In honor of Women's History Month, here's a sample of some of the most popular and important novels in young adult fiction written by black women. These novels deal in nuanced ways with timely topics ranging from Black Lives Matter to gentrification to childhood sexual abuse. If you're a fan of hard-hitting contemporary novels, here are five to add to your to-be-read pile.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Starr Carter balances between two worlds: her fancy, mostly white prep school and the poor, Black neighborhood where she lives. Then her childhood friend Khalil is shot by a police officer, and Starr is the only witness. Headlines are calling Khalil a thug and a gangbanger; Starr is being pressured by the cops and by a local drug lord. This bestselling take on the Black Lives Matter movement is soon to be a movie starring Amandla Stenberg, and the hype is well-deserved: it's a powerful must-read.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Justyce McAllister is a top student headed for Harvard, but after trying to help his inebriated ex get home safely, he finds himself in handcuffs. Shaken by the incident, Justyce starts writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When his best friend Manny starts to recognize the racism at their mostly white prep school, they take a drive to blow off steam. It turns tragic when an off-duty white cop shoots them. This powerful debut novel is a great readalike for those who enjoyed The Hate U Give or Jason Reynolds' and Brendan Kiely's All American Boys.
Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson
Mary B. Addison was convicted of killing a baby when she was only nine years old. Now sixteen and pregnant, Mary has graduated from "baby jail" to a group home. Worried the state will take her unborn baby away from her and endangered by the violence of the group home, she comes forward about what really happened that night, implicating her momma. This is an unputdownable thriller full of twists and turns.
This Side of Home by Renee Watson
Identical twins Nikki and Maya find themselves on opposite sides of the issue when gentrification comes to their Portland neighborhood. Maya is upset that their childhood best friend Essence has to move away because of the rising rent, but Nikki becomes best friends with the white girl who moves in across the street. Maya struggles with how to maintain their heritage while accepting change. This is a fantastic exploration of the issue of gentrification. Watson's newest novel, Piecing Me Together, just won the American Library Association's Coretta Scott King Award and a Newbery Honor.
Pointe by Brandy Colbert
Theo is healthier now. She's eating again and she's on her way to becoming a professional ballet dancer. But when her friend Donovan returns home four years after being kidnapped, Theo starts to remember details about her own interactions with his kidnapper and wrestles with whether to come forward. Theo is a fantastic, nuanced, flawed heroine. Colbert's newest novel, Little & Lion, was the 2018 recipient of the Stonewall Award for young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the LGBT experience.