Now more than ever, representation in literature matters. Students of all ages need books that better reflect the vibrant, multicultural world around them. These 20 books curated for grades 4-12 offer diverse perspectives and experiences through unique characters and incredible stories we know readers will enjoy.

Grades 4-6

Amal Unbound
Lexile Measure: HL600L
Middle-grade readers will adore this empowering story of freedom, perseverance, and love by bestselling author Aisha Saeed. Twelve-year-old Amal must give up her dreams of becoming a teacher after she accidentally offends a member of her Pakistani village’s ruling family, the Khans. Forced into indentured servitude as punishment, Amal struggles to find her place among the Khan estate’s social hierarchy. But after she learns just how far the Khans will go to maintain power, Amal realizes she must find the courage to fight back.

Ghost Boys
Lexile Measure: HL360L
After twelve-year-old Jerome is killed by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real weapon, his ghost observes the fallout that occurs within his family and community. In the afterlife, Jerome meets another spirit who shared a similar fate, a boy named Emmett Till. With Emmett as his guide, Jerome realizes how historical racism led to the events that ended his life. Perfect for middle-grade readers, Ghost Boys weaves past and current events together into an unforgettable story about what it means to be black in America.

The First Rule of Punk
Lexile Measure: 670L
Written by award-winning author Celia C. Pérez, The First Rule of Punk is a coming-of-age tale perfect for middle-grade readers. As the new kid at school, twelve-year-old Malú has a hard time fitting in. Her quirky fashion sense and rebellious attitude put her at odds with both the school administration and the popular kids. But when she befriends the school misfits and forms a community of her own, Malú learns the value of staying true to her identity.

Lexile Measure: 730L
Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw wants to be the best sprinter on his middle-school track team, but his troubling past haunts him. Despite the heavy subject matter, including domestic violence, young readers will race through Ghost, and your students will find themselves relating to the diverse characters that make up the novel’s central cast.

Stella By Starlight
Lexile Measure: 740L
Your middle-grade readers will love this work of historical fiction by bestselling author Sharon Draper. In the Depression-era South, avoiding discrimination is next to impossible for Stella and her family. But after she accidentally witnesses a Ku Klux Klan rally late one night, life in her segregated community changes for the worse. Told through Stella’s perspective, this novel presents themes relating to prejudice, bravery, and hope in an accessible and ultimately inspiring way.

Grades 7-8

Everything, Everything
Lexile Measure: HL610L
Because of her severe immunodeficiency disorder, Maddy hasn’t left her home in 17 years. All she has to keep her company are her mother, her nurse, and her collection of books. But when a boy named Olly moves in next door, Maddy risks leaving her safe little world to pursue a chance at happiness and love. With its diverse characters and humorous writing, Everything, Everything is a fantastic book choice for high school students of all backgrounds.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Lexile Measure: HL640L
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier just wants to get through junior year without any trouble. But when a personal email falls into the wrong hands, Simon risks having his sexual identity—and secret online relationship with an anonymous boy—revealed to his peers. Perfect for high school readers, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda dives into teenage life and LGBT+ issues in a humorous, inclusive, and relatable way.

Long Way Down
Lexile Measure: HL720L
After his brother is murdered, fifteen-year-old Will sets out for revenge, tucking his brother’s gun into the waistband of his jeans. But as he rides the elevator down from his family’s apartment, Will is confronted by the elevator’s ghostly occupants, all of whom were killed by gun violence. This verse novel from celebrated author Jason Reynolds takes an unflinching look at teenage gun violence and the perpetual cycle of destruction revenge can bring.

All American Boys
Lexile Measure: HL770L
One single act of violence is all it takes to completely change the lives of two teenagers. This bestselling novel will foster important and necessary discussions in your classroom about race relations, privilege, police brutality, and the meaning of community in modern America.

Brown Girl Dreaming
Lexile Measure: 990L
As a child, Jacqueline Woodson struggled with reading and writing, and in this award-winning bestseller, she uses poetry to bring her stunning memoir to life. Students will find Woodson’s eloquent poems a great source of inspiration, as she recounts what it was like growing up in the middle of the civil rights movement.

