Author Jenny Han On Diversity In YA Books

Jenny Han is known for her best selling trilogies: To All the Boys I Loved BeforeBurn for Burn with Siobhan Vivian, and The Summer I Turned Pretty. The author has been busy promoting her newest book in the Boys I Loved series, entitled Always and Forever, Lara Jean which follows Lara through her senior year as she prepares to head off to college, helps her father plan his wedding, and her romance with boyfriend, Peter.

The third book came as a surprise to fans, and the author herself who thought Lara’s journey had ended. Her thoughts kept drifting back to Lara and Peter, wondering what their future held, so after advice from Vivian, she started writing and wrote through the night. After starting the trilogy with Lara’s sister going off to college, and leaving her feeling a bit lost, Always and Forever focuses on Lara’s own experience as the one leaving. It will address what she’ll do differently than her sister, and how the experiences of the first two books have changed her.

lara jean

Source: Amazon

The covers for Boys I Loved are very specific, and when asked about the trilogy featuring an Asian-American girl (which may be a first for a New York Times bestseller) Han shares: “From the very start, I said I wanted a photographic cover with an Asian girl front and center, and my publisher was very supportive of that. My wish was for an Asian-American girl to walk into a bookstore and see a girl who looked like her on the shelf. Always, my hope is for all kids to feel seen.”

Representation of diverse characters and stories is important to Han. She calls the movement towards diversity a revelation for a lot of people, and advises that authors approach writing diverse books humbly, and to have respect by not assuming that you can write every type of story well. Han shares that the diverse characters she writes in her book are modeled after the way the world exists: “I write the world the way I see it, through this specific lens. I think one way or another, all writers do that: they show you the world through their eyes. They show you who they think is worth telling a story about. Who is worthy of being a hero. And, everybody wants to feel like their story is worth being told. Everybody wants to be the hero of their own story (Bustle).”

lara jean

Source: Amazon

Han considers the direct connection to readers through social media, and YA authors writing the stories they didn’t have as children and teenagers, as why there’s a vast array of growing diverse stories being told. Authors like Han truly care about the influence their works are having on young adults. Han wants to give back what she lacked growing up, books that are relatable: “[YA Authors] want [readers] to see themselves reflected in their stories, we want them to imagine themselves as heroes and villains and everything in between. We want them to know that there isn’t just one kind of story. But underneath all of that, I think we – and I’m speaking particularly about writers of color – want them to have what we didn’t have (Bustle).”

Han’s main focus is writing for young adults, and considers herself lucky to do so, but she isn’t opposed to writing for adults in the future: “I have interest in telling all kinds of stories, and at some point, I’d love to write a book for adults. But I think my heart will always be with my teen readers. I don’t think you ever love anything as passionately as you do when you’re a teen. You remember the books you read as a young person your whole life.” A list of all her books can be found on her website, along with all the places they can be purchased.

Have you read any of Jenny Han’s books? If not, we encourage you add a few to your TBR!

YouTube Channel: Fleurine


Featured image via The Fandom

h/t Star Tribune