Slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut novel was inspired by her experience teaching eighth grade at a school near Washington, D.C., where students told her they didn’t enjoy reading because most books didn’t include characters they could relate to. In The Poet X, which won a National Book Award in 2018, Acevedo created a protagonist just for them: Xiomara Batista is a Black, Latinx 15-year-old living in Harlem. She has “a little too much body for such a young girl,” and devoutly Catholic parents who are terrified of their daughter’s burgeoning sexuality. Using compact, intense verse, Acevedo tells a distinctly modern coming-of-age story about a young girl finding the strength to love herself. —Shay Maunz

Buy Now: The Poet X on Bookshop | Amazon

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at