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:
SICK KIDS IN LOVE, BY HANNAH MOSKOWITZ
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.
- 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.
BIRTHDAY, BY MEREDITH RUSSO
main character is a trans girl
Trigger warnings for suicide attempt, suicidal thoughts and internalized transphobia.
I 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.
THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL, BY MAURENE GOO
Korean-American main character
Summer 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.
RUNNING WITH LIONS, BY JULIAN WINTERS
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.
The 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.
DEAR MARTIN, BY NIC STONE
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.
Dear 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!