Discussion: Is There Enough Diversity in YA Fantasy?

Hello, friends! This will be my second discussion post ever! Yay!!! I have so many things I want to talk about. But one of the topics that really came to mind today was diversity in YA fantasy.


What do I mean by diversity?

For me, diversity is not limited to gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. When I think of diversity, I also think of culture, language, mental health conditions, physical disabilities and unique capabilities, lifestyle, faith/religion, family dynamic, and a grand assortment of other identifiers. There is plenty of diversity found in YA nowadays (especially in contemporaries), but I personally believe that more diversity could be seen in particular genres, namely fantasy.

Fantasy is, without a doubt, my favorite genre. I spend the majority of my time reading a genre that has the power to transport me to a world I’ve never seen before, to a culture I’ve never witnessed before, to a people I’ve never met before. There is so much power in these worlds of fiction and depending on the author, this power is expertly wielded and fairly applied to many forms of cultural, social, and individual representation. But not always.

How much diversity is there in YA fantasy nowadays?

I’d have to say there’s quite a lot. I can’t say there isn’t any diversity in YA fantasy, because that would be an outright lie or denial of truth:

Each of these books has something to offer in terms of LGBTQ+ representation, mental health disorders, ethnic and cultural exploration, various family dynamics, and persons of color. These books weren’t hard to find and there are many more out there like them.

Of course, there are also some YA fantasy books that are clearly lacking in diversity but are still well-loved among the bookish community.

And that’s all right! Not every book needs to have a POC or LGBTQ+ representation. Not every book needs to emphasize family relationships or explore various faiths and cultures to be entertaining or to be deemed “a five-star read.”

But can there be more diversity in YA fantasy?

Of course! While diversity in YA has become more and more prominent, there is still room to grow. I’m insanely happy with the fantasy books I’ve picked up that explore various peoples and cultures, that detail sam-sex relationships and non-binary individual experiences, that introduce characters with mental health issues and physical disabilities, that include a variety of friendships and familial relationships rarely seen before today. I’ve run across more than a few of these types of YA books, and it’s safe to say that diversity in YA fantasy (and YA in general) has greatly improved over the past decade.

And even though not all of them have been the best of reads, I’m happy that at least we’ve taken a step in the right direction to acknowledge these diverse forms of representation. But as I said before, there are still so many more topics and issues that may be addressed to diversify a story’s plot and cast of characters.

Types of Diversity I’d Like to See More of in YA Fantasy

While I’m impressed with how far authors have come to include more diverse characters and situations, there are still a good number of things I would, one day, like to read more about! It’s a bit easier to find these types of characters and diverse representations in contemporary reads, but a bit more difficult to find in fantasy.

  • A black hero or heroine who sports cornrows, braided extensions, a weave, or an afro
  • More POCs (Latinx, Asian, Black, Middle Eastern, mixed race, etc.) that are main characters, not just side or secondary characters
  • More characters (main and secondary) with social anxiety, bipolar disorder, autism, schizophrenia, clinical depression, PTSD, or any other mental health disorder not usually found in epic or high fantasies
  • MCs or Chosen Ones with a physical disability (deaf, visually impaired, mute)
  • More non-binary characters (i.e. androgynous, transgender, agender, bigender, trigender, pangender, demigender, amalgagender/intersex, gender fluid)
  • Parents and siblings (and extended family) that are present and supportive
  • Strong platonic female/male friendships
  • Queer parents or guardians

There is a lot more I’d like to see, but those are some of the top representations I’d wish to read more of in my favorite YA genre!


Discussion Time:

Which types of diverse representation are you still looking for in YA Fantasy?

Are there any other genres in YA you believe need a bit more diversity?

Is diversity needed for a YA fantasy book to be a complete success or is it all right if the diversity is a bit lacking once in a while?

Do you have any recommendations for diverse YA fantasy reads?

Which are some of your favorite diverse reads in YA fantasy or in YA in general?

