These books include complex characters, effortless layering of dynamic topics, a little bit of beautiful-cover bias, and they aren’t the stories you’d expect when you think of “diverse books.” Intersectionality acknowledges that no one is any one thing, and various facets of identity can combine to change how someone sees and interacts with the world. And they’re worth reading for reasons beyond being able to slap a label—BIPOC, gay, disabled, all of the above—on the author or characters, and worth more than serving as a tool for readers to congratulate themselves for reading “diversely.” Read these books because they are great stories that expand your understanding of the human experience.
by Morgan Rogers
Literary/General Fiction/New Adult
Content warnings: mild self-harm
Grace Porter just got married in Vegas to a woman she has never met. In the morning, she’s gone, leaving only a flirty note and the fragments of memories from that drunken night.
This is out of character for the workaholic, academic and responsible Grace. Still, she feels drawn to the wild artistry of her new wife, Yuki Yamamoto—wherever she may be—and to whatever this whirlwind romance could become once it has time to properly grow.
The romance is a warm, gentle undercurrent in Honey Girl. It’s a coming-of-age story for women who’ve thrown all they have into university, work and others’ expectations and came out the other side bewildered and unfulfilled by what society wanted them to be. Grace frees herself from the pressure by falling into Yuki’s creative world, but the stress of her life, combined with her fear of failure, pulls her world out from under her. With all she’s known left behind, Grace has no idea where she will fall.
This is an inspirational book full of heart for the modern, dizzy, millennial woman. For all its hard truths and difficult discoveries, the story is warmed by its love of friendship, connection to family and lyrical writing style.
by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Content warnings: religious oppression, sexual content, violence
Faced with financial trouble, Nikki reluctantly returns to the Sikh community she’s long-since distanced herself from to teach Punjabi widows creative writing. She expects uptight traditions and conservatism that only she, a modern and worldly woman, can save them from—but the students shock her with their wealth of wisdom, memories and unabashed romantic fantasies in their writing. The Brotherhood, the community’s morally-uptight watchdogs, won’t let this stand and they won’t tolerate Nikki’s curiosity about the unsolved murder of a young woman.
This quirky premise gives way to unexpectedly complex depths. With impressive agility, it ties together the comedy of the widows’ stories and banter, the mystery of the murder and the empowerment of the class rediscovering their creative passions, all on the foundation of love for one’s community.
by Olivia Dade
Content warnings: fat phobia
When April’s cosplay for an ultra-popular TV show goes viral, she gets the response she expects and one response she definitely doesn’t. Amongst the tidal wave of support for her confidence in being a plus-sized cosplayer and the cruelty that inevitably comes with it, she also gets a public message from the lead actor on the show, asking her on a date.
April immediately agrees to stick it to the critics, but as the single date evolves into many, she wonders how to find the real Marcus under the playfully-dumb, obedient, “golden retriever” persona his publicists have instilled in him.
Spoiler Alert mixes the unapologetically ridiculous world of fandom indulgence with a truly sweet romance. It has strong hints of coping with criticism and learning to be patient—or else choosing to go your own way for your own sake. It’s a fun, bright book; partly whirlwind romance and about the challenge of working through the perfectly-curated mask of confidence one presents for the world’s benefit.
by Tiffany D. Jackson
Content warnings: abuse, violence
The author of Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming is back with another dark thriller about how youths—especially Black youths—are unfairly trapped by the vicious world of the law, manipulation and the court of public opinion. Grown is a knife-sharp take on the glitzy and misogynistic world of stardom that contributed to the R. Kelly scandals.
Enchanted Jones is a talented teenager with her eyes on the dazzling world of R&B stars, She’s also perfect prey for superstar Korey Fields. He brings her into the world of fame, but she quickly finds that stardom and Korey’s affection are all glitz, no glamour. The reader is a step ahead, watching as her world spirals. After all, the book opens with a flash-forward of Enchanted in an unfamiliar room, hands covered in blood and Korey Fields dead.
Jackson’s writing style is spare, nuanced, quick-witted and utterly consumable, making the good times shine their brightest and the dark times pull you down into their depths. The mystery of Korey’s death and Enchanted’s rise and fall in the world of her dreams make a beautiful and quiet thriller.