Diversify Your Shelves with WNDB




Column by Karen Sandler

I’m so delighted to have the opportunity to blog here on YABC. There isn’t much I love more than talking about books, and in particular talking about diversity and inclusiveness in kidlit. And since my favorite genre is science fiction, that inspired my first three diverse choices for my debut post.

I grew up during the “Space Age” of the 1960’s and 1970’s, when the first satellites were launched into orbit and the first manned missions took place. My dad worked for an aerospace company, and brought us to work a few times to show off the satellites he was working on. We also spent part of a summer in Cocoa Beach, and I got to watch three satellite launches from the beach that was steps away from our apartment. Here’s a picture of a launch from those days. 



So it’s not surprising that I read a ton of science fiction as a kid. Of course, back then, nearly all science fiction was written by/for/about white men, so I read plenty of white male authors. Now I make sure to seek out diversity in my SF reading, and the three books I’m highlighting are great examples of stories with inclusiveness in their characters and themes.

Those of you who avoid science fiction because of its techiness, worry not. All three of these books go much deeper into characterization than tech, providing even the most science-averse a satisfying read. These are my personal recommendations, and I hope you’ll check them out. 

Killer of Enemies


Abenaki author Joseph Bruchac frequently features Native Americans in his books. In Killer of Enemies, Lozen is an Apache girl struggling to survive in a post­apocalyptic world in which “the Cloud” has destroyed all tech. Without technology to keep them confined, the genetically engineered monsters created by “the Ones” have escaped. Lozen must fight and destroy the monsters because if she doesn’t, the Ones will kill her kidnapped family.


Why you’ll love this book:

  •  1.) The Apache culture woven into the story.

  •  2.)Its mind­blowing monsters, each one more terrifying than the last.

  •  3.) Lozen is a kick­ass diverse heroine who can not only take care of herself, but protects those wo cannot do the same.

  •  4.)There are depths and layers of characterization and story.

Add to the above, a high-­action story and edge of your seat thrills, and Killer of Enemies is a book that’s impossible to put down until you’ve reached the last page. page1image21456 page1image21616


The Lost Girl


I happened across Sangu Mandanna’s The Lost Girl on one of those “best of” lists of science fiction books earlier this year. What a find it was. The main character, Eva, is an illegal creation called an echo, whose only purpose is to be ready to take the place of a “real human” if they die. In Eva’s case, she’s been created as a perfect twin of Amarra, a teenage Indian girl who lives in Bangalore. When Amarra dies in a car crash, Eva has to leave everything she’s ever known to step into Amarra’s shoes and live the other girl’s life.


Why you’ll love this book:

1.) It has a strong, fully fleshed­ out diverse main character who is uniquely herself, even as she has to pretend she’s someone else.

2.) Its intriguing premise is fascinating and frightening all at once—a world in which body doubles are created with the sole purpose of becoming someone else.

3.) It has an edgy, suspenseful plot in which Eva teeters between being someone’s beloved daughter and being discovered as an echo and destroyed.

4.) A complex and believable future society that could be right around the corner.

Add to the above, characters who seem to be on Eva’s side but maybe aren’t and a twisty story, and you’ll be reading The Lost Girl late into the night. 



The Summer Prince


The setting of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince, is Brazil, in another post­apocalyptic future. The society is woman­centered, where in spring every five years the Summer Prince is chosen. He spends the summer as the center of attention, the one person everyone wants to see and be seen with. Then come September, the Summer Prince is ritually sacrificed. The female main character, June, focuses all her energy on staging elaborate art projects until she meets the newest Summer Prince, Enki. Enki soon has June questioning everything she’s been taught about her family and society.


Why you’ll love this book:

1.) The setting, Palmares Três, is lavishly described, from the queen’s quarters on the top to the algae­farm slums at the bottom.

2.)There’s a twist on the ubiquitous YA love triangle: Both June and her male friend, Gil, have fallen in love with the doomed Summer Prince, Enki.

3.)The society is intricate and complex.

4.)There are no pat answers at the end, but it’s a satisfying read nonetheless.

Add to the above complicated characters that enthrall and occasionally horrify in equal measure, and you will be turning pages as quick as you can. 


Karen Sandler is the author of nineteen novels for adults, as well as TANKBORN, AWAKENING, and REBELLION, a YA science fiction trilogy from Lee & Low/Tu Books. Just a few felines short of being a full­fledged Cat Lady, she loves chocolate, horses, and folk dancing. She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books.  page2image22360