16 Fiction Books With Disability Representation
Publishing is becoming more and more diverse, which is truly a wonderful thing. We can write whole recommendation lists on almost every topic now, but one theme that is still a little underrepresented (in our daily lives and on our shelves) are characters with a disability or chronic illness.
Many readers are actively trying to diversify their shelves, which is fantastic! If you are one of those readers who are looking for books with diverse representation and are still on the hunt for books dealing with disability and chronic pain, then this is a good starting point! We’ve collected 16 fictional reads to compile them into a list for you.
We have tried to keep this list as diverse as possible, but if you know of a book dealing with a disability or illness, please leave us a comment below!
Love From A to Z by SK Ali
Representation: Multiple Sclerosis
A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together. An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry. When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break. Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her. Then her path crosses with Adam’s.
Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Pages I Never Wrote by Marco Donati
Luke has good friends, a passion for books, and dyspraxia, a disorder that, ironically, makes him unable to write. He also has a hatred for anyone who tries to help him. Yet when he fails his first term at university due to his learning difficulties, he’s forced to get support. That’s how Nate, an excitable last-year student, becomes his self-proclaimed personal tutor and starts writing down essays for him, as a distraction from his own quarter-life crisis. But Luke’s writing ambitions are not just academic. He dreams of penning a novel, although that’s never been a real possibility. Until now.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Representation: Chronic Pain
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items? Enjoy a drunken night out, ride a motorcycle, go camping, have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex, travel the world with nothing but hand luggage, and… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Every Little Piece of My Heart by Non Pratt
When Sophie receives a parcel from her best friend, Freya, she expects it to contain the reason why Freya left town so suddenly, without goodbyes and without explanation. Instead, she finds a letter addressed to Win, a girl Freya barely knew – or did she? As more letters arrive for more people on the periphery of Freya’s life, Sophie and Win begin to piece together who Freya was and why she left. Sometimes it’s not about who’s gone, but about who they leave behind
The Summer of Impossibilities by Rachel Allen
Representation: Juvenile Arthritis
Skyler, Ellie, Scarlett and Amelia Grace are forced to spend the summer at the lake house where their moms became best friends.
One can’t wait. One would rather gnaw off her own arm than hang out with a bunch of strangers just so their moms can drink too much wine and sing Journey two o’clock in the morning. Two are sisters. Three are currently feuding with their mothers.
One almost sets her crush on fire with a flaming marshmallow. Two steal the boat for a midnight joyride that goes horribly, awkwardly wrong. All of them are hiding something. One falls in love with a boy she thought she despised. Two fall in love with each other. None of them are the same at the end of the summer.
A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Representation: Cerebral Palsy
Fall in love, break the curse. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
Representation: Deaf character
Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say. Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen. Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.
Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
Representation: Blind character
The Rules: Don’t deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public. Don’t help me unless I ask. Otherwise you’re just getting in my way or bothering me. Don’t be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I’m just like you only smarter.
Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.
Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
Representation: Rheumatoid arthritis and Gaucher disease
Isabel has one rule: no dating. It’s easier. It’s safer. It’s better…for the other person. She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis. But then she meets another sick kid. He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her. Isabel has one rule: no dating. It’s complicated. It’s dangerous. It’s never felt better…to consider breaking that rule for him.
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Representation: ADHD and Dyslexia
When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.
The Memory Book by Lara Avery
Representation: Niemann-Pick disease type C
Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way–not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.
So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It’s where she’ll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart–a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she’ll admit how much she’s missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Representation: Character in a wheelchair
They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . . Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
All Of My Friends Are Rich by Michael Sarais
Representation: Bi-Polar Depression
Orphan Leo Cotton has finally built a family, but the advent of bipolar depression wakes him from this dreamlife to reveal dark truths about the man he’d married. One year later, Leo is lost. Embarrassed by a dead-end job that barely pays the bills, he can’t help but notice that those around him are all enjoying success. When his closest friend, Sara, asks him to be her best man, Leo reaches the last straw: how can he possibly afford these lavish festivities on his wages? A Grindr chance encounter reveals that a shortcut to riches does exist . . . but in the end, this reckless route may cost him the loved-ones he aims to impress and welcome terrible danger . . .
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Representation: Character born without arms and Tourette’s
Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.
Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.
Do you have any recommendations? Tell us in the comments below for us to check out as well as other readers!
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