Grades 9-10

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Lexile Measure: HL380L
Aristotle and Dante are two vastly different Latino boys who randomly meet at a public pool, but this chance encounter changes their lives in ways neither of them could have predicted. This young adult novel effortlessly captures the feelings and fears of being a teenager, thanks to its deep themes on identity, sexuality, friendship, and family.

The Hate U Give
Lexile Measure: HL690L
Poignant and heartbreakingly topical, The Hate U Give is being lauded as one of this generation’s most important books. When a police officer kills sixteen-year-old Starr Carter’s childhood best friend, her world is irrevocably upended. This #1 New York Times Best Seller deftly tackles weighty themes of racism, police brutality, and societal injustice and will undoubtedly lead to plenty of interesting conversations, both in and out of the classroom.

Dear Martin
Lexile Measure: HL720L
After an act of violence forces Justyce McAllister to question the world around him and reevaluate his friendships, he turns to the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for guidance. Start a conversation in your classroom about racial injustice and identity with Dear Martin, a strong recommendation for fans of Angie Thomas, Walter Dean Myers, and Jason Reynolds.

The Poet X 
Lexile Measure: HL800L
Written by award-winning slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X is an empowering novel-in-verse that explores the complexities of growing up and finding one’s identity. Xiomara Batista, an Afro-Latina teenager, just wants to be heard, but her family’s strict rules and unwanted attention from the neighborhood boys force her to keep quiet. It’s not until she joins her school’s slam poetry club that she musters the courage to speak her mind. High school students of all backgrounds will surely relate to Xiomara’s struggles and triumphs while appreciating Acevedo’s witty writing.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces
Lexile Measure: HL820L
This novel, written in the form of a diary, is more than just another coming-of-age tale. It’s the story of a young Latina coming to terms with the challenges of living in the modern world by developing as a poet, so it’s the perfect novel to tie in with a unit on the power poetry has. While the book does use some strong language and has adult themes, it’s sure to be a favorite for mature classes.

Grades 11-12

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Lexile Measure: HL730L
This powerful novel follows Julia Reyes, a rebellious teenager and the child of Mexican immigrants, as she struggles with severe depression and family tensions after the unexpected death of her older sister, Olga. Unlike Julia, Olga lived a seemingly ideal life, but that illusion is shattered when Julia discovers a dark secret in the weeks following her sister’s passing. Part mystery, part coming-of-age tale, this book will have students eager to see where Julia’s story ultimately leads.

Born a Crime
Lexile Measure: 780L
In Born a Crime, actor and comedian Trevor Noah reflects on his youth in South Africa through 18 personal essays, beginning with his birth during the dark days of apartheid. Students from all backgrounds will find Noah’s hilarious accounts of his childhood antics and awkward high school years all too relatable. Aside from being a witty coming-of-age tale, Born a Crime is also an insightful look into South African culture and makes an excellent resource for learning more about the country’s history.

There There
Lexile Measure: HL810L
The untold story of urban Native Americans is brought to life in this groundbreaking story of 12 people who attend the Big Oakland Pow Wow. They each have a different relationship with their native backgrounds, but they all have been shaped by a hardship that goes back generations. Winner of the 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award, this book will speak to students who feel powerless in the face of the invisible forces that influence their lives.

Everything I Never Told You
Lexile Measure: 870L
Celeste Ng’s debut novel serves as a powerful lesson in character study. Taking place during the 1970s, Everything I Never Told You follows Marilyn and James Lee, an Asian American couple, as they cope with their daughter Lydia’s suspicious death. While mostly exploring themes of family and relationships, the story also touches on the racism, sexism, and miscegenation prevalent during this time period. Because of its sensitive content, this book is better suited for older students.

Between the World and Me
Lexile Measure: 1090L
Following a meeting with Barack Obama, Ta-Nehisi Coates was determined to explore his own relationship with race in modern America. This National Book Award winner, written as a letter to Coates’ teenage son, is one of the most honest and striking nonfiction books of the last 20 years and will drive discussions in your classroom like few others will.

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