Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Top Ten Books that Celebrate Diverse Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the wonderful folks over at The Broke & The Bookish. Want to join in? Simply click on the link and look at the upcoming topics!

Diverse books and characters are something that a lot of book bloggers and reviewers are championing, so it's awesome that the folks at 'The Broke & The Bookish' are taking a week to get bloggers championing their top tens. It means that a lot of books will get brought into the limelight for a week, and people will be able to find more diverse books and characters to add to their to read piles. So below I've listed my top ten books that celebrate diverse characters in the hopes that one or two might intrigue you enough to give them a go!

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents' wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls ... opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he's trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he's in the spotlight—on everyone's terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.
Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents' disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she's painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van's life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she'll have to choose between the one thing she's always loved ... and the person she never imagined she could.

A book that has a female/female romance at its heart? One that doesn't shy away from writing it like an actual relationship that takes center stage rather than being pushed off to the side? With a Korean protagonist that tackles the problems of diversity and representation in Hollywood/TV/Film? This book is brave and brilliant and a breath of fresh air.
You can read my review here.

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
And these are they. My final moments. They say a warrior must always be mindful of death, but I never imagined that it would find me like this...
Japanese teenager, Sora, is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Lonely and isolated, Sora turns to the ancient wisdom of the samurai for guidance and comfort. But he also finds hope in the present; through the internet he finds friends that see him, not just his illness. This is a story of friendship and acceptance, and testing strength in an uncertain future.

Not only is Sora Japanese, but he is also suffering from ALS. A hauntingly beautiful debut novel that looks at disability, long term illness, friendship, death and the right to die. Benwell has created a truly fascinating character with Sora, a boy who is struggling to come to terms with the path his life is taking thanks to his illness, and to try and find meaning and strength and to retain his sense of self even whilst all his control is being stripped away piece by piece.
You can read my review here.

This is Not a Love Story by Keren David
Kitty dreams of a beautiful life, but that's impossible in suburban London where her family is haunted by her father's unexpected death. So when her mum suggests moving to Amsterdam to try a new life, Kitty doesn't take much persuading. Will this be her opportunity to make her life picture perfect? 
In Amsterdam she meets moody, unpredictable Ethan, and clever, troubled Theo. Two enigmatic boys, who each harbour their own secrets. In a beautiful city and far from home, Kitty finds herself falling in love for the first time. 
But will love be everything she expected? And will anyone's heart survive?

Whilst this may not have been one of my favourite books this year, no one can accuse this book of not being diverse. Gay, bi and straight characters can all be found, with some refreshing insights into love and romance. Plus there's also the fact that both of the view point characters are Jewish. Religion is so rarely touched upon in YA fiction, so to see two very different takes on Judaism was refreshing and fascinating.
You can read my review here.

Wonder by R J Palacio
You can't blend in when you were born to stand out.
My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside.
But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?
Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, Wonder is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

This was such a beautiful, thought provoking book, and I imagine that it will find its way onto a lot of people's lists today. The book looks at the issues from several different view points and angles and offers a thoughtful story about conforming, fitting in and standing out and people's responses to disfigurement.
You can read my review here

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now... Henry and Flora.
For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.
Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?
Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured—a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.
The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

This book is one my favourites so far this year. Beautiful, haunting and filled with emotions, it looks at love, death, and a whole host of social issues in the 1930s, most notably for Flora who is an African-American engineer and jazz singer in a time when being black was a big mark against you. Martha tackles the subject with grace and style, and I felt for Flora so much. I felt her desperation and struggle and the rage at the injustices she is forced to endure. A truly stunning and wonderfully written book.
You can read my review here

Fire and Thorns by Rae CarsonPrincess Elisa is a disappointment to her people. Although she bears the Godstone in her navel, a sign that she has been chosen for an act of heroism, they see her as lazy and useless and fat. On her sixteenth birthday, she is bartered off in royal marriage and shipped away to a kingdom in turmoil, where her much-older-and extremely beautiful-husband refuses to acknowledge her as his wife. Devastated, Elisa decides to take charge of her fate and learn what it means to bear the Godstone. As an invading army threatens to destroy her new home, and everyone at court maneuvers to take advantage of the young princess, Elisa becomes convinced that, not only is her own life in danger, the whole world needs saving. But how can a young girl who has never ridden horseback, never played the game of politics, and never attained the love of a man save the world? Elisa can't be sure, but she must try to uncover the Godstone's secret history before the enemy steals the destiny nestled in her core.

