five YA contemporaries narrated by straight male characters (because i swear not all of them are trash)

book recs.(1)

Hello, friends!

For today’s recommendation post, we’ll be focusing in contemporaries narrated by straight male characters. I know this sounds like a nightmare at first. At least for me, who’s allergic to straight teenage boys. But they may just restore your faith in their kind, because these books are *actually* good!

I know for most people who are reading this post, straight teenage boys are the last people they expect to relate with. But even if relatability-wise, these books may not be the best, they still offer enough I do feel like more people should read them.

(I really need to read more books narrated by straight Asian male characters, so if you have any recommendations, let me know!)


IMG_4563This is a very underrated YA 2020 release and centers around our main character, Del, who decides to join the purity pledge at his church in order to get closer to the girl he likes. This girl has never been “available”, so now that she’s finally single, Del decides to make a move.

There’s a lot to like about this book. First, it talks a lot about the idea of “nice guy”. Del believes that, because he’s not a fuckboy and is actually respectful and nice, he should be rewarded by his crush’s immediate requited love. And that mindset is toxic AF, not to mention deeply mysognistic. Even though Del starts as a very unlikeable character, the book puts him in the center of the discussion about toxic masculinity and double-standard expectations and his growth is remarkable.

It’s also interesting because the novel will talk a lot about sex education. Del is the only one in the purity pledge allowed to take sex ed classes at his school, so he ends up taking a lot of questions from the purity pledgers to his sex-ed teacher and the answers back. I am always here for more sex-positive and realistic conversations in books, and, like the book praises, having healthy and productive discussions is a ton more effective than avoiding the subject.

This book tackles so much, while being entertaining and hilarious, so really, props to this author!


Trigger warnings: violence, racism, police brutality, death of a parent

IMG_0515In this dual perspective novel, we get to know Rashad: who’s a victim of police brutality and Quinn, who witnesses it. Even though both of these characters attend the same school, their lives had never intertwined until that moment. It’s really interesting breaking down the similarities and differences between these two.

Both perspectives add something unique to the story. When we follow Rashad, we really get to see the consequences of a police brutality episode in someone’s life and in that person’s family. It is also nice seeing the contrast in Rashad’s family members: his brother is a loud advocate for black people’s rights, whereas his dad shields himself from any violence by also rejecting his culture. It is amazing how the author develops both of them, as well as Rashad’s character.

Quinn’s perspective is just as complicated. His will definitely touch more on activism and standing up for what’s right, even when it’s hard. Quinn is definitely written to be a bit unlikeable, but I could actually understand where he was coming from and ultimately appreciate his growth even more because of where he starts the book at.

This discussion of privilege was so well done that even though the first two chapters may sound very “teenage-boy-like”, I do encourage you to push through because it does get a lot better.


Trigger warnings: domestic abuse with brief mentions of sexual abuse, death of a parent, grief, bullying.

This is another dual perspective novel, but will deal with completely different topics from the previous one. In A List of Cages, we’re talking about foster system, domestic abuse and found families. It’s a very hard-hiting, but ultimately hopeful story.

IMG_4565Adam and Julian used to be foster brothers, until Julian moves out with his uncle. After that, the two barely see each other, until they end up being reunited at school – Julian being a freshman and Adam a senior. They start hanging out a lot more and I absolutely love the development of their friendship, as well as how Julian is essentially adopted by Adam’s friend group.

Both perspectives are equally strong. Julian’s is a lot more emotional, as he’s such a young boy who’s been through a lot. Not only the death of his parents is an event he’s still mourning, but the domestic abuse also makes him very vulnerable. I loved how the author created his voice, because he does sound a lot younger than Adam – which he is -, but I also think has to do with the fact that the trauma has definitely affected the way he matures.

As for Adam’s, his perspective is a lot more hopeful, because that’s who he is. He’s a total human labrador, who makes friends with absolutely everyone. He also has ADHD, which was nice to see being worked out on page.


I shall not shut up about Heretics Anonymous until I know more people are actually reading this book.

Following Michael, an atheist going to a catholic school, Heretics Anonymous will talk about a lot more than just religion. In his school, Michael ends up joining this underground group, the Heretics Anonymous, with other people who do not 100% align with the beliefs of their catholic school.

IMG_0973Here’s a small list of things to love about this book:

  • SOUTH-AMERICAN REP! Lucy, our main’s love interest, is Colombian-American and a badass feminist.
  • Diverse cast of supportive characters.
  • Romance descriptions from a male character’s POV that didn’t make me uncomfortable at all? Absolutely unheard of.
  • Discussions of religion, beliefs and skepticism all done in a very respectful way.
  • Amazing writing.
  • Our main character being challenged for being an ass about his “1st-world-problems”, but also acknowledged that his problems are valid because they’re his.
  • Older brother/little sister relationship to compensate for his jerk of a father.

Even though I have no actual complicated relationship with religion and it’s not a topic I tend to think about often, I found this one to be so deeply entertaining and real. And Michael was too much of a great narrator, even if annoying at times.


IMG_1063Opposite of Always is a contemporary with sprinkles of magical realism, as it talks about time-travel. Our main character Jack meets Kate at a party and they hit off right from the start. Until Kate dies and that throws Jack on a time-loop to the night where they first met, in hopes that he’ll be able to save her.

I will admit I did not like the ending of this book, but I still wanted to recommend for the other layers that I feel like are worth reading it for.

