Happy Tuesday! I’ve always liked Tuesdays because it’s my yoga teaching day, but this one is even more fun because we’re talking about some of my favorite books in the world–those featuring disabled narrators. While there are many, many excellent books out there, I’ve somehow managed to narrow down my top ten, so let’s get to it!
Honestly, a lot of the books on this list are YA contemporary or MG. Why? Because, for some reason, though we’re starting to see a lot of diversity & inclusion in the literary world, it’s not really breaking into the fantasy section. We’re getting there, and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is definitely one of the first I ever read, but it’s taking a long time, and I’ll be forever grateful for Leigh for not only making her MC physically disabled, but creating a main cast that wasn’t just straight white people. They’re all so different and realistic, and it’s wonderful.
Talk about the cutest high school love story ever! The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle talks about it all–nerves around talking to new people, the stress of being in high school, and the love of words. Abelard and Lily always seem to be at odds, but they keep being drawn back together, and their story of growth together and apart is wonderful.
I do want to note that The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris doesn’t feature a disabled narrator until the fourth book, which doesn’t come out until September, but Ridley is part of the main crew, and she’s featured in almost every scene. And not only is Ridley in a wheelchair, Theo is POC and Leila’s (also POC) adopted parents are both men (also one POC)! This middle grade series features all kinds of families–big, small, adopted, mixed, disabled, found, orphaned. It’s a powerful little book, and it’s really, really well done.
Berserker by Emmy Laybourne had me at “Vikings in Midwest America”, but it kept me at “soft Berserker falls in love with said cowboy”. It seems I’ve clustered the three books on this list that don’t feature disabled MCs, but rather side characters, but the sequel, Ransacker, does feature a disabled MC since the POV switches to Hanne’s sister for the second one.
Again, I do want to note that the narrator in Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik is not disabled, but the MC’s sister is, and the story does revolve around their relationship. This weaves such a complicated story of sibling relationships, feeling like you have to be a mother to your sibling, using that maternal feeling to try to take the reigns on your disabled sister’s romantic endeavors, and falling for someone you never intended to. It had me flipping pages as quickly as possible so I could figure out just how it was all going to unfold, and it’s definitely not what you’re expecting. Featuring an autistic, queer, absolute queen of a character, you’re going to want to read this one.
The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín is one of my favorite fantasy books in general, and it’s definitely my favorite faery book out there. It’s so wild and full of murder and horror, which is perfect for faeries. And it features a physically disabled MC! Nessa is such a badass, and her internal struggle with being in the faery realm where she’s given the opportunity to “fix” her disability is so powerful. The sequel, The Invasion, is also fantastic, and I so wish there was more in this universe.
I talked about The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla a couple weeks ago in my top ten favorite books of all time, and it’s truly one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s made me cry and laugh way more than most books, and I will forever hold its autistic narrator, Charlie, in my heart. He is the sweetest, most adorable little boy, and I just wish I could drop into his story and give him the best chicken nuggets in the world.
When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A.J. Steiger broke my damn heart. It’s such a sweet story of searching for the right person and realizing you have to love yourself in order to love someone else properly. It also proves that disabled narrators belong in all types of media, and that nothing crazy has to change to give them a romance and a little bit of drama. We need to make all forms of disabled stories accessible.
Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor is urban fantasy that involves Scotland, time travel to the 1800s to visit Nikola Tesla, and angsty romance. That alone should convince you to read this (and its sequel, Sparks of Light, so we can pleasepleaseplease have a finale), but then drop on top of that some of the best anxiety rep I’ve seen in a long time in a fantasy? Well, yeah, this book has it all.
Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens by Various is, hands down, one of my favorite short story collections ever, and I’m really glad that I get to end with this one. I thought this was probably going to be just a bunch of contemporary short stories, but nope, my eyes were finally opened to disabled narrators in the fantasy world, which I’d never thought would happen, and it’s just the best. Plus, these characters are queer, across the spectrum of disability, and diverse.
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