Looking for some awesome books for teens by African American authors? Your library is here to help. Here are five great books to choose from. Place a hold for curbside pickup today!
How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon (2014; 326 pages). When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson is shot to death, his community is thrown into an uproar because Tariq was black and the shooter, Jack Franklin, is white, and in the aftermath everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events agree. This book is told from multiple viewpoints that examine how the same event can look very different to every person involved. Pick this one up if you think any part of recent events is cut and dry.
Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson (2018; 435 pages). Claudia’s friend Monday has disappeared and as Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone? Fans of twisty-turny mysteries will enjoy this fast-paced novel.
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (2017; 264 pages). Also available on Overdrive ebook and Playaway audiobook. Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods. But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference. Renee Watson is one of my favorite favorites and a must-read if you’re looking to support African American authors. This story is a great one for readers who love character-driven stories and excellent writing.
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (2014; 231 pages). In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen. Jason Reynolds is another favorite favorite of mine. He is a master at creating characters that feel so real and crafting their voices so that it sounds like a real person is sitting down and telling you their story. This is a great one for teens who like gritty, urban fiction.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (2020, 328 pages. Audiobook available on Hoopla. In Campebell County, Indiana, prom is king. Their competition for prom court is fierce and legendary. Liz Lighty’s not cut out for prom queen. She’s always thought herself too black and too queer for that title. But when she doesn’t get the scholarship to her dream school that she was counting on, winning the crown might be her only ticket, so she enters the competition. But can this music nerd get the votes she needs? And is keeping her queer identity a secret the only way to win? This adorable prom story is perfect for summer reading if you’re looking for something on the lighter side, a story that celebrates Black joy. It’s a great read for Pride month, too.