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Terrific teen reads that tackle racism and oppression head on

Justine Carbery recommends books for teens and young adults that hold a mirror up to racism in society today


The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

Contemporary teen and young adult books are holding a mirror up to racism, and Jason Reynolds's Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You (Little Brown, €22.69) is the go-to non-fiction book for young people to explain why we are where we are now. Adapted from a book by Ibram X. Kendi, it is a timely and accessible anti-racist manifesto for young people.

Fiction is a particularly potent tool for engaging with difficult topics and instilling empathy in young readers. The Hate U Give (Walker, €9.59) by Angie Thomas is one of a cluster of young-adult novels that confront police brutality, racial profiling and the Black Lives Matter movement. Featuring 16-year-old Starr, who witnesses the fatal police shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, it is a brilliant, powerful must-read.

Jay Coles wrote his first novel Tyler Johnson Was Here (Little Brown, €11.19) about a black teenager whose twin brother is shot by a police officer, as a way to process his depression and rage after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighbourhood watch coordinator in a gated community in Florida in 2012.

Nic Stone's debut novel, Dear Martin (Simon and Schuster, €10.80) is about a black high-school scholarship student at an Atlanta prep school who becomes a victim of racial profiling when an off-duty officer fires at him and his best friend during an argument at a traffic light. It's a pacy, hard-to-look-away-from story with very real characters.

Monster (HarperCollins, €9.53) by Walter Dean Myers deals with the painful inequality at the heart of America's criminal justice system, while Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses (Penguin €11.20) is a classic forbidden-love story, set in a segregated society: a powerful exploration of race, oppression and love at odds with politics.

Children of Blood and Bone (Macmillan, €11.20) by Tomi Adeyemi is a refreshing YA fantasy with an all-West African cast of characters, while Dread Nation (Titan €11.20) by Justina Ireland is a fantasy-laced alternate history that explores oppression, racism and slavery.

Monday's Not Coming (Harper Collins, €10.80) by Tiffany D Jackson is a punch-in-the-gut thriller about the marginalisation of people of colour and is highly recommended.

These books provide excellent starting points for discussions about racism as well as being terrific reads.

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