The Best New YA Books of January 2023

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The Best New YA Books of January 2023

It’s a new year, and it’s likely that if you didn’t use your post-Christmas break to cut down on the (likely already substantial) list of unread books in your to-be-read pile you’re probably already regretting it, as a flood of excellent new releases has been hitting bookshelves almost non-stop since the calendar turned. (Spoiler alert: It’s not going to slow down much in February either, but that’s next month’s problem.)

The new January titles in the young adult genre are remarkably diverse and eclectic, from sweet romances to contemporary thrillers, magical fantasies, and even a period piece featuring Black teens in post-Reconstruction Chicago. Truly something for every kind of reader this month, which is in itself both a blessing and…kind of a curse. But a good one, at least.

Here are our picks for the best YA releases of January.


Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert

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Release Date: January 3 from Joy Revoluton

Why You’ll Love It: Bestselling romance author Talia Hibbert has written a YA romance. What more do we need to say? This adorable childhood besties to enemies to maybe something more story is charming from its very first pages, featuring two perfectly drawn lead characters, lots of humor, and some surprisingly deft mental health representation.

Publisher’s Description: Bradley Graeme is pretty much perfect. He’s a star football player, manages his OCD well (enough), and comes out on top in all his classes . . . except the ones he shares with his ex-best friend, Celine.

Celine Bangura is conspiracy-theory-obsessed. Social media followers eat up her takes on everything from UFOs to holiday overconsumption—yet, she’s still not cool enough for the popular kids’ table. Which is why Brad abandoned her for the in-crowd years ago. (At least, that’s how Celine sees it.)

These days, there’s nothing between them other than petty insults and academic rivalry. So when Celine signs up for a survival course in the woods, she’s surprised to find Brad right beside her.

Forced to work as a team for the chance to win a grand prize, these two teens must trudge through not just mud and dirt but their messy past. And as this adventure brings them closer together, they begin to remember the good bits of their history. But has too much time passed . . . or just enough to spark a whole new kind of relationship?


The Love Match by Priyanka Taslim

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Release Date: January 3 from Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Why You’ll Love It: Described as Pride and Prejudice meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Love Match follows the story of a Bangladeshi American teen whose meddling mother arranges a match to secure their family’s financial security—just as she’s falling in love with someone else. The story that follows, in which Zahra must choose between obligation and her own desires is charming and less predictable than most readers will expect. But author Priyanka Taslim particularly shines in her nuanced depictions of diverse Muslim identities, the pressures of South Asian familial expectations, and everyday life in a New Jersey Bengali community.

Publisher’s Description: Zahra Khan is basically Bangladeshi royalty, but being a princess doesn’t pay the bills in Paterson, New Jersey. While Zahra’s plans for financial security this summer involve working long hours at Chai Ho and saving up for college writing courses, Amma is convinced that all Zahra needs is a “good match,” Jane Austen style.

Enter Harun Emon, who’s wealthy, devastatingly handsome, and…aloof. As soon as Zahra meets him, she knows it’s a bad match. It’s nothing like the connection she has with Nayim Aktar, the new dishwasher at the tea shop, who just gets Zahra in a way no one has before. So, when Zahra finds out that Harun is just as uninterested in this match as she is, they decide to slowly sabotage their parents’ plans. And for once in Zahra’s life, she can have her rossomalai and eat it too: “dating” Harun and keeping Amma happy while catching real feelings for Nayim.

But life—and boys—can be more complicated than Zahra realizes. With her feelings all mixed up, Zahra discovers that sometimes being a good Bengali kid can be a royal pain.


A Ruinous Fate by Kaylie Smith

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Release Date: January 3 from Disney Hyperion

Why You’ll Love It: A Ruinous Fate’s unique premise, which involves witches whose lives are essentially determined by the roll of fated dice and a heroine who vows to change her future no matter the cost, makes for an intriguing series opener.

Publisher’s Description: Calliope Rosewood is a witch with a long streak of bad luck. Like all witches in Illustros, her fate is directly tied to Witch’s Dice—powerful artifacts that have blessed her kind with limitless magic but also set them on a path toward destruction. Cursed with unspeakable powers that terrify even the most dangerous witches and fae, Calla deserted her coven four years ago and has been in hiding with her two best friends since. But Calla is also hiding a grave secret: She is only three Rolls away from becoming the last Blood Warrior and starting the Final War that will decimate her people and eradicate their magic.

