Twilight brought young adult novels to the mainstream market and Hunger Games made it cool while the rise of Divergent solidified this age group as a force to be reckoned with. But did you know that the new crop of young adult novelists taking over The New York Times Best Sellers list are Black women? Below, BlackLove.com spotlights several Black women authors set to run the YA scene, many with six-figure book contracts to show for it.
Young Adult writer Angie Thomas’s novel, The Hate U Give, sold in a six-figure contract and skyrocketed the novelist to instant fame as it debuted at #1 on the NY Times Best Sellers list and has spent more than 100 weeks almost always at the top spot. It was only just recently unseated by her newest novel, On the Come Up, giving her the rare accomplishment to have her sophomore and debut novel hold the #1 and #2 spots on The NY Times Young Adult Best Sellers list.
The Hate U Give is about a bright high school student who is the sole witness to her best friend’s death at the hands of a police officer. She uses that incident to gain strength and find her voice in activism. On the Come Up is about Brianna, a teenager who eats, sleeps, and dreams rap. Holding tight to that dream helps her cope with an unstable family environment. George Tillman has signed on to adapt On the Come Up to the screen, just as he did with The Hate U Give.
Tomi Adeyemi blew the roof off the building with her debut novel Children of Blood and Bone which sold for a million-dollar book and film deal and had the honor of being The Tonight Show’s first ever Summer Reads selection. Debuting at #1 on The NY Times Best Seller list (going on 52 weeks), Children of Blood and Bone is a West African fantasy inspired from the author’s own studies of West African mythology and culture while on fellowship in Salvador, Brazil.
Tomi wanted to write a book filled with Black characters, one that unapologetically celebrated Blackness and, literally, Black magic. In her magical system, she even tied the magic to the characters hair – the kinkier the hair, the stronger the magic they possessed. In Children of Blood and Bone, magic and magical people are hunted and destroyed throughout the Orïsha Kingdom by a ruthless King. However, years later Zelie Adebola feels magic humming inside her and sets out on a quest to unseat the crowned prince and restore magic to the Kingdom. Rick Famuyiwa is set to direct the film adaptation.
Novelist and Poet Elizabeth Acevedo is the winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for her Young Adult novel The Poet X about a Harlem teen who pours all her thoughts and passions into a leather notebook. That is, until she joins a slam poetry club against her very religious mother’s wishes and refuses to be silent any longer.
Elizabeth Acevedo’s sophomore novel, With the Fire on High, is set to release May 7th and follows the story of Emoni Santiago, a talented, prideful, and driven teenage single mother and caregiver to her abuela. She sacrifices her every waking moment for them, but she can let all that go when she is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks.
Nicola Yoon is a #1 New York Times bestseller for her debut Young Adult novel Everything, Everything and is also a National Book Award finalist, a Michael L. Printz Honor and a Coretta Scott King new talent honor for her sophomore novel The Sun is Also a Star.
Everything, Everything is the story of a young Black girl who has a rare autoimmune disease that keeps her inside her home for all of her seventeen years. She has literally never left her house. That is until she falls in love with the boy next door. The big question: will she risk death for first love? The Sun is Also a Star is about a reserved and studious NY teen whose family is 12 hours away from being deported back to Jamaica. She falls in love with a Korean honors student that day, and they spend an amazing 12 hours together. Both books have been turned into major motion pictures starring Amandla Stenberg and Yara Shahidi, respectively.
Rena Barron is a part of the new group of Black women writers set to take over the Young Adult landscape with her West African inspired novel Kingdom of Souls. After 10 years of writing and rejections, Rena Barron finally found a story that resonated with an agent who sold the book in a high six-figure deal. Kingdom of Souls follows Arrah, a young witchdoctor who fails at everything related to magic. She can’t even cast the simplest curse. In order to perform magic, Arrah goes to the dark side and trades years of her life to cast spells. However, one such spell reveals the thoughts of a Demon King whose thirst for souls is set on destroying her world.
Rena Barron also has a much buzzed about debut middle-grade fantasy that was also sold in a high six-figure deal. The middle-grade fantasy (8-12 years old) is titled Maya and the Dark and is described as Stranger Things with magic. It is about a twelve-year-old girl whose father is the gatekeeper between our world and the dark world. When he goes missing, it is up to Maya and her friends to save her father and protect our world from creatures set on destroying it.
Debut novelist Brittney Morris’s novel, Slay, is one of the most buzzed about YA novels of 2019. Garnishing a six-figure contract, Slay is the story of seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson, an honors student and gamer who secretly creates her own online multi-player game called SLAY for people in the Black community. However, as the games popularity skyrockets, the unknown creator is labeled a racist by mainstream media. In order to save a place where so many people can be themselves, Kiera has to learn what it means to be unapologetically Black in a country that is afraid of Blackness. You can read an excerpt of Slay on Entertainment Weekly.
Kristina Forest is a dancer and choreographer by training. Her debut romantic-comedy I Wanna Be Where You Are is set in that dancing world and follows the story of Chloe, a young Black ballet dancer who, against her mother’s wishes, devises a secret plan to take a road trip to an audition that can change her life. However, her nosey neighbor is all set to spill the beans unless she takes him with her. This novel is filled with laughs, love, and a soundtrack to sing to. You can read an excerpt of the fun and fresh story on Book Riot.