I hope you guys enjoyed this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. It was hard trying to figure out what I wanted to say, but I think I managed to say what was on my mind. There might be a secondary post in supplement to this one later, but for now, this is all I’ve got haha.

Thanks so much for stopping by! ❀

Azia Sig

21 thoughts on “Discussion: Is There Enough Diversity in YA Fantasy?

  1. Great post, Azia! The things you included on your list seem like amazing ideas for books, and I’d love to read more diverse books like that. I’d even tell to write them πŸ˜›

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Marta! ❀ There are so many topics and characters I'd love to see in YA fantasy. I hope one day I get to see them πŸ˜€ And if I don't, then I'm just gonna have to write them myself, won't I? LOL XD

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, yes, YES. I completely agree with everything in this post Azia. I would love to see more diversity in fantasy books but I do think we’re starting to. There’s still a fair way to go but then you could say that about any genre; because even though contemporary books are the best (in my opinion) for diverse reads there’s still more that can be written about. πŸ™‚
    I loved Flame in the Mist, Six of Crows and Carry On, and I loved the series Sarah J. Maas has written. I especially enjoyed that in her Court of Thorns and Roses series she gives her characters PTSD after what happened Under the Mountain because that’s something you don’t see a lot in fantasy books, characters facing the mental consequences of their actions. Also I thought there was a lot more diversity in ACOWAR which again was brilliant to see. πŸ˜€
    If you’re looking for a fantasy book that has some good diverse elements I’d definitely recommend Every Heart a Doorway; it has non-binary characters which I’d never seen in a another fantasy book before, but also there was an element of PTSD as well which was really well explored in the story. It’s a great book. πŸ™‚
    Again great topic Azia, I can’t wait to see what you write about next! πŸ˜€ ❀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh yay! Glad you enjoyed the post, Beth! It’s been on my mind for a while now and thought I’d just say a little something about it. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres and it’s a bit disappointing that there isn’t as much diversity as there could be. That’s not to say there is none at all to be found. The genre has improved greatly in its diverse representations in the past few years!
      So far, I’ve really enjoyed a good number of the YA fantasy books I’ve picked up in the last year. There are so many diverse characters and situations at work. And I loved ACOMAF especially for its depiction of PTSD. While it was really lacking in POC and LGBTQ+ rep, it certainly was not lacking in its discussion about mental health and healthy relationships! ACOWAR was an even greater improvement on the second book!
      I’ll put Every Heart a Doorway on my TBR! It sounds really promising in the diversity department. I would love to find more reads like it in the future! πŸ˜€
      Thanks so much for stopping by Beth! ❀ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right, and I’ve found with posts that have been on your mind for a while it’s best to write them ASAP. It’s one of my favourite genres and yeah definitely kind of disappointing, though positive to see some of the changes we have so far in terms of diverse representation. πŸ™‚
        I think authors are including more characters that bring about those discussions, about mental health and LGBTQ+ representation, probably not as much as we’d like to see but it’s a start isn’t it? You can definitely see the progression in the ACOTAR series in terms of diversity which is great.
        Yes definitely do, hopefully it will be a book you really love because it’s an amazing story as well.
        That’s all right! πŸ˜€ ❀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There’s still so much room for improvement but a good number of authors nowadays are working hard to be inclusive. Even though I wasn’t 100% sold on the representations found in ACOWAR, I was so very proud to see Maas making an effort to include so many diverse individuals. I hope she keeps it up in her ToG series and her future books/series! And I hope I love that book, too! Really looking forward to it πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      3. We can see the development happening now, like you said there’s still a lot of room for improvement but to me it seems like we’re inching closer to it, like we can see it in the distances. Makes me excited to see where things will be in a few years in terms of diversity in YA. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome post, Azia!! I agree with everything you said. YA Fantasy is my favorite genre too and I’m also proud of all the diverse books coming out but there’s always room for improvement. I would love to see more POC main characters and not side characters, I think I’ve read only a handful of Fantasies where the main character isn’t white (and most of them have been published in the last two years). Six of Crows is an all time favorite and I absolutely love Bardugo for having such diverse and complex characters. And Lord of Shadows of course! (Also An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, lve that series too).

