YA Books with Muslim Main Characters

Tenley-Friendship LibraryStaff Picks

YA Books with Muslim Main Characters

#WeNeedDiverseBooks in YA, right? What about books starring Muslim teens?

Every one of these teens have their own unique story to tell - whether it's suddenly getting superpowers, finding faith or losing it, or just learning to survive. But one thing they have in common is that they all come from a Muslim background. The following novels and graphic novels come highly recommended.

Ms Marvel series by Marvel Comics.

Get ready, Jersey City. There’s a new Ms. Marvel in town.

Kamala Khan already feels like she’s living a double life: she’s a Pakistani girl that minds Muslim customs and her parents, but she’s also an American girl with a penchant for video games and fanfiction.

So when a mysterious mist appears and gives her superpowers, Kamala can’t believe she's saddled with yet another side of herself that she has to balance along with the rest.

The new Ms Marvel has everything you would expect out of a Marvel comic: awesome fight scenes, mentally unstable villains, and (of course) an appearance by Wolverine. But Kamala is what makes it a truly remarkable series. Witty, unapologetically nerdy, and on a stumbling but bold journey of self-discovery, she’s a superheroine that’s easy to root for. One thing Kamala is certain of is that her superpowers must be used to help others. But it’s not always clear how much she can actually help - and it is definitely not always easy.

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah.

After winter break, 16-year-old Amal makes a big decision: she’s going to wear a hijab every day. Not just at mosque, but at school, with her friends - anywhere she might be in the presence of men who aren’t part of her immediate family.

Amal learns a lot about the people in her life based on how they react to the hijab. She also quickly gets a sense of what it’s like to look like a representation of something outside of a mainstream culture. When some of her classmates start treating her differently, it doesn’t bother her that much. But when her crush starts to… that’s another matter entirely. 

Is Amal willing to compromise her culture and her beliefs for the affections of a boy she previously felt so connected to?  
 Randa Abdel-Fattah has written a number of young adult novels starring Muslim teen girls navigating their place in Western society. Does My Head Look Big In This? is a recommended introduction to her work.

The Red Pencil by Andrea Pinkney

The Red Pencil is the story of Amira, a 12-year-old Sudanese girl whose quiet life is ripped to shreds when the Janjaweed attack her village. Alive, but heartbroken and homeless, she has no other choice but to seek safety at a refugee camp.

But the gift of a red pencil turns out to be more of a refuge than the camp. Amira achieves her lifelong dream of learning to read and write, and with words (and drawings), she finds, comes power. 

A beautiful story rendered in verse, accompanied by delicate, stylized pencil illustrations by Shane Evans.

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Shabanu wants to be a loyal and dutiful daughter, but is she willing to give up her freedom for it? After a terrible act of violence, Shabanu and her sister’s fate hang in the balance. In order to secure both their futures, Shabanu must marry a cruel old man. Problem is, she’s not sure she has it in her to be so selfless - and though she tries hard to feel otherwise, she finds herself angry at her family for being willing to “sacrifice” her.

If you're a fan of high-stakes drama, you'll likely enjoy this Newbery honor book.

Persepolis by Marjane Satarapi

This autobiographical graphic novel is both a moving coming-of-age story and a good primer on the modern political climate of Iran. Marjane transitions from child- to young adulthood during a tumultuous time in Iran - a year after power changes hands due to the Islamic Revolution, the country is at war with Iraq.

Life under the new Islamic Republic regime is strained and precarious, between new constraining social reforms (especially for women), still-existing inner political turmoil, and the ongoing threat of mass violence from Iraq. Marjane and her family are helpless to watch their way of life crumble and their friends flee the country or disappear under even more dismal circumstances. Marjane’s faith is continually shaken, but not her resolve to live fearlessly. But one can only imagine the risks of being a rebellious teenage girl in a country where rebellion has cost lives.

Satarapi breaks up her story into dozens of little stories, navigating complex subjects with simplistic illustrations that somehow enhance the emotional impact of this narrative told from the perspective a child.