Much has been documented about JK Rowling’s epic fall from grace. Countless energy has been spent lamenting the loss of the narrative of our childhoods. And while the world continues to debate Rowling’s views of transgender peoples, she is able to stay relevant. Even when her views aren’t.
Which is a shame, because even though Harry Potter represents something special, it is only a drop in the ocean in regards to the bevy of amazing Young- Adult fiction books. So, if Rowling’s comments have left you feeling somewhat dejected, or lost- don’t worry. I am here to guide you.
Here is a list of inclusive, and great YA books and series to replace the Harry Potter sized whole in your heart.
The Shadow Hunter Universe
by Cassandra Clare
This edition is great- because it’s not just one series. It’s four! With additional spin off novels and promises of future series’ to boot.
Now, if you have had the misfortune of coming across the ‘Shadowhunters’ TV show, or ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ movie, then I beg you to not judge the novels on their screen adaptations. For some reason, these books just don’t seem to transfer well to film.
This book series is pretty cool though. It’s about Nephilim; half humans, half angels, who are tasked with protecting the earth. There’s vampires, werewolf, wizards and even faeries. The different races of magical creatures are a subtle (or sometimes glaringly obvious) depiction of different minorities in our society. And the strict government body which polices their world is often used as a critique on institutionalised abuses of power.
Which is such an important thing to see in YA fiction, as it actively begins to educate tweens or teens, and lays the foundations for them to form their own political identity.
Not only this, but Cassandra Clare actively works to have people of colour and the LGBTQ+ spectrum represented through meaningful and significant characterisation. What this means is that these characters are not tokenistic, but rather people that exist in the books beyond these classifications. An important thing to note here is that Clare has a very close relationship with her fans, and works closely with minority groups to make sure she gets her representations right.
The Mortal Instruments: ★★★
The Infernal Devices: ★★★★
The Dark Artefacts: ★★★★½
The Last Hours: ★★★★
Percy Jackson and More
by Rick Riordan
Most people probably recognise the name Percy Jackson. A major series in the 00s, these books catapulted Riordan into the YA hall of fame. And while there is some diversity in the cast of his debut series, it is what followed that really broke the mould.
While the Percy Jackson series features kids with ADHD and dyslexia, there are few people of colour represented. The same goes for LGBTQ+ characters. However, Riordan really ramps these themes up in the following four book series. In fact, in all the novels following Percy Jackson, the majority of characters are POC. Similarly, a significant number of main cast are LGBTQ+ characters, some of whom are genderfluid or transgender.
Because these books border on both historical and mythical fiction, it makes total sense that these characters are diverse. Children of Greek Gods can have a broader understandings of sexuality and gender because the Ancient Greeks themselves were one of the most sexually liberated civilisations. And the histories which Riordan writes about are not white histories, as much as Hollywood would love to pretend otherwise.
I hate to break it to you, but Cleopatra did not actually look Liz Hurley.
Not only are these books wonderfully diverse, but it also makes learning fun. I’ve been obsessed with Greek mythology since I first read ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief’ in year 7, and almost chose it as my university major.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: ★★★★★
The Kane Chronicles: ★★★
The Heroes of Olympus: ★★★★
Magnus Chase and the gods of Asgard: ★★★½
Trials of Apollo: ★★★½
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before Series
by Jenny Han
To All The Boys I’ve Ever Loved Before was one of the first novels I read where a POC was the lead. And it was definitely the first novel I read where the main characters minority status was not the driving force of the plot.
The series is about navigating high school life and the complexities of young love. The fact that Laura Jean is Asian-American is a celebrated part of her life, but it does not define her.
When the book series was turned into a Netflix film in 2018, it became one of the biggest romcoms to feature an Asian lead. Now that Netflix has released a sequel film to similar critical and commercial success, it is clear that Jenny Han’s series is paving the way to change.
Not only is this series leading the way in giving voice to POC in the romance genre, it is a really well written, enjoyable read.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before Series: ★★★★
The Witch Boy
by Molly Ostertag
If you’re looking for a novel that has elements of Harry Potter in it without feeling guilty about reading the work of a transphobe, then look no further. The Witch Boy is about 13-year-old Aster, a trans girl who must find the courage to embrace her powers as a witch, when her parents expect her to become a wizard.
I will admit, I have only read half-way through the first book in the trilogy, but so far I am loving it. While definitely geared more towards the tween spectrum of YA books, you definitely don’t have to be a child to enjoy this series.
Not only does this series represent transgender peoples, it also has a strong POC cast. This is a big deal, because trans people of colour are currently facing a barrage of violence in our society. This series might be a little harder to find then the aforementioned series’, but it’s well worth the search.
The Witch Boy Trilogy (so far): ★★★★
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