Book List

9 YA Books That Feature Strong Communities

August 13, 2021
Caroline Osborn

Where would any of us be without our communities? Whether you’re looking to celebrate the love of your nearest and dearest or you’re in need of a big fictional communal hug that feels oh-so-real, the strong communities in these books are here to lift you up.

9 YA Books That Feature Strong Communities

1. The Sky Blues by Robbie Couch

Sky is mortified when a homophobic cyberbully reveals his promposal plans to the whole school. But his friends and his loyal yearbook class help him turn his most embarrassing moment into an opportunity. Together, they just might be able to change their high school’s culture. Sky and his supporters turn his thirty-day promposal countdown into a mission to reveal the bully, all while wearing shirts that proclaim all of them “gay for” something they love. But who is gay for Sky? The answer may surprise him.

 

2. Facing the Sun by Janice Lynn Mather

Eve, Faith, Nia, and KeeKee are four best friends whose lives change forever when the public beach in their charming Caribbean town is threatened by fancy hotel developers. Each girl gets her own point-of-view chapters, and each is grappling with her own problems in her personal life, problems that often intersect with issues the other girls are facing. Along with the rest of their neighborhood, all four of them must reckon with impending gentrification brought by the hotel developers. More tourism means more potential income for everyone, but if their tight-knit community is the cost, it’s a high price to pay.

 

3. The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

When Margot uses her dad’s credit card without permission, her punishment is to work at his grocery store until she pays off her debt. Margot and her family live in the South Bronx, and their grocery store is a central hub of a vibrant Latinx community. But Margot doesn’t always feel like a part of the community. She is constantly code-switching between her Puerto Rican heritage and the largely white Manhattan prep school she attends. Hence the shopping spree on her dad’s credit card—she’s desperately trying to keep up. But with her focus on her classmates, Margot never expected to get closer to Moises, a cute South Bronx boy involved in an anti-gentrification movement to protect their community, a mission that just might be more fulfilling than trying to impress her classmates.

 

4. Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju

Nima is suffering a tragically awkward crush on her straight best friend and trying to cope with her mother’s sudden departure. She doesn’t see a place for herself in her quiet suburban neighborhood. But after she stumbles upon a drag performance at a local festival, she has a revelation. A friendly drag queen takes her under her wing, and she’s introduced to a vibrant queer community that has existed right under her nose all along. With this comes new crushes, burgeoning self-confidence, and the unleashing of her brand new drag king persona who gives her the courage to live loud and proud the way she’s always dreamed.

 

5. SLAY by Brittney Morris

Kiera had a great idea: a multiplayer online role-playing card game called SLAY that doubles as a safe space for Black gamers and a celebration of African heritage. She programmed it herself, and now it has members worldwide who find a loving and understanding community in the world she created. But when SLAY is linked to a real-world crime, her game starts getting media attention that leads the public to ask the question: is excluding white people from her game actually racist? Kiera must fight harder than ever to save her game, because she still believes in her vision with her whole heart, no matter what the haters say.

 

6. Your Corner Dark by Desmond Hall

When Frankie gets a scholarship to his dream school in the United States, he thinks he’s finally found a way out of Jamaica. But then tragedy strikes. To save his father’s life, he must join his uncle’s gang, a place he promised himself he’d never go. As Frankie is pulled deeper into the gang and does things he isn’t proud of, he begins to wonder whether he’s doomed to become just like his uncle. Frankie tries desperately to cling to his identity and remember the reason for his sacrifice: his love for his father. He reaches for his found family and his relationship with Leah, his longtime crush who has recently become his girlfriend, for genuine bright spots amidst the darkness, and hopes that he can make them his future instead.

 

7. Wings of Ebony by J. Elle

After Rue’s mother is shot on her doorstep, her life is never the same. Her father whisks her away from her neighborhood community in Houston to a secret island of Ghizon, populated by gray-skinned magic-wielders who claim to be gods. More surprising still, Rue learns that she herself is half-god, half-human. But Ghizon is suffocating and unwelcoming, and Rue finds herself drawn back to the neighborhood and friends she misses so much, only to discover that she might be able to trace the problems facing her Houston neighborhood back to Ghizon—and if she wants to protect the community she grew up with, the one that loves her without question, she’s going to have to expose the hidden evils of her father’s homeland.

 

8. A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

Annabelle is running a half marathon every day until she makes it from Seattle to Washington, DC. Why is she running? She barely survived a terrible trauma, and some of her friends didn’t. Running is the only thing she can do to take her body back, to take her life back. As she runs, her family and friends and eventually the rest of the country rise up to support her. No one is as present as her beloved Italian grandfather, who follows her route in his RV and makes her dinner every night. After all, as the book says, “it’s the people who know you and love you that save you.”

 

9. What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

Halle has found a place for herself in the online book community, and her social media account, One True Pastry (OTP), which pairs covers with matching cupcakes, has just snagged its first big cover reveal. The only problem? Her online crush, Nash, only knows her as Kels, her internet alias. But she just moved to a new town, randomly ran into Nash, and was too shocked to say anything. So while Halle is falling for Nash harder than ever, he’s falling for . . . Kels. Stuck between her sense of belonging online and her more awkward IRL personality, Halle must figure out how to reconcile her two identities—if it isn’t already too late. Can Halle and Nash become the endgame OTP after all?

 

Looking for more? Check out these books featuring found families!

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