5 African American Young Adult Writers You Should Read

So, yesterday there was a tweet retweeted onto my timeline that asked for best-selling authors of color in YA. That got me thinking. Besides the obvious of Walter Dean Moseley, Sharon Flake and Octavia Butler, I couldn’t think of anyone else who wrote YA. I figured she’d want someone alive since a quick scan of her TL suggested that she was gathering names for some sort of panel. Then she said “no self pub” which pissed me off for obvious reasons, but…

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I digress.

The field of African American young adult writers is already minuscule. Then, we have to narrow it down to ALIVE best-sellers?? That’s impossible. Then it got me thinking again. How come none of us make it? Why aren’t our books read? There was a hashtag started on Twitter (about a year ago? idk now) #WeNeedDiverseBooks that got the publishing industry buzzing about how little POC are represented in fiction. (Article)

So, here is a list of African American Young Adult writers who are brilliant. Let’s make them bestsellers while they’re alive. Purchase their books, recommend them in your local library, tell your friends, leave reviews. We need to be represented in fiction. Give your sons/daughters/nieces/nephews something to read where they can see themselves in the main character.

Jason Reynolds

18049007I had the pleasure of meeting Jason Reynolds for the first time in the summer. I’d read When I Was The Greatest long before I’d ever met him. When I found out he went to University of Maryland, I pretty much stalked him until I found out we had several mutual friends. He had a book signing at UM and I was thoroughly impressed, not only with WIWTG, but with who Jason is. I loved his story to become a writer and how he strives to make waves in the black young adult market. WIWTG surrounds three friends, Ali, Noodles and Needles. It is a story of acceptance, bravery and friendship during one summer in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, New York. Do not be put off by the cover, please. You would be robbing yourself of a brilliant story.

Author contact info: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Varian Johnson

51OO8qa8AvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve only read one book by Varian Johnson, The Great Greene Heist. It was so good, that I had to include him on this list. Picture Ocean’s 11 in middle school. The main character, Jackson Greene, is supposedly a reformed “heister”. But when his best friend is running against Jackson’s sworn enemy for class president…he just can’t stay away.

He’s also written several other books for young people that I plan on reading. TGGH was voted as Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of Summer 2014. It was also a Silver winner in the National Parenting Publication Awards of 2014. So, parents, this book is safe for your precious offspring.

Author contact info: Facebook | Twitter

Kimberly Reid

51WTBwmSLKLIf you don’t know by now, I always make a point to read young adult fiction with African American main characters. I was on a serious hunt when I ran across Kimberly Reid’s detective series on Twitter. If you’ve been following my blog, you know how much I live for a good mystery! So, I pretty much ran to the library to check out the first book in Landon Prep mysteries, My Own Worst Frenemy. So far, there are four novels in the series.

Chanti Evans, girl detective. (Can I just say how much I love her name??) As the mother of a cop, Chanti has always been taught to observe her surroundings carefully. So when she starts to attend a new private school and things start to go missing, naturally, she is the one to blame. Chanti is determined to clear her name.

Author contact info: Facebook | Twitter

Ni-Ni Simone

13585533Out of all the authors mentioned beforehand, your teenager most likely knows who Ni-Ni Simone is. She’s pushed out numerous books since her debut Shortie Like Mine in August 2008. Ever since her spot in African American YA lit has been unmatched. With popular hip-hop references in titles or throughout the text, your teenager will love Simone’s plethora of books. The series I’ve read is Hollywood High. So far, there are 3 novels(co-written with Amir Abrams) (also a YA author)). The fourth is slated for release late December.

Hollywood High centers around 4 girls who have the entire world on a platter. Daughters to media moguls, celebrities, high-end actresses and lawyers, these girls have their own wealth and share of drama. Now, out of all the books previously listed, this one deals with the heaviest topics (drug use, illicit sexual behavior and underage drinking). It is a drama-filled read. I’d recommend for high schoolers, ages 16 and up.

Author contact info: Facebook | Twitter

Reshonda Tate Billingsley

9780758289513_p0_v2_s260x420You’ve probably heard of this author for her stellar works  in adult novels. She’s a NAACP Image Award winner and a national best-selling journalist. In addition to her best-selling adult novels, she has also produced several more excellent young adult works, including Rumor Central.

RC surrounds high school media mogul, Maya Morgan, who was on a reality show with several of her friends that was cancelled. She was the only one picked up to have her own personal talk show where she dishes her friend’s darkest secrets all in the name of ratings. Drama. Drama. Drama.

Gossip has never looked this good. Currently, there are 4 books in the Rumor Central series.

Author contact info: Facebook | Twitter


More African American Young Adult Authors: (traditionally published)

  • L. Divine
  • Sharon Draper
  • Cassandra Carter
  • Nikki Carter
  • Earl Sewell
  • Kelli London
  • Monica McKayhan
  • Lamar Giles

Other Resources:

10 YA Books about African American Teens by African Americans via Diversity in YA (Varian Johnson and Jason Reynolds both appear on this list)


Welcome to the Black Ivy League… The Legacy is available now!

The Legacy

The Missing is coming. The semester starts on 12/16…

The Missing

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