Diversity spans spectrums of race, gender, sexuality, mental health, and disability. These spectrums, however, aren’t always obvious considering the straight, white heterosexual and cisgender perspectives that have dominated the young adult canon. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, here are the five Young Adult books that feature diverse romances.
5. “Call Me by Your Name” by André Aciman
“And I’ll call you by mine.”
Although the movie is much more well-known today, the novel, written in 2007, was a triumph in its own right. It features two gay, Jewish boys who fall in love with each other during a summer in Italy. The movie is beautifully-made, but the book evokes nostalgia and remembrances of love through the two main characters. If you want to cry over a modern romance, read this book about joyful heartbreak (yes, this is an oxymoron, but you’ll see what I mean).
4. “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo
This book’s action-packed plot features racial diversity, bisexuality, feminine boys, and characters who cope with mental disorders like PTSD. Kaz and Inej’s romance is a heartstopping slow burn. Moreover, their relationship is based on a healthy friendship. While Kaz will simply melt your heart, Inej, a trained spy, will sneakily steal it. The other romance, between two of the male characters, is full of flirtation and coy dialogue and adds to the diversity of the novel.
3. “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell
The story follows Cath, who suffers from anxiety stemming from her introversion. She has to figure out her life without her twin and college smacks her in the face, which constantly makes her feel uncool compared to others. This book features a cute, feel-good romance where the male lead is fundamentally flawed, as all humans are. If you’re looking for a relatable, college romance that is, for once, realistic about family issues and anxiety, pick up “Fangirl” this Valentine’s Day!
2. "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie
This book is a classic. Sure, there are no couples or explicit romances, but reading a Native American teenager’s experiences in high school is eye-opening and beautiful. Junior, who goes to a school where “the only other Indian is the mascot” has to navigate his life as the only Native American among white people who just don’t get it. This book is a reminder to appreciate the big things before they get taken away. The story will nostalgically tug at heartstrings and open readers up to the thoughts of the much-needed perspective of one Native American teen.
1. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han
This three-part saga features the pastel book covers typical of YA romances, yet one of its main elements is uncommon for a YA book: It features Asian American women. The novel follows the life of an Asian American teenager, her first boyfriend, and—you guessed it!—all the boys she’s loved before. The book shines not because of its content, but rather for what it represents: The Asian American woman is not a geisha, a fetish, or a side-character. All in all, this is a fun read full of intrigue that is perfect for Valentine’s Day.
—Staff writer Anum Shafqat can be reached at email@example.com
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