Why We Need Diversity and Representation In YA Fiction

If you pick up a random book off your bookshelves, there is a 96% chance that it will feature white, heterosexual, cisgender, and able bodied main characters.
This is a FACT.*

*Percentages may vary. Not based on scientific evidence.

If you’ve been here in the book world, you know that people are clamoring for books featuring diverse characters. And I am ALL FOR IT. With sites like LGBTQ Reads, or We Need Diverse Books, or book blogs entirely dedicated to diverse books… It’s incredible. It’s a topic that’s constantly talked about. And yes, I’m one of those people who DOES talk about it a lot.

If people wanting to see themselves in books annoys you? If you think that people talking about diversity is just “drama in the book community”? Please, leave now. I won’t be sad to see you go.

One of the reasons I love reading so much is that I get to read about people unlike myself. How can I do that if every character looks and lives like me? It is just boring when every book you read features an identical cast of characters.

I make it a goal of mine to read books by #ownvoices authors and/or books with characters of color, LGBTQIAP+ characters, disabled characters, etc…

And I KNOW I’m not doing as good a job of it as I want to be. I try, but it’s not good enough. I support books that don’t have white/cishet/able characters, but I can do MORE. I can talk about those books that I have read more often. I can buy those books more often. I can recommend them to my library so others might have the chance to read them.

And if you think:

that diversity is NOT important

that the people wanting diversity are just complaining

that there’s “already enough” diversity and representation in books

that if we want books featuring characters like us we should just write them ourselves

that we’re trying to “force diversity”

that it’s unrealistic to have diversity or more than one “diverse character” in books

that “you can’t just not include white people”

I don’t know what to say to you. (I could list on and on. I really have heard all of these arguments over and over, and I just can’t believe them.)

Oh, also: Writers, don’t stick to just writing characters that look like you. You want to write an Korean character, but you’re white? Do your research, write them respectfully, and get (Korean) beta readers. If you mess up? Try again. Don’t say “Oh, I was too scared that I would do it wrong, so I just made everyone white because it was easiest.” That’s not an excuse. Try harder.

Without further ado, here are just a few reasons why diversity and representation are so, so needed in YA.

#1: So EVERYONE can see themselves represented in books accurately and respectfully.

#2: Because our world is wonderfully diverse, and that should be reflected in YA.

I could list so many more. Really. I could talk FOREVER about why we need diversity and representation in YA.

But I hope that by now, you get it. I hope that you understand WHY it’s so important. And not just from this blog post, but from the hundreds of people speaking out on Twitter and then getting attacked for it. You really should get it by now.

And if you don’t, I don’t want to waste my time with you.

(I’d rather spend my time recommending or reading diverse books.)

Diversity IS needed. That’s not just my opinion. That’s a fact.

So, to summarize:

Read (and review!) diverse books. Support diverse authors. Talk about why diversity is important. And if you ARE a writer…I sure hope your characters aren’t all white, heterosexual, able, and cisgender. Because that’s just disappointing. 

Why do YOU think we need diversity and representation in YA? What are some of your favorite diverse books? What are you doing to talk about diversity?




14 thoughts on “Why We Need Diversity and Representation In YA Fiction

  1. Little late! But pfft, who cares? Not me.
    Oh my freaking word, though, yessss to all of this. I can’t help but feel so happy when I see myself in a book. (I can’t be ah…. open with who I am, yet, because of reasons, but if you read OUR OWN PRIVATE UNIVERSE- well, Aki is pretty similar to me. But my family is slightly different.) Because of those reasons, books are so freaking wonderful. I can see myself and I can see others like me and it’s one more step in seeing the world’s acceptance, you know?


  2. Scrumptious! This is a truly passionate and necessary discussion and I’m delighted to posts like these. To me, ignoring the need for diversity in books is like ignoring the very beauty and power of literature. One of the VERY BEST aspects of reading is diving right into another person’s perspective. Diversity = different perspectives. Different perspectives = education, more open-mindenss, less tendency to judge, BASICALLY YOU BECOME 8291% A BETTER PERSON. This is what literature can do!!! This is what DIVERSITY in literature can do!! I just can’t understand why someone would undermine that 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally agree with you ! Diversity is such an important thing, and it really should be more present in books, especially YA books because I feel that it is where there is less diversity. Being a bisexual teenager, I am always looking for a character who’ll be like me, but I don’t find any girl character who’s attracted to girls as well as boys.


  4. “Diversity IS needed. That’s not just my opinion. That’s a fact.”

    YESSSS! 100% agree with you. Great post and I hope the hard work we do continues to be a catalyst for change in YA and literature in general!


  5. Great post! Personally my favorite books are ones that include characters very unlike myself and different, it gets boring after a while if everyone is just the same! I read a lot of adult fiction so I do get a good amount of diversity, but when it comes to YA we are in dire need of some. Keep spreading the word!


  6. Preach Ava! I love your post, we certainly need more books with characters of different races and we need them more with disabled people. What a good time to post about this topic, since the Paralympics are taking place in Rio.


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