Best YA Books with Non-White Protagonists

It's unfortunately rare for YA books to feature protagonists who aren't white. This is a list for the exceptions to that rule. And remember, we're taking about main characters - less important ones don't count.
1

by
4.16 avg rating — 480,336 ratings
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2

by
4.13 avg rating — 815,975 ratings
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3

by
4.32 avg rating — 7,424,569 ratings
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4

by
4.08 avg rating — 249,964 ratings
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5

by
3.89 avg rating — 84,245 ratings
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6

by
4.35 avg rating — 442,434 ratings
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7

by
3.82 avg rating — 33,107 ratings
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8

by
4.24 avg rating — 237,551 ratings
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9

by
3.98 avg rating — 1,042,101 ratings
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10

by
3.79 avg rating — 46,598 ratings
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11

by
4.30 avg rating — 2,992,398 ratings
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12

by
4.43 avg rating — 240,804 ratings
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13

by
4.06 avg rating — 2,745,644 ratings
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14

by
4.06 avg rating — 70,383 ratings
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15

by
3.69 avg rating — 647 ratings
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16

by
4.32 avg rating — 735,293 ratings
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17

by
3.29 avg rating — 8,674 ratings
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18

by
3.58 avg rating — 4,658 ratings
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19

by
3.62 avg rating — 54,468 ratings
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20

by
4.01 avg rating — 14,649 ratings
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21

by
3.94 avg rating — 94,688 ratings
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22

by
3.79 avg rating — 12,548 ratings
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23

by
4.10 avg rating — 176,348 ratings
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24

by
3.87 avg rating — 4,212 ratings
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25

by
3.57 avg rating — 3,966 ratings
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25

by
4.26 avg rating — 370,542 ratings
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27

by
4.42 avg rating — 326,358 ratings
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28

by
3.78 avg rating — 249 ratings
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29

by
3.85 avg rating — 5,516 ratings
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30

by
4.07 avg rating — 88,642 ratings
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31

by
4.08 avg rating — 704,458 ratings
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31

by
4.08 avg rating — 157,036 ratings
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33

by
4.14 avg rating — 74,209 ratings
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34

by
4.42 avg rating — 498,354 ratings
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35

by
4.01 avg rating — 63,724 ratings
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36

by
3.99 avg rating — 3,283 ratings
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37

by
3.74 avg rating — 2,535 ratings
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38

by
3.87 avg rating — 4,978 ratings
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39

by
3.57 avg rating — 3,390 ratings
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40

by
4.33 avg rating — 196,835 ratings
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41

by
4.18 avg rating — 17 ratings
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42

by
3.69 avg rating — 7,842 ratings
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43

by
3.86 avg rating — 2,541 ratings
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44

by
3.91 avg rating — 1,380 ratings
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44

by
3.77 avg rating — 14,938 ratings
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46

by
3.74 avg rating — 44,135 ratings
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47

by
3.58 avg rating — 4,864 ratings
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48

by
4.08 avg rating — 34,124 ratings
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49

by
3.67 avg rating — 1,225 ratings
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50

by
3.79 avg rating — 79,319 ratings
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51

by
3.79 avg rating — 15,205 ratings
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52

by
4.54 avg rating — 336,620 ratings
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53

by
3.63 avg rating — 33,992 ratings
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54

by
4.04 avg rating — 840 ratings
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55

by
really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 277,408 ratings
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55

by
3.63 avg rating — 5,518 ratings
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55

by
3.69 avg rating — 3,311 ratings
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58

by
3.77 avg rating — 9,833 ratings
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59

by
3.77 avg rating — 1,192 ratings
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60

by
4.09 avg rating — 33,871 ratings
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60

by
4.05 avg rating — 29,829 ratings
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60

by
4.50 avg rating — 726,928 ratings
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63

by
3.66 avg rating — 424 ratings
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64

by
3.48 avg rating — 3,035 ratings
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65

by
3.61 avg rating — 4,673 ratings
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66

by
4.43 avg rating — 509,689 ratings
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67

by
4.11 avg rating — 28,776 ratings
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68

by
3.92 avg rating — 102,117 ratings
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69

by
4.11 avg rating — 37,441 ratings
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70

by
3.95 avg rating — 61,345 ratings
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71

by
3.75 avg rating — 2,285 ratings
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71

by
3.96 avg rating — 179 ratings
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71

by
4.34 avg rating — 109 ratings
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71

by
4.01 avg rating — 270,002 ratings
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71

by
3.70 avg rating — 5,857 ratings
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76

by
4.09 avg rating — 1,484 ratings
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77

by
3.82 avg rating — 5,166 ratings
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77

by
4.69 avg rating — 48 ratings
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79

by
4.12 avg rating — 87,373 ratings
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80

by
3.94 avg rating — 18,626 ratings
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80

by
3.95 avg rating — 52,880 ratings
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80

by
3.62 avg rating — 2,972 ratings
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83

by
3.70 avg rating — 1,237 ratings
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84

by
3.65 avg rating — 11,407 ratings
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85

by
3.98 avg rating — 200 ratings
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86

