This curated list offers a closer look at examples of recent developments in YA fiction, including fantasy titles featuring diverse or underrepresented characters, gender-bent or LGBTQ retellings of classics, and “clean teen” stories.
Fantasy Featuring Underrepresented Characters
Renee Ahdieh (Putnam, out now)
In this mystery series starter, 17-year-old Celine, whose father is white and whose mother is East Asian, arrives in 1872 New Orleans during carnival season and is swept up into an underworld swirl of murder and vampires.
Linsey Miller (Sourcebooks Fire, Feb. 2020)
Two young women work together in secret to end a war caused by magic and greed. The story features an asexual lead character as well as a transgender character.
Beyond the Black Door
A.M. Strickland (Imprint, out now)
Soulwalker Kamai, who can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep, struggles with her sexual identity as she is drawn to two different men in her life and eventually accepts her asexuality.
The Bone Houses
Emily Lloyd-Jones (Little, Brown, out now)
This story of how 17-year-old Ryn and her siblings struggle to keep their family’s remote village graveyard going after their parents die includes a character who experiences chronic pain.
Brown Girl Ghosted
Mintie Das (Versify, Mar. 2020)
When her best friend ends up dead after a sex tape scandal, Violet, who has a knack for seeing spirits and is one of the few brown girls in her small town, searches for the killer.
Aiden Thomas (Swoon, June 2020)
A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave.
This Coven Won’t Break
Isabel Sterling (Razorbill, June 2020)
In the sequel to These Witches Don’t Burn, Hannah (who escaped from a murderous witch hunter over the summer) and her new girlfriend, Morgan, try to defeat the growing band of Hunters intent on stealing their magic.
Nina Varela (HarperTeen, out now)
This novel begins an #OwnVoices debut duology about an impossible love between two girls, one human and one “Made.”
The Deck of Omens
Christine Lynn Herman
(Disney-Hyperion, Apr. 2020)
The follow-up to The Devouring Gray brings readers back to Four Paths, N.Y., where the supernatural is a part of everyday life and a cast including LGBTQ characters faces a new threat.
A Dream So Dark
L.L. McKinney (Imprint, out now)
This novel continues McKinney’s Nightmare-Verse series, which twists the classic Alice in Wonderland tale to star a black Alice in modern-day Atlanta on a mission to prevent the Red Lady’s rise.
Empress of Flames
Mimi Yu (Bloomsbury, May 2020)
“This particular fantasy is loosely inspired by China’s Qing Dynasty, among other North and Central Asian influences, and Mimi thoughtfully incorporated her passions and research to inspire her worldbuilding and the elements of her fantasy,” says Sarah Shumway, executive editor at Bloomsbury Children’s Books.
T.J. Klune (Tor Teen, May 2020)
“One of my favorite things about —a contemporary fantasy and queer romance between a superhero fanboy with ADHD and his superhero crush—is that it doesn’t just have one or two queer characters, it has a large cast full of queer teenagers—and super-
heroes!—who are all out and comfortable with themselves,” says senior editor Ali Fisher. “And the character managing ADHD is the POV character, so readers get a window into that thought process.”
Faith: Taking Flight
Julie Murphy (HC/Balzer + Bray, July 2020)
This novel begins a two-book origin story of Valiant Entertainment Comics’ plus-size superhero, Faith. “There is something so exciting about a superhero who doesn’t look like the typical superheroes we saw in books and movies growing up,” says Alessandra Balzer, v-p and copublisher of Balzer + Bray. “We need this representation. It’s showing young readers that all bodies are capable of incredible things. One cool thing we’ll be doing is partnering with body-positive influencers on a social campaign that will feature a custom mailing of fun Faith-themed promo items.”
Forest of Souls
Lori M. Lee (Page Street, June 2020)
“I was looking for something I’d call a ‘friendship fantasy,’ a story centering on a friendship rather than a romantic pairing,” says Page Street editor Ashley Hearn. “Forest of Souls absolutely fit the bill, as the relationship driving the story forward is the sisterhood between Sirscha and her best friend Saengo. I was also drawn to the classic adventure fantasy feel—can you say ‘flightless dragons’?!—and the horror elements sprinkled in via the bloodthirsty Dead Wood. I also appreciated how this book features Asian-coded characters in a more ‘Western-style’ fantasy, as Lori takes great care to show how diaspora kids should be able to see themselves in all stories, not just their own cultural narratives.”
