The 2023 Black YA Holiday Gift Guide

It’s officially the holiday season, and books are some of the most fun gifts to give. If you’ve got a reluctant or big reader in your life, here are my recommendations for Black YA books to gift.


Miles Morales Suspended by Jason Reynolds

Set weeks after the events of Jason Reynolds’s book Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Miles Morales: Suspended features Miles Morales in a heap of trouble. Not only has he landed in-school suspension, but his Spidey-Sense keeps noticing termites acting strangely, eating pages and words that belong to Black and Brown writers. In order to save their words, he must figure out the source of the termites before it’s too late. This book is unique in that it combines prose, poetry, and illustrations to tell a powerful story about superheroes and book censorship.

(full review)


Cool. Awkward. Black. edited by Karen Strong

Edited by Karen Strong, Cool. Awkward. Black. is an anthology of short stories mostly written by Black young adult authors such as Julian Winters, Tracy Deonn, and Ibi Zoboi, to name a few. Through stories starring Black characters, the anthology aims to celebrate various facets of Blackness and nerdiness so that a new generation of “Blerds” (that is, Black nerds) can take pride in themselves.

(full review)



If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann

The summer before her fall semester at college, Winnie is happily spending her time at Misty Haven, working at her grandmother’s restaurant, Goldeen’s, and spending time with her ungirlfriend, Kara. When she is unexpectedly crowned Summer Queen at Misty Haven’s traditional matchmaking event, she is forced out of her comfort zone by the spotlight, obligations, and the heart-on-your-sleeves honesty of the Summer King. Now, Winnie must confront her fears in order to become the best version of herself.

(full review)


The Nightmare-Verse Trilogy by L. L. McKinney

This urban fantasy series is a modern retelling of Alice In Wonderland set in Atlanta, GA. Its Black bi heroine, Alice Kingston, is a complex and relatable protagonist that you will root for and the supporting cast is fun as well. There is also rich lore and worldbuidling that bridges reality and fantasy in a compelling way.

(full reviews of book 1, book 2, and book 3)



We Are All So Good at Smiling by Amber McBride

Tackling clinical depression through poetry, myth, and folklore, this novel in verse is a powerful and lyrical read. It stars Whimsy, a Black hoodoo conjurer girl with clinical depression who also loves fairy tales. Many years ago, she was touched by Sorrow when her brother Cole disappeared in a magic forest, and she vowed never to enter it again.

One day, Whimsy meets Faerry, a Black fae boy who shares struggles and fears similar to Whimsy’s. As the two of them get to know each other, they discover that the forest and Sorrow that haunt them both must be faced head-on.

(full review)

The Afro YA promotes black young adult authors and YA books with black characters, especially those that influence Pennington, an aspiring YA author who believes that black YA readers need diverse books, creators, and stories so that they don’t have to search for their experiences like she did.

Latonya Pennington is a poet and freelance pop culture critic. Their freelance work can also be found at PRIDE, Wear Your Voice magazine, and Black Sci-fi. As a poet, they have been published in Fiyah Lit magazine, Scribes of Nyota, and Argot magazine among others.

Top photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA via Pexels