Note: This is a list of all novels which fit the criteria listed below. It does not express opinions on the quality, authenticity, or positivity of the portrayals of the characters in the books. Please use your own judgment in deciding which books you wish to read or buy.

I have not read all these books! My commentary on the ones I have read reflects my opinions on the books as literature. Title links go to Amazon, and some descriptions were taken from Amazon.

These were the criteria used to compile the list: 1) The book must be science fiction or fantasy or otherwise not realism, and must have been published, either originally or in reprint, as YA in the USA, 2) The character of color/non-white character must either be the protagonist, if it’s a book with a solo protagonist, or one of an ensemble, if it’s a book with multiple protagonists.

This is not an exhaustive list! It is still being added to, and will continue to be as new books come out. Please let me know if I missed something. Also see Stacy Whitman's list, which includes more middle-grade books (for younger children) than I did. (I’ve included a few MG books I thought were edging into YA territory – subjective, I know!)

I have not always specified the protagonist's race. In some cases, the book was suggested by someone else and I don't know; in others, the characters are described in ways which would be considered non-white on our world, but come from a world in which our racial categories don't apply. I have generally not specified the race of the authors, because this list focuses on characters. Also, in many cases, I don't know how the authors identify. This list is intended merely as a starting point. If you wish to have more information before reading a book, further research should turn it up.



A Confusion of Princes, by Garth Nix. Epic, somewhat tongue-in-cheek space opera about Khemri, a nearly immortal and extremely arrogant prince who might inherit a galactic empire... if he's the one out of a million princes to survive the selection process. You wouldn't know it from the cover, but he's described as non-white. My full review is here.

Fated (Soul Seekers), by Alyson Noel. Strange things are happening to Daire Santos. Crows mock her, glowing people stalk her, time stops without warning, and a beautiful boy with unearthly blue eyes haunts all her dreams. Set in Enchantment, New Mexico.

Rocket Girls series, by Housuke Nojiri. Yukari Morita is a high school girl on a quest to find her missing father. She receives the offer of a lifetime—she'll get the help she needs to find her father, and all she need do in return is become the world's youngest astronaut. Translated from Japanese.

The Beast Master series, by Andre Norton. Left homeless by the war that reduced Terra to a radioactive cinder, Hosteen Storm – Navajo commando and master of beasts – is drawn to the planet Arzor, to kill a man he has never met.

Dragon Magic, by Andre Norton. Four boys are individually drawn into an adventure – each involving a dragon – from the past or legends of their own ethnic heritage. One boy is Chinese and one is African-American. The contemporary sections are dated, but the dragon adventures are strong and the story as a whole is moving.

Lavender-Green Magic, by Andre Norton. African-American siblings are transported into the past for a magical adventure.

Dragon Sword and Wind Child (Tales of the Magatama) series, by Noriko Ogiwara. Saya, a 15-year-old whose adoptive parents have raised her to worship the Light, discovers that she is the reincarnation of the Water Maiden and therefore a leader of the Children of Darkness. An award-winning fantasy adventure series set in a magical Japan. Translated from Japanese.

Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor. Nigerian-American, albino Sunny becomes one of a quartet of magic students in Nigeria, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. Fun story with a vivid setting and likable characters. My full review.

The Shadow Speaker, by Nnedi Okorafor. Magic, mysticism, and mind-blowing technology now rule the world. In West Africa, fourteen-year old Ejii struggles to master her own magical powers. Fantastic worldbuilding and a gripping story make this a must-read. Set in the same fantasy Africa as Zahrah the Windseeker. My full review.

Zahrah the Windseeker, by Nnedi Okorafor. A charming, inventive adventure set in a fantasy Africa in which biotech has advanced until you can grow a computer from a seed. My full review.

The Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 1: Sea of Shadow series, by Fuyumi Ono. Epic fantasy set in a China-esque fantasy world, with incredibly intricate and fascinating worldbuilding. The first three volumes can all be read independently of each other. All characters are Asian. Translated from the Japanese. My full reviews.

