Build A Neurodiverse TBR (To Be Read) Library
There’s been plenty of buzz about diversity in fiction for several years, especially in the Young Adult genre. Stories like The Hate You Give, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before feature characters who are BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color).
But there’s one area that this push for diversity hasn’t reached yet—neurodiversity. Neurodiverse refers to anyone who has a neurological difference such as autism, ADHD, Tourette’s, synesthesia, and others. A few books have included characters with these differences, the most notable, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. It’s a very well-done young adult contemporary story that explores OCD and the accompanying anxiety. The ending is hopeful—it
doesn’t rip your heart out like, say, The Fault in Our Stars. Pick it up if you get a chance.
Still, there aren’t many choices in young adult fantasy (my favorite genre and the one I write in). I was optimistic when I started the Percy Jackson series. Percy had ADHD and dyslexia, but the author pulled a bait and switch. As Percy begins to discover who he is (and who his father is), he’s told his ADHD is like an energy boost, a side effect of being a demigod, and the dyslexia is actually an ability to read Greek. Huh? I still haven’t forgiven author Rick Riordan for side-stepping the opportunity. He could’ve showcased neurodiversity and educated readers.
According to the latest data, 9.4% of children ages two to seventeen are diagnosed with ADHD. Six in ten have related mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders, like anxiety or depression. And it’s believed thirty to forty percent of the population is considered neurodiverse.
So why aren’t we seeing more of this in YA fiction? While writing the earliest version of Spark, Book One of The Firebrand Chronicles, my
youngest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD inattentive. It’s a sibling of ADHD hyperactive, which is more commonly known. As I became educated in what this diagnosis entailed, I realized there were precious few role models in YA fantasy. I wanted her to be able to find herself in the pages of a story, and I wanted others to understand some of the struggles ADHD kids face. Since ADHD people are creative, out of the box thinkers, I created a heroine who’s aware of her neurodiversity, accepts it, and uses it like a superpower to discover new solutions to problems.
There’s so much misinformation out there—“ADHD is really just bad parenting”,
“ADHD doesn’t exist”, “those kids are just bad kids,” the list goes on and on. But by finding and reading about neurodiverse characters, the reader can experience the world through their eyes and hopefully walk away with understanding and compassion.
Books for a neurodiverse TBR library:
- The Firebrand Chronicles series (Spark, Flare, & Burn) (J. M. Hackman): ADHD
- Turtles All the Way Down (John Green): OCD and anxiety
- The Stormlight Archives series (Brandon Sanderson): mental health issues
- Coral (Sara Ella): depression and anxiety
- The Secret Library (J.C. Gilbert): anxiety
Award winning author J. M. Hackman loves thunderstorms,
bookstores, and happy endings. She’s never met a reading nook
she didn’t like and prefers soul talk to small talk. When she’s not
writing or reading, she spends quality time with her greatest
She’s written Spark, Flare, and Burn (her YA fantasy series the
Firebrand Chronicles) and has had her stories published in
She spends her days writing stories, consuming massive
quantities of dark chocolate, and looking for portals to other
worlds in the mountains of Pennsylvania.
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The Firebrand Chronicles (Spark, Flare, Burn)—available on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, and Nook: https://www.love2readlove2writepublishing.com/bookstore/