2016 has been an eventful year and I’ve been encouraged by all of the great books that have come out featuring writers of color and characters of color, but there is still a lot to be done and more advocacy to do before their is equitable representation on the shelves and in the publishing houses. As a member of the Georgia Peach Book Award for Teen Readers committee I’ve read a TON of books this year. If you’re still looking for gifts or something to sink your teeth in this winter take a look at my top 9.

Sorry, I couldn’t come up with 10, which could speak to the dearth of good, well-rounded fiction this year. Not one of these books has a black boy as the lead or even as a secondary character. Don’t think that this has nothing to do with how easily people dismiss the murder of black boys. You have to see people to recognize their humanity.

 Here is my criteria:

Is it diverse in scope? – This means that this isn’t white, cis, heteronormative, middle class angel food cake in a generic package that I’ve seen hundreds of times before.
Can anyone enjoy it? – This means young, old, black , white, gay , straight and all the shades in between.
Is it different? – Is this a new take on an old trope. Gimme something new!

1. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – A fantasy heist that has intrigue, danger and love gone wrong set in a mythical land. It’s fast paced and fantastic.

2. A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls by Jessica Spotswood- Diverse, feminist, historical fiction from YA powerhouse women. Each one is fantastic, especially the kick-off about a Black girl pirate in the 1700’s.

3. Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak – A magical realism boy meets boy, boy forgets boy because of magic spell  and then meets boy again story.

4. Dime by ER Frank- A heart breaking story about sexual traffiking, how it happens and the emotional manipulation that plays into it.

5. The Head of the Saint by Socorro Acioli – This is a modern classic. It feels like a legend or even a bible story, this is how epic it is. Follow a boy who lives in the head of a beheaded statue of a saint as he begins to answer the prayers of his village.

6. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine – A steampunk adventure wherein books have been outlawed and managed by a magic-robot protected librarian dictatorship.

7. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows-  You remember Henry the VIII, well what if he descended from a line of shapeshifters and what if his only son didn’t die. There are a lot of what if’s in this reimagining of history, but they’re all hilarious.

8. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie Mclemore- Your typical transboy meets girl in and girl grows roses from her wrists story that is anything but typical.

9. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson – A graphic novel you have to have about learning who you are and then finally accepting it.

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