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Jun 17, 2020

Here Are 29 YA Books By Black Authors That Are So Compelling You'll Want To Read Them More Than Once

The best of the best, ladies and gents!

by ,

1. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Freeform, dhonielleclayton.com

Release date: Feb. 2019

What it's about: Set in the luxurious world of Orléans where people are born gray, Camellia Beauregard is a Belle, someone with the power to control beauty. Camellia hopes to be chosen by the Queen of Orléans to be a Belle in the royal court, but arriving at the palace isn't everything she and her sisters imagined. Dark secrets and danger lie at the hands of the queen, and Camellia must face a hard decision: save herself and her sisters or save the people of Orléans. We loved the immersive, rich world of Orléans. Clayton's compelling plot and intriguing cast of characters are sure to hook you from page one.

Find the sequel, Everlasting Rose, from Bookshop for $16.77.

Get it from Bookshop for $10.11, from Barnes and Noble for $10.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

2. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Simon & Schuster, Nate B. / Via jasonwritesbooks.com

Release date: Oct. 2017

What it's about: Told in beautiful verse, this National Book Award finalist takes place in a 60-second elevator ride, where Will must decide whether or not he will seek revenge on the man who murdered his brother. Jason's books have a way of emotionally unraveling readers, but this one will rip your heart right out of your chest then slam it back in.

Get it from Bookshop for $11.03, from Barnes and Noble for $10.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

3. Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Crown Books for Young Readers, goodreads.com

Release date: Sept. 2018

What it's about: Justyce begins writing letters to Martin Luther King Jr. after a scary, discriminatory incident with the police. Jus is a smart kid who attends a mostly white prep school and dreams of attending an Ivy League university, but he begins to wonder if the world sees him as good because of the color of his skin. After the incident, Jus begins reflecting upon the daily microaggressions he experiences, especially those that come from a certain group of classmates. Dear Martin is a timely novel, now more than ever, that poignantly dives deep into the reality of injustice, prejudices, privilege, and racism.

Don't miss the sequel coming September 29, Dear Justyce, which follows Quan, a Black teen, who is incarcerated after being accused of shooting a police officer.

Get it from Bookshop for $9.19, from Barnes and Noble for $8.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

4. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Harpercollins, writeinbk.com

Release date: Jan. 2017

What it's about: Mary allegedly killed a 3-month-old baby when she was 9. The news and media assume they know the whole story, but Mary has never fully provided a confession from her point of view. And as the story progresses, we learn what exactly happened that night. Jackson crafts a highly engaging thriller that's equal parts suspenseful and haunting, with twists you won't see coming. It's a real punch in the gut.

If you want more incredible books from Jackson, also check out Monday's Not Coming — a story about what happens when a girl's best friend goes missing.

Get it from Bookshop for $10.11, from Barnes and Noble for $10.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

5. The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

Balzer + Bray, sites.google.com

Release date: Apr. 14

What it's about: Michael is a gay teen of Greek and Jamaican descent in London. He's never truly quite felt like he's belonged, but when he stumbles into the drag queen scene in London, Black Flamingo is born, and he finally feels like he belongs for the first time in his life. Atta pens a stunning and lyrical coming-of-age story told in verse.

Get it from Bookshop for $17.46, from Barnes and Noble for $16.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

6. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Harpercollins, harpercollins.com

Release date: Sept. 2018

What it's about: Boko Haram gained national media attention when he kidnapped 276 girls from Chibok in Nigeria in April of 2014 — 50 were able to escape. Although Nwaubani tells a story of a fictionalized girl, the event that transpired is true. The nameless narrator of this story is determined to gain a government scholarship in order to attend university for free and help her family, but that dream crumbles when her village is attacked by Boko Haram. She and her best friend are kidnapped and forced to serve their captors’ radical beliefs. Yet, despite everything, she is determined to escape. Nwaubani tells an important story so powerfully and poignantly that it's deeply unforgettable.

Get it from Bookshop for $16.55, from Barnes and Noble for $10.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

7. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Square Fish, goodreads.com

Release date: March 2019

What it's about: Adeyemi creates a rich, compelling Nigerian fantasy bursting with action, adventure, and magic. Long before, Orïsha was the home to those who possess magic called maji. Under the king's orders, maji were slain in order to bring about peace. Zélie knows magic isn't meant to be buried, and she finds it hard to believe that it's as bad as the king makes it out to be. Thrown into an unexpected adventure, Zélie, her brother, and Princess Amari must travel and escape impending danger to outwit a crown prince in order to save magic — and themselves. Told from three perspectives, Adeyemi's incredible thrill-ride of a novel is a reminder to accept and love the magic that makes you YOU, even when outsiders try to challenge that.