Ghost Wood Song
Erica Waters (HarperTeen, July 2020)
This novel follows Shady as she struggles to choose between the banjo-playing girl of her dreams and the rodeo boy trying to win her heart. The trio forms a bluegrass band and searches for the ghost-raising fiddle that belonged to Shady’s father so they can solve a mystery.
Girl of Storm and Shadow
Natasha Ngan (LB/Patterson, Nov.)
The sequel to Girls of Paper and Fire continues a queer love story with an entirely Asian cast, created by an LGBTQ author who identifies as Chinese Malaysian/Chinese British.
The Good Hawk
Joseph Elliott (Walker Books US, Jan. 2020)
In book one of a planned trilogy, debut author Elliott spotlights a fantasy protagonist with Down syndrome in a mythic Scotland. “I was immediately drawn to Agatha, a main character in the book who has Down syndrome,” says Susan van Metre, executive editorial director of Walker Books US. “She is so brave and goodhearted and loyal and funny, but is living among some people who see her as a danger to her community; of course, having a heroic nature, she proves invaluable instead. I’d never met a character like her in fantasy, and yet she is exactly the sort of character I most like.”
The Good Luck Girls
Charlotte Nicole Davis (Tor Teen, out now)
African-American teens feature in a Wild West adventure that addresses LGBTQ themes. “It’s set in a fantasy version of the Old West, and Charlotte talks a lot about how she was never into westerns growing up because she never saw characters that looked like her in them, or if she did, they were often in the villain role,” says senior editor Melissa Frain. “But the reality is that the Old West was much less white than traditional westerns would have you believe, and with this book, she wanted to have characters like her be the heroes of some of those classic tropes—the ghost towns, the bank robberies.”
Heart of Flames
Nicki Pau Preto (Simon Pulse, Feb. 2020)
The second Crown of Feathers installment spotlights gay, pansexual, and asexual characters in a tale about Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev’s efforts to stop the advancing empire from destroying the Phoenix Riders.
A Heart So Fierce and Broken
Brigid Kemmerer (Bloomsbury, Jan. 2020)
This novel continues the series begun with A Curse So Dark and Lovely, which is a contemporary retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” and includes a major character who has cerebral palsy.
Hunted by the Sky
Tanaz Bhathena (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, June 2020)
This is the first installment of a duology rooted in Indian culture which addresses race, identity, class, and high-stakes romance in a restrictive society.
Zoraida Córdova (Disney-Hyperion, Apr. 2020)
This series starter spotlights POC characters and takes place in a world inspired by Inquisition-era Spain.
The Infinite Noise
Lauren Shippen (Tor Teen, out now)
Shippen’s The Bright Sessions podcast sparked the idea for her YA debut, which showcases LGBTQ and diversity themes and teens with supernatural abilities.
Adam Silvera (HarperTeen, Jan. 2020)
This novel tells the story of two brothers caught up in a magical war and features queer and Latinx characters.
Ink in the Blood
Kim Smejkal (HMH, Feb. 2020)
In a world with two magic systems, gender identity and sexual orientation are widely accepted as fluid. This title features pan, ace, nonbinary, and trans characters, as well as on-the-page representation of m/m, f/f, and nb/m romance.
The Iron Will of Genie Lo
F.C. Lee (Amulet, Jan. 2020)
This novel features Chinese-American protagonists and Chinese mythology. “Readers of The Epic Crush of Genie Lo (book one in the series) seemed particularly excited to see the legend of the Monkey King (Sun Wukong) come to life through brash, pull-no-punches Genie Lo,” says Anne Heltzel, executive editor at Amulet. “As far as I know, Sun Wukong’s story doesn’t exist in YA outside of this series. And I think those who related to Genie’s relationship with her overbearing mother found the humorous take on a familiar dynamic refreshing.”
