#DiverseBookBloggersDiscuss: Disability Representation in YA



When Fadwa first posted about wanting to do these guest posts, I jumped at the chance. For a while I’ve wanted to do a post about disability rep in YA books, and how is done well, and how it’s not. But I always worried that my following was too small, or that no one would care about what I had to say. So when I talked to Fadwa about my idea, and she was enthused about it, I felt for once as thought maybe it could matter to people.

I have a few examples of good disabled rep, and a few of bad, as well as tips on how to make sure you do your rep right.

Louise Gornall - Under Rose-Painted SkiesFirst off for my good guys (not that anybody is surprised) I want to talk about Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall and it’s staggering, jaw-droppingly amazing mentally ill representation. Now, when I first got this book for my 18th birthday, I was both excited, and a little wary. The idea of a book with an MC that has both anxiety AND OCD (my two biggest MIs) was exciting for me, but at the time I didn’t even know what ownvoices was, let alone the fact that URTS was one, so I was frightened about the representation being done wrong. Boy was I pleasantly surprised by what I found. Gornall writes a mentally ill character with such understanding and fluidity that it can only come from someone who has lived through such. She describes picking and the little inconsistencies of OCD with a loving hand. They are true, honest and raw.

35615200Next in line for my good guys is Brave Enough by Kati Gardner. This book is absolutely lovely. It gets chronic illnesses right. It gets the feeling of uselessness and dependability that people going through sicknesses or with injuries can feel when they have to have help to do even the most simple of daily tasks, like showering. This book is an understanding of all things chronically ill. Gardner gets it. She gets the barely veiled hate we get for using accessible parking (which is actually brought up in the book) or bathroom stalls. And she gets having something that means everything to you taken away, because your body just…can’t anymore.

Leigh Bardugo - Six of Crows #1And finally I want to talk about Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and how Kaz is just about perfect for a cane-user with chronic pain. Bardugo doesn’t skimp on the writing of chronic pain in the slightest and I love it. I love how real it is and feels. I love that we see Kaz struggle with things like climbing stairs, and how his pain worsens when he overworks himself. It’s about as perfect of a representation for a physical disability as I can think of.

As for bad rep? Let me start by saying ANY book where a disability is “magically cured”, cured by love or any other BS is NOT good rep. It can never be good rep. It will never be good rep. Once of the biggest perpetrators of this that I’ve found of the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. Like, Chaol gets paralyzed and then leaves for a book and suddenly he’s perfectly fine when he gets back? No. That is not okay at all. That is not how you write disability.

Another book whose rep I have problems with is Cinder by Marissa Meyer. I know Cinder is meant to be a cyborg, but many people have praised the book as having representation for amputations and just…no. It isn’t done well. At all. For a cyborg, I’m sure the way the limbs are handled is fine. But for an amputee, that isn’t how their prosthetics work. At all.

But ways to make your rep better? If you aren’t disabled, or at least aren’t in the way you’re writing, consult someone who is. Hire beta readers and sensitivity readers. Do not write disabled characters in as inspiration for other characters, or kill them off. Stay away from stereotypes and cliches. Do us justice. Write us as people.

lilya-sig.pngBook Blogger @ The Kitten’s KeyBoard.

Lilya (they/them) is a disabled writer and blogger.


Notable Posts:

#DiverseBookBloggersDiscuss is a way to boost diverse bloggers who are brilliant, have a lot to say and deserve to be heard loud and clear. What this is, is basically a guest post feature where every Sunday, one blogger from a minority will discuss things they are passionate about on my blog. 

8 thoughts on “#DiverseBookBloggersDiscuss: Disability Representation in YA

  1. hi fadwa! i love this idea, it’s very refreshing to see someone else’s opinion on your blog, and i loved what lilya wrote. i’m gonna add six of crows to my tbr just because of this post. hope you both have a nice day!


  2. I love this post. I (and my family) have a few different chronic illness. Not the ones mentioned here, true, but I enjoyed the post talking about disability rep all the same. I have read Six of Crows but not the other two yet. Thanks for the reconmendations and advice.


  3. Thanks for this! Yes, my MC has my invisible neurodivergent disabilities. The book isn’t ABOUT that, but I passionately want to show how very personal reactions to temporal lobe epilepsy/Geschwind Syndrome/Aspergers (there’s much overlap manifesting in one’s very PERSONALITY) can be, how devastating the bad reactions are, and what a surprisingly helpful reaction looks like.
    And thank you for the book recommendations. My next MC…invisible chronic pain. If I can work through my issues on that, first.


  4. I loved this, Lilya! There are many books that incorporate disability representation, but not a lot of them incorporate it well. This was interesting to read.


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