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Teen

Diverse YA Fantasy Books Teens Will Obsess Over

by Keith Rice

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Of all the things we can do for our young readers, introducing them to diverse narratives and perspectives is essential. Being able to relate to the protagonist of a story — or simply reading a story where the hero looks like you — is a powerful tool for shaping a reader’s perspective. And seeing the world from a viewpoint different than your own can build empathy and compassion.

Fortunately, thanks in part to the #OwnVoices movement and groups like We Need Diverse Books, there is no shortage of fantastic reads with diverse protagonists. Here are a few of our favorite wonderfully diverse fantasy books for young adult readers.

  • Gods of Jade and Shadow

    by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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    Set during the Jazz Age, Gods of Jade and Shadow centers around Casiopea Tun, a girl who dreams of life outside her small Southern Mexico community. One day, a seemingly chance encounter with the Mayan god of death sets Casiopea on a dangerous path that will carry her from the bustling streets of Mexico City to the dark perils of the Mayan underworld.

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  • An Ember in the Ashes

    by Sabaa Tahir

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    The first book in the bestselling An Ember in the Ashes series introduces readers to Laia, a young slave under the brutal Martial Empire's control. When her brother gets arrested for treason, Laia falls in with a rebel group and agrees to enter the Empire’s military academy as a spy. When she discovers that the academy’s finest recruit, Elias, may not be the willing imperial soldier he seems, Laia begins a journey that could change the Empire forever.

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  • The Wrath & the Dawn

    by Renée Ahdieh

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    Sixteen-year-old Shahrzad lost her best friend to a terrifying tradition. Each night, Khalid, the young ruler of her country, takes a new bride — only to have her executed at sunrise. When Shahrzad volunteers to be Khalid’s next bride, she prepares a creative way to stay alive and exact her revenge on the man who killed her best friend. But she quickly realizes all is not as it seems. As Shahrzad begins to unravel the mystery around the dead wives, she finds herself falling for Khalid. Will she be able to exact her revenge and end the cycle that now threatens her life?

    If readers love this one, they'll be eager to read the second book in the duology, The Rose & the Dagger.

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  • A Phoenix First Must Burn

    edited by Patrice Caldwell

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    This fascinating collection of 16 stories features a cadre of bestselling authors exploring the Black experience through the lens of sci-fi and fantasy. From folktales to futuristic adventures, A Phoenix First Must Burn centers its stories on Black women and gender-nonconforming individuals to weave a series of powerful and intricate tales.

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  • Legend

    by Marie Lu

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    Born from the remnants of the United States' western coast, the Republic is a brutal totalitarian regime in a state of constant war. June is a 15-year-old prodigy well on her way to becoming a great military leader. In the slums, Day is the most wanted criminal in the Republic. When June’s brother gets murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect, their paths collide. Together, the two teens discover just how tenuous — and sinister — their world is.

    The Legend series contains three books, each with a graphic novel adaptation if teens prefer that format.

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  • War Girls

    by Tochi Onyebuchi

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    Set in a futuristic and war-torn Nigeria in the year 2172, War Girls centers around sisters, Onyii and Ify, who dream of a better life. Onyii is a feared, augmented soldier known as the Demon of Biafra. Ify is intelligent and resourceful. She relies on the technology she created to amplify her perception and communication skills. When Ify gets kidnapped in a brutal attack, the girls must reckon with the war and bloodshed around them as they pursue a better future.

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  • A River of Royal Blood

    by Amanda Joy

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    In a world inspired by North African mythology, two sisters must battle to the death for the throne. Sixteen-year-old Eva has a dark and terrible magick with a history of massacre and destruction. The ancient magick created the tradition that now pits Eva against her older sister in a ruthless battle. However, as she prepares for the challenge, she will stumble onto long-held secrets that have the potential to change everything.

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  • Ikenga

    by Nnedi Okorafor

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    Twelve-year-old Nnamdi’s world shatters when his father gets killed. He wants to avenge his father, and when a fateful event gifts Nnamdi with superpowers, he might get his wish. But can he learn to control his newfound abilities and seek vengeance while honoring his father’s memory?

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  • Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found

    by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi

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    When Kingston’s magician father disappeared, he took all the magic in Echo City with him. The magical community is now a shell of its former self, but 12-year-old Kingston returns to Echo City, determined to find out what happened to his father. When Kingston stumbles onto a magic box that his father left behind as a clue, he gets caught up in a surprising mystery that could be the key to finding his father and restoring magic to the city.

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  • The Gilded Ones

    by Namina Forna

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    Deka dreads the ceremony that will determine if she can join her village or get sentenced to death. On the day of the initiation, her worst fear comes true: her blood runs gold — the color of impurity. But when a mysterious stranger comes to her with a shocking choice, she sees a way out. She can stay in the village and face her fate or join the alaki — a group of girls with gold blood and rare powers. Girls who may be the only hope of stopping the most significant threat the empire has ever known.

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  • A Universe of Wishes

    edited by Dhonielle Clayton

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    In this We Need Diverse Books anthology, you'll discover brilliant, diverse fantasy stories by some of the most acclaimed YA authors. With tales of princesses, monsters, lost memories, and magic, A Universe of Wishes is an enthralling collection of fantasy adventures sure to capture any reader's imagination.

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  • Spin the Dawn

    by Elizabeth Lim

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    Maia Tamarin is a talented tailor who dreams of following in her father’s footsteps, but as a girl, it isn’t in the cards — at least until the day a royal messenger summons her ailing father to court. Seeing her moment, Maia disguises herself as a boy and goes in her father’s stead. She gets caught up in a cutthroat competition with 12 other contestants vying to become the royal tailor. When she's given a monumental and seemingly impossible task, Maia sets out on a grand adventure to the kingdom's furthest reaches.

    Fans of Spin the Dawn are sure to love the second book in the duology, Unravel the Dusk.

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  • Pet

    by Akwaeke Emezi

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    This National Book Award finalist centers around Jam, a girl who has spent her entire life believing monsters no longer exist. But then she meets Pet — a fantastical creature born from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood. Pet is on the hunt for a monster lurking in the home of Jam’s best friend. Now, Jam must face the reality that these terrifying creatures exist and protect her best friend from a dreadful fate.

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