Happy World Book Day!
Covering everything from mental health and diversity to the challenges of growing up, young adult is an important and educative genre. Young adult fiction (often abbreviated as YA) is currently at it’s peak. There are new and exciting books released by relevant and diverse authors every month. It may be marketed to the young, but there’s something for everyone. Here are 20 young adult books you can read right now!
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
The Hate U Give is my favourite young adult novel. There’s no doubt about it. Anything Angie Thomas writes turns to gold. It’s a best-seller for a reason, and is a title every teen should get the chance to read. With an educating and thrilling plot, memorable characters and an important message, it’s a great book to read this year.
By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”
But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”
Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?
This book examines difficult topics and answers questions a lot of people are afraid to ask. It celebrates black culture, while illustrating the harshness of the world and it’s prejudices. SLAY has been described as “Black Panther meets Ready Player One”, so if you like comics and books of that genre, this story is for you.
It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.
Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.
But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.
Realistic fiction written in a beautiful way. This amazing book not only exposes you to the realities of the world we live in, but also makes you think twice about the people living in it. If there’s a YA story that’s going to open your mind that little bit more, it’s A Very Large Expanse of Sea.
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.
Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.
When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.
Emergency Contact has one of my very favourite book covers, it’s just so pretty! This is one of those stories that I can look back on, and remember how happy it made me. It has relatable characters, an engaging plot and a sweet romance to make the perfect book.
When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack
But then Kate dies. And their story should end there
Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind
Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.
Opposite of Always is a great debut, and the thing that made me love the book the most was the characters. They were compelling, realistic and charming. Jack and Kate’s chemistry and conversations is what made me really enjoy the overall story, and the time travel is a refreshing twist on a familiar tale.
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?
It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.
In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?
Julie Buxbaum is a phenomenal author. If you’re looking for the most adorable meet cute wrapped in a well-crafted, meaningful story, then read Tell Me Three Things. It’s the perfect summer read, and a feel-good contemporary book that’s light and enjoyable to read.
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
Like Everything, Everything, this book is the type of story you can breeze through in an entire day without taking a break. Nicola Yoon has a magical way of describing thoughts and feelings. There are questions in there that make you step back and think, which is really nice for a YA novel. Plus, extra points for diversity!
High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.
Like his wife, David Yoon brings a refreshing wave of diversity to his stories. The fascinating thing about this book is how the reader learns more about Korean culture and what life is like for a second generation American. It dives into first loves, teen life and the struggle of identity in a meaningful way.
The first time Elliott Youngblood spots Catherine Calhoun, he’s just a boy with a camera, and he’s never seen a sadder and more beautiful sight. Both Elliott and Catherine feel like outcasts, yet they find an easy friendship with each other. But when Catherine needs him most, Elliott is forced to leave town.
Elliott finally returns, but he and Catherine are now different people. He’s a star high school athlete, and she spends all her free time working at her mother’s mysterious bed-and-breakfast. Catherine hasn’t forgiven Elliott for abandoning her, but he’s determined to win back her friendship…and her heart.
Just when Catherine is ready to fully trust Elliott, he becomes the prime suspect in a local tragedy. Despite the town’s growing suspicions, Catherine clings to her love for Elliott. But a devastating secret that Catherine has buried could destroy whatever chance of happiness they have left.
In my opinion, All the Little Lights is extremely underrated. The characters and sophisticated plot are skilfully woven together to make a really captivating story. The love story between Catherine and Elliott is really sweet to read, but the mystery is what makes this book so exciting.
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
While All the Bright Places isn’t my favourite book, it’s still one I’d recommend. The one thing that saved this book was the author’s fantastic writing style and the character Violet. If you’ve seen the Netflix adaptation, you likely already know the ending to this heartbreaking story. Still, it’s a good one to add to the library.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed.
But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh.
As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.
This book has everything a young adult romance needs: hilarious conversations, cheesy rom-com lines, and Peter Kavinsky. It’s the love story that dominated Netflix during summer 2018, and the book series is just as good (possibly better) than the films.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan..
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Fangirl was one of the first young adult books I read, and it’s still vivid in my mind. Cath is the kind of character you want to make your best friend, and as you follow her through this novel, you’ll feel like she already is. It has an entire universe of it’s own, and reading this book will immediately make you Rainbow Rowell’s fangirl.
Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
TFIOS was the first book that made me cry, and the book that introduced me to John Green. It grew incredibly popular after it’s 2012 release, and is still just as relevant today. The coming of age book brings a story of love, loss, bravery, hope and grief, all wrapped into 300 pages. Once you start reading, you won’t stop!
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Collins delivers equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, in this searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.
The Hunger Games will always be one of those OG books that can be re-read and re-read, even though you know the entire plot by heart. The adventure will not disappoint, and the strong female lead is inspiring. You’ll fall in love with Katniss as the narrator and find yourself captured in the world of the Games after the first chapter. Side note, Gale deserves better.
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.
Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor.
Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.
Eleanor & Park was the book everyone around me was reading in high school, and I wish I had read it sooner. It’s a really gratifying story of first love while covering some of the heavier subjects teens face in life. Rainbow Rowell’s writing continues to delight in this likeable book.
This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power. Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.
Victoria Aveyard is a YA, fantasy, historical, adventure and apocalyptic fan, and that translates in her writing. Red Queen is a fast-paced book full of major twists and thrilling characters. While many believe this book to be predictable, I still think it’s worth the read. If you’re a fan of Red Rising, you’ll likely enjoy this book too.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
–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 never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him.
An authentic, honest, and realistic love story. It’s adorable in every way, even though it covers the heavier subjects like disability, chronic illness, ableism, and betrayal. Both characters are well-developed from start to finish, and are some of the most realistic and human characters I’ve come across in YA fiction.
Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.
Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.
Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.
First thing to note, the book is way better than the film. The book is based on the author’s experience after spending time in a psychiatric hospital. It’s a fascinating, eye-opening, and emotional story, and even more heartbreaking when you learn of the author’s life story.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.
One of the best YA mystery thrillers available right now. This book became so popular the author created a sequel that was released earlier this year. It’s described as “The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars” and I couldn’t think of a better description. The secrets alone will hook you.
Two young people are forced to make a stand in this thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society.
Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum — a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?
Malorie Blackman is the queen of thought-provoking young adult fiction. Her entire Noughts & Crosses series should be on this list, but let’s start with the very first book. The interesting premise really carries the story, with many comparing it to Divergent and The Hunger Games. It’s forbidden romance, but without the cheese.
What’s your favourite young adult book? Don’t forget to check out the rest of my book-related posts!