Darius the Great Is Not Okay
Jess Mizzi’s favorite YA book of all time is not-to-be-missed. The story of a self-described outsider, who’s trying to reconcile his Persian heritage with his love of Lord of the Rings, all while feeling pretty isolated. That is, until he meets Sobrab, the boy next door…
Frankly in Love
This award-winning YA book tells the story of Frank, or Sung-Min, depending on who’s asking. A Korean-American boy struggling to balance his parents expectations for him to meet a nice Korean girl, while he’s finally fallen for his perfect mate… except she’s white. Frank hatches a plan that he thinks will be the perfect solution to his plans, and things go unexpectedly. Humorous and heartfelt, this book will be sure to take you on a ride.
A Girl in Three Parts
A novel for young folks that takes its protagonist’s journey into womanhood and feminism seriously, A Girl in Three Parts delivers on poignancy in spades. Allegra Elsom’s story helps illuminate the seemingly impossible task of growing up in an ever-changing world.
“A feminist Lord of the Flies about three best friends living in quarantine at their island boarding school, and the lengths they go to uncover the truth of their confinement when one disappears. This fresh debut is a mind-bending novel unlike anything you’ve read before.” Timely? Timeless? Check out this read.
Down and Across
This story follows high-schooler Scott, who’s best known for what he hasn’t accomplished. You name it, he’s probably quit it. This leads him to seek the advice of a psychologist in Washington, D.C., which opens the doors to a series of (mis)adventures that reveal clues that help him answer the fundamental question: Who do you want to be?
The Tequila Worm
This award-winning book tells Sofia’s journey from the barrio to an elite boarding school. Her story is one of navigating this “strange world of rich, privileged kids” while distanced from her family and the traditions that shaped her. She’ll have to dig deep to find her way and write the story on her own terms.
145th Street: Short Stories
Walter Dean Myers
From the beach and breeze of the West Coast of Never Have I Ever to the hustle and bustle of Harlem, 145th Street curates a poignant and powerful collection of stories about the African American experience. This award-winner is sure to stun and is jam-packed with brand-new content for its 20th anniversary edition.
If you liked Hot Dog Girl you’ll savor Veronica Comics. A fresh, funny, and feminist queer romance, this new book tells the story of Jubilee and Ridley, who are tied together by their love of comics and their secret. A modern romance that tackles identity and mental health, this book is sure to deliver heart.
Don’t forget to touch down on Mindy Kaling’s books, if her particular brand of wisdom and wit are totally your type.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Mindy Kaling’s first book of essays is, in a word, perfect. She brings together the signature humor from The Office, with the point of view only Kaling’s unique ethos combination of earnestness and self-deprecation can deliver.
Why Not Me?
Her second book of essays definitely lives up to the hype. She goes even deeper unpacking her relationships with fame, her body, and Bradley Cooper. You’ll definitely fall for Kaling’s prose again and again.
So often, TV stories of teenage-hood get things oh so wrong. They overemphasize stereotyped cliques, rely on old tropes, and, frankly, keep things pretty… vanilla. People of color and queer folks go to highshool, too! Also, a note to casting directors everywhere: the parents and the kids should look like they’re from different generations. That’s kind of the whole point.
But I digress. Netflix’s new series Never Have I Ever, executive produced and written by Mindy Kaling, is irresistibly refreshing. The show is honest and beautifully articulated, and sweeps you up so enthusiastically that it’s easy to gloss over how fresh it is. The series follows Devi Vishwakumar, an Indian American teen growing up in Southern California, as she (attempts to) grieve her father’s passing and (attempts) to get a boyfriend and (attempts to) find her place within her cultural identity. The only thing that Devi finds success in is her schoolwork.
We won’t give anything away, but the series provides a fresh take on a love triangle as Devi finds herself in a pickle between the cutest boy in school, Paxton Hall-Yoshida, and her academic rival, Ben Gross. The show’s pitch-perfect writing and authentic acting give these love interests a thing so rare in teen TV: swoon-factor with a surprising amount of soul.
This show got us thinking about the YA books that have that perfect mix of nostalgia for our teenage years (not-so-sadly behind us), and crossover appeal for “grown ups.” Check out these books if you loved Never Have I Ever, or are looking for a perfect book to pass the quran-times that will be sure to deliver the good kind of butterflies.
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Featured image: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in Never Have I Ever (2020)