After a betrayal from her ex leads her one step closer to fulfilling that age-old prophecy, Calla is desperate to do whatever it takes to reset her fate . . . even if that means journeying into the deadly Neverending Forest with said ex and his enticing, yet enigmatic older brother to find the one being who can help her forge her own path. As Calla ventures farther into the enchanted woods, she finds her heart torn between her past desires and the alluring new possibilities of her future and learns that choosing your own destiny may come with deadly consequences.


Friday I’m in Love by Camryn Garrett

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Release Date: January 10 from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Why You’ll Love It: A colorful queer coming of age tale, Friday I’m In Love not only features one of the best covers hitting shelves this month, but one of the most heartfelt stories too. Having missed out on a sweet sixteen party, Black queer teen Mahalia decides to save up for an extravagant coming out party to help her reveal the truth of her sexuality to her religious mother and the end result is something deeply relatable, moving and fun. Garrett is particularly deft at depicting and discussing heavy topics— including faith, poverty, and racial and sexual identity—with a lighthearted touch.

Publisher’s Description: Mahalia Harris wants.

She wants a big Sweet Sixteen like her best friend Naomi.
She wants the super cute new girl Siobhan to like her back.
She wants a break from worrying—about money, snide remarks from white classmates, pitying looks from church ladies . . . all of it.

Then inspiration strikes: It’s too late for a Sweet Sixteen, but what if she had a Coming Out Party? A singing, dancing, rainbow-cake-eating celebration of queerness on her own terms.

The idea lights a fire in her, and soon Mahalia is scrimping and saving, taking on extra hours at her afterschool job, trying on dresses, and awkwardly flirting with Siobhan, all in preparation for the Coming Out of her dreams. But it’s not long before she’s buried in a mountain of bills, unfinished schoolwork, and enough drama to make her English Lit teacher blush. With all the responsibility on her shoulders, will Mahalia’s party be over before it’s even begun?


The Fraud Squad by Kyla Zhao

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Release Date: January 17 from Berkley

Why You’ll Love It: Kyla Zhao’s new spin on My Fair Lady updates the story’s setting to Singapore and follows the story of Sam, a PR pro with a working class background who longs to be a reporter for a high society magazine. But when she meets hedge fund heir Timothy Kingston, she comes up with a scheme to convince him to help turn her into a socialite, in the hopes that she’ll catapult herself in into the editorial offices of S Magazine by pretending she’s the sort of person who belongs there.

Publisher’s Description: For as long as she can remember, Samantha Song has dreamed of writing for a high-society magazine—and she’d do anything to get there. But the constant struggle to help her mom make ends meet and her low social status cause her dream to feel like a distant fantasy.

Now Samantha finds herself working at a drab PR firm. Living vicariously through her wealthy coworker and friend, Anya Chen, is the closest she’ll get to her ideal life. Until she meets Timothy Kingston: the disillusioned son of one of Singapore’s elite families—and Samantha’s one chance at infiltrating the high-society world to which she desperately wants to belong.

To Samantha’s surprise, Timothy and Anya both agree to help her make a name for herself on Singapore’s socialite scene. But the borrowed designer clothes and plus-ones to every glamorous event can only get her so far. The rest is on Samantha, and she’s determined to impress the editor in chief of Singapore’s poshest magazine. But the deeper Samantha wades into this fraud, the more she fears being exposed—especially with a mysterious gossip columnist on the prowl for dirt—forcing her to reconcile her pretense with who she really is before she loses it all.


Mysteries of Thorn Manor by Margaret Rogerson

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Release Date: January 17 from Margaret K. McElderry Books

Why You’ll Love It: If you loved Margaret Rogerson’s Sorcery of Thorns you’ll be over the moon for this cozy companion novella, which features Elisabeth and Nathaniel six months later, attempting to put a label on their relationship and solve the mystery of his semi-sentient wizards’ mansion that seems to get cranky whenever they get too close.

Publisher’s Description: Elisabeth Scrivener is finally settling into her new life with sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Now that their demon companion Silas has returned, so has scrutiny from nosy reporters hungry for gossip about the city’s most powerful sorcerer and the librarian who stole his heart. But something strange is afoot at Thorn Manor: the estate’s wards, which are meant to keep their home safe, are acting up and forcibly trapping the Manor’s occupants inside. Surely it must be a coincidence that this happened just as Nathaniel and Elisabeth started getting closer to one another…

With no access to the outside world, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas – along with their new maid Mercy – will have to work together to discover the source of the magic behind the malfunctioning wards before they’re due to host the city’s Midwinter Ball. Not an easy task when the house is filled with unexpected secrets, and all Elisabeth can think about is kissing Nathaniel in peace. But when it becomes clear that the house, influenced by the magic of Nathaniel’s ancestors, requires a price for its obedience, Elisabeth and Nathaniel will have to lean on their connection like never before to set things right.


