A few recent and upcoming titles naturally integrate well-rounded lead characters with physical disabilities into stories that go far beyond tired tropes, showing how enriching it is when we have broader representation of the full range of young adults’ life experiences.

Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest (Scholastic, 2023): Leaving high school behind and heading off to college is always a big deal. But everything gets more complicated when the boy you’re attracted to is also applying to your dream school, and you must consider whether the institution will welcome you as a wheelchair user. Effie Galanos (who, like debut author Forrest, has cerebral palsy) wants to leave Minneapolis to study journalism in New York City. Her memorable journey includes challenges, triumph, romance, and more.

Sixteen Souls by Rosie Talbot (Scholastic, 2023): It’s hard to imagine a more evocative setting for a paranormal adventure than the famously haunted cathedral city of York in the north of England, as Talbot’s atmospheric debut proves. Charlie Frith, a gay teen who’s an amputee with prosthetic lower legs, is a seer who’s friends with phantoms. When the city’s ghosts start mysteriously going missing, it’s up to him and new crush Sam Harrow, who’s trans, to save them—a mission Charlie approaches with some trepidation following a traumatic incident.

Out of Our League: 16 Stories of Girls in Sports, edited by Dahlia Adler & Jennifer Iacopelli (Feiwel & Friends, Jan. 23): This anthology stands out for the diversity of voices represented as well as the inclusion of less frequently portrayed sports. Kayla Whaley’s perceptive, nuanced contribution, “No Love Lost,” follows 19-year-old wheelchair tennis champion Lotte Vogels, who brought home a Paralympic gold medal and a French Open trophy. But when she’s featured in a Super Bowl commercial, the personal costs and endless calculations demanded of athletes in adaptive sports become glaringly obvious. Whaley is a former senior editor at Disability in Kidlit.

Conditions of a Heart by Bethany Mangle (McElderry, Feb. 20): This novel, by an author who has Ehlers–Danlos syndrome, delves with insightful care into the ramifications of living with this disorder. It also opens with a memorable hook: “I’m just like other girls, and I’ll throat-punch anyone who says I’m not.” Brynn Kwan, who’s Korean and white and whose dad also has EDS, hides her disability to protect herself from betrayal—but this strategy takes a toll, and she must decide whom she can trust to fully accept her.

Ellie Haycock Is Totally Normal by Gretchen Schreiber (Wednesday Books, March 5): This emotionally honest debut, which blends romance with coming-of-age themes, does many things well, particularly addressing a frequently neglected topic: violations of disabled young people’s privacy and the centering of their parents’ perspectives. Ellie, who like Schreiber has the rare genetic disease VACTERLs, is dealing with the trauma of dozens of surgeries, the fallout of having a mom who blogs about her life, and the challenges of navigating relationships (including one with a boy who’s supportive and also nudges her toward uncomfortable growth).

Laura Simeon is a young readers’ editor.