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    15 Books With Noteworthy Disabled Leads

    If you're looking for decent disabled representation, look no further than these amazing reads featuring diverse and nuanced characters within the disability community.

    Right now is an evolving time for diversity in fiction. With more attention given to voices and bodies that have been previously underrepresented, what better time than now to pay attention to all the amazing disability representation in fiction? From romance to fantasy, from D/deaf representation to neurodivergent representation, here is a list of books (many by disabled authors themselves) highlighting the diversity, nuance, and beauty of the disabled community. Hopefully, these books are only the foundation to a greater future for disabled reads.

    Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens

    edited by Marieke Nijkamp

    An anthology of 13 short stories, Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens is a series of tales exploring disability by some of the most acclaimed disabled writers in the YA field today. Among the many authors filling this book, from Kody Keplinger (author of That’s Not What Happened) to Karuna Riazi (author of The Gauntlet series) to Heidi Heilig (author of the Shadow Players trilogy), this anthology is filled to the brim with powerful stories told by powerful voices. Whether you’re hungry for a little adventure, or ready to get swoony over a love story, this anthology has a range of tastes for any hungry reader out there.

    You're Welcome, Universe

    by Whitney Gardner

    When Deaf street artist Julia gets busted for some “unauthorized” art on school property, she finds herself getting kicked out of her old school and into a new “mainstreamed” school filled with hearing kids. Now stuck in the suburbs, Julia tries to find action where she can get it, unleashing her bubbling artistic talent in secret tags around town. Yet when another secret street artist starts adding to her tags, suddenly Julia is fired up, ready to show up this “copy-cat” and show off her stuff. Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, You’re Welcome, Universe is a gorgeously rendered story of art and rebellion, complete with incredible illustrations from the author herself

    Far From You

    by Tess Sharpe

    After losing her best friend (and love of her life) Mina in a tragic turn of events, Sophie’s life can’t get any worse. That is, until she’s blamed for Mina’s death. In what looks a drug deal gone wrong, and despite being clean for several months, she's forced into rehab. When things don’t add up, Sophie resolves to find Mina’s killer… that is, before the killer can find her first. A sharp read by a sharp voice, Far From You is a pulsating murder noir mystery, exploring themes related to chronic pain, addiction, and recovery. If you’re looking for an entertaining thriller, especially one a with a bold bisexual disabled lead, then seek no further then Far From You.

    Song for a Whale

    by Lynne Kelly

    12-year-old mechanical genius Iris knows a few things. She’s deaf, she’s amazing with technology (especially radios), and she’s lonely in a school of kids who barely understand her. When Iris learns about a famous whale called Blue 55 — named for the frequency he sings, one in which other whales seem unable to understand — Iris finds a kindred spirit. Anxious to make sure Blue 55 doesn’t feel alone as she does, Iris sets out to send a message to her hopeful friend, who’s over three thousand miles away! A touching middle grade read with an empathetic and lovely lead character, Song for a Whale is a story worth checking out.

    Six of Crows

    by Leigh Bardugo

    Six outcasts, high stakes, one mission. When the Crows of Ketterdam, a group of highly proficient thieves, heartbreakers, and spies lead by notorious criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker, are assigned the task of breaking into the world’s most impenetrable fortress to steal a lucrative prize, what follows is chaos and adventure. Written by the brilliant Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows is an impressive clockwork piece of fiction, tuned to the highest degree of suspense and action. And as acclaimed website, Disability in Kidlit, stated, “Six of Crows portrays disability with incredible nuance; it’s realistic, respectful, and perfectly integrated into the characters and story.”

    Brave Enough

    by Kati Gardner

    Cason Martin is on the verge of success, fulfilling her mother’s dreams of getting accepted into an acclaimed dance conservatory. That is until she gets an unexpected injury that reveals even more unexpected results. After a diagnosis of bone cancer, Cason finds herself learning to adjust to a new life of hospital rounds… and visits from a cute boy named Davis. Partially inspired by the author’s own experiences as an amputee and cancer survivor, Brave Enough is a testament to the authentic power of representation and of telling hope and bravery through the lens of fiction.

    The Oracle Code

    by Marieke Nijkamp and Manuel Preitano

    Barbara “Babs” Gordon always had a taste for tech and for danger, never missing a chance to show off her skills or try to do good in the city of Gotham. Yet after a gunshot injury drastically changes her life, the newly paraplegic tech genius finds herself entering the Arkham Center for Independence to undergo physical and mental rehabilitation and having to adjust to a new way of life. However, at the Center, Babs finds herself entangled in a strange mystery, one where kids from the center keep mysteriously disappearing to who knows where, and soon she’s on the hunt to find out why. A reimagining of the origin stories of the legendary Oracle, one of DC’s first disabled superheroes, The Oracle Code is a worthwhile addition to the world of vigilante justice themed graphic novels.

