Hey y’all! Today I wanted to do a quick recommendation of books about the Black teenage experience that I have recently read. There are so many and I highly recommend all of these. I wanted to show with this list that Black stories don’t always have to revolve around police brutality. While it is an important narrative, Black people are so much more than that. Here are a list of books that I highly recommend and think that you should read.
Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles (2020, Harper Teen) – This follows Del who has always had a crush on Kiera but the timing hasn’t been right for him to shoot his shot. When Kiera breaks up with her boyfriend Del thinks that it’s finally his time so he decides to take the Purity Pledge where Kiera attends church and the story goes from there. This talks about social media, religion in the Black community, and most importantly it talks about sex education in public schools. This is my second Lamar Giles and I really enjoy his writing. It’s accessible and the teenagers feel like teenagers.
The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert (2020, Little Brown Books for Young Readers) – I have a full review for this because Brandy Colbert has slowly become my queen. But this book deals with figuring out your place in white spaces and also discusses passing.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (2018, Harper Teen) – Xiomara wants to join the slam poetry club at her school but her very religious mother won’t let her. This is told in verse and the audiobook, read by the author, is phenomenal. Acevedo discusses the hyper-sexuality of Black girls bodies at a young age, religion, finding self, and falling in love.
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (2018, Disney-Hyperion) – Camellia wants nothing more than to be the favorite Belle. Belles are the only ones born into this world beautiful. I’ve read this story twice, and continued in the series. The nuanced discussion slavery, colorism, beauty standards, and moral dilemmas all told in the context of this fantasy world was good. I especially enjoyed the political intrigue throughout the story.
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (2017, Bloomsbury USA Children’s) – Jade is bused out of her town to a affluent suburb to go to school. She does well and school and is sure she will be invited to the study abroad program. Instead, she is recommended for a mentor program with a Black woman who is from this affluent part of town. I really love this book. The discussions of people doing what they think is best for you and what makes them feel good, without ever really assessing what you actually need. While there is a plot line that involves police brutality, it is not the majority of the story.
What are some of your favorite YA books about the Black experience? Let’s chat in the comments.
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