This book is gorgeous, a sweeping fantasy that is perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce and has a flawed and human girl at its heart. The book deals with body image (Elias is not willow thin and beautiful but a softer, more rounded girl who doesn't shy away from food) and is set in a wonderfully diverse world with a truly awesome feminist outlook. I read this book when it first came out and adored it, and I'm desperate to go back for a re-read and to finish this trilogy, because this book was incredible.
You can read my review here

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renée AhdiehEvery dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch... she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

This book was SO GOOD. It's my most recently read book on the list and offers a stunning re-telling of 1001 nights. It's diverse, it's powerful, it's set in a fantasy world. If you're a fan of 'Fire and Thorns' or any of Tamora Pierce's books you'll love this one. Shazi was a wonderful, feisty and determined heroine, surrounded by a whole host of brilliant characters. And Renée's world building is incredible and totally immersive, dipping you into this beautiful culture full of customs, magic and diversity.
You can read my review here

Finding Audrey by Sophie KinsellaAn anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

Sophie Kinsella's first foray into writing YA fiction works remarkably well. She tackles anxiety and the way having the disorder can completely disrupt someone's life with a remarkable amount of humour. There are a few issues about the comedic overblown effect that comes out in a few scenes and that Audrey seems to be 'fixed' once she finds a love interest, but on the whole this book takes a good and honest look at social anxiety and the crippling effect that it can have.
You can read my review here

Turf by John Lucas
Jay's life seems pretty sorted: 15 years old and already a rising member of the notorious Blake Street Boyz gang, he takes his lessons from the street. With a knife in his pocket and his best friend Milk by his side, their days are spent fiercely defending their turf.
When Jay gets the chance to step up and become a senior of the Boyz, he faces the biggest decision of his life: he must stab and kill a classmate - and rival gang member - or face the consequences.
It doesn't take long for Jay's world to spiral out of control. As the line between right and wrong begins to fade, he finds no escape. Jay has to act, but at what and whose cost?
Set against the backdrop of London's inner-city tower blocks, in a world where killing can be easier than choosing what chocolate bar to eat, Turf is a story of intense friendship and brutal gang violence, of loyalty at any cost - even to the price of your own soul.
It's the kind of story that continues to dominate front page headlines (see attached) and this powerful novel shows us just how violent life can be for people living under street gang rule.

This one came out a few years ago and took a hard look at gang life in London. It was a raw and gritty book with a few surprising twists at the end. Sadly not many people appear to have heard of it, but Jay makes a fascinating protagonist and gives a harrowing insight into life of a black boy in a ruthless London gang.
You can read my review here

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.
But all that changes when the Lynburns return.
The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Kami is one of my favourite heroines. She's intelligent, brilliantly funny, half Japanese, short and gorgeously curvy and not afraid to be herself. Add to that the supporting characters who offer same sex relationships and turn stereotypes on their heads and you have a truly awesome book. Sarah Rees Brennan is one of my favourite authors and her books embrace diversity in every way, so I could easily have listed any of her books here. They all offer diverse characters be it skin colour, background or sexuality, and are funny and brilliantly written books to boot - what more could you want?!
You can read my review here

So those are my top ten books that celebrate diverse characters. I feel there should be a notable mention for 'This Book is Gay' by James Dawson, which I didn't feel that I could put in the list as it is non-fiction, but is a truly brilliant and funny book looking at sexuality and all the different issues that can crop up with it.
Now onto you guys! Have you found any books you're dying to pick up from this list? And what books did you chose? Link me to your own top tens and let me know in the comments below!


  1. So many of these are in my tbr right now! I've heard such good things ab out The Game of Love and Death and The Wrath and the Dawn. Great list!

    Michelle @ Michelle's Minions

    My TTT

    1. They're both really fantastic books. Completely different but utterly brilliant. I really hope you enjoy them!

  2. Omigosh, you have just added a whole lot of books to my TBR list. This is a fabulous list, and your mini-reviews really sold me on some that I've either not seen before or had decided not to read because my TBR was already way too long.

    1. So glad they were useful! I always find it really helpful when people explain why a book is on their list, so I'm glad it was helpful for you too! I really hope you enjoy any you pick up, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on any you do!

  3. Great picks! A bunch of your books are on my TBR list! I'm in desperate need of bringing more diversity into my reading! Happy reading!

    1. I've found it really hard to find diversity in fantasy books, there's a lot more of it in contemporary fiction at the moment. So I wanted to try and find some fantasy (ish) ones to recommend. I really hope you enjoy any you pick up and thank you so much for reading!

  4. The Game of Love and Death I havent heard of, but will definitely check out !! Awesome Post! Check out my Top Ten Tuesday

    1. It's an absolutely stunning book, one of the best books I've read. I really recommend it and I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Love Finding Audrey - Thought it was cute and done well with the subject matter. A bunch on here are on my TBR - especially Wonder and The Wrath and the Dawn. Great list!

    1. Oooo I hope you enjoy them, they are such good books! I absolutely loved them, particularly The Wrath and the Dawn, such a stunningly gorgeous book!

  6. I've only read 3 of these so clearly I have some work to do!! *adds so many to goodreads* I really hated Finding Audrey. >_< OMG I'M SORRY. I don't usually throw things like that out there, because it's so negative, but yes...I agree with the "blowing out of proportion" note you said. hehe. Anyway. I totally ADORED Girl of Fire and Thorns. SO DIVERSE AND UNIQUE AND GOOD. I want to read all the Rae Carson books now. <3 And and and omg Wonder was a bit emotional and wonderful. xD

    1. NO APOLOGIZING. I completely get why you hated it. It was one that I loved hugely whilst I was reading it, and then afterwards started to feel a little complicated towards it because of the problems. I can completely see why some people will/do hate it though! Rae Carson is GENIUS, I love her books so much and I cannot wait for the new books of hers in September! Glad I could add to your to read pile (mwahaha) and I hope you enjoy them! :)