We’re not ashamed to admit that we read YA novels even though we’re (well) past our formative years—and considering the epic successes of the Twilight, Hunger Games, and Divergent series, we’re clearly not alone.
Our early adulthood years shape who we are more than any other time. It’s no wonder so many people want to revisit that era when they’re old enough to actually have some perspective.
The new releases here all tackle complicated issues alongside the already tough lessons growing up brings. Thoughtfully written and engaging, the books on this list are ones you won’t regret immersing yourself in.
Don't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche
LaMarche weaves important conversations about race and social class into a juicy storyline, making it a must-read that couldn't be more timely. The two protagonists lead very different lives: Michelle is black, lives in inner-city Baltimore, and is struggling to take care of her two siblings while her mom is in jail. Leah is white, lives in the Maryland suburbs, and, along with her brother, is focused on getting into a good college. The two teens are brought together when they learn their shared biological father, who abandoned them both when they were kids, is dying. No matter your background, this book will effect you.
Courtesy of Random House
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Maddy is suffering from a rare autoimmune disorder and is basically allergic to the outside world. She sees little reason to venture outside anyway—that is, until she gets a glimpse of the new guy who moves in next door. Maddy risks her life to get to know him, and it just may inspire you to go outside your comfort zone a bit more too.
Courtesy of Delacarta Press
Weird Girl and What's His Name by Meagan Brothers
There have been a lot of noteworthy LGBT YA novels hitting the market lately, but Weird Girl and What's His Name is one of the most complex and touching. Lula and Rory are best friends growing up in a small town in North Carolina. Lula tells Rory everything, and she thinks she knows all of his secrets, too, including when he figured out he was gay. But then she learns a few truth bombs Rory has kept hidden, and it not only disrupts their friendship but starts making her question her own sexuality.
Courtesy of Three Rooms Press
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Rowell's first foray into fantasy, Carry On features Simon Snow (a character from her book Fangirl), who has been chosen against his will to fight an epic battle. He's ill-prepared for it and is trying to deal with normal teen stuff like breakups and school at the same time. Rowell has said part of what inspired the book was the idea that each generation is assigned battles to fight that they might not have necessarily chosen. Carry On will have you revisiting the decisions you made in early adulthood and will raise questions about who inspired the path you took and why.
Courtesy of St. Martin's Griffin
I Crawl Through It by A. S. King
This book dissects how people cope with trauma and get on with life—which is far from simplistic. It features four teens who exist as abstracts of their emotional states. One girl swallows herself. Another girl is split in two. The teens deal with anxieties that have become unfortunately commonplace today such as bomb threats, isolation, and sexual assault. The plot is twisted, but you'll be glad you stuck with it.
Courtesy of Little Brown and Company
A Step Towards Falling by Cammie McGovern
Almost everyone will be able to relate to the protagonist in McGovern's buzzy debut YA novel. Emily is a typical high schooler who has a pretty good track record for doing the right thing. But one day, when Emily and her boyfriend see Belinda, a learning-disabled girl who goes to their school, getting bullied, they don't do anything. As punishment, the two have to do volunteer work helping disabled people. Emily really benefits from it, but she can't get Belinda to forgive her. What is the price of forgiveness? Is it worth it? By the end of the book, you may have the answers.
Courtesy of Harper Collins McGovern
Another Day by David Levithan
Levithan has a reputation for penning YA novels that stay with you long after you finish reading them, and Another Day is no different. Rhiannon is used to her boyfriend taking her for granted; the problem is, she lacks the self-esteem to know she deserves better. One day, everything changes, and her boyfriend is attentive, thoughtful, and loving. But the next, everything goes back to the way it was—and, worse, her boyfriend doesn't even remember acting differently. Then Rhiannon learns that the person who treated her well wasn't her boyfriend at all. A YA tale wise beyond its label, this book dissects what it means to love and to be loved.
Courtesy of Knopf Books For Young Readers
Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian
Few of the LGBT books being released explore bisexuality, making this title even more anticipated. It's about a teen boy who is attracted to his girlfriend and also his male best friend. While he's trying to make sense of his sexuality, he's faced with other obstacles, like family problems and school. How long can he keep his secret? How does he know what he really wants? Figuring out who you are is never easy, but this takes it to a whole new level.
Courtesy of Harper Collins
Future Perfect by Jen Larsen
This novel tackles the touchy subject of weight and raises a question readers of all sizes can relate to: How far would you go to make others happy? In the book, Ashley is overweight, and she's OK with it. Her grandmother, on the other hand, isn't, and she makes it known on a regular basis. When her grandmother offers to pay Ashley's full college tuition under the condition that she lose weight, Ashley can't say no to the money. To outsiders, losing weight and free tuition seems like a win-win. But this book shows how losing weight is much more complicated—and connected to happiness.
Courtesy of Harper Teen
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Ness nails what it's like to overanalyze everything from sex and friendship to where your life is going, while still dealing with the things that make everyday life tough. For the protagonist in this book, those everyday things are having an obsessive-compulsive disorder, a drunk dad, a mom who works too much, and a sister with an eating disorder.
Courtesy of Harper Collins