    The Real Boy

    by Anne Ursu

    11-year-old Oscar does his best, meticulously studying and preparing the herbs used in the potions of his master’s famous magic shop. However, because of his social awkwardness and “odd patterns” (as least to the folks around him) Oscar has some trouble connecting to others, instead preferring to keep company with books and his feline friends. Yet, when strange things start going on, including several of the town’s children start falling ill, suddenly he’s pulled into a mystery bigger than anything he’s ever known. Praised by Corinne Duyvis as “beautifully written, with a wonderfully thoughtful plot” featuring an autistic protagonist, The Real Boy is a thoughtful middle grade fantasy you don’t want to miss.

    Sick Kids in Love

    by Hannah Moskowitz

    "The sick kids don't die in this one..." is the tagline, which immediately makes you know this book is different from anything else you’ve read. Isabel and Sasha are two “sick kids” (Rheumatoid arthritis and Gaucher disease respectively) but they get to be exactly that and so much more. The author paints a gorgeous love story between two teenagers who snark and laugh and have fun with each other, amid the aches and pains of their chronic illnesses and the close-mindedness of those who don’t understand disability or sickness. Sick Kids in Love is an incredible read by an incredible author, and worth checking out from the library ASAP.

    El Deafo

    by Cece Bell

    It’s hard being the new kid in school. And it gets even harder when you’re the new kid carrying around a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! Cece knows what it’s like to be different, being the only kid in class with a hearing disability. Yet when her hearing aid, the Phonic Ear, allows her to discover secrets that no one thinks to know is listening, suddenly Cece reimagines herself with this new ability as the superhero, El Deafo! Based off her own experiences growing up deaf, this graphic novel is a touching ode to the power of visual representation. And it's now an animated series!

    The Silence Between Us

    by Alison Gervais

    Maya Harris is many things: a loving daughter, a devoted sister, an aspiring medical student, and proudly Deaf. Unfortunately, she’s also surrounded by people who underestimate her because of her deafness. As much as she longs to escape her school and other ignorant students, she’s pulled to the people who try to understand her world, including a new love interest. With an eye-caching cover designed by Deaf artist Nancy Rourke, The Silence Between Us pulls you in from the start and leaves you wanting more.

    Get a Life, Chloe Brown

    by Talia Hibbert

    After nearly losing her life in a random accident, Chloe decides to grab life by the hand. She does this by writing a “Get a Life” list, which includes: enjoying a drunken night out, riding a motorcycle, go camping, having meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex, etc. What could go wrong, right? Along the way to help is the incredibly handsome (and snarky) Redford "Red" Morgan who’s head over heels for this chronically ill computer geek. A romance with a love of heart (and a bit of bite), Get a Life, Chloe Brown is a definite must-read.

    A Time to Dance

    by Padma Venkatraman

    For Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, dance is her life, both in the air she breathes and the way she moves. Yet after a sudden accident results in her getting a below-knee amputation, she suddenly finds her entire life off-balance. Relearning how to move with a prosthetic leg, Veda discovers that there’s more than one way to dance, and to live her life with joy, courage, and love. A Time to Dance is a touching novel-in-verse novel by an acclaimed author, centering a young woman with a lot of heart.

    Queens of Geek

    by Jen Wilde

    When fellow friends and geeks Taylor, Charlie, and Jamie travel from Australia to America to attend the pop culture phenomenon, SupaCon, nothing can stand in their way. Nothing that is except awful ex-boyfriends, startling new crushes, and surprises along the way. As one of the dual protagonists of this book, Taylor is a girl after my own heart: a loyal friend, a bookworm, and nerdy cosplayer. And she also happens to be on the autistic spectrum. If you’re looking for a fun love letter to pop-culture with an autistic and anxious lead character, then I suggest checking out Queens of Geek.

    O Human Star

    by Blue Delliquanti

    When famed inventor Al Sterling finds themselves waking in a new robot body 16 years after the passing of their body, suddenly they find themselves in a strange new world unlike the one they last remember living in. Blue Delliquanti is a master at their craft, imbuing this speculative fiction world with incredible characters, while organically incorporating disability into sci-fi. A soft science fiction romance and that explores the themes of gender, body modification, and transformation, this comic is too good to miss.