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Religion in YA Books • Dive Into Diversity

Each Sunday, I found myself driving down the back roads of our small town with my grandparents, headed to our tiny Catholic church. I was baptized there and participated as a reader, attended Sunday school, and in high school was confirmed, too. I didn’t really know anything other than Catholicism until my sophomore year in […]

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March 11, 2015 - 11:12 am

Magan - Crystal, that’s awesome! Thank you so much for sharing those book recommendations! I really appreciate it! 🙂

March 6, 2015 - 6:34 pm

Crystal - I found A Time to Dance to be a wonderful exploration of religion and spirituality. I reviewed it here http://richincolor.com/2014/07/review-a-time-to-dance/. Also, the new book Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein has more about religion than I expected. There is a contrast between the Ethiopian church (orthodox) and the Friends (Quakers) that the main characters have been part of in the past.

February 23, 2015 - 11:32 am

Magan - Jamie, thanks SO much for sharing your story and the great recommendations. I haven’t read either of the books you’ve mentioned so I’ll be adding them to my TBR right now. I’m so glad you shared! xoxox

February 23, 2015 - 11:31 am

Magan - Elizabeth, you know what — you’re so right. I definitely haven’t read a lot of books with Jehovah’s Witness. THANK YOU for letting us know about Brown Girl Dreaming! I enjoy how trilogies can explore religion by really making up their own as well. I think it’s a good way to get people thinking about things without being so explicit.

February 23, 2015 - 11:23 am

Magan - Katie, I SO hope you check out the books! And I’m so thankful for your recommendation too. Going to head to Goodreads to check it out! I just don’t understand why there aren’t a ton of religious exploration books out there. I know a lot of teens are questioning this. It felt like SUCH a big deal to me in high school.

February 16, 2015 - 10:03 pm

Katie @ Bookish Illuminations - Magan,

I love this post! This is exactly the kind of discussion I love–religion and spirituality in literature, especially children’s and YA. I agree with you–there isn’t as much religion in YA as I think there should be, and I hope that publishing trend changes in the near future.

I haven’t read any of these books you mentioned, but knowing that they focus on characters struggling with questions of faith and religion makes me me want to check them out. I think being curious about these issues is healthy and reflects a more authentic spirituality.

I would so welcome more YA novels that reflected characters expressing their spirituality/religion or struggling with those big questions in life that we often associate with religion and spirituality.

I always try to tease out any spiritual dimensions I find in the books I review–in a very broad sense–but it’s rare that I find books engaging with religion and spirituality in a more specific way. One book that comes to mind with a clear spiritual dimension and that does engage with religion in a refreshing way is The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis. It’s not YA, but I think YA readers who are mature could read it.

February 15, 2015 - 12:20 am

Alexa S. - Honestly, I love reading about characters who have strong ideals or struggles with religion. It’s a quest that every individual goes through on their own at some point, trying to make sense of things and decide what to believe in. The books you’ve included, particularly Kenneally’s novels, are great examples of books that tackle religion in a way that feels organic, thoughtful and interesting. Would be awesome to read more books featuring all sorts of religion!

February 10, 2015 - 3:46 pm

Elizabeth - This is only fresh on my mind because I just finished Brown Girl Dreaming last night, but she talks a bit about growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, which is something that I have not ever read about anywhere. It was an experience I appreciated reading about, even though I’m not particularly religious myself. I also enjoyed the role of religion in a couple of fantasy trilogies I’ve read– The Girl of Fire and Thorns series and His Fair Assassin series both features fairly pious main characters, though those religions were fictional ones. But on the whole, religion or spirituality are not very prominent in the books I read.

February 10, 2015 - 3:38 pm

Jamie - I grew up only going to church on Christmas and Easter and sometimes to sunday school with my neighbors and VBS in the summer. Then in 8th grade I started going to youth group at a baptist church with a friend (because of a boy and all the boys certainly made me keep going haha). I stayed and got really involved and then made the decision to go to a Christian college. Between my mom passing away and just my experience AT that college I walked away more confused than ever. So I love seeing religion explored in a way that isn’t like Christian fiction or trying to convert someone. Like truly I feel like wrestling with what you believe in or don’t believe in is a huge part of one’s life experience. Especially in the face of death when you really look at like “hey what do I believe in…will I see them again? Is there nothing after death??” I mean, I get panicky at night STILL wrestling with these things.

