Modern issues call for increase in social justice and diversity in young adult fiction

Authors of teen novels are beginning to focus on creating diversity and advocating for social justice in their novels; creating a more accurate reflection of the teenage population’s concerns.

Social justice and diversity are becoming an increasingly popular subgroup in young adult fiction and address issues that stray away from traditional young adult topics.
Classic novels about social justice like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Help” are set during the civil rights era and explain the importance of social justice, while newer novels continue to address these issues and more modern issues.
Young adult novels are taking strides in addressing modern issues like xenophobia, racism and sexism in a format fit for teenage audiences.
A popular novel by Angie Thomas, “The Hate U Give,” addresses unlawful deaths of unarmed black teenagers through the story of Starr Carter, who witnesses the death of her childhood friend when he is shot and killed by a cop.
According to, the novel is “inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this YA novel puts us in the shoes of Starr Carter, an unforgettable girl faced with tragedy and choices that, unfortunately, are much too common.”
Unfortunately, this is becoming a more common story in young adult novels, in other books like “Tyler Johnson was Here,” and “Dear Martin.”
Young adult author Tahereh Mafi also addresses Islamophobia in her novel “A Very Large Expanse of Sea.”
Set in 2002, after the devastating events of 9/11, her novel follows a Muslim girl, Shirin, and is inspired by Mafi’s own experiences.
Mafi’s novel was meant to address persistent stereotypes surrounding Muslims and the detrimental impact they can have, even on a single person. She incorporates traditional young adult clichés into her novel, like high school and dance, but still gives readers an eye-opening glimpse into some of her own personal experiences.
A recent release, “That’s Not What Happened,” addresses a difficult topic for many students: school shootings.
While the novel is set around events that occurred six years prior, the main character Lee decides to resolve many assumptions surrounding the shooting. The novel also addresses the impact on her mental health and life.
Bringing diversity and social issues into young adult novels is something that has been long-needed in the literary community.
According to We Need Diverse Books, only 10% of young adult books featured a minority protagonist. Unfortunately, this is a great increase from the past.
Creating diversity in young adult novel creates a more accurate view of teenage experiences.
The award winning novel, “Simon vs. the Homosapien’s Agenda” addresses the life of a closeted gay teenager. It was recently adapted into the film “Love, Simon.”
When the movie was released, there was an article in Time about why “Love, Simon” was not relevant and did not accurately portray the teenage experience. However, most teen rom-coms do not accurately portray a teenage experience.
The point of producing “Love, Simon” was not just that it was based on a beloved novel, but it was a story long overdue for queer teens. It is easy to find these types of books and movies for straight teens, and they do not suffer the same criticisms of “necessity” that “Love, Simon” did.
Diversity and social justice may be becoming more prevalent in young adult fiction, but they are not nearly as common as they should be.
Finding novels about social justice or diverse novels is extremely difficult in comparison to any other genre.
It can only be hoped that in the future teens will continue to see characters and stories that are a reflection of them and the issues they care about.