African American Identity & Everyday Life: Books for High School

Teen Specialists Staff Image

Teens in grades 9-12 can gain confidence and joy in seeing themselves and those around them represented in books. The following stories present African American teens as leading characters. Caregivers and educators can encourage reading books with racially diverse characters by offering these and other titles on class reading lists, in a shared reading space, and through conversations.

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America

A collection of short stories explore what it is like to be young and black, centering on the experiences of black teenagers and emphasizing that one person’s experiences, reality, and personal identity are different than someone else’s.

Home and Away

Tasia Quirk is a senior with great friends and a supportive family, and she even plays football as the only girl on her private high school’s team. A mystery surrounding her mother makes Tasia wonder about her identity, leading her on a journey to unravel the lies that have taken over her life.

If It Makes You Happy

When Winnie is crowned Summer Queen in the small town of Misty Haven, she has to balance her new responsibilities with her friendships, a new romance, and her job at her granny’s diner.

Odd One Out

High school juniors and best friends Courtney and Jupe, and new sophomore Rae, explore their sexuality and their budding attractions for one another.

On The Come Up

When sixteen-year-old Bri, an aspiring rapper, pours her anger and frustration into her first song, she finds herself at the center of a controversy.

Opposite of Always

After falling for Kate, her unexpected death sends Jack back in time to the moment they first met, but he soon learns that his actions have consequences when someone else close to him dies.


As she nears her goal of avenging the Renegades, who overthrew the villains to establish order from ruin, Nova grows close to justice-seeking Renegade Adrian, but her allegiance to the villains could destroy them both.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph

Sixteen-year-old Dove “Birdie” Randolph’s close bond with her parents is threatened by a family secret, and by hiding her relationship with Booker, who has been in juvenile detention.


An honors student at Jefferson Academy, seventeen-year-old Keira enjoys developing and playing Slay, a secret, multiplayer online role-playing game celebrating black culture, until the two worlds collide.


When a rising star of the local music scene is discovered dead over her turntables, the two girls who found her are torn between grief for the deceased and hatred for each other. But when the lack of obvious suspects stalls the investigation, the two girls unite, determined to find out who murdered their friend.

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story

Aspiring screenwriter Nate finds his conviction that happy endings do not exist tested when his childhood best friend and crush, Oliver James Hernández, moves back to town.

Tyler Johnson Was Here

Twins Marvin and Tyler Johnson know that the police are often not on their side – they’ve seen it first hand, getting a gun drawn on them as bystanders to a police chase, and later at a house party, after a shooting breaks out. In the confusion, Marvin loses track of his brother. Later, his body is found, shot, and police attribute his death to gang violence. But that’s not the truth – a cop killed Tyler and a video exists proving it. Marvin and his family struggle to survive this trauma and the trauma of being Black in America.

With the Fire on High

Teen mother Emoni Santiago struggles with the challenges of finishing high school and her dream of working as a chef.

The Voice in My Head

A dysfunctional family sets off on a road trip after God speaks directly to one of them, promising Indigo that the trip will cure her terminally ill twin sister Violet.