by
4.04 avg rating — 1,372 ratings
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87

by
3.12 avg rating — 645 ratings
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87

by
3.87 avg rating — 119,704 ratings
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89

by
3.92 avg rating — 58,159 ratings
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90

by
3.85 avg rating — 315,884 ratings
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90

by
3.99 avg rating — 54,496 ratings
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92

by
3.62 avg rating — 448 ratings
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92

by
3.80 avg rating — 10,838 ratings
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94

by
3.70 avg rating — 2,049 ratings
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94

by
4.33 avg rating — 48,426 ratings
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94

by
3.56 avg rating — 1,415 ratings
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97

by
3.72 avg rating — 19,565 ratings
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98

by
3.74 avg rating — 2,773 ratings
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98

by
4.38 avg rating — 45,708 ratings
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100

by
3.78 avg rating — 4,514 ratings
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243 books · 168 voters · list created March 3rd, 2013 by Mike (votes) .
32 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Mike 2000 books
362 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 3288 books
871 friends
Clare 459 books
23 friends
Natalie 16 books
97 friends
Liviania 1872 books
883 friends
Wesley 619 books
0 friends
Leslie 0 books
57 friends
Corinne 771 books
181 friends

More voters…


Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Mike (new)

Mike I am removing The Hunger Games - Katniss is white.


message 2: by RJ (last edited Mar 04, 2013 01:54PM) (new)

RJ Mike wrote: "I am removing The Hunger Games - Katniss is white."

While I understand Katniss' race is ambiguously described and she COULD be white, I think it's oversimplifying to say she IS. Suzanne Collins has indicated that she is probably ethnically mixed.

Also, I'm not sure why The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland is on this list? It's a great book, and Cat Valente has made the suggestion of casting a black actress as September if it ever went to film, but in the book's descriptions and illustrations, she is white.


message 3: by Mike (new)

Mike Ah. Whoops. I had already deleted it, but I put it back on the list, along with Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Unless anyone else has objections, we can leave it on.


message 4: by Mike (new)

Mike Oh, my god. Megan Crewe liked this list. And I made it after finishing The Lives She Lost, which she wrote. You have no idea how happy you've made me, Crewe.


message 5: by Mike (new)

Mike Tessa from Clockwork Prince is almost definitely white. Any objections to its removal?


message 6: by Ezekiel (last edited Jul 28, 2013 09:04PM) (new)

Ezekiel While Fire is one of the best books around (as far as I'm concerned), I don't remember any main characters who are not white. Is this just an instance of a bad memory?

ETA: See response/retraction below


message 7: by CBC Diversity (new)

CBC Diversity This is an amazing list! Thank you so much for making it! It's a great resource for our bookshelf and we'll be adding a lot of books from this list that we don't already have to it. We encourage everyone to feel free to recommend books to us too when you find more that fit the bill.


message 8: by Mike (new)

Mike You're quite welcome. I'm shocked that this didn't exist before now.


Therealbadkitty Mike wrote: "Tessa from Clockwork Prince is almost definitely white. Any objections to its removal?"

It isn't Tessa people are thinking of it's Jem (who is half Chinese)


message 10: by Mike (new)

Mike Ah. Well, Jem isn't the protagonist, Tessa is.


message 11: by Therealbadkitty (new)

Therealbadkitty Mike wrote: "Ah. Well, Jem isn't the protagonist, Tessa is."

That is true.


message 12: by Christina (new)

Christina Farley This list rocks. Love it.


message 13: by Therealbadkitty (new)

Therealbadkitty Ezekiel wrote: "While Fire is one of the best books around (as far as I'm concerned), I don't remember any main characters who are not white. Is this just an instance of a bad memory?"

Well Fire is described as having "brown skin" but I'm not entirely sure if she is white or not.


message 14: by Ezekiel (last edited Jul 28, 2013 09:11PM) (new)

Ezekiel Therealbadkitty wrote:... Well Fire is described as having "brown skin" but I'm not entirely sure if she is white or not."

Yes, I just re-read Fire and Bitterblue. I double checked in Fire and I just COULDN'T find any words explicitly stating her color, however at one point it was made obvious that "most" people in the Dells are "brown," and then in Bitterblue she is finally explicitly defined as such. In fact I was just coming here to edit/retract what I said before.

That said, it would have been nice if it didn't feel like I had needed to go on a hunting expedition to find proof of her brown-ness, though perhaps it is/was more obvious to other people? I mean the colors of Fire's hair and eyes are talked about at length, it seems weird that people/the narration wouldn't comment on her skin similarly when discussing her beauty, for instance talking about mesmerizing the quality of her skin tone or how her hair is particularly good for setting off the highlights in her skin (or vice versa). It's just in a book all about how this character looks, and how she chooses to use the power created by her looks, it seems weird at how LITTLE that particular detail is mentioned, while other things are mentioned again and again.


message 15: by Mz_gemini (new)

Mz_gemini In R.L Stine's book, "Fear Street Seniors: No Answer", Clarissa Turner (a black girl) is the main character/protagonist.


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