Whether you're looking to get into YA novels or you already love them, check out these four new reads that are breaking ground in the genre.
Young adult books aren't really my thing. While I’ve reread Harry Potter several times over the years and have torn through some YA fantasy, dystopian fiction, and sci-fi series, I haven’t enjoyed many recent young adult novels, particularly in the coming-of-age category. I have nothing against YA or those who read the genre beyond their young adult years, but I personally don’t enjoy reading about school drama or young love (perhaps because I couldn’t escape high school fast enough!).
But, thanks to some recent middle-grade and young adult book releases, I’m coming around to books for younger readers. If you’re looking to explore YA or already love it, check out these four new books that made me a convert.
The Night Diary, by Veera Hiranandani
Shy, 12-year-old Nisha is living in Pakistan with her father, grandmother, and twin brother, Amil just as India has declared independence from the British Empire and split into two countries. Near the borders of the two countries, Muslims begin fleeing to Pakistan and Hindus leave for India. Nisha, who is Muslim on her late mother’s side and Hindu on her father’s, doesn’t know where she belongs. But soon, Nisha’s home becomes too dangerous, and her family is forced to cross the border by foot and train to their new home. Though Hiranandani is writing for an audience as young as 12 via letters Nisha writers to her mother in a journal of sorts, she doesn’t write down to her audience and treats the violence and devastation of the Indian partition with utmost sensitivity. The Night Diary is at times absolutely heartbreaking, but ultimately has important messages about family, identity, and community that is as relevant now as ever.
To buy: $12, amazon.com.
When My Heart Joins the Thousand, by A. J. Steiger
Over her 17 years, Alvie Fitz, who has autism, has been told again and again by uncomfortable adults to just “act normal.” After three stints in group homes, she’s living on her own in an apartment under the watch of her doctor and counting down the days until she turns 18, when she’ll hopefully become legally emancipated and never have to see a group home again. Alvie is happy to spend her days alone or in the company of a hawk at the zoo where she works, until she meets Stanley, a 19-year-old living with a disease called osteogenesis imperfecta that makes his bones incredibly brittle. Steiger’s portrayal of a person with autism has been heralded for good reason. I laughed and I cried watching Alvie and Stanley’s relationship unfold.
To buy: $18, amazon.com.
This is Not a Love Letter, by Kim Purcell
Jessie and Chris are nearing their high school graduation when Chris suddenly disappears. Weeks earlier, Chris, a popular black baseball player and standout student, had been beat up by a group of white teens from a nearby high school. The local police say they don’t suspect foul play and believe Chris ran away from home, but Jessie, who is white, is not convinced. Purcell relies on an epistolary narrative—letters Jessie writes to Chris in a notebook—to show how Jessie and her town confront their own racial biases as the investigation unfolds. It’s a timely thriller for young adults and adults alike.
To buy: $12, amazon.com.
Meet Cute, by Various
In this short fiction collection, a group of some of the best YA authors writing today share original love stories. Nicola Yoon (The Sun Is Also a Star, Everything, Everything) writes about breakups in “The Department of Dead Love,” while Jennifer Armentrout (The Problem with Forever) writes about finding love in the library in her story, “The Dictionary of You and Me.” Meet Cute is a great introduction to authors like Yoon, Armentrout, Nina LaCour, Katharine McGee, and simply, a fun, uplifting read.
To buy: $13, amazon.com.