So yeah I really love seeing it! And not just Christianity. I love seeing all faiths though obviously Christianity is what I’m most familiar with and can relate to.

I recently read No Parking In The End Times and I thought it dealt with wrestling with your faith really well. The girl believes in God and grew up in the church and then her dad gets involved with this cult-like end time group and through this experience she really reevaluates her beliefs and struggles with if she believes in God at all. It was really thought-provoking though I think if people don’t like reading about people who have faith and are wrestling with it probably won’t enjoy it.

I also read Like No Other by Una LaMarche and that was SUCH a good book and the main character was a Hasidic Jew and I loved how it looked at her religion and her culture and how an event really made her question things!

February 10, 2015 - 1:35 pm

Magan - Valeria, every question you posed in your comment is EXAXTLY what I was thinking here. You are spot on. I really feel like I’m missing out on culturizing myself by not seeing this in my reading. It makes the books less unique, I think, and all of the characters a greater melting pot. I want to learn and grow and be pushed to encounter differences. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

February 10, 2015 - 1:30 pm

Magan - Thank you, Andi! I haven’t read that one by Terra, but fully intend to ass it to my TBR list! Thanks so much for contributing!

February 10, 2015 - 1:29 pm

Magan - Thanks for your comment, Jen! I agree – in mainstream YA I’m not seeing a lot of exploration of other faiths. I don’t temd to read actual targeted Christian fiction from a store like Lifeway. I guess I’m pretty surprised that religion is really skipped over in our young adult books. Even if it’s not the primary focus, couldn’t it play a minor role? I haven’t read those books you listed but I am so intrigued! Thanks for sharing!

February 10, 2015 - 1:25 pm

Magan - Bruna, that’s my point – I’m not seeing a lot of those other cultures and religions well-represented at all. I do understand your point of this not being in every book because some people just really don’t want to read about it. Out of curiosity, have you read any books with any religion aspects you’ve found did a good job incorporating it as part of the discussion without it being the sole focus?

February 10, 2015 - 1:20 pm

Magan - Rachel, you’re so right about HOW TO LOVE. I has forgotten that. Subtle, yes, but still a part of the story. Coming from a catholic background, I fully understood how she would have felt being pregnant and her parents reactions. The story would have felt less complete without that i think. Also, thanks for the sweet comment. I’m really glad you found this interesting!

February 10, 2015 - 1:18 pm

Magan - It really seems to be lacking, Brianna. You bring up a great point about the Holocaust. I haven’t read a book focusing on that time with a religious aspect either.

February 10, 2015 - 11:56 am

Brianna - I can’t think of a single book off the top of my head, YA or otherwise, where religion plays a prominent role (other than memoir). Even Holocaust literature doesn’t really talk about the religious aspects of those peoples’ lives.

February 10, 2015 - 11:55 am

Rachel @ Hello, Chelly - Magan, I love that you wrote about this! I was at a similar crossroads during college (I was brought up Catholic but some of my relatives belonged to a Baptist church). I agree this topic isn’t explored enough in books but I would like to see more of it. One book that did come to mind is HOW TO LOVE by Katie Cotugno. Religion/Catholicism plays a role but a subtle one. But I always find myself thinking of it when I look back on that book (which happens to be one of my all-time favorites). Great post!

February 10, 2015 - 11:30 am

Bruna - Interesting discussion. Religion is not something I see a lot in the books I read, and to be honest, I don’t think is something I would normally seek out. I have struggles with what I actually do believe in and I am already so surrounded by people in real life wanting to push their religions on me that I feel that books are a way to scape that. If is something completely different from my culture, like Islam or other non-Western religions I might be interested; or discussions on atheism or agnosticism. But as far catholicism goes, I just rather do without it.

February 10, 2015 - 10:28 am

Jen Ellision - I wish I had some from other faiths to add, but the only books I can think of that explore faith are of a Christian slant.

I read it a while ago and I believe it’s Christian fiction YA, but if I recall the Lisa Tawn Bergren’s River of Time series had some good exploration on faith… not heavy-handed at all, which has been my problem with some Christian fiction. Plus the series is adorable time travel historical romance YA.