Jack and Kate have such great banter and all the dialogues in this book are the perfect amount of hilarious. I loved seeing his friend group and how complicated things get, depending which choices Jack makes. They were equally fleshed out and amazing. His relationship with his parents was also the sweetest – they had so much love and trust in each other, but also knew when Jack needed his time to cope by himself.

It’s also nice seeing an entirely non-white cast, but not having the book necessarily focus on it, but having these characters simply *exist* and be black, and not be defined by that at all.

Again, if you guys have any book recommendations for Asian male characters, please let me know! And if you have read any of these books, tell me how you like them down in the comments!

27 comentários sobre “five YA contemporaries narrated by straight male characters (because i swear not all of them are trash)

  1. Lais, I’m living for your book recs!! Just seeing Not So Pure and Simple here, I know the other books are probably fantastic 😄. Also, you’re so right about Del’s mindset being so toxic 😷. All of these books sound really good, but I’m really curious about Heretics Anonymous – I’d seen the cover before, but I never knew about the representation 😮. As for Asian male protagonists, the first books that come to my mind are Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert, Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, Frankly in Love by David Yoon, and The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon 🙂. Awesome post 😄!

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  2. Wow, thank you so much for these book recs! I haven’t read any of them- whoops- but these all look really exciting. Ngl, I was worried that they would all be by straight white dudes 💀 thank god they weren’t lol.
    I’m really looking forward to Not So Pure And Simple and Heretics Anonymous.
    Amazing post as always Lais!!

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  3. This post title made me laugh out loud 😂 I am also allergic to straight teen boys, BUT I suppose I can make an exception for these ones. I need to read more from Jason Reynolds after enjoying Long Way Down, and you’ve definitely sold me on Heretics Anonymous!

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    • Same here! This is the only book by Jason Reynolds I’ve read and I know Long Way Home is super loved, so I definitely want to give it a chance, it’s just that books written in verse tend not to be my thing.
      Thank you so much for reading, Margaret! 😌


  4. OMG THAT TITLE I LOVE IT!! Lemme be that uncultured idiot and go TEA (even though I’d never said it in my entire life lmao). “allergic to straight teenage boys” WOW omg dead

    Love this post and all your recommendations though! I’m especially excited for Opposite of Always, which you already know because I talk about wanting to read it way too much on The Bookish Skies apparently welp. But all your other recs make me want to pick them up immediately < 3

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    • Hahahah, I really am, honestly, it’s quite a problem hahah
      No worries, I also feel like I talk a lot about that book but it was a really conflicting experience for me. I thought I was going to love it so much and then the ending came and I was just so confused on how to feel, hahah.
      Thank you so much for reading, Ruby! ❣️

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  5. A List of Cages was so good 😭 it’s been like 3 years since I read it and I’m still so wrecked?! 😭💛 and I need to read Opposite of Always!! It’s glaring at me from my tbr.

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  6. This list!! IS AMAZING!! Agh, I love a few of these books you mentioned so much. A List of Cages is probably one of my favorite novels of all time, and I don’t think I can ever quite get over how much I love Adam and Julian too. I need to reread it soon, even though I think I’ve already read it in recent months?

    I also really liked Heretics Anonymous, and I agree that it deserves more hype. Everything with religion was handled so well, and the characters were great. I also thought it was pretty hilarious and had such great banter and really enjoyed Michael’s narration. I also liked Opposite of Always, though as you said, I enjoyed the wit and banter more than I did the actual plot or the ending.

    I added All American Boys to my TBR, thank you for the recommendation! As for recommendations with a straight Asian male narrator- a few I can think of are Frankly in Love and Somewhere Only We Know (it’s a dual narration but I believe one of the narrators is a straight Asian male, however it’s been a while so I might be wrong).

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    • Yes, when it comes to Opposite of Always, I definitely was more invested in the dialogues and interactions between the characters than in anything else. Which is probably why I’m cautious if I will enjoy author books by this author…
      I just bought a physical copy of Frankly in Love, so it’s definitely going to happen soon! And that’s right – Somewhere Only We Know! I’ve read other titles by Maurene Goo, but for some reason, not this one.
      Thanks for the recommendations & for stopping by, Olivia!

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  7. love this post, lais! I’m so excited to read a list of cages because i’ve heard that the friendship in it is really good and it’ll probably make me cry 🥺 i bought a physical copy of opposite of always a year ago, and i need to read it soon! i keep hearing that people were disappointed by the ending & the book in general, but i am interested to read about a book revolving around the groundhog day concept. and i love books that follow characters of marginalized identities, but don’t focus on the pain that being marginalized causes them 😌

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  8. ok i love this post title lmao 😭😭 i read opposite of always earlier this year and while i had a few problems with the plot and time-travel, i enjoyed it overall!! the banter was so perfect, and ahh i loved the friendships and family relationships too! 💖

    a list of cages has been on my tbr for a while and i really want to read it soon, it sounds like a heavy but heartwarming story and i’ve heard so many good things about it!! i’d never heard of heretics anonymous before but you described it in such an intriguing way and i can’t wait to check it out too!! this was an amazing post, lais ❤❤

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  9. Okay this post title is hilarious 😂 I didn’t think it was possible but you may have just proved that not all straight boys are trash.

    I haven’t read any of the books on this list but Heretics Anonymous has been on my TBR for ages, and I also really want to read Opposite of Always. This is such a great post! ❤️

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