Top Five Tuesday: More Diversity in YA, Please?

Hello y’all, and welcome back! Today I’m linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for top ten Tuesday again. It’s been a minute!

So here’s a quick list of books I’ve read that I really wish had more diversity in them. Just five for now, because I don’t want to go on forever, and let’s be honest: committing to read diversely is kind of a trip in YA literature, because it becomes really, really easy to see how few books are not about white, straight, able-bodied, neurotypical characters. Seriously.

…that said, I’m not trying to rail at these authors in particular, because if I dug into my shelves and not just into the top of my head, I’m sure I’d find plenty of books lacking representation that I think would be great to have. But these stuck out to me, so here we go!

1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury

This goes for the whole A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy, actually (and there’s still a chance, since the last book is out in May). In any case, this book takes place in a fantasy fae world, but there are fae with darker skin colours—they just never get to be characters of consequence, which gets increasingly sad as the trilogy adds more and more important characters. There are also no queer characters thus far, which always grates on me a lot more when the cast expands and expands and the narrative starts mating off men and women into couple after couple after couple. Sigh. I had fun with this book despite some iffy elements, but I’d really love to see something in it from the non-pale, straight side of the Force.

2. Winter by Marissa Meyer

Winter

And yeah, by extension, the whole of the Lunar Chronicles. I know that Cinder takes place in China and she and Kai are vaguely Asian (there’s a larger empire), but I’ve read (and agree with) criticisms (here’s one) that the effort to work Chinese culture into the story really isn’t there. So as POC representation goes, it’s a bit iffy. But I’m picking my bone with Winter because, again, there are about a million couples, there’s even contemplation of robot sexuality, but no one is even a little queer. (Not even the robot.) (Which wouldn’t fix the narrative bloat of Winter—continuing to add characters and retellings at the forefront of each book ultimately bogged down the conclusion of Cinder’s story, which was the most interesting one—but it’d make me happier, let’s be real.)

3. Half Lost by Sally Green

Half Lost

So just as I don’t think diversity would’ve saved Winter‘s narrative bloat, I don’t think diversity would’ve saved the Half Bad trilogy’s….overall rolling off a cliff into a dumpster fire. (And part of that has to do with its queer representation, so I don’t know that it gets points for that.) However, given the premise of this book/trilogy is the divide between White and Black witches and the danger of a half-code (the protagonist, born of a union of both), there’s some very obvious racial allegory in these books that it seems to…mostly ignore? Allow to get really offensive if you continue reading it as an allegory? Perhaps that wouldn’t have been so easy to do had there been an important black character in these books.

 

4. John Green, Except the Fault in Our Stars

I don’t actually mean to rag on John Green. He seems like a really nice guy. But other than in An Abundance of Katherines, where the best friend comes off as a bit tokenistic since his subjectivity isn’t really explored (though he was still my favourite character, I think?), Green tends to write white people. And specifically white middle-class straight teen boy meets girl who changes his life perspective, except in The Fault in Our Stars. (Still very white and middle-class and straight, but chronically ill.) I get it: write what you know is a thing. And we could be here dressing down the guy for trying to write diversely and not Getting It. (See: Marissa Meyer, above.) But it’s worth the effort. There are flaws in The Fault in Our Stars, but he hit it big for the effort to portray illness/disability with some humour and honesty. (Even though it’s still a lot a tragedy.) It’s worth trying, and I hope he does more of that going forward.

5.Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Caveat to say that the main character is at least ethnically Jewish, although the significance of that is really downplayed other than the times his grandfather comes up. But other than that…these books are all about being different and peculiarity and resulting marginalization, and the need to create communities in order to be safe and take care of one another. But everyone is white (and coded straight, though most of the characters are children, so eh). Do we meet a single peculiar person in this trilogy who isn’t white? I can’t remember doing so. We meet a significant dog but I can’t remember any significant PoC. Wouldn’t this have been more profound with the inclusion of some diversity on that score? Anything about Jacob’s grandfather and his fighting to protect them was made more interesting and complex because he was a Jewish man. So…?

So there’s a quick list of some obvious diversity gaps off the top of my head. How about you? Have you craved more representation in any of the books you’ve read recently? I rarely ever seem to find books about disabled characters (mental illness in YA is happening more, to varying effects)—which series do you think they could’ve done a better job of saving the world in?

Thanks for tuning in, and I’ll catch you Friday with more reads!

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