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea
Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Candlewick, May 2020)
This novel spotlights queer protagonists of color and nonbinary characters in the story of a desperate orphan girl disguised as a man who falls for the imperial Lady Evelyn Hasegawa while they are aboard a pirate ship. “I jumped at the chance to acquire it—it’s truly fresh and unique, and already has become a prepublication favorite in-house across Candlewick and Walker,” says Karen Lotz, president and publisher of Candlewick Press. “Maggie’s protagonists explore gender identity and romance in a setting threaded with many beloved tropes—pirates, mermaids, and witches—as well as classic literary themes, including class-based conflict and a gendered social order. And she weaves all this, plus her highly relatable characters, into an action-packed story line that will appeal to both fantasy and genre adventure fans.”
The Midnight Lie
Marie Rutkoski (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Mar. 2020)
This novel presents an LGBTQ fantasy romance set in the world of the author’s Winner’s trilogy.
The Notorious Virtues
Alwyn Hamilton (Viking, May 2020)
The first in a trilogy set in the same fantasy world of Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands books focuses on the younger generation of a powerful family that controls the magic keeping a society safe from the dangers of the forest. The story includes mixed-race characters.
Maya Motayne (HC/Balzer + Bray, June 2020)
In the sequel to Nocturna, set in a world inspired by the author’s Dominican heritage, a face-changing thief and a risk-taking prince must team up to save their kingdom’s mother tongue, the source of their magic.
Out of Salem
Hal Schrieve (Seven Stories, out now)
Fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth, a talented witch, must adjust to their new status as a zombie after awaking from a tragic car crash that killed the rest of their family. The novel was longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
A Phoenix First Must Burn
Edited by Patrice Caldwell (Viking, Mar. 2020)
Sixteen noted YA authors share tales of the black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic. The collection features a variety of queer and non-binary characters as well as contributors.
Queen of Nothing
Holly Black (Little, Brown, Nov.)
Jude’s half-Faerie sister Vivi is a lesbian in a relationship with a mortal girl. Vivi has to deal with a constant sense of being in between—in between the mortal and Faerie worlds, as well as in between the straight and queer worlds before she comes out and admits to her sisters that she is dating a girl.
Akwaeke Emezi (Make Me a World, out now)
Emezi’s debut novel explores themes of identity and justice in a tale where Jam tries to answer the question: how do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist? “Akwaeke has introduced a trans girl character and the book is really nothing to do with being trans, so it’s that perfect moment of casual diversity, and yet it’s very deeply rooted in Akwaeke’s being and everything that they want to achieve with their fiction,” says Melanie Nolan, v-p and publishing director at Knopf. “The story is truly creepy and enlightening, and it’s wonderful to see a character come out from the definition of marginalized and just simply own their right in the story.” The book is a National Book Award finalist.
Jordan Ifueko (Amulet, Apr. 2020)
Ifueko’s debut is based on West African traditions and mythology. “Jordan has created a heroine who has magic and a destiny to fulfill, or resist, but she’s also a girl whose mother never gave her the love and affection she craved,” says Maggie Lehrman, editorial director of fiction at Amulet. “She’s deeply human, while also using her magic and abilities to help rule an empire. It’s a compelling combination. Jordan’s dedication in Raybearer is ‘For the kid scanning fairy tales for a hero with a face like theirs’—another reason I think this will particularly resonate.”
Red Skies Falling
Alex London (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, out now)
The second volume of the Skybound Saga trilogy features a queer boy who finds his strength through gentleness, and an asexual girl who finds hers through anger and speaking out.
A River of Royal Blood
Amanda Joy (Putnam, Oct.)
In Joy’s debut, a North-African-inspired fantasy world is the backdrop for 16-year-old Eva’s battle to the death with her older sister Isa to see which sibling will ascend to the Ivory Throne.
Kat Leyh (First Second, Feb. 2020)
A girl named Snap befriends her town’s witch and discovers that the old woman may have real magical power, and a connection to Snap’s family history. The graphic novel includes characters of color and a wide range of sexual identities.
A Song Below Water
Bethany C. Morrow (Tor Teen, June 2020)
In Portland, two black teenage girls who are best friends discover their magical identities amid the challenges of racism and sexism. This title also includes #SayHerName themes.
Song of the Crimson Flower
Julie C. Dao (Philomel, Nov.)
