The Young Adult genre has been thriving for centuries, but Black Young Adult literature has seen significant growth in the last few decades!
Empowering stories about identity and self-discovery told through heartbreakingly detailed stories about complex societal problems, mental health issues, and trauma are just as prevalent in the genre as lighthearted and sweetly romantic coming-of-age stories and magical adventures that take place in fantasy worlds.
One thing the Black YA genre will never lack is range. So, whether you’re on the hunt for a queer romance, an anthology of stories that detail the Black experience, or a jaw-dropping dark mystery, stay tuned to see The 20 Best Young Adult Books by Black Authors!
Intro to the Top YA Books by Black Authors
These books may be written for Young Adults, but people from all walks of life will be able to relate to these impactful novels.
From providing representation for all sorts of different groups–Muslim teens, plus-size women, trans men, disabled people, and those struggling with mental health issues, to name a few–to tackling complex topics like racism, stereotypes, and police brutality, these unforgettable novels will surely leave their marks on you.
Whether you’re looking for a glimpse into Black culture–and the heritage, tradition, and community within it–or searching for a story with characters and predicaments that you can relate to, you will be able to find exactly what you’re looking for with these twenty books!
The Best Young Adult Books by Black Authors
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Starting with this emotional yet hilarious romance novel, Let’s Talk About Love follows Alice, a Black, biromantic, asexual woman who is stuck living with her ex-girlfriend, who dumped her after finding out that she’s asexual.
Alice is determined to give up dating entirely after the bad experience, but then she shows up at the library she works at one day and spots Takumi, a gorgeous and charming sweetheart of a man.
Struggling with her toxic living situation, demanding parents that keep pressuring her to major in pre-law, and steadily growing romantic feelings that she doesn’t want to accept, Alice’s journey in Let’s Talk About Love is undoubtedly a wild one.
For those looking for a lighthearted yet poignant read with plenty of diversity and representation, this is the book for you!
You can find Let’s Talk About Love here.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Felix Love is a trans, queer Black boy who–ironically–has never been in love before. When an anonymous student at his school begins to send him transphobic messages and publicly posts images of Felix before his transition, Felix decides to get revenge.
He doesn’t expect to end up in the center of a love triangle upon doing so, especially considering that he’s convinced himself that he’d never get a happily-ever-after. Still, anything can happen in this classic coming-of-age novel!
You can find Felix Ever After here.
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi
An anthology edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi, Black Enough offers a compilation of short stories that highlight several perspectives of what it’s like to be Black in today’s day and age.
The stories show the mundane lives and struggles of Black teens–from family drama, mental health issues, and struggles with sexuality to obtaining freedom, fantasizing about hopes and dreams, and experiencing first loves.
You can find Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America here.
Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle
A novel said to be just as much of a love letter to Black culture as it is a romance, Love Radio is a swoon-worthy read with solid themes of love–not just between the two romantic interests but also shown through the strong bonds with friends and family that are prominent throughout the story.
Prince Jones is a seventeen-year-old, well-known DJ whose only experience with love is giving out relationship advice to other couples. He wants to branch out and find love of his own, but he’s tied down with responsibilities as the sole caretaker for his mother and little sister.
Danielle Ford is an aspiring writer who’s determined to become just as renowned as big names like Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, but after being sexually assaulted at a party, she’s no longer able to write.
With a crucial essay for NYU due soon, she’s focused entirely on overcoming her past and succeeding in her future, but when Prince proposes that he can make her fall in love with him in just three dates…She agrees to give him a shot!
However, the complications in their lives are still prevalent, and it’s possible that love may not be able to conquer all.
The Voice in My Head by Dana Davis
This emotionally charged novel is filled with authentic characters, humorous scenes, and attempts at coping with–and curing–terminal illness. The Phillips is a chaotic family that consists of two retired parents, a sixteen-year-old brother named Alfred, eighteen-year-old twins Violet and Indigo, and 33-year-old sister Michelle, as well as her husband and children.
When the kind and popular Violet is diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, Indigo–who is used to living in her sister’s shadow–spirals into a panic. Soon, she begins to hear a voice insisting that her beloved sister will live if she is taken to a rock formation in the Arizona desert.
Violet, who had planned to die on her own terms via medically assisted death, agrees to go, so the chaotic family and pastor Jedidah set off for a long trip.
During which, an attempted robbery with a paintball gun and a whole lot of self-discovery and acceptance ensues.
You can find The Voice in My Head here.
How to Live Without You by Sarah Everett
Labeled a “heart-wrenching coming-of-age story about family, grief, and second chances,” How to Live Without You follows Emmy, a seventeen-year-old girl who returns to her hometown in Ohio after her sister, Rose, disappears.
