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5 Women YA Authors You Should Be Reading

A book to carry with you.

I'M AFRAID OF MEN

In this collection of brief and poignant memories, trans artist and musician Shraya (The Boy & the Bindi, 2016, etc.) reflects on how men exert control over the ways in which people express identity.

Experiences with harassment trained South Asian–Canadian Shraya to camouflage herself among straight men. She altered the way she walked, the way she dressed, and what food she purchased at the grocery store. Through vignettes from different stages of her life—as an adolescent with a “budding sashay” and “soprano laughter,” as an adult seeking affection from gay men in bars, and then as an openly trans woman developing her career in music—she shares the rejection and the pressure she faced for not fitting into a white enough or skinny enough mold and for not conforming to men’s expectations of her sexuality. Her fear formed “because of cumulative damage” from “everyday experiences.” Not only does she critique the way men treat women, but she examines the problems with societal expectations of men as well as the need to “celebrate gender creativity.” Shraya crafts each of her memories in prose made poetic with touches of metaphor. She writes with honesty and vulnerability, all the while asking challenging and personal questions that inspire deeper reflection. This crucial addition to shelves offers the vital and often ignored perspective of a trans woman of color.

A book to carry with you. (Nonfiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3593-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

Thrilling and timely.

WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE

From the We Set the Dark on Fire series , Vol. 1

Power, truth, and lies intertwine dangerously in Mejia’s debut novel about oppression and resistance with a cunning Latinx teenage heroine.

Medio, an island nation divided by a wall, is literally in between extremes: “On one side there was the might of a nation. On the other, desperation.” Clear parallels to Mexico in imagery and themes abound. Born on the wrong side of the wall without legal papers, 17-year-old brown-skinned Daniela “Dani” Vargas graduates after 5 years of diligent training at an elite finishing school to join the powerful Garcia family as their son’s Primera. In this well-constructed world, an ancient mythology forms the basis for a practice in which husbands have two wives each: Primeras are quick-witted and emotionally restrained while Segundas are brave and passionate. When Dani’s Primera training falters in the face of her ruthless, power-hungry husband, her past overwhelms her present, and she is recruited to spy for the resistance. Excerpts from the Medio School for Girls rulebook precede each chapter, a juxtaposition that effectively reveals Dani’s conflicted self-awakening. An action-packed third-person narrative, smart dialogue, and lush descriptions offer readers a fresh and steely heroine in a contemporary coming-of-age story. This well-crafted fantasy offers a mirror that reflects themes in our own difficult world, namely privilege, immigration, and individualism versus the common good. A queer subplot with sensual tenderness adds rich complexity to the story.

Thrilling and timely. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269131-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

An atmospheric, multilayered, sex-positive romance from the talented Bennett.

SERIOUS MOONLIGHT

Birdie Lindberg, a lover of detective novels, teams up with her one-time hookup Daniel Aoki to solve a mystery at the historic Seattle hotel where they work.

After years of being home-schooled by her strict, recently deceased grandmother, orphaned 18-year-old Birdie’s circle of friends is limited to three adults: her widowed grandpa, Hugo (with whom she lives on Bainbridge Island); her free-spirited–artist honorary aunt, Mona Rivera; and Ms. Patty, co-owner of her favorite refuge in the city, the Moonlight Diner. So when Birdie, who’s white and has undiagnosed narcolepsy, starts a night shift at a historic hotel, she’s gobsmacked to bump into co-worker Daniel, a handsome half-Japanese/half-white boy with whom she shared a romantic-turned-awkward night before fleeing the scene. Remembering Birdie’s love of mysteries, Daniel—who’s 19 and a magic aficionado—suggests they investigate whether a regular guest is actually Raymond Darke, the pen name of a reclusive bestselling local mystery author. Bennett (Starry Eyes, 2018, etc.) excels at nuanced characterization, portraying deeply felt first love and offering readers well-researched diversity (Mona is Puerto Rican, Daniel’s deaf in one ear and has grandparents who survived the Japanese American internment). The mystery theme is compelling (each chapter opens with a quote from a famous sleuth), but it’s the way Birdie and Daniel navigate an emotional and physical relationship—despite their sensitively handled issues—that’s truly memorable.

An atmospheric, multilayered, sex-positive romance from the talented Bennett. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2514-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

A worthy piece of work that superbly and empathetically tells a heartbreaking tale.

BURIED BENEATH THE BAOBAB TREE

The unnamed young Nigerian narrator of this novel, with a loving family and academic aspirations, is kidnapped by Boko Haram along with many other girls and women from her village.

On the day the terrorists came and destroyed her village, they murdered her father and brothers, sparing only the one brother young enough to be taught their way of life. The story chronicles her cheerful, promising life before her abduction as well as the suffering and abuse she endures after being forced to part with her dreams of getting a university scholarship, becoming a teacher, and having her own family. It traverses the girl’s life from dutiful Christian daughter and loyal friend to becoming a slave under her kidnappers’ radical rule—and pays tribute to the fortitude and grace it takes to not only survive such an ordeal, but to escape it. Nigerian author Nwaubani (I Do Not Come to You by Chance, 2009, etc.) smoothly pulls readers into this narrative. Her words paint beautiful portraits of the joy, hope, and traditions experienced by this girl, her friends, and family with the same masterful strokes as the ones depicting the dreadful agony, loss, and grief they endure. A heavy but necessary story based on the horrendous 2014 Boko Haram kidnapping of 276 Chibok girls, described in an afterword by Italian journalist Mazza.

A worthy piece of work that superbly and empathetically tells a heartbreaking tale. (afterword, references, resources) (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-269672-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

A hymn to faith, friendship, and social justice, sung by gentle men and strong women of many colors and ages.

FORWARD ME BACK TO YOU

A summer church trip to Kolkata allows two American teens to serve, grow, and heal their own suffering in unexpected ways.

Katina King is a 16-year-old Brazilian jujitsu champion, a scholarship student at an elite Oakland school, and the brown-skinned, biracial daughter of a single white mother. After a male student assaults her, Kat’s anxiety, rage, and anguish disrupt her focus on winning matches and applying to college. Eighteen-year-old Robin Thornton was adopted as a toddler from an Indian orphanage by wealthy white Bostonians. He can’t seem to find true belonging or be more than a rudderless sidekick to his white jock friend. When Kat’s mother sends her to Boston for a break from Oakland, the teens meet, traveling to Kolkata with their pastor to work with survivors of child trafficking. Kat decides to teach the young women how to fight while Robin, now going by Ravi, hopes to find his birth mother. But they learn the hard way that they must first earn the trust and respect of those they serve and that service may be very different from what they imagine. Perkins (You Bring the Distant Near, 2017, etc.) celebrates Christian faith, superheroes, and Kolkata life through the interleaved perspectives of sympathetic and earnest protagonists and in simple language that speaks straight to the heart.

A hymn to faith, friendship, and social justice, sung by gentle men and strong women of many colors and ages. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-30492-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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