Best of 2016: We need diverse books

This movement gained traction in 2016, and looks to only build more. There are of course, discussions around the right to voice particular groups, but at its core is the belief that we need to see more inclusion and diversity in all our books. Young Adult novels lead the way because we know how critical it is for young people to see themselves on the shelves in bookstores and libraries. Other books to just miss out on being included are When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah and The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub. Both are excellent narratives.

Bro By Helen Chebatte (February 2016)

When I reviewed this, I likened it to a contemporary mash up of The Chocolate War, The Outsiders, and junior Fight Club. Our protagonist, Romeo exists within a hot bed of multicultural groups, all macho-ing it up at one Christian school in the Western Sydney suburbs. It’s a genuine depiction of frustration and anger, through which Romeo is trying to navigate safely. Of course tensions escalate, and this cautionary tale cuts through all the drama to send a clear message—we need to try harder to get along. Timely and strong.

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman (July 2016)

Caleb is bi-racial, living in 1780s England, following his father around cities and towns as he performs puppet shows for entertainment. Caleb is responsible for staging and costuming, loves his father without question, and believes there’s good in the world. It doesn’t take long for everything to change. The narrative is fast-paced, and Caleb must face corruption, betrayal, and murderers to restore his family’s reputation, and his own belief in others. Engaging, and inclusive, this story also challenges gender roles, and other damaging stereotypes.

The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon (November 2016)

This recent release is a antidote to the many grief-filled contemporary novels out there. While it deals with troubling issues like undocumented immigration and family dysfunction, its emphasis on attraction and the science of love is a tribute to young people, fearless in their self-belief, and strength of will. Natasha, Jamaican-born, rational, and determined meets Daniel, Korean descent, poetic and starry-eyed. It’s more of a clash than a connection, but through one day, they build rapport, challenge each other, and realise the significance of coincidence and destiny. It’s a grand adventure.

Come back Monday when my focus moves to books about grief and loss.

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