GUYS THIS BOOK!!  It’s my life (except the fake-dating)! I mean, every ethnic house-hold can relate to the whole dating within your race nonsense and juggling your culture alongside the society you actually grew up in.
Our parents, man. Confused.com!” – Warda, Goodreads reader

This is obviously just a small sample of some of the incredible, diverse titles that 2019 has to offer. Not to mention those that came before this year, such as THUG, Love, Hate and Other Filters, and The Kiss Quotient. Seeing the real world portrayed on the page in every color, shape, religion and culture is finally being accepted within publishing, with pitch contests such as #DVpit, #ownvoices, etc making their mark on best seller lists worldwide.

We can’t wait to see more incredible titles reflecting the world we live in!

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