Mike Mullin is the author of the Ashfall trilogy.
We are giving away 5 copies of his latest book, Surface Tension. Please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter.
Surface Tension by Mike Mullin
After witnessing an act of domestic terrorism while training on his bike, Jake is found near death, with a serious head injury and unable to remember the plane crash or the aftermath that landed him in the hospital. A terrorist leader’s teenage daughter, Betsy, is sent to kill Jake and eliminate him as a possible witness. When Jake’s mother blames his head injury for his tales of attempted murder, he has to rely on his girlfriend, Laurissa, to help him escape the killers and the law enforcement agents convinced that Jake himself had a role in the crash.
Mike Mullin, author of the Ashfall series, delivers a gripping story with memorable characters and all-too-real scenario. [young adult, ages 14 and up]
Okay, I’ll start with a confession. The title of this post isn’t exactly accurate. I’m an author, not a librarian, and certainly not qualified to write any kind of exhaustive list of the rich YA literature featuring Black protagonists.
Instead, I’m offering a more personal reading history. These are the books that I remember and still think about, sometimes years after I read them, the books that most influenced my development as a reader and writer. That also means this list includes some books that are arguably middle grade and one that was marketed as adult.
Although some of the books are classics, I’m including a few more recent titles this list because of the impact they had on my forthcoming novel, SURFACE TENSION. One of the most important characters in that novel is Laurissa Davis, a 17-year-old Black teenager from a wealthy family. Some books on this list she may have read, and others helped me define her character and her understanding of the world.
To the book list! (Read that sentence in Batman’s voice, please.)
Books for Teens Featuring African-American Protagonists
1. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
I first read this novel the same year I first saw Star Wars, when I was ten or eleven. Both experiences linger in my memory nearly 40 years later. It wasn’t the first time I’d read books with Black protagonists (that would be Ezra Jack Keats’ brilliant picture books), but it was the first time I’d read about the brutality of racism. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is set in 1930’s Mississippi—Taylor sets the scene so well that by the time you’re done reading you’ll be able to taste the rust-colored dust of the dirt roads.
Cassie is an indomitable heroine. Every time I read her story, I alternate between feeling terror and elation as she confronts everything from racist insults to horrific threats against her person. But the true brilliance of the novel is the theme of fire running throughout it, beginning with the horribly burnt body of Mr. Berry and ending with a forest fire—it serves as a stark metaphor for the all-consuming nature of racism. [chapter book, ages 11 and up]