From the beginning of an epic fantasy series to heartbreaking tales of teens struggling with identity and sexuality, this list runs the gamut of Young Adult fiction. We’d tell you to choose wisely, but you really should pick up all of these titles. Right now.
Some of you might recognize Anna Banks from her New York Times bestselling Of Poseidon trilogy, and Joyride is her first standalone novel. Set in her home state of Florida, Joyride introduces readers to Carly and Arden, two teens who couldn’t be more different. He’s the typical star football player; she’s the quiet, hardworking student. When their worlds collide after a botched robbery at the convenience store where Carly works, they grow close. The result is nights of pranking, rebelling against family and helping each other come to terms with their difficult situations. It’s a beautiful, swoon-filled novel with diverse, memorable characters.
Courtney Alameda’s Shutter focuses on Micheline Helsing, one of the final descendants of the Van Helsing bloodline, who runs around exorcizing ghosts with her camera. She’s what’s known as a tetrachromat, gifted with the ability to see the auras of the undead. When a curse infects Micheline and her ragtag group of friends, they only have a few days to reverse it before they’ll die. A great read for the Comic-Con crowd, Shutter will fill that Buffy the Vampire Slayer-shaped hole in your life. (Bonus: You can read an amazing short story set in Micheline’s world here.)
In Dawson’s exciting thriller, you’ll enter a world where the United States has finally paid off all its national debt … thanks to being bought out by Valor National Bank. And they aren’t a friendly company.
Valor hunts down and assassinates debtors, thanks to a lil’ bit of fine print in their credit card applications. Unfortunately for Patsy’s family, their debt is so high that she has no choice but to become an indentured assassin responsible for taking out ten names. To make things worse, most of these people aren’t strangers. Hit delivers a gripping story, and you’ll find yourself anxiously awaiting next year’s sequel.
When you discover a book that reads like a sci-fi, Young Adult The Fast and the Furious, you’ll hold it close to your heart and tell everyone you know that they need to read it. Which is what you’ll do with Tracked. Set on a planet where corporations run everything, a young street racer finds herself caught up in political intrigue and corporate corruption on an epic, universal scale. With a love triangle, dark family secrets and an imaginative, futuristic world, it’s a rip-roaring read that’s impossible to put down.
Set in a world resembling ancient Rome, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy novel of love and revenge. When a young soldier groomed to take over the oppressive, military government decides to turn his back on the regime, he collides with a young scholar determined to save her brother. He’s a soldier; she’s a slave. Together, they prepared to rebel and find their freedom. It’s a hefty book, but you’ll devour this epic tome in no time.
The jacket copy on My Heart and Other Black Holes should read “the first great cry of 2015.” Warga’s debut novel tells the heartbreaking story of two teenagers who bond while planning to commit suicide. After meeting on a message board dedicated to helping people find a partner in suicide, the teens wrestle with their inner darkness and discover there’s more to live for in each other. Peppered with pop culture references and a geeky love of physics, it will make you tear up and cheer at the same time. There’s even a film adaptation in the works.
In The Girl at Midnight, there’s magic everywhere. But everyone wanders through life oblivious to the wonders smack in front of their faces. Well, except for Echo, a lucky human who gets wrapped up in the world of the bird-like Avicen and dragon-ish Drakharin, two magical species long at war. It’s this young pickpocket who might hold the key to ending the fighting and saving the magical world. This book is a must-read for fans of fantasy novels like The Daughter of Smoke & Bone and The Mortal Instruments series.
Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us shifts perspectives, jumping back and forth in time, place and character, to tell the story of a young girl in prison, her friend in the outside world and an incredibly grizzly murder wrapped in secrets. With supernatural elements sprinkled throughout, it’s obvious why people have described the novel as Black Swan meets Orange is the New Black. It’s a haunting story of friendship, betrayal and murder that’s quite unlike anything you’ve read before.
A sweet YA romance, The Night We Said Yes introduces readers to a group of friends who cement the precious bond of high school friendship after one night of saying “yes” to absolutely everything. Two of the teens, Matt and Ella, are smitten with one another … until Matt leaves. The novel shifts from the present to the night of saying yes, detailing their love story and breakup. A lovely read about first love and high school friends, The Night We Said Yes will leave you eagerly awaiting the Lauren Gibaldi’s next novel.
David Arnold created one of the most memorable characters in YA this year: the troubled and brave Mim Malone. Taken away from her home to live with her father and stepmother, Mim is determined to return to her ailing mom in Cleveland. The resulting road trip on a Greyhound bus is packed with odd characters, twists and a lot of growing up. You’ll cry just as much as you’ll laugh, traveling along with Mim. Pick it up, before it gets made into an adorably quirky indie film. Because that is definitely where this novel is headed; I’m calling it now.
When Kristin, the typical homecoming queen, discovers she was born intersex, her world changes dramatically. Soon the whole school finds out, and Kristin must discover who her true friends are as she wrestles with her identity. Touching on issues of sexuality and bullying, None of the Above is one of those books that every teen should read.
In Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Simon is a gay teen who’s not quite out of the closet and has a sweet, online relationship with a boy named Blue. But when the class clown manages to get his hands on Simon’s private emails, things get turned upside down. Simon gets blackmailed, and his group of friends begins to fall apart. Another great novel about sexual identity, Simon introduces a three-dimensional protagonist you’ll want to reach out and hug. Pick it up for a quirky, touching read that will warm your heart.
It’s hard to write about Written in the Stars without bursting into immediate, fierce tears. You’ll understand once you’ve read this powerfully intense debut novel. Saeed’s book focuses on the story of Naila, whose parents are planning an arranged marriage for her. She can choose a lot of things in life, but her husband isn’t one of them. When Naila breaks her parents’ rules by falling in love with a boy named Saif, they trick her into attending a family vacation … complete with a wedding. This devastating love story will stick with you long after the final page.
A contemporary novel with a light sci-fi twist, More Happy Than Not reads like a Young Adult version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The book follows Aaron, a teenager who wants to undergo a memory wiping procedure to forget the fact that he’s gay. The resulting story is a moving one, touching on issues of sexuality, identity and what it means to be truly happy. The twists and turns in this one are extreme, and much like Written in the Stars and None of the Above, you’re going to want to grab tissues and let the tears flow.