In celebration of Black History Month, we’ve compiled a list of Young Adult books from great Black authors. Enjoy!
Kendra’s mom, Renee, had her when she was only 14 years old. Renee and her mom made a deal — Renee could get an education, and Kendra would live with her grandmother. But now Renee’s out of grad school and Kendra’s in high school … and getting into some trouble herself.
Kendra’s grandmother lays down the law: It’s time for Renee to take care of her daughter. Kendra wants this badly — even though Renee keeps disappointing her. Being a mother isn’t easy, but being a daughter can be just as hard. Now it’s up to Kendra and Renee to make it work.
Tanita S. Davis
Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma.
But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.
Sharon M. Draper
At Douglass High School, the Warriors of Distinction throw the best parties, go out with the hottest girls, and breeze through their classes without even trying. When he’s chosen as a pledge, Jericho vows to do whatever it takes to become a full member.
But as his initiation becomes more and more harrowing, he faces some uncomfortable choices. Exactly when do the fun and games of initiation cross into the life and death realm of hazing?
Sharon G. Flake
Autumn and Adonis have nothing in common and everything in common. Autumn is outgoing and has lots of friends. Adonis is shy and not so eager to connect with people. But even with their differences, the two have one thing in common-they’re each dealing with a handicap.
For Autumn, who has a learning disability, reading is a painful struggle that makes it hard to focus in class. But as her school’s most aggressive team wrestler, Autumn can take down any problem. Adonis is confined to a wheelchair. He has no legs. He can’t walk or dance. But he’s a strong reader who loves books. Even so, Adonis has a secret he knows someone like Autumn can heal. In time, Autumn and Adonis are forced to see that our greatest weaknesses can turn into the assets that forever change us and those we love.
Nate Whitely’s life at a prestigious prep school in upstate New York takes him far from his Harlem home but not so far as to sever the strong bond he has to his neighborhood. Like his prep school friends, Nate is doing well academically and has his sights set on college. But complications from one life intrude into the other. His childhood friend Hustle won’t give up his street-smart ways and doesn’t want Nate to either. Nate’s older brother, Eli, just can’t seem to keep things together and is headed for major trouble.
Will Nate be able to sustain these powerful ties without jeopardizing all that he’s achieved? This provocative story about a young man straddling two very different worlds unfolds against a backdrop of brotherhood and betrayal, friendship and loyalty, and captures the dilemma of those who would carve out a unique destiny for themselves.
Walter Dean Myers
Who’s on top of the social food chain? How do you get ahead? Who makes the rules? Who needs to follow them?
Paul DuPree is working at a soup kitchen in Harlem the summer his father dies, just trying to get by. But Elijah, the soup man, won’t stop talking about the social contract and asking Paul questions about heavy-duty things. Paul has never thought about this stuff. He’d rather hang out with Keisha, an unwed teen mom whose basketball skills rival his own.
Then Sly, a notorious Harlem big shot, shows up. Paul is both intrigued and intimidated by Sly and his conspiracy theories, and for once he starts contemplating how you really get ahead in life. As the talk of what-ifs turns into reality, Paul realizes his summer is about more than getting by–it’s about taking charge of your life.
Ni Ni Simone
She’s got a voice like an R’n’B diva, attitude to burn and is the body-rockin’, hip fashion-sporting girl everyone in her high school wants to be – or be with. But in real life 16-year-old Elite has a crack-addict mother, no father in sight and is secretly raising her sister and two brothers on her own.
Now a radio contest has put her up close and personal with mega-hot singer Haneef and their chemistry is too hot for Elite to keep pretending. As the clock ticks down fast for this hood Cinderella, she has one shot to save her family and make all of her dreams come true.
Sherri L. Smith
Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her. When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots–and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific.
But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.
When 14-year-old Gayle gets into trouble again, Mama sends her south to live with her aunt and uncle, a minister. They’ll hardly let her out of the house and she doesn’t like her cousin Cookie. Then Gayle meets Great, the family matriarch. Gayle’s life begins to change–perhaps she can make her own place in the world after all.