Lit Summer: Add These 9 Must-Read Books To Your Reading List Immediately

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Michelle Darrisaw Aug, 09, 2018

If ever there were a perfect excuse to relax with a good book, it’s today on National Book Lovers Day. 

With summer still in full swing and longer days ahead of you, now is the time to escape into a fascinating read. Fortunately, there are numerous dope young adult novels to get lost in — whether at home or on the beach this season.

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Below, we’ve handpicked nine of our favorite newly-released books for summer. The best part about these picks? All were written by women of color, with an array of Black female protagonists and heroines.


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If you’re into zombies, history and thoughtful commentary on racism and privilege, then Dread Nation is just the perfect fictional read for you. Justina Ireland crafts her own version of the South during the Reconstruction period (that’s 1865-1877 for those of you who didn’t pay attention in history class). But in Ireland’s story, as opposed to soldiers fighting each other in the Civil War, the nation is actually under attack by zombies or shamblers. And on the front lines is a Black heroine named Jane, who has not only been trained in combat at a prestigious school, but is forced to protect her white classmates against the zombies as well. The novel is humorous and, at times, satirical, but it also puts race, beauty standards, education and the dehumanization of Black people under a much-needed microscope.

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In Onuzo’s second novel, Welcome to Lagos, she takes readers on a beautiful tour of her hometown Lagos, Nigeria. She captures a sense of place with convincing characters who are made up of refugees and military deserters, while presenting her take on the classic Robin Hood tale. Because of how brilliantly penned this novel is, Lagos almost serves as a character in and of itself. Five people’s lives are explored in this book, along with politics, love and class. It’s a biting and honest look at a diverse Nigeria and how it ultimately shapes the world of its disenfranchised citizens.

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Anyone who has ever stepped foot in New Orleans, Louisiana, knows that it’s a special place with its own unique culture, traditions and customs. Well, Dhonielle Clayton examines those nuances and intricacies in the luxurious city of Orléans and through the Belles. In the lavish and fictional world of Orléans, people are born cursed with gray skin. But with the help of a Belle, they can be transformed from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, so to speak. At the forefront of the novel is the incredibly gifted, strong and ambitious Camellia Beauregard. The 14-year-old character is, of course, a Belle, with the power to make things and people beautiful. But to whom much is given, much is required, as Camellia soon finds out in this dark and twisted novel. Could her aspirations to be chosen for the royal court by the Queen put her life at risk? You’ll just have to turn the page and see.

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Most bookworms who’ve devoured Tomi Adeyemi’s Nigerian fantasy novel will tell you that it’s a page turner. Children of Blood and Bone is bursting at its seams with magic, adventure and, most importantly, romance. The book follows three main characters, the female protagonist Zélie, her brother Tzain and Princess Amari—set to the backdrop of Orïsha, a fragile nation with a harrowing past and desolate future. They’re on the run from Prince Inan (Amari’s brother), who can’t seem to decide whether magic is good or evil. As the three race to restore magic to their native land, while preserving their own inner magic, we get to follow along in this gripping read and explore a much larger theme of what it means to challenge societal standards and oppression.

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Monday Charles and Claudia are besties, so when Monday doesn’t show up at school for two weeks, Claudia immediately suspects something is wrong. Monday’s mother and her sister April are reluctant to give Claudia any answers to her persistent questions.The school is unwilling to help, and no one seems to have any explanation as to where she could’ve disappeared. It’s almost as if Monday never existed. Tiffany D. Jackson, much like with her Allegedly novel, delivers a story full of suspense and a shocking reveal. You’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat wondering what happened to Monday, and if her story will be an all-too-familiar one of young black girls disappearing with no investigation or explanation.

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At its core, The Poet X effortlessly blends spoken word and the growing pains of a 15-year-old Afro-Latina from Harlem, New York. Xiomara Batista is the female protagonist, who finds herself struggling with her newly-developed, curvaceous body, under the watchful scope of the boys in her neighborhood, as well as the religious customs taught by her devout Dominican parents. Silenced in her own home and head, Xiomara keeps notebooks and records her thoughts there instead. But once she notices a flyer at school urging poets, rappers and writers to join a spoken word poetry club, Xiomara secretly discovers her voice and strength through poetry. Beyond The Poet X’s central message of familial challenges—love, affirmation and hope also teeters at its edges.

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After her mother dies of cancer, 16-year-old Tiffany moves out of her hometown of Chicago to live in California with the father she’s never known. She’s exposed to a world of wealth, rules and other siblings that she doesn’t feel comfortable with, all while battling the ensuing anxiety and trauma of her mother dying. Her only recourse is found in her friend Marcus McKinney, who is no stranger to tragedy himself. Dana L. Davis sets this story primarily around family and a sense of belonging, but the suggestion of positive representation for young Black teenage girls and mental health also leaps off the pages.

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Loss is a recurring theme throughout Ashley Woodfolk’s compelling debut novel, The Beauty That Remains. Woodfolk intricately weaves a beautiful tale of three different teenagers, all suffering from the loss of someone important in their lives. The three characters, Shay, Logan and Autumn manage to find courage and strength from each other and through the power of music.

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Now that the world has gotten its first glimpse of a real-life biracial Duchess—thanks to the recent royal nuptials of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry—little Black and brown girls everywhere are hopeful that they, too, can become princesses. In The Diary of B.B. Bright Possible Princess, Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams offer an adventurous read presented in, as the title suggests, a diary format.

The titular character, B.B. Bright (short for Black Bee) is a 13-year-old orphan who lives in exile on a secluded island. As she prepares for her Official Princess Test, B.B. Bright is forced to choose between the world handed to her as a royal descendant and the world far away that she so desperately wants to be part of—the one with cool clothes, friends and boys. Adults will even find hope in the Godmommies’ wisdom throughout this fantasy novel.