Find the sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, from Bookshop for $18.39.

Get it from Bookshop for $13.79, from Barnes and Noble for $13.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

8. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Ember, nicolayoon.com

Release date: Nov. 2016

What it's about: Natasha is a logical thinker and lover of everything science-related. Daniel, more of a dreamer, has always lived up to the expectations he was held to. When Natasha discovers she and her family are being deported to Jamaica, she tries to do whatever she can to stop it. But when the two meet on a crowded NYC street, everything changes. The connection is there, but is the timing? Nicola's breathtaking novel tackles immigration, acceptance, family, and love in a stunning and powerful way.

Get it from Bookshop for $11.95, from Barnes and Noble for $11.69, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

9. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Harper, Imani Khayyam / Via imanikhayyam.com

Release date: Feb. 2017

What it's about: There's a chance you've already heard about Thomas's powerful debut novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, which went on to be made into a movie. It's about a Black girl named Starr who witnesses the police shooting and killing her good friend, Khalil. Khalil did nothing wrong. Faced with confronting this injustice, Starr must decide if she can gain the courage to speak out. Thomas writes a powerful story about police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and privilege not just from a fictionalized point of view, but from one based in reality. You don't want to miss this one.

Get it from Bookshop for $17.47, from Barnes and Noble for $16.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

10. War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi

Razorbill, Christina Orlando / Via tochionyebuchi.com

Release date: Oct. 2019

What it's about: In 2172, two sisters living in a war-torn Nigeria want nothing but peace. Onyii and Ify have grown up in war and violence, and they'll do anything — even fight — to restore the peace. This dystopian novel set in the future is like nothing you've read before, and one you're not gonna wanna miss.

Get it from Bookshop for $17.47, from Barnes and Noble for $16.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

11. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Harper, acevedowrites.com

Release date: Mar. 2018

What it's about: Xiomara Batista is 15 years old and has been struggling with the way boys see her and her curves, questioning her religion under her incredibly strict (and incredibly religious) mother, and feeling guilty about being attracted to a boy in her class. The only people who do seem to understand her are her twin brother and best friend. But slowly, Xio begins to find her voice when her teacher invites her to the school's poetry slam club — only she has to lie to her mother to attend. With so many secrets and lies building up, Xio isn't sure she'll ever be able to connect with her mother. Told in beautiful, lyrical verse, every sentence Acevedo writes will pound straight into your heart. It's a rare, stunning experience of a book and impossible to put down.

Get it from Bookshop for $16.55, from Barnes and Noble for $11.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

12. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Make Me a World, akwaeke.com

Release date: Sept. 2019

What it's about: Jam is a Black, transgender girl who lives in a utopian society called Lucille. This world is free of monsters, or rather, free from corruption, crime, and injustice. When Jam's mother paints a creature and Jam accidentally brings it to life, Pet is born. Pet's goal is to rid her world of monsters, but Jam has been led to believe there are none on her utopian world. That is, until Pet tracks down a monster in Jam's best friend's home. This incredible and important story may be set in a world unlike our own, but Emezi tackles real issues with honesty, reminding us all that we must not turn a blind eye to the monsters in our own world.

Get it from Bookshop for $16.55, from Barnes and Noble for $15.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

13. Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Little, Brown, goodreads.com

Release date: Mar. 2018

What it's about: Marvin and his twin brother, Tyler, attend a warehouse party that turns violent after a police raid. And then Tyler disappears. Evidence of the aftermath arises by way of cellphone footage, revealing Tyler was a victim of an unjust police shooting. While Marvin and his mother grieve Tyler's loss, Marvin believes Tyler needs to be more than a hashtag, so he starts seeking justice. Tyler Johnson Was Here is a timely novel that addresses police brutality and broken systems in America. Cole's talent shines in this moving and powerful novel. A must-read.

