five #ownvoices YA contemporaries you should read already

book recs.(1)

Hello, friends!

OK, maybe my title was a little bit aggressive there. While it is true that I wish y’all would just give these books the attention that they deserve, read it more like: I’m here to recommend own voices books y’all should read (when you have time) (because I know we all have ever-growing TBRs and it’s hard not to drown in them).

But, anyway, let’s get into the recommendations:


chronic ilness and Jewish representation

I know I’m strictly recommending #ownvoices in this post, but I honestly do not know enough about the author to tell you if she shares diagnosis with any of the characters in this book, but that’s honestly kind of irrelevant to me. What matters is that the author definitely understands what is it like living with a chronic ilness, and it’s pretty obvious throughout the book.

Our two main characters, Isabel and Sasha, struggle with a chronic ilness. They meet at the hospital and develop a friendship that will eventually evolve into *something more*. And there are so many great elements about this book, I might as well do a list.IMG_3822

  • calls out New York City for its very poor accessibility which we always love to see
  • does not romanticize what is like being a sick person, and is in fact very open about the awkward/hard/uncomfortable/not pretty moments of living with a chronic ilness
  • but being sick also does not define these characters or the main conflict of their relationship
  • couples who TALK through their issues healthily!!!!@!@!
  • most positive sex conversations i’ve read in a book in a while
  • both characters have a significant relationship with their family
  • different perspectives on living with an invisible ilness and very realistic struggles, especially from Isabel

I’d say the only bad thing about this book is the fact they use “honey” when talking to each other, which we all know it’s a word to be exclusively used by white parents when coming home from work and NEVER, under any circumstances saved the sarcastic ones, by teenagers.


main character is a trans girl

Trigger warnings for suicide attempt, suicidal thoughts and internalized transphobia.

IMG_2889I realized I don’t scream enough about this book, which is a mistake. This was my favorite book of 2019, probably one of my favorite books of life, and definitely one I’ll be re-reading a number of times to come.

This book follows the birthday date of our two main characters, Morgan and Eric, from the years of twelve to eighteen. They’ve been best friends since forever, and throughout the book, we can see their friendship evolve and their individual growth as well.

I think it was really realistic how in some moments, these characters would be closer than in others, which I think it’s true for any long-lasting relationship. I also love how both perspectives are equally strong, and I never felt like I wanted to read more of one than the other.

Morgan is obviously struggling with her gender identity, while Eric is trying to figure out his place while being confronted with a lot of stereotypes and toxic masculinity. It’s really impactful seeing these two characters grow and their journey is quite heartbreaking. It’s not an easy one, definitely.

My favorite thing about the book, though, is the dynamic between Morgan and Eric. They are the childhood friends to lovers story that I’ve always dreamt of. I love how their feelings for each other aren’t immediately written all over their faces and, much like everything else in this book, is something they have to figure out. But, this time, together.


Korean-American main character

IMG_3814Summer is approaching, aka the best moment to read this book. It’s one of my favorite summer reads and one I wish more people would talk about.

The Way You Make Me Feel centers around Clara, the class clown who, after a prank that goes too far, is forced to work at her dad’s food truck the whole summer, along with her arch-nemesis, Rosie. It’s also important for me to note that her dad’s food truck is called KoBra, and it is a fusion of Korean and Brazilian cuisine. There’s actually a number of Brazilian elements in this book and they seriously made my day.

Clara was a really fun character too. Her enemies to friends dynamic with Rosie was hilarious and extremely realistic, in my opinion. She also has a love interest – Hamlet, who’s described as a human labrador – and they were equally adorable.

What I love the most about this book is how it discussed Clara’s struggle in “truly letting people in”. I know it can be a trope-y theme, but it was so well done here. I related so much to Clara keeping everyone in her life at arms-length, in order not to get hurt, but also missing out on a lot of amazing things because of it.


gay representation

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lack of gay men in football. (Or should I say soccer? I think calling it soccer is a big load of bullshit, but oh well). From my research, there are less than ten players in all *worldwide* football that have ever come out as gay, most of them doing so only after retiring. (I’m not considering women’s football, by the way). It’s a really sad statistic, actually. Olivier Giroud has stated that he finds it’s: “impossible to be openly gay in football”. A lot of players have gone far as opening lawsuits against people who shared personal information about their love life.

IMG_3819The reason why I’m saying all of this is because Running With Lions, by Julian Winters is a hopeful read in the midst of all these awful statistics. Our main character, Bastian, is falling in love with one of his teammates, who’s also a childhood friend. There are a lot of openly queer characters in Bastian’s team as well and that’s not something they’re ever shamed for.

It is refreshing to see such a positive take on a space that is so, predominantly, toxic for queer people. I loved the representation in here – Muslim characters, black characters, bisexual characters – and I loved how it’s also a coming of age story for Bastian, as he’s figuring out his future as well.

While this book may annoy some British readers for some inconsistencies that just prove to me it’s incredibly hard for Americans to realize that they’re not, in fact, the center of the world, I still recommend the heck out of it.


black main character

Y’all are NOT READING ENOUGH NIC STONE. And I’m forever mad, because she’s such a phenomenal author and while she’s definitely not totally underrated, I still feel like there are way too many people sleeping on her and all of her books’ glory.

