Diversity in Aussie YA

There’s been a lot of talk about diversity in the bookish community recently, and some of that discussion has been aimed at the diversity in Aussie YA, and if the literature Aussie authors produce is ‘diverse enough’. Diversity wasn’t something I intentionally sought out in the past and while I did read diverse books, they weren’t books I decided to read because of their diversity — I just read the books I wanted to read.

But now I feel as though the bookish community has been having a lot more discussions about the need for diverse books and it’s opened my eyes to the amount of novels I’ve been reading that don’t contain any diversity, and that’s something I’ve already started to change. The only books I’m interested in buying now are those that are diverse, because I feel that it’s so integral to show just how beautiful and vibrant and diverse our world really is, and also to support marginalised authors and #OwnVoices authors. But this post isn’t about me. This post is about diversity in Aussie YA novels, and if we have enough.

When I think of #LoveOzYA novels, diversity isn’t something that comes to mind — but that’s not to say these books aren’t diverse. So I asked people on Twitter if they thought Aussie YA was diverse, and I gave them the options of ‘Yes, very diverse’, ‘Sufficiently diverse’, ‘Could be more diverse’ or ‘Not diverse at all’, and the overwhelming majority selected ‘Could be more diverse’. From that answer, it could be easy to interpret that this meant that Aussie YA isn’t very diverse, but I think just the opposite is true. Sure, there are some novels I can think of that aren’t diverse at all or follow hurtful tropes, such as the ‘gay best friend’ trope, but a lot also contain a lot of diversity. But the thing about divert is this — nothing can ever be ‘sufficiently diverse’. There’s always room for more diversity, and we will always need more diversity. Our world is beautiful and vibrant and diverse, and the books we read should reflect that.

But that’s not to say that Aussie YA doesn’t contain much diversity. I also asked my friends to tell me the titles of their favourite diverse Aussie YA novels, and I realised that we have more diverse books than we can all name off the top of our heads. The most recent diverse #LoveOzYA novel I read was Clancy of the Undertow — it’s a book that has always been a book that I’ve known about, but I never really had the chance to read it until a few weeks ago. As soon as I picked it up, I asked myself why I’d ever waited this long to read such a realistic and moving book that which will become one of the most-loved Aussie YA books of our generation. What I loved most about it was that our protagonist is a somewhat openly gay teen girl, and this wasn’t a coming out story. She wasn’t struggling with her sexuality either. Sure, there were elements of that as some of her friends and classmates were unaware of her sexual orientation, but her family was all very loving and supportive and aware of this part of herself. And that was fantastic to see.

My favourite aspect of Clancy of the Undertow was undeniably Clancy’s loving family, and the impact they had on the narrative. The climax of the story is really formed around the actions of one particular family member, but just seeing all of them interact in such a genuine and realistic way was something I think more YA novels need. The relationship Clancy had with her older brother was honest and fun to read, and it was so sweet to see the way they’d tease one another and get angry at each other, but at the end of the day, they loved each other so much and were willing to do anything for one another. Also reading a YA novel where the parents weren’t absent was a bonus, because that’s another thing that annoys me about some novels. Our families are normally such a massive part of our lives as teens and the books we read should acknowledge that, just as Clancy of the Undertow does. Clancy of the Undertow is brilliant in many ways, but the way Christopher Currie has captured genuine family dynamics as well as the voice of a teen who’s struggling to find her place in a small, judgemental Australian town is what makes this novel a must-read.

Below are a list of some of my favourite diverse Aussie YA novels! The ones in bold I’ve read, but the other ones I’ve been recommended. Please comment down below what your favourite diverse Aussie YA books are!

  • Laurinda
  • When Michael Met Mina
  • Nona & Me
  • The Things I Didn’t Say
  • Freedom Swimmer
  • One Would Think The Deep
  • Hate is Such a Strong Word
  • Cloudwish
  • The Flywheel
  • The Road to Winter
  • The Sidekicks
  • The First Third
  • Green Valentine

clancy-of-the-undertow Clancy of the Undertow

In a dead-end town like Barwen a girl has only got to be a little different to feel like a freak. And Clancy, a typical sixteen-year-old misfit with a moderately dysfunctional family, a genuine interest in Nature Club and a major crush on the local hot girl, is packing a capital F.

As the summer begins, Clancy’s dad is involved in a road smash that kills two local teenagers. While the family is dealing with the reaction of a hostile town, Clancy meets someone who could possibly—at last—become a friend. Not only that, the unattainable Sasha starts to show what may be a romantic interest.

In short, this is the summer when Clancy has to figure out who the hell she is.

Let's Talk

Have you read Clancy of the Undertow, or any of the other books I’ve mentioned? What’s your opinion on the diversity in Aussie YA? What are you favourite diverse Aussie books? I’d love to know!

Thanks to Text Publishing Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

You might like

One Would Think the Deep • The Things I Didn’t Say • The Flywheel

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13 thoughts on “Diversity in Aussie YA

  1. Lovely post Sarah! I’ve been recommended Clancy of the Undertow quite a few times and that sounds AWESOME about the family dynamics + queer rep. 😄 Ooh, what kind of diverse rep is in One Would Think the Deep? I’ve been meaning to read it for a couple of months too – soooooooon!
    And hahaha I know I’ve said this many times but I’m so excited for you to read Cloudwish and Freedom Swimmer! 😊

    • Thanks, gorgeous! You should definitely read CLANCY – I’d love to hear what you think of it! It’s simply spectacular. And ONE WOULD THINK THE DEEP has Aboriginal characters and mental health rep. That’s another one you should try to get to soon, but I know the feeling of having a massive TBR! And I’m very excited to read them both – sooooooooon! 😂💕

  2. Ida is a new diverse and Australian YA that is coming out soon (or has come out? Not sure.) It features a protagonist who is mentally ill. I’ve got an ARC and I’m so excited to read it!

  3. Brilliant post, Sarah!! I absolutely adored The Sidekicks and The First Third. I really need to read to read all the others you mentioned! I feel like in all media there’s room for more diversity, but Oz YA is doing a pretty good job! Usually, the only contemporaries I can deal with are Oz YA because of the issues they cover. I would love to see more indigenous YA though!

  4. Another great post 🙂 I can’t say I’ve heard of Clancy of the Undertow but it sounds interesting. I think the main issue with Aussie diversity is that people – especially on twitter (usually not Australian) – don’t tend to recognise it because it often doesn’t fit the mood of American diversity and that we have a whole different culture, which is just sad. That said, I do intend on reading more diversely 😉

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