Get it from Bookshop for $10.11, from Barnes and Noble for $9.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

14. Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud

Point, Twitter: @debbierigaud

Release date: July 2019

What it's about: We're absolutely giddy over this swoony romance — 16-year-old Zora meets a boy named Owen, but she's caught off-guard when she finds out he's an actual prince. With Owen's older brother's wedding coming up, Zora finds herself attending as a guest on Owen's behalf. This is the perfect light-hearted novel you'll want to consume in one bite, enjoying the fact that it'll leave you in joyful spirits.

Get it from Bookshop for $9.19, from Barnes and Noble for $9.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

15. A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

Imprint, llmckinney.com

Release date: Sept. 2019

What it's about: Alice is trained to fight monsters in a dream realm known as Wonderland. In real life, Alice delicately balances her overprotective mom, her high-maintenance best friend, and her slipping GPA in Atlanta. But when Alice's mentor is poisoned, she must venture into the unknown depths of Wonderland to find the antidote and use everything she knows to make it out alive. With a new spin on Alice and Wonderland, this book has some seriously badass characters and an epic adventure that'll blow you away.

Get it from Bookshop for $10.11, from Barnes and Noble for $9.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

16. All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, iamgmjohnson.com

Release date: Apr. 28

What it's about: In this series of personal essays, activist and journalist George M. Johnson recalls the trials and tribulations of growing up and going to school in New Jersey and Virginia while coming to terms with his sexuality. This book should be on the shelves of not just young queer boys who don't fit the "masculine" mold, but anyone who considers themselves an ally so that they can further understand toxic masculinity, gender identity, brotherhood, consent, and "Black boy joy."

Get it from Bookshop for $16.55, from Barnes and Noble for $16.49, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

17. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

Harper, justinareynolds.com

Release date: Mar. 2019

What it's about: Jack and Kate fell for each other, but it soon ended after Kate's unexpected death. But through reasons Jack can't explain, Kate's death sends him into a repetitive time loop, taking him back to the moment they first met. If Jack can use this time loop to try and to stop Kate's death, he'll do it. But when one of Jack's actions turns deadly for someone close to him, he'll have to make hard decisions. We are fully on board for time-traveling love stories, and this one will not disappoint.

Get it from Bookshop for $16.55, from Barnes and Noble for $10.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

18. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Harper, kacencallender.com

Release date: May 5, 2020

What it's about: Felix is a Black trans boy who has never been in love, yet desperately wants to experience it. He worries his marginalization won't lead him to finding his happily ever after, especially when he is still struggling with his identity. When a student publicly posts his deadname, Felix seeks revenge — but he doesn't expect his catfishing plan to land him in a quasi–love triangle. Callender creates characters you'll desperately want to be friends with, ones who are honestly exploring identity and the love they deserve.

Get it from Bookshop for $17.47, Barnes and Noble for $18.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

19. The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

Imprint, goodreads.com

Release date: Mar. 2019

What it's about: This is a story about Ryann, who has her head in the stars but her feet on the wrong side of the tracks, and Alexandria, whose mother is, quite literally, traveling through the universe. Their tempered friendship turns into a beautiful love story, one filled with hardships and the love of stars.

Get it from Bookshop for $17.47, from Barnes and Noble for $10.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

20. Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

Quill Tree Books, lamargiles.com

Release date: Jan. 2020

What it's about: When Del inadvertently joins a purity ring club to get closer to his childhood crush Kiera, the last thing he expected to get out of it was learning more about himself and what it means to "be a man." This poignant and important story of masculinity in our modern era is something everyone can learn from.

Get it from Bookshop for $16.55, from Barnes and Noble for $16.49, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

21. When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

Delacorte Press, ashleywoodfolk.com

Release date: Mar. 2020

What it's about: Cleo and Layla used to be best friends, but that friendship ended. Cleo wants to forget Layla exists, but it's not as easy as she thinks considering she's assigned to be Layla's tutor. But what happens when Cleo's past comes back to haunt them both? In this stunning contemporary novel, Woodfolk expertly dives into all the raw emotions that one experiences when friendships grow apart.

Get it from Bookshop for $16.55, from Barnes and Noble for $15.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

22. If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann

Swoon Reads, clairekann.com

Release date: June 2019

What it's about: Winnie is a plus-sized Black girl who thinks she's about to have a fun and chill summer working at her grandmother's diner, but it turns into her worst nightmare. When Winnie's crowned the Summer Queen in her small town, she's thrust into the spotlight of guest appearances, obligations, photo shoots — not to mention all in the company of the Summer King. Winnie is going to have to conquer her fears and defy everyone's expectations. This is a cute, hopeful contemporary novel that'll have you rooting for Winnie until the end.