IMG_3817Dear Martin is her debut novel and it may be short, but holds a punch in less than 300 pages. Our main character, Justyce, starts this personal project of writing letters for Dr. Martin Luther King after he ends up in handcuffs after trying to help his ex-girlfriend.

This book is incredibly fast paced, but still makes sure to discuss very relevant issues. I love how Nic Stone touched on the different levels of privilege – economic privilege vs. racial privilege and how they affect people’s lives differently as well.

I loved Justyce’s perspective and found to be very true to a teenage boy’s voice. I loved how dynamic and unique the writing was. I loved how this book totally broke my heart, but still made me feel hopeful after all.


This post is LONG AF and I’m so sorry. Let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what own voices recommendations you have for me as well!

22 comentários sobre “five #ownvoices YA contemporaries you should read already

  1. All of these books look amazing, thank you for these recommendations! I’m especially excited to read Birthday, as I’ve heard literally nothing but praise for it. And what you said about gay representation in mens football/soccer (sorry, American habits die hard) is so interesting…especially since women’s soccer is often so queer! This definitely makes me want to pick up Running With Lions :)

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    • birthday was so good!!!!! i really hope you love it if you do pick it up.
      exactly! i am not that familiar with women’s soccer, but i do know of a lot of players that have already came out publicly. it’s sad to think that toxic masculinity stops men from being able to do the same so easily.
      thank you so much for reading, margaret! 😌


    • hahah, i get that. but now that you mentioned football, i have to ask if you know how it is for football players in america. do you know if there are any openly gay players in NFL? or in football’s history in general? it would be interesting to compare the two scenarios.
      thank you so muchhh for reading, aditi!

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      • i actually don’t know much about football (not a huge fan of all the violence) so imma search it up real quick haha. there’s Michael Sam, first openly gay player to be drafted, but all the others have come out after retiring. on the other hand, a player gave a statement saying that all teams have at least one queer player which is really interesting because they don’t come out. this is interesting!

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  2. I loved reading this post as I think #ownvoices story are so important and I definitely want to read more and more. You have successfully convinced me that I need to read these books!!
    Sick Kids in Love sounds so good and I’ve heard a lot of good about it so I definitely need to check it out!! The way you’ve described different aspects from not romancising things and talking healthily about things, it just sounds great!! I love that you mentioned they used honey which teenagers wouldn’t do because yes!!
    I need to read Running With Lions (but the paperback is more expensive then they usually are, it is £16.99 whereas they are normally £7.99 but I shouldn’t let money stop me or request it at a library) !! But I never thought about football and how it is a toxic environment but hearing about it is really sad and makes this book so important and lovely. I’m excited to read it!!
    I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read any Nic Stone but I really want to, I just need to get on with it but I’m glad you love her books so much and I can’t wait to pick them up SOON!!
    Great post, I loved hearing about these recommendations!! <3

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    • yayyy, i am so happy you enjoyed my recommendations!
      hahah, the use of honey was the one thing that annoyed me the most throughout the book. i was just like??? WHYYYY?? who would use that? it was really its only fault though, hahah.
      ahh, hopefully you’ll be able to get to it soon! it really was a great and impactful read to me.
      thank you so much for stopping by, sophie! 💞

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  3. I haven’t read Birthday yet but Russo’s other book If I Was Your Girl was fantastic really well done representation. And I loved The Way You Make Me Feel I’ve been a bit surprised by how split people seem on Clara though she was a pretty realistic character to me as well! I’ll have to check out the others!

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    • ahhh, i’m glad you enjoyed if i was your girl. even though i loved birthday, i find the topics of if i was your girl too triggering to me, so i was happy to find another book by this author i could read and enjoy more.
      thank you so much for stopping by! ❣️


  4. the amount of buzz that i’ve been hearing lately about ‘sick kids in love’ i swear im going to ditch my whole tbr and just read it because it sounds bloody fantastic!! i’ve been meaning to read ‘dear martin’ FOR THE LONGEST TIME!! i know the book is absolutely going to hurt my heart and i need to mentally prepare myself for it, but i can FEEL like it’s going to be a new favourite

    this was such a great post!! i loved reading it

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    • it is such a great book! the rep is amazing and the characters are really lovely.
      ahhh, i am glad to put ti back in your radar, hahah. it is heartbreaking, but i loved that it had a hopeful ending despite everything.
      thank you so much for reading, may! 😌


  5. ahhhhhhhhh I love this post, I love underrated contemporary reads, I live for your recommendations thank you very much ahhhhhhhh <3 I've heard incredible things about sick kids in love lately, I'm really hoping I can get a copy soon and see what the hype it about, you make it sound FANTASTIC. <3

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  6. great, great post! I’ll definitely need to check these books. I’m especially eager to get my hands on The Way You Make Me Feel, I’ve heard so many great things! 😍

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  7. Ahhh, I love this post!! ownvoices books are so important, and they need all the support they can get. i could honestly do so much better at supporting them 😭 sadly, i’ve only read… one book from this list. but i LOVED it! we have the exact same thoughts on Sick Kids in Love! it’s so effortlessly diverse. the chronic illness representation was so well-done, yet i loved how the characters were never defined by their illnesses. and i never noticed that sasha and isabel called each other honey 😂 i think it’s because i listened to the book on audio, and i’m always bound the miss something if i listen to an audiobook. i can’t believe they called each other that unironically though lmao

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