Jackson Pearce’s Purity may have had a little exploration too, but I seem to recall it being more about the character’s relationship with her dad than church…

February 10, 2015 - 9:54 am

Andi - I loved reading Small Town Sinner. I was so intrigued by that kind of subject. One that I read that I really enjoyed was Pure by Terra Élan McVoy. Really interesting look at teens with purity rings, waiting until marriage to have sex and what happens when someone goes against that or you yourself thinks about going against it.

Great post Magan.

February 10, 2015 - 9:20 am

Valeria @ A Touch of Book Madness - I love that you raised these questions. I have to agree with you. Other than Christian fiction which, as the genre suggests, deals with a lot of religious issues, I don’t see it anywhere in YA. I would love to see it reflected, and much like you be able to learn about other beliefs and cultures. People tend to focus on other diversity issues, but religion always seems to be pushed aside. Why is that?

Little Kids: Winter Favorites

Welcome to our first edition of LITTLE KIDS! Estelle’s been hanging out in the adult aisles for quite a while now and I’ve been squatting on much-too-small stools reading books to Everett and H. Over the last two years, I’ve developed some strong attachments to kids books that I really want to share with you […]

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January 23, 2015 - 3:52 pm

Alexa S. - This feature is seriously so dang cute! As you know, I’m VERY supportive of getting E & H into reading (hence all the books I’ve gifted them so far). Love that you’ve chosen to let them read winter-themed ones this season!

January 20, 2015 - 9:05 am

Leah - loveloveloveLOVE this!! I’ve been amassing a library of kids’ books (and receiving LOTS of nervous looks for Matt in the process!). Really though, storybooks are the best and between my nieces and any future Leah Jrs, I’m going to make sure I have plenty of stories on-hand!

I adore Over and Under! Keeping with the wintery theme, you seriously cannot go wrong with Jan Brett’s The Mitten!

January 18, 2015 - 5:06 pm

Melissa @ Writer Grrl Reads - This is such a sweet idea, and I love that your blog will now be featuring titles from all ends of the reading age spectrum! Marko loves reading his favourites over and over (and OVER AND OVER!) again, but I’m always on the lookout for NEW favourite titles to memorize (seriously, I could recite Goodnight Moon forwards and backwards — ha ha!) so I’m lovin’ this feature!

January 17, 2015 - 11:31 am

Jamie - Bookmarking this! Love finding new books to share with Genevieve and Adela plus with the kids I nanny!

January 16, 2015 - 4:33 pm

ashley - I am SO glad to see “The Snowy Day” one of my favorites on this list!

January 16, 2015 - 10:35 am

Brianna - The Polar Express for a winter book recommendation. For non-winter books, I really like anything David Weisner has written, but in particular Sector 7. It’s a wordless book, which makes it fun for kids and adults because you can make up a story as you go.

January 16, 2015 - 8:40 am

Lisa @ Bookish Broads - I love discovering new kids books to read with Lucy! Thanks for the new feature!

We really like to read Merry Christmas, Stinkyface (and the rest of the Stinkyface series) when it’s snowy! The Quiet Book also has some cute snow moments in it. 🙂

January 16, 2015 - 6:45 am

Sandy - Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft

Blog Tour: Ally Condie on Naming Characters in Atlantia

Atlantia by Ally Condie (website | twitter) See also my review of Crossed by Ally Condie Publication Date: October 28, 2014 Publisher: Dutton Children’s Pages: 368 Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction Keywords: underwater city, dystopia, broken world, young adult fantasy Format Read: Arc received from the Publisher. (Thank you! Summary (from Goodreads):Can you hear Atlantia breathing? For as long as she can […]

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October 22, 2014 - 10:29 pm

Tomasina - This book just sounds so amazing and the authors explanation of her usage of water based names interest me even further. I can’t wait to give it a read!

October 15, 2014 - 4:50 pm

Alexa S. - I’m pretty curious about the characters after reading all about their names! Names are very important things after all, and I know it’ll sound strange, but I’m predisposed to be more interested in a book if I like a character’s name! Will probably check out Atlantia at some point 🙂

October 14, 2014 - 9:56 am

Benni @ Benni's Bookbiters - I really can’t wait for this book! I also can’t get the Duran Duran song out of my head, when the main character’s name is Rio…

October 13, 2014 - 10:41 am

Brianna - This is really interesting, and now I’m looking forward to this book even more. Thanks so much for sharing.