Everyone else is sure that Rose ran away and will return when she’s ready, but Emmy isn’t convinced. She’s the one who knows her sister best in the world anyway, isn’t she? But when she begins searching for clues about her sister’s whereabouts, Emmy realizes that she doesn’t actually know her sister at all.
Lies, secrets, and the realization that you can never truly know anyone are soon uncovered as Emmy regretfully decides to take a step inside Rose’s life.
You can find How to Live Without You here.
You Truly Assumed by Sarah Everett
This slice-of-life story follows Sabriya, whose Summer plans are ruined after a nearby terrorist attack. Islamophobia spreads rapidly throughout her community, and she soon turns to her online journal as an outlet. She isn’t expecting her blog to go viral, but Muslim teens around the country engage with it as they find comfort and community in the space she’s created.
Two other Muslim teen girls, Zakat and Farah, end up lending a helping hand with the blog, but the three of them have to make some difficult decisions when hateful comments and an ominous threat come as a result of the blog’s newfound success.
Will their friendship withstand the pressure that it’s under, or will it crumble into pieces?
You can find You Truly Assumed here.
We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds
If you like drama, this is the story for you. Avery’s family has to make a sudden move from DC to a small town in Georgia to live with her antagonistic, terminally ill grandmother, who has a terrible relationship with her daughter, Avery’s mother.
Every time Avery tries to figure out what happened between them, she comes up short, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
One of Avery’s new friends, Jade, is still trying to uncover the mystery of her mother’s murder. Avery’s other newfound friendship with a girl named Simone may be blossoming into something a little more, but two queer Black girls living in a small Georgia town isn’t exactly acceptable in the eyes of the town’s occupants.
Navigating racism and homophobia while trying to unravel the truth behind a murder and a vindictive relationship between her mother and grandmother, Avery is overwhelmed yet determined to persevere!
You can find We Deserve Monuments here.
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
This lyrically written debut novel follows Michael Angeli, a Black and Greek mixed kid living in London. He’s struggled with his identity throughout his life, but coming out as Gay is just the start of his journey to discover his true identity. Discovering the drag society and transforming himself into The Black Flamingo is his next step!
Deemed to be an inspirational, passionate, and celebratory novel, The Black Flamingo is a tribe-discovery, coming-of-age read that will leave you longing for more once it’s finished!
You can find The Black Flamingo here.
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
Written with style, rhythm, and sophisticated wording, Piecing Me Together tells the story of a Black girl named Jade, who’s attending a predominantly white private school in Portland, Oregon, after winning a scholarship.
From a poor neighborhood, Jade feels out of place when sitting with her classmates whose mothers can afford to hire housekeepers while her mother would kill for a housekeeping job, but Jade is determined to become successful and make it out of her hood, and her mother is adamant about the fact that she needs to snatch every opportunity to do so.
Jade agrees, but one opportunity she isn’t interested in taking is the chance to join a mentorship program for “at-risk’’ girls. Sick of the stereotypes and the notion that she’s someone who “needs to be fixed,” Jade sets out on a journey to show the world what she really has to offer.
You can find Piecing Me Together here.
Love Is A Revolution by Renee Watson
Nala Robertson instantly falls in love with Tye Brown upon first meeting him, but he’s an activist, and she is anything but. Desperate to get to know him better and pursue a romance, Nala tells a few tiny fibs that soon spiral into hard-to-keep-up-with lies.
She learns a few hard lessons about self-love, feminism, and heartbreak along the way.
The novel’s description speaks for itself.
“In Love Is a Revolution, plus size girls are beautiful and get the attention of the hot guys, the popular girl clique is not shallow but has strong convictions and substance, and the ultimate love story is not only about romance but about how to show radical love to the people in your life, including to yourself.”
You can find Love Is A Revolution here.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
This historical fiction novel follows Twelve-year-old Jerome Rogers, who is shot and killed by a police officer when his toy gun is mistaken for a real threat. As a ghost, Jerome is forced to witness the devastation his death has caused his family, but he soon meets another ghost named Emmett Till, who helps him process the situation.
The daughter of the police officer, Sarah, is also taken along on the journey as she tries to make sense of what her father did.
While this novel is considered to be a children’s book for middle schoolers, it would be just as much of a powerful and heart-wrenching read for young adult audiences.
Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury
This psychological thriller follows the story of two girls. Daisy, who is capable of seeing dead people and ends up moving into a secluded mansion in Ontario with her mother–who seemingly has more secrets than Daisy would have ever guessed.
