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  • Writer's pictureEleka

Find Yourself & Be Yourself Teen Novels

Finding yourself is hard as a teen and being yourself can be even harder, especially if you feel pulled in many different directions–by your family, culture, heritage, friendships, or identity. These stories feature young people experiencing great changes and opportunities that give them new perspectives on their lives and on who they are.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix Love has never been in love and it is on his mind when he sees couples everywhere and wonders if it is possible for him. He does love art and excels at it so he transfers to a special high school for the arts. The added benefit is no one knows his old name before he came out as trans. Here at his new school, he can be just Felix and be open about his history without feeling like people see him differently. Still, this school has a different kind of social order where rich, preparatory kids use more sinister bullying tactics. Felix, as a queer, poor, black student, learns this when an art gallery is put up with a bunch of old pictures of him before his transition, pictures he had hidden on Instagram, meaning someone had to have hacked his account. Worst of all his dead name is scrolled across them for all to see, something he had not even told his best friend. After this threat, Felix tries to discover the perpetrator himself, but ends up anonymously getting to know one of the suspects who behaves completely differently online than in person. Perhaps Felix may even be falling for him, but is he right for Felix? Who hacked his Instagram and created the transphobic gallery? Will Felix finally find love?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Arnold Spirit, known as Junior, is angry. Growing up on the Spokane reservation, Junior was born with medical issues and abnormalities that made him the target for bullying from everyone but his friend, Rowdy. His great escape is making cartoons and comics, something he hopes will one day make him rich and famous. Most of the time, Junior can handle the pressing weight of growing up poor, not being able to eat some nights, not having a backpack or clothes not bought at K-Mart, but what he can’t handle is knowing his education is just holding him captive to poverty. On his first day of high school, when he opens his geometry textbook, he realizes that his mother’s name is written in the front (which means the book is at least 30 years older than him). How is he supposed to make anything of himself when the reservation can’t even afford to teach them? He loses it. Junior chucks the book at his checked-out teacher and hits him square in the nose. Later, his teacher surprises him with a visit to his house and tells Junior if he wants to keep any hope for his life, he has to leave the reservation. Soon, Junior transfers to the school in the rich, white farm town 20 miles away where he faces racists and rich kids so that he can have a future and not let his hope be quashed.

Darius the Great is Not Okay

by Adib Khorram

Darius loves to escape to fictional places like the Shire or aboard the Enterprise. In his real life, Darius is bullied at school and collects new and increasingly vulgar nicknames. Being half Persian (his mom’s side), Darius struggles to connect to a culture whose language he cannot speak and to grandparents he has only seen on a computer monitor. After his grandfather’s brain tumors progress, it becomes clear that if Darius wants to get to know him, he had better do it now. When Darius visits his grandparents in Iran for the first time and he is sure he will stick out just the same as he does at home in the US. He’s even nervous about explaining his depression medication to his grandparents. But everything changes when he meets Sohrab, the boy living next door to his grandparents’ house. Sohrab calls him by his Farsi name, Darioush, and they spend time hanging out on rooftops, playing soccer, and learning about each other’s lives and culture. Darius the Great is Not Okay explores intrafamiliar relationships, heritage, belonging, and self-discovery. Through a whirlwind of a family reunion and cultural homecoming, Darius discovers his own worth.

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