In this moment when diversity is finally getting the attention it deserves, and publishers and readers are discovering books that represent diverse cultures, I’d like to make mention of young adult novels that feature cross-cultural and/or interracial relationships.
My interest in the subject stems from my own work. In my backstory construct of FORGIVEN, I imagined that Kula Baker’s great-grandmother was Alaskan Athabaskan, and married Kula’s Caucasian great-grandfather, who then brought her back to California. In the novel itself Kula, searching for a way to help her father, goes to San Francisco and meets and falls in love with David Wong, a Chinese-American boy. While diversity and the interracial nature of their relationship was not my primary focus I did try to represent fairly the kind of discrimination and social contempt my characters would have suffered, particularly as Kula’s looks reflect her heritage.
Additionally, in a parallel and cross-generational backstory, Kula’s mentor Miss Everts fell in love with a Chinese man in her youth, which would have been way outside the cultural norm.
Below is a selection of novels that also feature interracial relationships. Most of these novels are recommendations from a handful of YALSA librarians, so thanks go to Mary Plews, Susan Schab, Christina Kelley, Dhonielle Clayton, Yesha Naik, Nic Willcox, Naomi Bates, Tracy Weikel, and Brenda Kahn.
THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015. Flora and Henry, African American girl and white boy, are pawns in a game between Love and Death.
A SUMMER OF KINGS by Han Nolan, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2012. Esther, a white girl, stands up for King-Roy Johnson, a black teen accused of murder.
THE SECRET SKY by Atia Abawi, Speak, 2015. Fatima is a Hazara girl, raised to be obedient and dutiful. Samiullah is a Pashtun boy raised to defend the traditions of his tribe. They were not meant to fall in love. But they do.
THE SUMMER OF CHASING MERMAIDS by Sarah Ockler, Simon Pulse, 2015. Christian is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat native Tobagan Elyse like a glass statue.
LIKE NO OTHER by Una LaMarche, Razorbill, 2014. Though their relation is strictly forbidden, Devorah and Jax arrange secret meetings and risk everything to be together.
WHAT I THOUGHT WAS TRUE by Huntley Fitzpatrick, Speak, 2015. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners to her island’s summer population.
FOREIGN EXCHANGE by Mel Glenn, HarperTeen, 1999. When students from big-city Tower High School spend a weekend in rural Hudson Landing with the students of the local high school, an African-American boy from the city is accused of murdering a local white girl.
NAUGHTS AND CROSSES by Malorie Blackman, Simon & Schuster, 2005. Callum is a naught, a second-class citizen in a society run by the ruling Crosses. Sephy is a Cross, and daughter of the man slated to become prime minister. In their world, white naughts and black Crosses simply don’t mix — and they certainly don’t fall in love. But that’s exactly what they’ve done.
ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013. Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits–smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
IF YOU COME SOFTLY by Jacqueline Woodson, Speak, 2010. In one frozen moment their eyes lock and after that they know they fit together — even though she’s Jewish and he’s black.
PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles, Bloomsbury, 2015. In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep white Brittany and Latino Alex apart.
ROMIETTE AND JULIO by Sharon Draper, Simon Pulse, 2001. Romiette is African-American and Julio is Hispanic, and the Devildogs, a dangerous local gang, violently oppose their interracial relationship.
SOMEONE LIKE SUMMER by M.E. Kerr, HarperTeen, 2007. The start of a romance between a young Colombian who came to town to work and the daughter of a local contractor whose crews are entirely Latino.
MISMATCH by Lensey Namioka, Delacourte, 2007. Sue Hua just moved from racially diverse Seattle to a suburban white-bread town where she feels like the only Asian American for miles. Then she meets Andy, a handsome and passionate violin player who happens to be Asian American.
CHASING SECRETS by Gennifer Choldenko, Wendy Lamb Books, 2015. Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.
Have I missed something? Can you add any titles to this list?