Get it from Bookshop for $16.54, from Barnes and Noble for $17.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

23. Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Harperteen, ibizoboi.net

Release date: Sept. 2018

What it's about: This Pride and Prejudice retelling follows Zuri Benitez and her Haitian-Dominican sisters who live in a gentrifying neighborhood in Bushwick. When a wealthy family and their two sons, Ainsley and Darius Darcy, move into a newly renovated "mini mansion" across the way, Zuri's older sister, Janae, immediately falls for Ainsley — but right off the bat, Zuri can't stand his arrogant brother. Determined to hate Darius, Zuri focuses on her college plans and gaining attention from another cute boy named Warren. However, Zuri and Darius slowly begin to discover that they might have more in common than they initially think — if they can just set aside their pride and figure it out. This modern retelling is so much fun, full of vibrant characters and, of course, romance.

Get it from Bookshop for $10.11, from Barnes and Noble for $9.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

24. The Voice in My Head by Dana L. Davis

Inkyard Press, danaldavis.com

Release date: May 2019

What it's about: Indigo Phillips's twin sister is terminally ill with plans to die by a medically assisted suicide, and Indigo is broken thinking of a life without her. But when Indigo swears she can hear a voice in her head telling her she can save her sister, she takes a leap of faith and begs her family to road trip to Arizona in hopes of preventing what seems to be inevitable. With a central focus on family, this emotionally resonant novel will inevitably make you feel your feelings.

Get it from Bookshop for $17.46, from Barnes and Noble for $18.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

25. Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Speak, brandycolbert.com

Release date: Aug. 2015

What it's about: Theo is finally getting her life back on track when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four years with his kidnapper, causing Theo to relive memories about Donovan's abduction and abductor. Donovan isn't talking about what happened, but Theo knows more than she's saying. But is speaking the truth worth putting everything she's been living for at risk? Colbert's powerful debut novel will absolutely tug with your emotions.

Get it from Bookshop for $9.19, from Barnes and Noble for $9.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

26. Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

Wednesday, Chris Duffey / Via mslilyanderson.com

Release date: Nov. 2017

What it's about: Elliot Gabaroche has a bunch of things on her NOT to-do list for the summer. The only thing she wants to do is attend a cutthroat academic decathlon — under the alias Ever Lawerence — where the winner gets a full ride to Rayevich College, the only college in the country with a Science Fiction Literature program, aka the college of her dreams. But things take a turn when her cousin Isaiah shows up to steal her dream and expose her secret. Can someone say page turner?

Get it from Bookshop for $18.99, from Barnes and Noble for $18.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

27. Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

Greenwillow Books, liaratamani.com

Release date: Sept. 2018

What it's about: Taja Brown knows her place and the restrictions within her conservative and tight-knit African American family, but she suddenly feels left behind watching her friends go through a world of firsts — from kisses to boyfriends to everything in between. But everything shifts when Taja falls in love for the first time. Tamani creates a raw, relatable, and eloquently told coming-of-age story about finding your place, beliefs, and identity.

Get it from Bookshop for $10.11, from Barnes and Noble for $9.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

28. All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor

Viking Books for Young Readers, peacecorpsworldwide.org

Release date: Jan. 2020

What it's about: This conclusion to the Logan family saga — who we first met in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry — is deeply fulfilling for anyone who's kept up with this family. Cassie is a young woman now, having moved from Toledo to California to Boston and back to Mississippi (with her law degree in tow) to participate in voter registration. Witness the Great Migration North, the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement, and racism in the '60s through Cassie's eyes.

Get it from Bookshop for $18.39, from Barnes and Noble for $17.99, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

29. Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Bloomsbury, reneewatson.net

Release date: June 2018

What it's about: Jade accepts the opportunity to attend a mostly white private school on the outskirts of her neighborhood. When she makes the decision to join Women to Women, a mentorship program, she at least expects to connect to her mentor, Maxine. She seems to think her personal life is more important that Women to Women, but maybe there are a few things Jade could potentially teach her. A smart story revolving around strong women, Renée's novel brilliantly focuses on topics of race, class, privilege, and friendship.

Get it from Bookshop for $10.11, from Barnes and Noble for $9.89, or from a local bookstore through Indiebound here.

What's your favorite YA novel by a Black author? Let us know in the comments below!

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