This year is going to be absolutely kick-ass for bibliophiles as there are so many fantastically diverse novels releasing in 2020. Being able to read stories written by diverse authors makes me very happy and is always quite a comforting experience. There is such a creative richness to these narratives that I would never be able to experience otherwise and I’m supremely grateful for all these folx sharing their tales with us! For me, seeing diverse representation in children’s and young adult literature especially is so wholly important because children really deserve to see themselves in the characters they’re reading about. There is no feeling like the one that comes from the reflection of self in a hero or a badass or just someone who’s got a strong sense of self; nothing quite as inspiring or heart-warming.
To celebrate my glee for 2020’s book releases, I thought it would be neat to share with you some of my most-anticipated #OwnVoices YA books that shall be hitting shelves within the Spring season. When I originally created a master list of titles, it was excruciating to narrow it down. So I thought it would be neat to break things down by season and managed to whittle that thing down to these top five picks.
05. The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
An #OwnVoices Bangladeshi contemporary romance about a young girl named Nishant who doesn’t want to lose her family, but also doesn’t want to be a traitor to her own identity. When her beautiful and charismatic childhood mate, Flávia walks back into her life, Nishant realises that her life is about to get a whole lot more complicated as she can’t help but fall for Flávia. When a school competition invites students to create their own business, Nishant and Flávia decide to team up and showcase their artistic talents with henna, which forces Nishant to confront her feelings and possibly even her family about who she really is. Release date is set for May 12th.
This story sounds gay-as-fuck and I’m so ready for it. Being a South Asian Queer person in a conservative household can be terrifying, especially when you already know that the fams is not going to be copacetic with it. This is one of the drawing points of the novel for me. Family dynamics with Queer identities is my jam (and my struggle). I also absolutely adore the premise of young ladies who are henna artists!
04. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
An #OwnVoices Queer Latinx novel about a trans boy who wants nothing more than for his traditional Latinx family to accept his gender. Feeling determined to prove himself as a real brujo, Yadriel performs a ritual to summon the ghost of his murdered cousin. However, things don’t go as smoothly as he anticipated and Yadriel ends up summoning the ghost of his school’s most notorious delinquent. Release date is set for June 9th.
Being a Trans person myself, I really love narratives that explore the struggles (or sometimes even the victories) of coming to terms with one’s Trans identity, more so if it involves families dynamics. Plus, I absolutely love supernatural and fantasy elements, and to see them being incorporated into this story just sounds brilliant.
03. Parachutes by Kelly Yang
An #OwnVoices Chinese contemporary about teenagers who are known as “parachutes,” or teens that are dropped off to live in private homes during their studies in the US while their wealthy families stay in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d become a parachute, but when her family plucks her from Shanghai and drops her in California, she feels totally lost. The only positive is that she’s caught the eye of the most eligible parachute at the school, Jay. Dani De La Cruz is pissed that her mother rented out a room to Claire. She’s a debate star who’s working her ass off to compete with privileged kids that buy their way into college. Her perfect plan starts to unravel when her debate coach begins private lessons. As the two girls navigate their own unique hot messes, they eventually crash into one another, which shall change their lives for good. Release date is set for May 26th.
The premise for this reminded me a lot of one of my best friends when I was a teenager. Similarly, he had come to America to study while his parents stayed back in Asia, although they visited once a year. He underwent a lot of hardships that goes with being a foreigner in a place where you know you’re not really wanted, particularly in a highly judgmental environment (such as super upper-class high schools). So, when I read the premise for Parachutes, I sort of formulated a sentimental attachment to it and it became a most-anticipated pick. Additionally, one of my fave tropes to read is about people who dislike or hate one another but end up formulating deep friendships in the end. They just feel so sincere to me and I’m a sucker for ‘em.
02. Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed
An #OwnVoices Islamic Indian contemporary that follows two time periods and two young girls. In present day, we encounter a girl named Khayyam Maquet who goes on holiday with her family in Paris. Rather than kick-back and enjoy the magic that comes with this very romantic city, Khayyam instead finds herself stuck fretting over her ex-boyfriend, possibly losing her chance at attending her dream college, and overall just trying to figure her shit out. Two-hundred-years before Khayyam’s existence, we meet Leila. A young lady that is fighting to survive while attempting to keep her true love hidden from the Pasha that wants her for his harem. As Khayyam tries to make the most of her vacation, her journey eventually leads her back to Leila, and the answers of self-discovery that she’s been looking for all along. Release date is set for April 7th.
I really like Samira Ahmed’s books. Her writing style is very easy to engage with and feels so natural, the characters she crafts are genuine and they tend to make me laugh as much as they make me emotional, and Ahmed also does a great job of examining Islamophobic rhetoric in small doses that are easy enough for young readers to digest. So, when I saw that she had a new book coming out, one that was set in Paris no less, it instantly became one of my most-anticipated. I also just love #OwnVoices Islamic tales and want to support them as much as I can whenever I can.
01. Once Upon an Eid edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed
An #OwnVoices Islamic anthology of short stories that revolve around the Islamic holiday, Eid al-Fitr. Contributing authors include: G. Willow Wilson, Hanna Alkaf, Randa Abdel-Fateh, S.K. Ali, Hena Khan, and more. Release date is set for May 5th.
Bro, my childhood is screaming right now. With so much joy! I feel like I’ve waited a lifetime for a book like this! Eid al-Fitr was my favourite holiday growing up. It was the one time of year where all of my family (immediate and extended) would put their drama and bullshit aside and we would just celebrate the heart-warming beauty of Eid. It was a time of great foods, visiting everyone’s houses, so much laughter, and getting money (kids only, usually). I think out of all the different kinds of representation I needed as a child, this one was paramount and the one I craved most. I have this pre-ordered and I cannot wait to dive into it.
Spring and Summer is going to be a wonderful stack of months of reading and I cannot wait for that party to arrive. Aside from Uni, that’s really all I plan on doing, reading and napping and relishing in the contentedness that comes with it all.
Have y’all heard of any of these books? What are some of your most anticipated book releases for 2020?