10 #OwnVoices Novels You Need to Read Right Now

May 21, 2019
Lili Feinberg

Diversity in YA is being championed like never before, and we’re totally here for it! So we wanted to take a moment to recommend some #OwnVoices reads to diversify your bookshelves. For a book to be categorized as an #OwnVoices novel, it has to feature a main character who shares the marginalized identity of the author.

10 #OwnVoices Novels You Need to Read Right Now

1. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

A music loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Through exploring a part of history that not many people know, we meet Melati Ahmad, a girl who believes she harbors an evil djinn inside her who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

2. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Eleanor & Park meets Bollywood in this hilarious and heartfelt novel about two Indian-American teens whose parents conspire to arrange their marriage. Dimple Shah is excited to attend a summer program for aspiring developers, unaware that Rishi Patel, a hopeless romantic looking to woo her as his future wife, will also be attending.

3. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean’s love life can only be described as complicated. What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once? Well, Lara Jean is about to find out when the love letters she secretly wrote for the five boys she’s ever loved, the ones meant for her eyes only, get mailed out by mistake. Imaginary love life? Hah! It’s now out of control. I especially love this series because of Lara Jean’s identity as a half-Korean, half-Caucasian young woman and how she introduces others to her culture (Korean yogurt, anyone?)

4. American Panda by Gloria Chao

A laugh-out-loud funny debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and total crush on a Japanese classmate. When Mei reconnects with her brother Xing, estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if she can find a way to get her parents to accept her for being herself. Unlike the panda, life isn’t always so black and white.

5. Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali

This is an unforgettable romance that is part The Sun is Also a Star mixed with Anna and the French Kiss, following two Muslim teens who marvelously and oddly meet during a spring break trip. Need I say more?

6. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds. A fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother. Will knows he has to get revenge on the person who murdered his brother, Shawn, so he takes an elevator to prepare to do so. But, along the way, someone connected to Shawn gets on at every floor, giving him a bigger piece of the story, and making him question if he should really fire that gun.

7. The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted. After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded and working in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. But with each slice of deli meat, she feels her carefully cultivated prep school reputation and that invitation to the ultimate beach party slipping away…

8. Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

Love in all its awkward glory! When Sam and Penny Lee first cross paths, it’s less the meet-cute we all dream about and more of a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers, and stay in touch via text. They quickly become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

9. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Kiko Himura, a half-Japanese teen, grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school. All she wanted was to get into Prism to get away from the mother who makes her feel unremarkable and who celebrates a heritage she doesn’t quite understand. So when Kiko receives an invitation to leave her small town behind and tour art schools on the west coast, she jumps at the opportunity to be her own person and overcome her anxiety.

10. Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez

Juan and JD both have plans. Juan is going to get out of El Paso, Texas, on a basketball scholarship and JD is going to be a filmmaker. Fabi doesn’t have a plan anymore, not since getting pregnant at sixteen. When Juan and JD embark on road trip to visit Juan’s dad on death row (someone Fabi always said was dead), we find out there are some things you just can’t plan for…

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