    Other than YA Fantasy, I think Sci/Fi has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to diversity. There have been a lot of diverse contemporary books coming out lately but I don’t see the same happening for sci/fi (unless I just missed them).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Shouni! I think I’ve read quite few fantasy novels with POC main characters, too, many of which that have become some of my favorites. Six of Crows is one of my favorites (if not my favorite), and An Ember in the Ashes is another. But I do really wish for more fantasy novels with POC main characters. Specifically a black hero or heroine! If I don’t find one soon, I might have to just write one for myself! But if you know of one, I’d love a recommendation πŸ˜€

      Oh, yes. 100% agree. Sci-fi certainly needs more work in terms of diversity. There was one that recently came out…Want by Cindy Pon, I think it’s called! But I have a hard time thinking of any others haha. Hopefully more are in the works, soon!


  4. We were just talking about diversity in YA and I remembered you recently posted a discussion all about it! Like I said, I do think YA has improved a lot and does a pretty good job at being inclusive. However, I’m still missing that diversity in adult books. Adult fantasy especially can be very basic, which is sad.
    Good post! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes! Thanks for checking out my discussion πŸ˜€ YA is doing much better these past few years. There’s certainly room for improvement though, especially in particular genres such as fantasy and sci-fi. Same for adult fantasy as well. Although, Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is pretty progressive! It has POC’s, LGBTQ+ relationships (although it touches on the ‘bury your gays’ trope for one relationship), and handicapped individuals. There’s more, so I highly recommend it! πŸ˜€


      1. It’s about a young girl who has committed a crime. She is sentenced to hang, but before she is, a nun from Sweet Mercy Abbey takes her and enrolls her in their program to become a nun/sister. They’re an organization of warrioresses and sorceresses basically. It’s pretty amazing! So many femme fatales. All about girl power haha


  5. I absolutely love this post! I hadn’t even thought about how important diversity is in YA Fantasy. I’ll definitely have to incorporate this more fully in my own books. Thanks for the inspiration! And I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I love fantasy, but it’s always been a bit behind on the diversity front. I feel like it’s especially important to take notice now that the fight for diverse representation throughout all aspects of society is becoming much more pronounced these days. I’m so glad that some of the things I mentioned inspired you! I hope I get to see more diversity in my favorite genre as the years go on πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  6. There’s more diversity in YA Fantasy today, but it is still seriously lacking. A lot of the ones you mentioned, only have one “diverse” aspect. For example, The Wrath & The Dawn has POC representation while lacking in LGBTQ or disabled rep.
    I am grateful for the push for more diverse YA Fantasy. I just wish there would be a stronger push for more intersectional books with characters that have multiple marginalization.
    YA Science Fiction is another category I want more diverse stories from. In theory, I should like more Science Fiction books but often the characters are all straight, able bodied, and white. Fiction should reflect the world we live in. Seeing stories that aren’t diverse isn’t realistic to me. However, Want by Cindy Pon and 27 Hours are a couple diverse YA Science Fiction books that I’m glad exist. Both are diverse and have characters with multiple marginalizations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True. There’s not enough intersectionality. I’m glad that diversity can be found in YA fantasy, but now it’s time to introduce more complex characters that demonstrate multiple aspects of diverse representation. I haven’t run across too many books that feature those sorts of characters but I’m sure authors are aware of these issues or, at least, are becoming more aware.
      I’ve heard of Want by Cindy Pon. I’d definitely love to get around to reading it one day. Haven’t heard of 27 hours, though! Must check that one out. Sci-fi most certainly could use more diversity, even more so than fantasy, I believe.


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