And Brittney, who sets out to expose her abusive mother’s lies and figure out what happened to the young Black girl who lived in the “Miracle Mansion” a decade ago. She’s determined to reveal the truth in her popular web series, but will she be able to?
You can find Delicious Monsters here.
Vinyl Moon by Mahogany L. Browne
Vinyl Moon is everything. A combination of prose, poetry, and vignettes. A celebration of historical Black authors and how their literature can heal the spirits and souls of the generations that come after them. A love letter to Brooklyn and its hip-hop scene.
And the story of a girl named Angel, who is forced to move from California to New York to live with her Uncle Spence after experiencing domestic violence at the hands of her once beloved boyfriend.
She feels out of sync with her new neighborhood and is convinced that all her new classmates know what happened to her, but she soon begins making new friends, learning to be confident, and healing with the help of her literature course.
Turning by Joy L. Smith
Deemed to be a “nuanced portrayal of disability” Turning tells the story of Genie. Once an aspiring ballerina and the star pupil at her exclusive dance school in New York, Genie is now paralyzed from the waist down and forced to use a wheelchair to get around after a possibly not-so-accidental accident.
Her dreams of being a prima ballerina are crushed, and after spending her whole life working toward that goal, she isn’t sure where to go from here.
But the boy she meets at physical therapy might be able to help her.
Throw domestic abuse, a supposedly recovering alcoholic of a mother, and several impending confrontations waiting to happen into the mix, and you’ve got an immensely emotional, absolutely addictive story!
Who Put This Song On? by Morgan Parker
Praised for its realistic portrayals and quick-witted writing, Who Put This Song On follows seventeen-year-old Morgan, who is battling depression and anxiety. She doesn’t fit in with her mostly-white classmates yet isn’t deemed to be “Black enough,” nor does she have a good relationship with her parents, who feel uneasy around her.
Her mental health issues are constantly overlooked, second-guessed, and viewed as a simple lack of faith, but Morgan soon finds new people and new music to relate to, which leads to her feeling connected for the first time in her life.
You can find Who Put This Song On? Here.
One True Love by Elise Bryant
An enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy set on a cruise. What could be better?! One True Loves follows Lenore Bennett, whose family set out on a Mediterranean cruise during the Summer of her high-school graduation.
Lenore is struggling to figure out what she’s going to do with her future despite being accepted into NYU, but then she meets an annoyingly over-prepared, golden retriever-type hopeless romantic by the name of Alex Lee.
And as much as she hates to admit it, he may be just what she needs to find what she’s looking for.
You can find One True Loves here.
Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles
This hilarious novel deals with themes of toxic masculinity, teen sexuality, and modern religion.
Del Rainey Jr. is so desperate for a chance with his crush since kindergarten that he ends up signing up for a Purity Pledge. Oddly enough, he has a reputation for being a “sex God.” Even odder, he’s still a virgin.
But no one knows that, and now Del is stuck giving his own version of sex ed to a fellow pledger named Jameer, who promises to put in a good word with Del’s crush in exchange for it.
Del ends up jumping through hoops, plotting and scheming, and doing whatever he deems necessary to get the girl of his dreams. All without stopping to ask himself what she might want.
Which doesn’t come without its consequences.
You can find Not So Pure and Simple here.
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
A contemporary fantasy with everything from science, mystery, and Greek Mythology, This Poison Heart follows Briseis, who can grow plants from seeds into full blooms with just a touch.
When her aunt dies and leaves her an estate in New York, Bri goes there in hopes of getting her gift under control, but she soon discovers that she’s also inherited the deadliest botanicals in the world and secrets that have stretched on for generations.
Will she be able to conquer the dark forces that insist on popping up all around her?
You can find The Poison Heart here.
There Goes the Neighborhood by Jade Adia
A dark humor that tackles gentrification, There Goes the Neighborhood takes place in LA and follows Rhea and her two best friends as they attempt to preserve their homes. Deciding to fight for their neighborhood, Rhea and her friends try to manipulate the narrative on social media.
With firecrackers and a claim of “gang violence.”
What they weren’t expecting was for somebody to die in the process.
You can find There Goes the Neighborhood here.
Whether you were looking for mystery, magic, romance, or poetry, I hope you were able to find a book that you could relate to and learn from in this article!
What age is Felix Ever After appropriate for?
13 and up.
What age is Love Radio for?
14 and up.
Is The Black Flamingo autobiographical?
While the author is similar to the protagonist, The Black Flamingo is not an autobiography or a memoir.
What is This Poison Heart a retelling of?
This Poison Heart is not quite a retelling but a Greek Mythology reimagining.
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