Four YA Summer Reading Rec’s That Will Inspire Body Positivity, Activism, Authenticity and Diversity

If you are looking for ways to fill your upcoming Summer vacation days, look no further than our new YA book recommendation list, courtesy of Penguin Young Readers. These four books cover a range of topics from body positivity to activism, romance, mystery, feminism, and diversity. In a nutshell, these are books that will inspire you to be true to yourself, and ignite a fire inside.

In a world where youth have endless pressures to conform, compare themselves on social media, and live up to others’ expectations, these books couldn’t have come at a more timely moment. Take your pick from the list below, which feature predominantly women of color authors, or add them all to your cart! Happy reading:

‘The Noh Family’ by Grace Shim, out May 3 (Kokila)

A sparkling fusion of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and K-drama (with a scarier Miranda Priestly as the grandmother), ‘The Noh Family’ is a YA inspired by the author’s real-life experience of discovering relatives she never knew she had.

When her friends gift her a 23-and-Me test as a gag, high school senior Chloe Chang doesn’t think much of trying it out. She doesn’t believe anything will come of it—she’s an only child, her mother is an orphan, and her father died in Seoul before she was even born, and before her mother moved to Oklahoma. It’s been just Chloe and her mom her whole life. But the DNA test reveals something Chloe never expected—she’s got a whole extended family from her father’s side half a world away in Korea. Her father’s family are owners of a famous high-end department store, and are among the richest families in Seoul. When they learn she exists, they are excited to meet her. Her mother has huge reservations, she hasn’t had a great relationship with her husband’s family, which is why she’s kept them secret, but she can’t stop Chloe from traveling to Seoul to spend two weeks getting to know the Noh family.

Chloe is whisked into the lap of luxury, but something feels wrong. Chloe wants to shake it off—she’s busy enjoying the delights of Seoul with new friend Miso Dan, the daughter of one of her mother’s grade school friends. And as an aspiring fashion designer, she’s loving the couture clothes her department store owning family gives her access to. But soon Chloe will discover the reason why her mother never told her about her dad’s family, and why the Nohs wanted her in Seoul in the first place. Could joining the Noh family be worse than having no family at all?

‘TJ Powar Has Something To Prove’ by Jesmeen Kaur Deo, out June 7 (Viking Books)

Jesmeen’s book ‘TJ Powar Has Something To Prove’, is a “most anticipated new YA” from BuzzFeed and Book Riot because it busts Westernized beauty standards and is a joy to read. Book Riot says it “shines a light on body hair, and the stigmas that come with it, specifically for brown girls.”

When TJ Powar—a pretty, popular debater—and her cousin Simran become the subject of a meme: with TJ being the “expectation” of dating an Indian girl and her Sikh cousin who does not remove her body hair being the “reality”—TJ decides to take a stand.She ditches her razors, cancels her waxing appointments, and sets a debate resolution for herself: “This House Believes That TJ Powar can be her hairy self, and still be beautiful.” Only, as she sets about proving her point, she starts to seriously doubt anyone could care about her just the way she is—even when the infuriating boy from a rival debate team seems determined to prove otherwise. As her carefully crafted sense of self begins to crumble, TJ realizes that winning this debate may cost her far more than the space between her eyebrows. And that the hardest judge to convince of her arguments might just be herself.

Jesmeen delivers a satisfying enemies-to-lovers tale and also explores important topics such as feminism, body image, and how today’s beauty industry defines beauty.

‘Zyla & Kai’ by Kristina Forest, out June 7 (Kokila)

Kristina brilliantly explores dual POVs, and the mayhem and mystery caused by two former sweethearts who escape into the wilderness to explore the prospect of getting back together in this joyfully quirky YA romance, ‘Zyla & Kai’, about a Black teen “first love story with all the feels” (Kirkus). “I want to tell stories about Black girls and women getting a happily ever after ending,” said Kristina about her novel.

While on a school trip to the Poconos Mountains (in the middle of a storm) high school seniors, Zyla Matthews and Kai Johnson, run away together leaving their friends and family confused. As far as everyone knows, Zyla and Kai have been broken up for months. And honestly? Their break up hadn’t surprised anyone. Zyla and Kai met while working together at an amusement park the previous summer, and they couldn’t have been more different. Zyla was a cynic about love. She’d witnessed the dissolution of her parents’ marriage early in life, and it left an indelible impression. Her only aim was graduating and going to fashion school abroad. Until she met Kai.

Kai was a serial monogamist and a hopeless romantic. He’d put a temporary pause on his dating life before senior year to focus on school and getting into his dream HBCU. Until he met Zyla. Alternating between the past and present, we see the love story unfold from Zyla and Kai’s perspectives: how they first became the unlikeliest of friends over the summer, how they fell in love during the school year, and why they ultimately broke up… Or did they? Romantic, heart-stirring and a little mysterious, Zyla & Kai will keep readers guessing until the last chapter.

‘Secret of the Shadow Beasts’ by Diane Magras, out June 14 (Penguin Young Readers)

From the award-winning author of The New York Times Editors’ Choice ‘The Mad Wolf’s Daughter’ comes an action-packed fantasy for middle graders that ties into real-life themes of kids facing a world full of crises that they didn’t create, but have to solve in ‘Secrets of the Shadow Beasts’. Magras introduces a diverse cast of young knights, including a trans girl who uses hearing aids and a Muslim boy with two hijabi mums.Readers aged 11+ will enjoy the thrills in this medieval-meets-sci fi adventure while learning valuable lessons about the real world they will one day lead.

In Brannland, terrifying beasts called Umbrae roam freely once the sun sets, so venomous that a single bite will kill a full-grown adult—and lately, with each day that passes, their population seems to double. The only people who can destroy them are immune children like Nora, who are recruited at the age of seven to leave their families behind and begin training at a retrofitted castle called Noye’s Hill. But despite her immunity, Nora’s father refused to let her go.

Now, years after his death by Umbra attack, Nora is twelve, and sees her mother almost killed by the monsters too. That’s when Nora decides it’s time for her to join the battle. Once she arrives at Noye’s Hill, though, she and her new friends are left with more questions than answers: Where are the Umbrae coming from? Could the government be covering up the true reason their population has whirled out of control? And was Nora’s father, the peaceful, big-hearted man who refused to let Nora fight, in on the treacherous secret?

We hope you enjoy these selections from our YA summer reading list! Stay tuned for more book recommendations right here in the coming months.

Comments are closed.