If you enjoyed Concrete Rose, a prequel to the beloved The Hate U Give, you should absolutely check out the following books. Whether you’re looking for another book set in the ’90s or you’re wanting a compelling coming of age story, the following titles are awesome.
Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson, another fantastic YA author, is also set in the ’90s and it features a big cast of friends who have each other’s backs no matter what.
“When a young black teen is murdered, his two best friends decide to keep his memory alive by promoting his music — rhymes that could turn any hangout into a party — with the help of his younger sister, Jasmine, who is out for justice. As the buzz builds, it forces Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine, to each confront the death in their own ways.” -WorldCat
This is My America by Kim Johnson also features a teen who is dealing with her father being incarcerated.
“Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time–her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a thug on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?” -Amazon
In Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, the main character is dealing with losing someone to gun violence.
“Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story. Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth–and the part he played in it.” WorldCat
With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo also features a main character who is a teen parent with a lot of responsibilities. It’s an emotional story that features a character with big dreams.
“Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions – doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.” -WorldCat
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds features teen boys grappling with their new responsibilities after a major life change.
“Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died – although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. Then Matt meets Lovey. Crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy stuff than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness – and who can maybe even help take it away.” -Amazon
Dear Martin by Nic Stone features Justyce McAllister, a good kid and honor student, reckoning with the ugly, persistent violence of social injustice.
“Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.” -Amazon
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, a novel in verse, tells the story about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated.
“Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy….Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it.” -WorldCat
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, a free-verse novel, is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence.
“A cannon. A strap. A piece. A biscuit. A burner. A heater. A chopper. A gat. A hammer. A tool
for RULE. Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he?” -Amazon
Calling My Name by Liara Tamani tells the story of an African-American protagonist, Taja Brown, as she searches for spirituality, love, and a sense of self.
“This novel tells a universal coming-of-age story about Taja Brown, a young African American girl growing up in Houston, Texas, and deftly and beautifully explores the universal struggles of growing up, battling family expectations, discovering a sense of self, and finding a unique voice and purpose. Told in fifty-three short, episodic, moving, and iridescent chapters, Calling My Name follows Taja on her journey from middle school to high school.” -WorldCat