We love how progressive YA is. Thousands of authors are producing books that cause us to sit up, pay attention and learn more about the world.
Whether we’re reading from the point-of-view of a character who’s a different race to us or we’re following the life of a queer main protagonist, plenty of novels are stepping away from stereotypical character tropes.
Instead, YA authors are writing about people from all walks of life and giving us a more accurate portrayal of the society we see around us.
Recently, we’ve been delving into some incredible YA books featuring disabled narrators. It’s a topic which hasn’t been covered much in the YA-sphere but one that’s FINALLY getting the acknowledgment it deserves and so desperately needs.
Although, there’s a long way to go. We thought it was time to celebrate this by rounding up some incredible reads that you should add to your TBR list ASAP!
1. ‘I Have No Secrets’ by Penny Joelson
In Penny Joelson’s new book, ‘I Have No Secrets’, Jemma has severe cerebral palsy. She’s incredibly intelligent with a sharp brain and inquisitive nature. However, as she’s unable to communicate or move due to her disability, people underestimate her ability to know what’s going on in the world around her.
Jemma knows far more than people think and those closest to her tell her all sorts of secrets. It may sounds like fun, but things take a dramatic turn when Jemma’s confronted with a terrible secret and she’s completely powerless to do anything about it.
Sounds good, right? Well, not only is ‘I Have No Secrets’ a complete page turner, but it also gives examples of the way others treat disabled people. Just check out this quote…
“I’ve been this way all my life. I can see, though, and I can hear, and sometimes people foreget that; they don’t realise that I have a functioning brain.”
2. ‘One’ by Sarah Crossan
‘One’ follows the story of Grace and Tippi. They’re conjoined twins who have defied the odds of survival for 16 years. The twins share absolutely everything but their world quickly comes crumbling down when a tragedy strikes.
We, know, we know! The story’s heartbreaking. Each page is just as powerful as the last and quite honestly there are chapters in there that will have you sobbing over how beautifully the novel’s written.
“Plato claimed that we were all joined to someone else once, we were humans with four arms and four legs, and a head of two faces, but we were so powerful we threatened to topple the Gods. So they split us from our sole mates down the middle, and doomed us to live forever without our counterparts”
3. ‘Now I See You’ by Nicole C. Kear
Nicole’s powerful memoir is life changing. At 19-years-old, Nicole was diagnosed with an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa.
The doctor told her she would go blind within 10 years, but rather than follow his orders and prepare for the worst, Nicole decided to live in the moment. She joined a circus school, travelled the world and went through boyfriend after boyfriend, all whilst keeping her blindness a secret.
“Sticking your nose in a book might seem like the very opposite of grabbing life by the balls, but reading had always been one of my great loves, and it was one of the things I was most terrified to lose.”
4. ‘Freak the Mighty’ by Rodman Philbrick
Golly gosh, now this one’s a throwback.
‘Freak the Mighty’ was first published in 1993. Main character, Max has a learning disability. In the novel, he befriends Kevin, who also has a disability, and the two quickly form a friendship based on their strengths and weaknesses.
“Pain is just a state of mind. You can think your way out of everything, even pain.”
5. ‘She Is Not Invisible’ by Marcus Sedgewick
In Marcus Sedgewick’s novel, 16-year-old Laureth is blind. She needs her 7-year-old brother’s help to do the smallest of things. The siblings are on their way to America to try and find their father who mysteriously vanished.
Yep, it’s a fast-past thriller and you’ll 100% be addicted to it.
“I am scared almost all the time. But I never tell anyone. I can’t afford to. I have to go on pretending I’m this confident person, because if I don’t, if I’m quiet, I become invisible.”
6. ‘Say What You Will’ by Cammie McGovern
Matthew’s a high school senior who suffers from OCD. He’s struggling with the disorder and signs up to help classmate, Amy, who has cerebral palsy.
Matthew and Amy’s friendship quickly blossoms into romance and kickstarts their whirlwind of a love story.
“The real problem with his type of OCD–chronic fear of hurting other people–was that you thought so much about not running over children, not sideswiping pedestrians, not poisoning strangers with germs on your hands–essentially not killing a world full of strangers–that you ended up hurting the people you loved most. He saw that now.”
7. ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio
‘Wonder’ is a book that addresses facial deformities.
Meet, Auggie. He’s never been to a regular high school, but when he starts 5th grade at Beecher Prep, that all changes. He’s on a mission to show the rest of the school that he’s just an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face.
Get the tissues out, this read is beyond heart-warming.
“It’s like people you see sometimes, and you can’t imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it’s somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can’t talk. Only, I know that I’m that person to other people, maybe to every single person in that whole auditorium. To me, though, I’m just me. An ordinary kid.”
8. ‘The One Memory Of Flora Banks’ by Emily Barr
Most of us are pretty forgetful, but imagine having no short-term memory?
Flora’s mind resets itself several times each day. She had a tumour when she was 10 and ever since it was removed, her brain lost its ability to create special memories. That all changes when she begins to fall in love…
“I am really here. Yet I know I am not. I am inside something that must be buried in my head. I am layers deep in my own brain.”
9. ‘How To Be Cool’ by Annie Carr
‘How To Be Cool’ is a story of youth and family loyalty. Ethan and Alex are twin brothers. The only difference being that Alex is a star football player and Ethan was born with cerebral palsy.
Ethan quickly meets Laura, who’s battling her own issues when her older sister is brutally raped and hospitalised.
“Then her eyes drop and she’s looking down at my crutches and my legs. That part I’m not thrilled about. I’ve got braces going up to the knee on the right and up to the hip on the left. Even with the braces, my left leg always seems to rotate inward so that my left foot points about forty-five degrees toward the right one.”
10. ‘Queens Of Geek’ by Jen Wilde
Released back in March, ‘Queens Of Geek’ sees three BFFS, Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon. Taylor, in particular, is about to become your new favourite YA character. She’s autistic and suffers from anxiety.
If that wasn’t enough to worry about, then Taylor’s life is also about the change forever. Throw in some fangirling, vlogging and celeb crushes and it’s basically everything you want from a book.
“That’s what we do. We walk a tightrope every day. Getting out the door is a tightrope. Going grocery shopping is a tightrope. Socializing is a tightrope. Things that most people consider to be normal, daily parts of life are the very things we fear and struggle with the most…”
What are your favourite books with disabled characters in them? Let us know in the comments below.