Thirteen YA Books That Feature POC Leads Coming to You This 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish in which book bloggers list their top ten picks for whatever the current prompt is.

Before 2014, before the grassroots movement #WeNeedDiverseBooks took off, curating a list of books with people of color as main characters would have been daunting. It would not have been impossible, yes, but not easily manageable either. So for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday—which prompt is pretty loose—I opted to feature POC leads to celebrate how far we’ve come in publishing and at the same time remind everyone that there is still a lot of work to do. And one way we, bloggers, can help is by supporting and promoting diverse titles, by telling those in position that these stories not only matter but also sell.

I’m also listing down thirteen books instead of ten because, well, Paper Fury.

NOTE: The list is in chronological order of publication and I only included those with cover designs.

*Click the cover to be directed to the book’s Goodreads page.*

Love, Hate and Other Filters 01   Let's Talk About Love 01   Down and Across 01

Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
January 16, Soho Teen

Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a “suitable” Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City—and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she’s only known from afar. There’s the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya’s last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear?

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
January 23, Swoon Reads

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting—working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating—no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi
January 30, Viking Books for Young Readers

Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try—all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.

The Belles 01   After the Shot Drops 01   Children of Blood and Bone 01

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
February 20, Disney Hyperion

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay
March 6, Houghton Miffin Harcourt

Bunny and Nasir have been best friends forever, but when Bunny accepts an athletic scholarship across town, Nasir is betrayed. Bunny feels out of place among his new, privileged peers, and Nasir spends more time with his cousin, Wallace, who is being evicted. Nasir can’t help but wonder why the neighborhood is falling over itself to help Bunny when Wallace is in trouble.

When Wallace makes a bet against Bunny, Nasir is faced with an impossible decision—maybe a dangerous one.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
March 6, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

The Poet X 01   Fire Song 01   The Astonishing Color of After 01

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
March 6, HarperTeen

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones
March 13, Annick Press

How can Shane reconcile his feelings for David with his desire for a better life?

Shane is still reeling from the suicide of his kid sister, Destiny. How could he have missed the fact that she was so sad? He tries to share his grief with his girlfriend, Tara, but she’s too concerned with her own needs to offer him much comfort. What he really wants is to be able to turn to the one person on the rez whom he loves—his friend, David.

Things go from bad to worse as Shane’s dream of going to university is shattered and his grieving mother withdraws from the world. Worst of all, he and David have to hide their relationship from everyone. Shane feels that his only chance of a better life is moving to Toronto, but David refuses to join him. When yet another tragedy strikes, the two boys have to make difficult choices about their future together.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan
March 20, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Tyler Johnson was Here 01   Dread Nation 01   Anger is a Gift 01   #Prettyboy Must Die 01

Tyler Johnson was Here by Jay Coles
March 20, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
April 3, Balzer and Bray

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
May 22, Tor Teen

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

#Prettyboy Must Die by Kimberly Reid
TBD, Tor Teen

When Peter Smith’s classmate snaps a picture of him during a late night run at the track, Peter thinks he might be in trouble. When she posts that photo—along with the caption, “See the Pretty Boy Run,”—Peter knows he’s in trouble. But when hostiles drop through the ceiling of his 6th period Chem Class, Peter’s pretty sure his trouble just became a national emergency.

Because he’s not really Peter Smith. He’s Jake Morrow, former foster-kid turned CIA operative. After a massive screw-up on his first mission, he’s on a pity assignment, a dozen hit lists and now, social media, apparently. As #Prettboy, of all freaking things.

His cover’s blown, his school’s under siege, and if he screws up now, #Prettyboy will become #Deadboy faster than you can say, ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ Trapped in a high school with rabid killers and rabid fans, he’ll need all his training and then some to save his job, his school and, oh yeah, his life.

Complement this with Sil @ The Book Voyager’s 2018 Books by Authors of Color/Native Authors.

Now it’s YOUR turn. What upcoming POC-lead books are you most excited about? And also? How gorgeous is the cover for Tyler Johnson was Here?

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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23 thoughts on “Thirteen YA Books That Feature POC Leads Coming to You This 2018

  1. I already have lots of these arcs in my TBR pile! The Belles is probably one of my most-looking-forward to titles, just because I really like the author’s Tiny Pretty Things. And Love, Hate and Other Filters, just because the author is represented by Eric Smith, whom I adore. But it’s an awesome time in YA lit right now!

    My Top Ten Tuesday

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    1. It IS! Isn’t it, Kate? I’m very thrilled (and also envious) to know that you have ARCs of a lot of these titles, that means the publishers are putting money into promoting them! I hope The Belles and LHAOF both live up to your expectations.

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  2. So many amazing books on your list today, Miel! ❤ I think the book I'm the most excited for on this is The Belles. I feel like I have been waiting for this book forever, and it doesn't help that the cover is so stunning, I DREAM of holding it in my hands ahah 🙂 I really want to read sooo many other books on here, especially Love, Hate and Other Filters, Down and Across and The Astonishing Color of After ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear! ❤ It does feel like we’ve all been waiting for The Belles forever! And I don’t know why; it really seems like this has been announced for years and years. And I’m excited to see you’re eyeing Down and Across, too. I’m personally thrilled for this debut!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great topic! I haven’t read any of these but I’m adding Tyler Johnson Was Here, and #prettyboy must die as well because it sounds fabulous! Children of Blood and Bone sounds amazing too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right? I freaked out when I saw the cover and blurb of Tyler Johnson was Here. And both #Prettyboy Must Die and Children of Blood and Bone sound like they’re going to be edge-of-your-seat reads. Thank you for dropping by, Greg!

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    1. Sorry not sorry, Shanu! Haha! But really. I’m freakin’ ecstatic with the response this list has been getting, especially on Twitter. It just goes to show that there’s a massive demand for more diverse books! ❤

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    1. Thank you, Adri! I KNOW. We’re on to a good start here! And I’m glad I was able to add more on your radar. It always feels nice to help people discover books that might interest them, even more so with diverse titles. As for Tyler Johnson was Here, gorgeous cover is gorgeous.

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  4. Probably just me but I cried while reading the synopsis for Down and Across! 😭 And I only read the first paragraph because:

    1.) The cover had me solved already!
    2.) I want to go into it blindly, but the first half already got me bawling.
    3.) There is a strong inkling in me that the book will be amazing.

    But then again, all of the books in this list sounds so amazing, Kuya Miel! I cannot wait for all of these books. Some of the titles were already on my TBR, but yay for your list because I wholeheartedly added more. 💙

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