Dao creates an East-Asian inspired fantasy world for a romantic, magical adventure.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
Roseanne A. Brown (HC/Balzer + Bray, June 2020)
Brown weaves folklore and traditions from her West African heritage into this tale in which a crown princess and a refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder despite their growing attraction to each other.
Shveta Thakrar (HarperTeen, Aug. 2020)
Set in a celestial kingdom inspired by the author’s Hindu culture, this debut features a half-mortal, half-star girl who must go to the starry court to find her star mother and win a competition to save her human father’s life.
Natalie C. Parker (Razorbill, out now)
Parker’s follow-up to Seafire spotlights LGBTQ characters and follows Caledonia, the captain of an all-female ship, who must recruit new allies to continue her battle against vicious warlord Aric.
The Stone of Sorrow
Brooke Carter (Orca, Apr. 2020)
Follows Runa, a strong-willed 17-year-old in ancient Iceland who embarks on a dangerous mission to save her sister and win back the mystical blue moonstone that ensures their village’s survival. The fantasy includes a nonbinary Valkyrie and key characters in a f/f relationship.
Storm the Earth
Rebecca Kim Wells (Simon & Schuster, Aug. 2020)
Maren and her girlfriend Kaia set out to rescue Sev and free the dragons from the corrupt emperor in this finale to the journey that began with Shatter the Sky.
The Storm of Life
Amy Rose Capetta (Viking, Jan. 2020)
The conclusion to Capetta’s gender-fluid, Italian-inspired duology finds Teo and her love Cielo in danger as Teo uses her power over magic to rally comrades and try to take down the Capo, the dictator-like ruler of their country.
Kass Morgan (Little, Brown, out now)
Heartbroken Aran, a gay student at the Quatra Fleet Academy, throws himself into a crush on another boy from back home.
Tarnished Are the Stars
Rosiee Thor (Scholastic Press, out now)
“Anna is bisexual, Eliza is a lesbian, and Nathaniel learns that he might be asexual/aromantic,” says editor Orlando Dos Reis. “In fact, Eliza introduces him to these terms, reflecting a larger theme that language shapes reality. What I love about this story is that its subtle focus on the importance of language reflects the larger movement we’re seeing in the LGBTQ+ community. From the acronym itself expanding to include more identities to awareness of gender-neutral pronouns, we’re seeing language evolve all over the world to better represent LGBTQ+ people. I think we’ve gotten to a point in YA where we know that representation matters, but this is just one example of how LGBTQ+ books are diving deeper and showing readers exactly how and why.”
The Tenth Girl
Sara Faring (Imprint, out now)
This gothic psychological thriller stars an Argentine heroine and is influenced by Patagonian mythology.
Rainbow Rowell (Wednesday, out now)
Simon Snow, the Watford School of Magicks student who saved the day in Carry On, returns in a magical road trip across the American West with his boyfriend Baz and their friend Penny.
We Free the Stars
Hafsah Faizal (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 2020)
Zafira continues the fight she began in We Hunt the Flame when she masqueraded as a man to restore magic to her people in their alt-Arabian world.
When We Were Magic
Sarah Galley (Simon Pulse, Mar. 2020)
On prom night, Alex and her three best friends, all of whom have witchy magic powers, try to right a tragic wrong, but their attempts go awry. The story introduces a f/f romance, a gender-fluid character, and a main character who is Muslim.
Wicked as You Wish
Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks Fire, Mar. 2020)
Launching the A Hundred Names for Magic series, is focused on a Filipino family and features a nonbinary main character.
Witches of Ash and Ruin
E. Lattimer (Freeform, Mar. 2020)
In contemporary Ireland, 17-year-old Dayna copes with the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative town as she prepares to finally become a full witch and a dangerous new coven arrives on the scene.
Woven in Moonlight
Isabel Ibañez (Page Street, Jan. 2020)
“Woven in Moonlight hooked me from the pitch: ‘undercover Condesa weaves resistance tapestries with moonlight,’ ” says Page Street editor Ashley Hearn. “I deeply appreciated how she artfully blends Bolivian politics and culture into the foreground and background of this gorgeously rendered world.”
Gender-Bent/LGBTQ Retellings of Classics
Blood Countess (A Lady Slayers Novel)
(Amulet, Jan. 2020)
A YA historical novel based on the infamous 17th-century female serial killer and real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula.