Rites of Passage: A Bootcamp Wardrobe + Giveaway

Attention, friends, attention! Today is such an exciting day for Alexa, Rachel, and me. Rites of Passage is a review book we were all so, so lucky to receive review copies of. I DEVOURED IT. And recently, Rachel visited Austin, TX (where I live) and we could not stop talking about this book. We’re each spotlighting fun […]

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October 8, 2014 - 8:28 pm

Alexa S. - Not going to lie – I’m obsessed with EVERYTHING in this post. Obsessed to the point where I just want to own them all! I think I’m particularly in love with those aviators, and that dog tag inspired necklace – they’re two things I could definitely integrate well into my wardrobe.

September 21, 2014 - 9:22 pm

Kayla - I want to read this because it sounds very interesting and is a modern twist on one of my favorite fantasy tropes – first girl in a warrior school of some sort. Thanks for offering this giveaway!

September 20, 2014 - 10:08 pm

Jaime Lynn - It sounds amazing, and from what I have heard from people it is even better than it sounds. Besides, I haven’t read anything really like this before, and I am always up for new adventures! Thanks for the giveaway!

September 18, 2014 - 8:31 pm

Maneesha - I’ve been hearing nothing but great things about this book. So want to find out what all the hype is about!

September 10, 2014 - 11:28 am

Asheley (@BookwormAsheley) - I can’t get over how much everyone loves this book and it is one that I want to read because my friends have loved it. Complete word of mouth, which is kind of awesome. ALSO: I have undying love for Doc Martens, forever and ever. I will never reveal how many pairs I’ve had/currently have, and how much money I have given that company in my lifetime. No shame.

September 10, 2014 - 8:00 am

YA Book Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley - […] Add Rites of Passage to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy from Barnes & Noble ENTER OUR RITES OF PASSAGE GIVEAWAY (hosted with Alexa + Rachel!) […]

September 9, 2014 - 1:44 am

Lucy - I just started reading the e-arc of this book and have only heard great things Love your fashion feature – ! Dr. Martens are classics for sure- I don’t think they ever went out of style for teens. But yeah they probably destroyed my back too.

September 8, 2014 - 8:06 pm

Natalie - If you guys like it, then it’s safe to bet I probably will. I mean, we both share a deep love for Zac Efron, sooo…

September 8, 2014 - 5:55 pm

Brittnee - The book seems really good! And the outfit you came up with is adorable.

September 8, 2014 - 4:56 pm

Daphne - if you ladies love the book this much, it must be amazing. and the premise is really interesting.

September 8, 2014 - 3:36 pm

Mawa Mahima - Oh, this sounds like it’s going to be absolutely great! I like main characters like her…and the wardrobe is amazing! I especially like the shoes, and the dog tag necklace.

September 8, 2014 - 3:24 pm

Tammy - I want to read Rites Of Passage because of all the wonderful early reviews I’ve read for it.

September 8, 2014 - 12:44 pm

Guadalupe B. - I want to read ot because I’ve never read military books

September 8, 2014 - 10:07 am

Brianna - I haven’t read many military novels, but this one sounds like a fresh perspective. Plus, you had me at secret society.

One of my cousins and I are about eight months apart and when we were kids, I idolized him. I followed him everywhere. Well, he had a pair of Doc Martens and I was in absolute awe because I thought they were the coolest shoes on the planet.

Befriended: Pip Harry on Rowing, Friendships, and Passion

(Woo! We have an actual feature icon thanks to our buddy, Alex, who also is responsible for our site design.) We’re back with another BEFRIENDED chit-chat with one of my favorite Australian authors, Pip Harry. She’s responsible for writing two books I’ve loved/devoured/wanted to kiss and hug, Head of the River and I’ll Tell You Mine. When I […]

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September 5, 2014 - 11:30 am

Alexa S. - Reading about Pip’s rowing experience was so fun! I loved hearing about her years involved in the Head of the River competition, both as a coach and as a participant. It’s great that she learned things she can apply to the other parts of her life too!

The Prince of Venice Beach Themed Gift-Pack (for Boys!)

Howdy, friends! Last week I reviewed The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson. While I read it, I couldn’t help but jot down a list of things Cali did or items that seemed significant. I was so inspired to turn all of these into a themed-gift-pack because a) we haven’t done one for guys before […]

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August 12, 2014 - 10:20 pm

Alexa S. - I just ADORE that you did a gift pack for the guys! Also, I’d really just like that treehouse and that picnic basket for myself, please and thank you.