Invisible Touch, by Kelly Parra. The Mexican-American heroine has visions in this supernatural fantasy.

The Dead and the Gone, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. An asteroid knocks the moon closer to Earth, and every conceivable natural disaster occurs. Seventeen-year-old Alex Morales's parents are missing and presumed drowned by tsunamis. Left alone, he struggles to care for his sisters. A well-written and disturbing apocalypse novel which stands on its own. The sequel focuses more on Miranda, a white girl from another book in the series.

Sandry's Book (Circle of Magic) series, by Tamora Pierce. An excellent, well-characterized imaginary-world fantasy series with four main characters, two of whom are people of color. The series starts out when they’re kids, and matures as they do. There are also major lesbian characters, including the black metal mage, Daja.

Melting Stones, by Tamora Pierce. A fantasy novel set in the same world as “Circle of Magic,” starring an Asian-analogue girl.

Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia series, by Cindy Pon. An exuberantly inventive YA fantasy novel set in a China more mythic than historical, full of cool Chinese mythology and delectably described Chinese cooking. Advisory: contains attempted rape. My full review.

Nation, by Terry Pratchett. When a giant wave destroys his village, Mau is the only one left. Daphne—a traveler from the other side of the globe—is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. Separated by language and customs, the two are united by catastrophe. A Printz Honor Book by the internationally acclaimed Pratchett. Mau is a person of color.

Living Violet (The Cambion Chronicles), by Jaime Reed. A paranormal romance about a biracial (white and African-American) girl who falls for a mysterious, purple-eyed white guy.

Bleeding Violet, by Dia Reeves. Biracial (African-American and Finnish), mentally ill teenager Hanna moves to a little Texas town overrun by disgusting monsters and their psychopathic slayers. Inventive, surreal, and extremely violent. My full review.

Slice of Cherry, by Dia Reeves. Set in the same town as Bleeding Violet, and starring African-American teenage sisters… who are serial killers!

Larklight series, by Philip Reeves. Steampunk fantasy adventure. One of the three main characters is a biracial (white and black) space pirate.

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex. A wonderful science fiction comedy, complete with hilarious comic strip inserts, in which biracial eleven-year-old Gratuity "Tip" Tucci tells the story of how Earth was colonized by aliens, and she ended up traveling cross-country in search of her mother in a flying car called Slushious, in the company of a conflicted alien named J. Lo. My full review.

Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story, by Adam Rex. This satire about a nerdy white vampire and an internet-addicted Indian exchange student starts strong but falls apart halfway through due to inconsistent characterization and preachiness. My full review.

Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Magic realism about an African-American girl who can talk to ghosts, set during Hurricane Katrina.

The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus, Book 1), by Rick Riordan. Sequel to the bestselling Percy Jackson series, about a summer camp for the children of Greek Gods, but can be read independently. Four of the six POV-protagonists are characters of color: Leo has a Hispanic mother, Piper has a Cherokee father, Frank has a Chinese-American mother, and Hazel has a black mother, although all also have a parent who is a Greek God. Enormous fun, with interesting developments in the world of the story. The new characters are quite likable and interesting.

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1) series, about a biracial (white and black) brother and sister who get entangled with the Gods of ancient Egypt. Action-packed, funny, and inventive.

The Girl With Borrowed Wings, by Rinsai Rossetti. Controlled by her father and bound by desert, Frenenqer Paje's life is tediously the same, until a small act of rebellion explodes her world and she meets a boy, but not just a boy--a Free person, a winged person, a shape-shifter. The heroine is Arabic. Rossetti wrote this book when she was 18.


Haroun and the Sea of Stories, by Salman Rushdie. A complex children’s fantasy with crossover appeal to adults. The hero is Indian, and the story involves Indian folklore.

Tankborn, by Karen Sandler. Dystopian science fiction set on another planet. The heroine and majority of the characters are people of color.

Gateway, by Sharon Shinn. Chinese adoptee Daiyu magically travels to a version of St. Louis much like 19th century China, where she is trained as a spy.