Bright Raven Skies
Kristina Perez (Imprint, Aug. 2020)
This novel reframes “Tristan and Iseult” as a love triangle with Bronwen, a young woman with magical healing powers.
Cinderella Is Dead
Kalynn Bayron (Bloomsbury, July 2020)
In the kingdom where Cinderella found her prince 200 years ago, 16-year-old Sophia teams up with the last known descendant of Cinderella and her stepsisters to take down the king who requires girls to attend the Annual Ball where the local men select their wives and those not chosen disappear. “The book forces readers to think hard about the tales they’ve been told, to think deeper about the circumstances that originated them, and then decide for themselves if they want to believe in the standards set forth by those tales,” says Mary Kate Castellani, executive editor at Bloomsbury Children’s Books. “Hint: you don’t have to believe what you’ve always been told.”
The Circus Rose
Betsy Cornwell (Clarion, June 2020)
Twin sisters who have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family in this queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red.”
Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Melissa Bashardoust.(Flatiron, May 2020)
This novel is a retelling of the Persian myth The Shahnameh with influences from Rappaccini’s Daughter and “Sleeping Beauty.”
His Hideous Heart
Edited by Dahlia Adler (Flatiron, out now)
This anthology reinterprets 13 of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales from the perspectives of a diverse cast of characters created by 13 noted YA authors.
Jenny Elder Moke (Disney-Hyperion, May 2020)
This novel focuses on Robin Hood and Maid Marien’s daughter Isabelle, who joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a battle against a ruthless villain.
The Last True Poets of the Sea
Julia Drake (Disney-Hyperion, out now)
While her younger brother is in treatment following a suicide attempt, Violet embarks on a mission to locate the shipwreck that their great-great-great-grandmother survived decades ago off the coast of Maine. This tale is inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and features LGBTQ characters.
Only Mostly Devastated
Sophie Gonzalez (Wednesday, Mar. 2020)
Ollie meets his dream guy Will over summer break in this queer take on Grease.
The Princess Will Save You
Sarah Henning (Tor Teen, July 2020)
This novel offers a gender-bent retelling of The Princess Bride in which a princess’s commoner true love is kidnapped to coerce her into a political marriage.
Robyn Hood: Outlaw
Howard Mackie (Zenescope, Feb. 2020)
The third entry in this series finds Robyn in New York, where she becomes public enemy number one as she tries to solve the mystery of who attacked her friend.
B.R. Meyers (Swoon, Jan. 2020)
This novel reimagines “Cinderella” as a gender-swapped sci-fi/romance/adventure tale.
Scavenge the Stars
Tara Sim (Disney-Hyperion, Jan. 2020)
This gender-swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo kicks off a duology starring a courageous, knife-wielding heroine bent on revenge.
Seven Endless Forests
April Genevieve Tucholke (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Mar. 2020)
When Torvi’s sister Morgunn is stolen from the family farm by wolf-priest Uther, Torvi sets out to rescue her and find a mythical sword, in this reimagined Arthurian legend.
Sword in the Stars: A Once & Future Novel
Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (LB/Patterson, Apr. 2020)
This novel concludes the gender-bent, LGBTQ retelling of the King Arthur legend, in which the once and future king is a teenage girl who travels to different galaxies and times. In the finale, Ari; her girlfriend, Gwen (queen of her own planet); and the diverse Knights of the Rainbow transport to the Middle Ages to steal the Holy Grail.
Jennifer Dugan (Putnam, Apr. 2020)
Dugan offers a loose retelling of Romeo and Juliet in which both of the lead characters are bisexual.
“Clean Teen” Books
10 Blind Dates
Ashley Elston (Disney-Hyperion, out now)
When her long-term boyfriend dumps her just before Christmas break, Sophie’s nonna devises a plan for family members to set Sophie up on 10 blind dates over the 10-day vacation.
10 Things I Hate About Pinky
Sandhya Menon (Simon Pulse, June 2020)
Ashish’s friends Pinky and Samir pretend to date in order to achieve their individual goals in this follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something About Sweetie.