Begin Again by Emma Lord

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Release Date: January 24 from Wednesday Books

Why You’ll Love It: The latest book from the author of Tweet Cute and Whend You Get the Chance os a charming contemporary YA romance that follows the story of Andie, whose plans to transfer from her community college to the state school her boyfriend attends are thrown into chaos when he, Gift of the Magi-style, transfers to the institution she’d been attending. Now on her own at Blue Ridge State, Andie will have to navigate all the pressures of campus life, as she tries to figure out who she is—and who she wants to be. (With a little help from a cute RA).

Publisher’s Description: As usual, Andie Rose has a plan: Transfer from community college to the hyper competitive Blue Ridge State, major in psychology, and maintain her lifelong goal of becoming an iconic self-help figure despite the nerves that have recently thrown her for a loop. All it will take is ruthless organization, hard work, and her trademark unrelenting enthusiasm to pull it all together.

But the moment Andie arrives, the rest of her plans go off the rails. Her rocky relationship with her boyfriend Connor only gets more complicated when she discovers he transferred out of Blue Ridge to her community college. Her roommate Shay needs a major, and despite Andie’s impressive track record of being The Fixer, she’s stumped on how to help. And Milo, her coffee-guzzling grump of an R.A. with seafoam green eyes, is somehow disrupting all her ideas about love and relationships one sleep-deprived wisecrack at a time.

But sometimes, when all your plans are in rubble at your feet, you find out what you’re made of. And when Andie starts to find the power of her voice as the anonymous Squire on the school’s legendary pirate radio station-the same one her mom founded, years before she passed away-Andie learns that not all the best laid plans are necessarily the right ones.


The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

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Release Date: January 31 from Delacorte Press

Why You’ll Love It: A gripping thriller that is labeled as perfect for fans of Tiffany Jackson, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé and Zakiya Dalila Harris, The Black Queen not only offers a propulsive mystery but a deft exploration of the intersections between privilege, perspective, and justice. (You can also get a look at an excerpt from the story right here on Paste!)

Publisher’s Description: Nova Albright, the first Black homecoming queen at Lovett High, is dead. Murdered the night of her coronation, her body found the next morning in the old slave cemetery she spent her weekends rehabilitating.

Tinsley McArthur was supposed to be queen. Not only is she beautiful, wealthy, and white, it’s her legacy—her grandmother, her mother, and even her sister wore the crown before her. Everyone in Lovett knows Tinsley would do anything to carry on the McArthur tradition.

No one is more certain of that than Duchess Simmons, Nova’s best friend. Duchess’s father is the first Black police captain in Lovett. For Duchess, Nova’s crown was more than just a win for Nova. It was a win for all the Black kids. Now her best friend is dead, and her father won’t face the fact that the main suspect is right in front of him. Duchess is convinced that Tinsley killed Nova—and that Tinsley is privileged enough to think she can get away with it. But Duchess’s father seems to be doing what he always does: fall behind the blue line. Which means that the white girl is going to walk.

Duchess is determined to prove Tinsley’s guilt. And to do that, she’ll have to get close to her.

But Tinsley has an agenda, too.


The Davenports by Krystal Marquis

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Release Date: January 31 from Dial Books

Why You’ll Love It: A rare historical YA novel focused on the Black experience in early twentieth-century America, The Davenports follows the story of a group of teens navigating classism, familial expectations, gender norms, and racism in 1910 Chicago. Absolutely unlike anything else you’ll read this month — and, honestly, over the course of this year.

Publisher’s Description: The Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in a changing United States, their fortune made through the entrepreneurship of William Davenport, a formerly enslaved man who founded the Davenport Carriage Company years ago. Now it’s 1910, and the Davenports live surrounded by servants, crystal chandeliers, and endless parties, finding their way and finding love—even where they’re not supposed to.

There is Olivia, the beautiful elder Davenport daughter, ready to do her duty by getting married . . . until she meets the charismatic civil rights leader Washington DeWight and sparks fly. The younger daughter, Helen, is more interested in fixing cars than falling in love—unless it’s with her sister’s suitor. Amy-Rose, the childhood friend turned maid to the Davenport sisters, dreams of opening her own business—and marrying the one man she could never be with, Olivia and Helen’s brother, John. But Olivia’s best friend, Ruby, also has her sights set on John Davenport, though she can’t seem to keep his interest . . . until family pressure has her scheming to win his heart, just as someone else wins hers.

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.

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