In the age of social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and the LGBTQ+ movement, new voices are coming out in the world of young adult fiction. In recent years, several books have been released that use current social issues as the premise of their content. Here’s a list of ten books that talk about social justice issues that you should add to your reading list:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This novel is a direct response to police brutality. Thomas writes about a sixteen-year-old African American girl, Starr, who lives in a rough neighborhood, but goes to a private, majority white school. When she sees one of her oldest friends from the neighborhood get killed by police, her life is turned upside down. Starr seeks to avenge her friend’s death and discredit the horrible things that the media is saying about him, while keeping the persona she holds at her suburban school, as what she says can upend her entire community while putting her and her family in danger.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Zélie’s home, Orïsha, was once a magical place. But when the magic suddenly disappears and a ruthless king is murdering people left and right, including Zélie’s mother, Zélie knows she has to do something about it. With the help of a rogue princess, she must defeat the crown prince, who is determined to eradicate magic for good. As she continues on her quest to bring back the magic, Zélie finds danger around every corner. But the biggest danger of all just might be her own heart.
Saints and Misfits by S.K Ali
In Janna’s world there are three types of people: saints, those remarkable people pushing the world forward; misfits, those who don’t belong; and monsters, actually, monsters wearing saint masks. Fifteen-year-old Janna Yusuf, a Flannery O’Connor-obsessed book nerd and the daughter of the only divorced mother at their mosque, tries to make sense of the events that follow when her best friend’s cousin—a holy star in the Muslim community—attempts to assault her at the end of sophomore year.
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
This novel, in typical Romeo and Juliet fashion, is the story of forbidden love. At Percy Academy, a private school, neither Elisha or Jeremiah really fit in with the crowd. Both have their issues, Elisha’s family and Jeremiah’s African American heritage. When both come together, they are happier than they have ever been. It becomes an issue when the two lovebirds want to share their happiness with their friends and family who would never understand.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
In a similar vein to The Hate U Give, this novel also covers the topic of police brutality. Justyce McAllister is a straight-A student, on track for Ivy Leagues, but the police officer who sticks him in handcuffs doesn’t care about any of that. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? Then one day while Justyce is driving with his friend, Manny, shots are fired. In the media fallout, Justyce is the one under attack.
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Mara and Owen are as close as twins can be. However, the tables turn on their relationship when Owen is accused of rape by Hannah, Mara’s friend. Suddenly, Mara has to rethink everything she thought she knew about her brother. Could he really be capable of such a thing? Between her struggle of choosing between the family she loves and her moral compass, and her troubles with her ex-girlfriend and closest childhood friend, Charlie, it seems to Mara that her world is spinning out of control. In this timeless novel, topics of sexual assault, victim blaming, and consent are confronted openly and sensitively.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
This story of living up to your family’s expectations and your culture takes place in Chicago. Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter, that is her sister Olga’s role. When a tragic accident occurs, leaving Olga dead, Julia is left to face her broken family who don’t seem to notice that Julia is broken too. Instead, her mother decides to take out her grief on Julia. In a turn of events, Julia discovers that Olga may not have been the perfect Mexican daughter she was believed to be. With the help of her best friend, Lorena, and boyfriend, Connor, they dig into her sister’s past to find out Olga’s story and how Julia can live up to a seemingly impossible ideal.
We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Is the world really worth saving? This is the question that Henry has to answer. Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens, but this time they gave him an ultimatum. In 144 days, the earth will end, unless Henry finds it in himself to press the button and save the approximately seven billion souls down below. Looking back at the life Henry has led on Earth, it hasn’t exactly treated him well. His mom is a struggling waitress held together by cigarette smoke; his brother is a jobless dropout who knocked someone up; his grandmother is slowly fading away due to her Alzheimer’s; and he’s still dealing with his boyfriend’s suicide. However, he turns to the scientist part of himself and begins to weigh the pros and cons: does he push the button and save the world, or let it—and his pain—crumble?
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
In John Green’s newest novel, sixteen year old, Aza, gets wrapped up in a mystery involving billionaire Russell Pickett. There’s a one hundred thousand dollar reward, and her best friend, Daisy, won’t take no for an answer. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
In Tahereh Mafi’s newest novel, it’s 2002, a very politically fueled time, especially when you’re Shirin, a sixteen-year-old girl who is tired of being stereotyped for her Muslim religion. She’s tired of the disgusted stares, the comments, even the physical violence. She’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother. That is, until she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person who has ever seen her and not just the hijab she wears, and this terrifies her. They come from such different worlds, and she’s had these walls up for so long, what if she can’t let them down?
Do you have more social justice book suggestions? Comment below!