Misfit, by Jon Skovron. Contemporary fantasy. Jael Thompson has never really fit in. Possibly because her mother was a five thousand-year-old demon. The heroine is of Middle Eastern descent.

Eternal, by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Vampires, angels, and a Chinese-Scottish heroine.

Diabolical, by Cynthia Leitich Smith. The protagonist of this contemporary fantasy novel is Mexican-American.

A Posse of Princesses, by Sherwood Smith. Rhis, princess of a small kingdom, is invited along with all the other princesses in her part of the world to the coming of age party of the Crown Prince of Vesarja. When Iardith, the prettiest and most perfect of all the princesses, is abducted, Rhis and her friends go to the rescue. A charming and funny fantasy adventure. The protagonist and the majority of the characters are people of color.

So This is How it Ends (Avatars, Book 1) series, by Tui T. Sutherland. Five teenagers from across the world emerge into a changed landscape, one filled with cultists, mutant animals, and crystal robot monsters. Several POV characters are people of color.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya series, by Nagaru Tanigawa. Haruhi is a cute, determined girl, starting high school in a city where nothing exciting happens. But though she doesn't know it, Haruhi has the power to destroy the universe. Translated from Japanese.

The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel, by Drew Hayden Taylor. ”A Native vampire! That is so cool!” An enjoyably quirky novel in which the teenage heroine and the ancient vampire renting the basement in her home are both First Nations. My full review.

The Comet's Curse: A Galahad Book series, by Dom Testa. Science fiction series set on a spaceship. Ensemble cast including characters of color.

Toads and Diamonds, by Heather Tomlinson. A retold fairytale set in a fantasy Mughal India.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit series, by Nahoko Uehashi. A fantasy adventure starring a badass swordswoman, set in a fantastical Japan. Translated from Japanese.

The Shadow Thieves (Cronus Chronicles) series, by Anne Ursu. Greek mythology in modern America. Zed, a black British boy, is one of two POV protagonists

The Boy at the End of the World, by Greg van Eekhout. Fisher is the last boy on earth. But he’s not totally alone. He meets a broken robot he names Click, whose programmed purpose-to help Fisher "continue existing"-makes it act an awful lot like an overprotective parent. Fisher is a person of color.

The Lion Hunter (The Mark of Solomon) duology, by Elizabeth Wein. Fantastic, very intense and angsty quasi-historical novels set in an alternate sixth century Aksum (Ethiopia), about Telemakos, the son of Mordred (yes, that Mordred) and an Aksumite princess. It's part of a series, but this is a reasonable starting point, and the first book is about Mordred. This link goes to non-spoilery reviews of the entire series, and also explains how they relate to each other. Click the author's name tag to see individual reviews of each book.

The Secret Hour (Midnighters trilogy), by Scott Westerfeld. A tremendously entertaining series about the secret hour when time stops, monsters emerge, and only five teenagers can battle them with their individual powers. One of the five is Mexican-American. My full review.

Extras, by Scott Westerfeld. The last book in his Uglies series, but stands on its own. An action-packed adventure set in a future Japan, starring a girl who will do anything to become famous.

Rogelia's House of Magic, by Jamie Martinez Wood. Three teenage girls find friendship and special powers as they are trained in the ways of the curandera by a wise old woman.

City of Fire, by Laurence Yep. When her older sister dies trying to prevent the theft of one of her people’s great treasures, Scirye sets out to avenge her and recover the precious item. Helping her are Bayang, a dragon disguised as a Pinkerton agent; Leech, a boy with powers he has not yet discovered; and Leech’s loyal companion Koko, who has a secret of his own.

Dragon of the Lost Sea (Dragon Series), by Laurence Yep. The outlawed princess of the Dragon Clan and her young human companion undergo fearsome trials in their quest for an evil enchantress in this classic fantasy series based on Chinese legend.

Note: Yep is very prolific, and has written other fantasies for younger children.

From: [identity profile] penmage.livejournal.com


The Unnaturalists, by Tiffany Trent (and the upcoming sequel The Tinker King), told in alternating voices, one of which is Chinese, the other half-Chinese.
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