John Cariani (Feiwel and Friends, Feb. 2020)
Cariani adapts his play as a volume containing nine interlocking vignettes about the many stages of love.
By the Book
Amanda Sellet (HMH, May 2020)
Sellet’s debut is a rom-com focused on a teen obsessed with 19th-century literature, who tries to glean advice on love and life from her favorite classic heroines.
The Crow Rider
Kalyn Josephson (Sourcebooks Fire, July 2020)
Closes out the Storm Crow duology, in which Princess Thia and her magical crow, Res, lead their allies in a rebellion to defeat Queen Razel.
The Downstairs Girl
Stacey Lee (Putnam, out now)
Lee, one of the founders of the We Need Diverse Books movement, returns with a tale set in 1890 Atlanta, following 17-year-old Chinese American Jo, who works as a lady’s maid for a wealthy family by day and moonlights as the genteel advice columnist “Dear Miss Sweetie.”
Every Reason We Shouldn’t
Sara Fujimura (Tor Teen, Mar. 2020)
Fujimura delivers a multicultural romance that includes ice skating and Korean pastries.
Donna Cooner (Scholastic Point, out now)
Fed up with the bullies who taunt her about her looks, Maisie creates a fake online profile, using photos of a beautiful, confident girl, and messages with popular kids at her school.
Finding Mr. Better-Than-You
Shani Petroff (Swoon, Jan. 2020)
Camryn’s group of supportive friends help her realize that she doesn’t need a boyfriend to be happy.
How to Live on the Edge
Sarah Lynn Scheerger (Carolrhoda Lab, May 2020)
A young woman who has lost her mother to breast cancer, and whose family has a history of testing positive for the BRCA gene mutation, struggles with questions of what it really means to live one’s life to the fullest.
How to Speak to a Boy
Tiana Smith (Swoon, Jan. 2020)
Sparks fly between two sworn enemies after they begin exchanging anonymous notes.
I Have No Secrets
Penny Joelson (Sourcebooks Fire, Nov.)
Jemma knows a deadly secret but can’t tell anyone because her cerebral palsy prevents her from moving or speaking. When an experimental treatment gives her a voice, it may make her the killer’s next target.
The Invention of Sophie Carter
Samantha Hastings (Swoon, July 2020)
Orphaned identical twin sisters swap places and hijinks ensue in this lighthearted historical romance set in Victorian London.
It Came from the Sky
Chelsea Sedoti (Sourcebooks Fire, Aug. 2020)
Gideon perpetuates the lie he created—that his town of Lansburg, Pa., was invaded by aliens.
Love & Olives
Jenna Evans Welch (Simon Pulse, July 2020)
This novel focuses on Olive’s journey to Santorini, Greece, where she reconnects with her long-absent father and also finds romance.
A Match Made in Mehendi
Nandini Bajpai (Little, Brown, out now)
This novel offers a lighthearted look into first crushes and growing up as a second-generation immigrant.
Meet Me at Midnight
Jessica Pennington (Tor Teen, Apr. 2020)
Teens waging a war of practical jokes declare peace when they fall for each other.
Moment of Truth
Kasie West (HarperTeen, Mar. 2020)
When a masked imposter crashes Hannah’s swim meet and some other events, she tries to uncover the boy’s identity and discovers some truths about herself.
More Than Maybe
Erin Hahn (Wednesday, May 2020)
An aspiring teen music journalist befriends the shy son of a former punk rocker.
The Night of Your Life
Lydia Sharp (Scholastic Point, Mar. 2020)
“I love the simple and awesome hook of this book: take two evergreen subjects for YA novels—Groundhog Day–style time loops and prom—and put them together!” says senior editor Emily Seife. “This is a body-positive rom-com where the main love interest is fat and gorgeous. It has a spot-on contemporary teen voice and features very real kids and a diverse cast of characters.”
Sasha Dawn (Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab, out now)
When aspiring musician Madelaine finds a poetry fragment that inspires her to finish writing a song she’s been working on, she tracks down the author online. She also unearths a family secret that turns her home life upside down.
Paul, Big, and Small
David Glenn Robb (Shadow Mountain, out now)
Three high school outcasts find that the drastic consequences of bullying force some hard choices: be a bystander or an upstander.
