The most realistic, edgy, multicultural young adult fiction books

Kelly Parra Author Of Graffiti Girl
By Kelly Parra

Who am I?

I am a multicultural published author from California. I attended different schools growing up, reading classic literature that I couldn't relate to, resulting in becoming a reluctant reader. I didn't live in historical time periods. My skin was a lighter shade of brown. In my world, I met kids from diverse backgrounds, who spoke slang and had personal hardships. Where were the books like that? That's why I wrote Graffiti Girl. To share a realistic, multicultural approach so the reluctant reader could have characters they could see themselves in. That's why I chose these books, in no specific order, that share contemporary, urban stories involving people of different cultures, who face unique hardships.

I wrote...

Graffiti Girl

By Kelly Parra,

Book cover of Graffiti Girl

What is my book about?

Raised by her single mom in a struggling California neighborhood, Angel Rodriguez channels her hopes and dreams into her paintings. But when her entry for a community mural doesn’t rate, she’s heartbroken. Even with artist Nathan Ramos taking an interest in Angel's art, she’s determined to find her own place in the art world.

That’s when Miguel Badalin introduces her to an underground world of graf tags and turf wars. Soon she’s running with Miguel’s crew and emerging as the artist she always dreamed to be. But Nathan and Miguel are bitter enemies, and choosing between them and their wildly different approaches to art means that Angel must decide what matters most before the artist inside of her can truly break free.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Street Pharm

By Allison van Diepen,

Book cover of Street Pharm

Why this book?

Street Pharm is a dark, cultural, and realistic look into Tyrone's life as a teenage drug dealer.  A raw and urban story of a teen who inherits a life of crime because of the situation he was born into and the harsh awakening that comes with it. An intense and page-turning read that had me glued till the very end.

A Different Kind of Heat

By Antonio Pagliarulo,

Book cover of A Different Kind of Heat

Why this book?

Luz Cordero lost her brother in a police shooting. Anger and grief burn within her for her brother's tragic death, and this young girl must battle through her emotional pain toward forgiveness during her stay at a Boys and Girls home. This is one girl's story as she pulls herself from the life of gangs and violence toward forgiveness and ultimately peace. I couldn't put it down. 


By Coe Booth,

Book cover of Tyrell

Why this book?

Tyrell is homeless with his mother and younger brother while working hard to pull himself out of the system. He feels the pressures of responsibility, drugs, sexuality, and the lure of breaking the law in order to survive his hardships. Like myself, readers will root for Tyrell as he battles against immeasurable odds.

The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas,

Book cover of The Hate U Give

Why this book?

One fateful night shatters Starr's world when her best friend is shot by a police officer. Starr is faced with speaking her truth about what really happened that night. Filled with inspiring dialogue and the fight for justice, I feel this is a powerful book that shares many important messages.  

Mexican WhiteBoy

By Matt de la Peña,

Book cover of Mexican WhiteBoy

Why this book?

Half Mexican baseball athlete, Danny is trying to find his place between cultural identities. The writing is straight forward and the relationships and slang are real. This book deals with friendships, family, cultural identity, and dreams. An identifiable story for readers trying to find their place in a diverse world. I loved it!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in poverty, drug trafficking, and multiracial people?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about poverty, drug trafficking, and multiracial people.

Poverty Explore 42 books about poverty
Drug Trafficking Explore 7 books about drug trafficking
Multiracial People Explore 37 books about multiracial people

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Grapes of Wrath, Ghost Boys, and The Breadwinner if you like this list.