Unless you are a self-professed bookish person or a particularly avid reader, you probably have not heard the term "own-voices" very frequently. It was created in late 2015 by YA author Corinne Duyvis, who started the hashtag #OwnVoices on Twitter in order to raise awareness for Children's and Young Adult novels featuring diverse characters and written by diverse people.
Corinne's idea is that as long as a novel's protagonist or supporting characters share the same marginalized identity (that is, an identity that is not the assumed "norm" of straight, white, cisgender and able-bodied), then that novel is considered to be an own-voices novel.
The non-profit organization, We Need Diverse Books, includes experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community, people of color, those in religious minorities, people with physical and mental disabilities, people suffering with mental illness and those of ethnic or cultural minorities as own-voices.
Own-voices novels are extremely important because they allow the experiences of diverse and marginalized groups to be heard and give the potential for all young people to see themselves reflected and their experiences represented within the novels they read.
And, given the current state of political and social division in our country, diverse voices need to and should be heard now more than ever. Here's a list of highly-anticipated YA own-voices novels coming out in 2018 that you'll want to keep on your radar:
1. "Love, Hate, and Other Filters" by Samira Ahmed
Samira Ahmed's debut centers on Maya Aziz, an Indian-American Muslim teen facing pressure from her parents to create a traditional life for herself. Maya's life is made even more complicated when an unexpected occurrence fills her community with bigotry and intolerance towards her religion.
2. "Let's Talk About Love" by Claire Kann
This novel's main character, Alice, is a biromantic and asexual woman of color. After her girlfriend leaves her, she meets a boy named Takumi at her new summer job and starts falling for him...hard. Alice must decide if she will risk their friendship by explaining her feelings to him or if some things are better left unsaid.
3. "I Am Thunder" by Muhammad Khan
This novel centers on 15-year-old Muzna Saleem, a Muslim British girl who faces extreme prejudice in her London school and grapples with how far is too far when it comes to protecting her beliefs.
4. "The Belles" by Dhonielle Clayton
"The Belles" is the first in a fantasy series set in a world where people are born gray and ordinary and can only be made beautiful with the help of the Belles who control all beauty. Camellia Beauregard, the story's protagonist and a woman of color, strives to be named the most talented Belle and earn a life of royalty.
5. "American Panda" by Gloria Chao
This debut novel is a comedic contemporary about Mei, a Chinese and Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to become a successful doctor married to a successful Taiwanese boy. Mei, on the other hand, wants neither of those things.
6. "Down and Across" by Arvin Ahmadi
This coming-of-age novel focuses on Scott, an Iranian-American teen who has trouble accomplishing anything. Facing pressure from his parents to get serious about college and a future career path, Scott travels to D.C. to uncover what it takes to be successful.
7. "A Girl Like That" by Tanaz Bhathena
This debut novel is told through multiple perspectives and focuses on a teen girl named Zarin Wadia who is found dead in a car wreck on a highway in Saudi Arabia with a teenage boy. As characters piece together what happened to Zarin, they find that she was not what many in their community thought her to be.
8. "Children of Blood and Bone" by Tomi Adeyemi
This book is the first in a series titled "Legacy of Orisha." It is about Zelie Adebola, a Maji girl who loses everything when a merciless king orders all magic peoples to be destroyed, and is bent on returning magic to her people and eradicating the monarchy.
9. "On the Come Up" by Angie Thomas
Don't let its lack of cover and vague description fool you. This novel is one of the most anticipated YA releases of 2018. Written by the incomparable Angie Thomas, whose debut novel "The Hate U Give" is still on the NYT Bestseller list after 47 weeks, this story follows an aspiring teen rapper in Garden Heights.
10. "The Brightsiders" by Jen WildeQueens of Geek," made waves in the YA realm last year due to its wide array of representation.
11. "A Reaper at the Gates" by Sabaa Tahir
The third installment of "The Ember Quartet," this fantasy novel follows Laia and Elias as they struggle against the threat of war under the Martial Empire. Author Sabaa Tahir actually decided on a cover change mid-series in order to accurately represent the characters' diversity.