The Perfect Escape
Suzanne Park (Sourcebooks Fire, Apr. 2020)
Nate Jae-Wood and his coworker at a zombie-themed escape room team up to win a survivalist competition with a big cash prize in this rom-com debut.
Rainbow Rowell, illus. by Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, out now)
High school seniors Josiah and Deja find love on their last night of working together at the local pumpkin patch.
Natalia Sylvester (Clarion, May 2020)
When her U.S. senator father runs for president, 15-year-old Mariana and her Cuban-American family experience intense scrutiny, and Mariana undergoes a political awakening.
Scared Little Rabbits
A.V. Geiger (Sourcebooks Fire, Dec.)
Nora is accepted into a prestigious summer program for young inventors, only to be accused of murder, and is forced to uncover the truth.
Song of the Abyss
Makila Lucier (HMH, out now)
When raiders attack her ship, 17-year-old explorer Reyna escapes and mounts a dangerous mission to find the rest of the crew who have mysteriously disappeared in this second volume in the Tower of Winds series.
Dave Connis (HarperCollins/Tegen, out now)
Bookworm Clara finds a way to fight back when her school bans dozens of books.
The Sullivan Sisters
Kathryn Ormsbee (Simon & Schuster, May 2020)
Three teenage sisters who have been growing apart band together to solve a mystery when they receive a letter informing them of a dead uncle and an inheritance they knew nothing about.
Talk Nerdy to Me: A Bookish Boyfriends Novel
Tiffany Schmidt (Amulet, May 2020)
This third entry in the Bookish Boyfriend series finds Eliza competing against Curtis in the science fair as she reads Frankenstein and Anne of Green Gables. “These books are pure enjoyment,” says Ann Heltzel, executive editor at Amulet. “And there’s the obvious added bonus that they help ease kids into classic tales, or delight kids who have already read and loved the classics that inspired these books.”
Tell Me Everything
Sarah Enni (Scholastic Point, out now)
According to executive editor Amanda Maciel, “The novel explores the perils of social media and being true to yourself, as well as touching on how to navigate being an ally to friends who are LGBTQ, while staying lighthearted and very ‘content’-free. I like to call it Amélie for the social-media age.”
Throw Like a Girl
Sarah Henning (Little, Brown, Jan. 2020)
After a physical altercation loses softball star Liv her scholarship to her private school, a friend—the cute, injured quarterback named Grey—presses her to join the football team at her new public school.
Emma Lord (Wednesday, Jan. 2020)
Pepper and Jack start to fall for each other when they meet through a dating app, not realizing that they are simultaneously in a Twitter war with each other while anonymously using the accounts of their families’ respective businesses.
The Voting Booth
Brandy Colbert (Disney-Hyperion, out now)
This novel takes place on Election Day and presents the dual points of view of two black teens who must overcome various obstacles to cast their first presidential election ballots, and who may find romance along the way.
The Warrior’s Curse
Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic Press, Mar. 2020)
The third entry in Nielson’s Traitor’s Game series follows Simon and Kestra as they both strive to defeat Lord Endrick and their individual duties pull them apart.
What I Like About You
Marisa Kanter (Simon & Schuster, Apr. 2020)
Kanter explores what happens when online friends turn into real-life crushes. “What I Like About You has such a smart perspective on the way we communicate digitally and hide behind our online avatars,” says Kendra Levin, editorial director of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. “It also made me happy to see a Jewish protagonist who’s not fighting Nazis or living in a shtetl, something I’d have appreciated when I was a teen.”
What the Other Three Don’t Know
Spencer Hyde (Shadow Mountain, Mar. 2020)
On a river-rafting class trip, a loner, a jock, an outsider, and an Instagram influencer who seemingly have nothing in common learn the truth about each other and discover something new about themselves.
With a Star in My Hand
Margarita Engle (Simon & Schuster, Aug. 2020)
This is a novel in verse about Nicaraguan poet and folk hero Rubén Dario who initiated the literary movement of Modernismo.
Yes No Maybe So
Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed (HC/Balzer + Bray, Feb. 2020)
Romance blossoms when two teens do political canvassing for their local state Senate candidate.
For more of our Fall 2019 Spotlight on YA, see "YA Widens Its Lens."