Spring 2017’s Best Young Adult Books: Hip Cats, Refugees, and a Royal Court

Spring 2017’s Best Young Adult Books: Hip Cats, Refugees, and a Royal Court

This season we’re coming down with a serious case of book fever. Symptoms include an irresistible urge to add new titles to your TBR list, starting multiple books at once, and exceeding your book budget. If there’s a cure, we don’t want to know about it—not when there are so many great titles to look forward to this spring. Readers looking for timely topics will find books about Islamophobia, the refugee crisis, and rape culture. Historical fiction fans can travel back to the royal court of King Henry VIII or visit a dark chapter of the American Civil War. And if you’re in need of some nonfiction, we have a Van Gogh biography that is not to be missed. Consider this to be your doctor’s note: We recommend canceling your plans and spending the season with your nose in a book.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

Remember who you are

Readers, rejoice: Benjamin Alire Sáenz is back with a moving story about growing up that may or may not move you to tears (we’re just saying… have tissues ready). High school senior Sal feels as though his life is slipping out of his control. When his gay adoptive father is insulted by a classmate, Sal reacts with a punch before he can think. After a second violent incident occurs, he begins to wonder if he’s somehow inherited aggression from the biological father he never knew. Despite the support of his adopted Mexican-American family, Sal starts questioning who he is, where he truly came from, and what his past might have to do with who he becomes in the future. This insightful, hilarious, and heartfelt novel is the perfect read to kick off spring.

On shelves: March 7

Wonderful Feels Like This

All you need is music

For Steffi Herrera, music is her solace—jazz music, to be specific. When her classmates attack her with racist comments, and her small Swedish town feels like it’s closing in around her, she listens to some cool cats lay down some hot licks. So when Steffi hears her favorite song being played in a retirement home, she can’t stop herself from going inside. There she meets 89-year-old Alvar, who also uses music as a comfort. Years ago he dreamed of becoming a jazz musician, but his plans were derailed by World War II. Together, the two form an unlikely but close friendship. While Sara Lövestam’s novel will clearly appeal to music lovers, we think all readers will enjoy this uplifting Swedish import.

On shelves: March 7

The Pain Eater

The heavy weight of secrets

Beth Goobie’s novel tackles a timely and sensitive topic: rape culture. After being raped by a group of her classmates, 14-year-old Maddy Malone lost herself. She became quiet and small while keeping the pain and memories to herself, for fear of retaliation from the same boys who assaulted her. But the walls she built begin to crumble when her English class is assigned to collaboratively write a fantasy novel about a girl chosen to bear the pain of everyone in her village. The parallels between herself and the character unsettle Maddy, and before she knows it, the secret she’s fought to keep begins spilling out. This book is a challenging read, but a deeply important one that doesn’t leave the reader without hope. In a starred review, Kirkus says, “Powerfully written, this is not just a story about trauma, but also one of healing.”

On shelves: March 7

Maid of the King’s Court

God save the maid

British historian Lucy Worsley’s debut young adult novel is sure to enchant readers. King Henry VIII sits on the throne, and Elizabeth Rose Camperdowne is shocked to find herself serving in his royal court. She’s the maid of honor to Queen Anne of Cleves, the King’s fourth wife. Elizabeth sees first hand how dangerous life in court can be when Anne is exiled and Katherine Howard, Elizabeth’s cousin, is made Henry VIII’s bride. Though many will know the infamous history of Henry VIII and his wives, Elizabeth’s narration is wholly captivating and leaves readers wanting to hear more of her adventures in the court. Those who can’t get enough historical fiction should also check out Shelley Sackier’s The Freemason’s Daughter, hitting shelves on April 11.

On shelves: March 14


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Gem & Dixie

Unbreakable bond

Seventeen-year-old Gem grew up quickly. She had to with an absentee father and a mother who spent grocery money on drugs. Someone had to be the parent to Dixie, her 14-year-old younger sister. Gem is determined to give them both a better life, and when an opportunity to escape their chaotic home life comes along, she’s quick to snatch it up. But the girls have grown apart in recent years. Where Gem keeps the world at arm’s length, Dixie naturally charms those around her and has begun to disagree with what Gem thinks is best for them both. The sisters’ relationship is complex, rich, and heartbreaking. National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr has crafted a poignant tale about sisterhood.

On shelves: April 4


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Bang

Life changes in an instant

Sebastian Cody learned at the tender age of four that some accidents are irreversible. With his father’s gun, he shot and killed his baby sister. The memory weighs on his conscience, to the point where he considers taking his own life. There are some moments where the past fades away and he finds himself happy, like when he’s making pizza with Aneesa, his new neighbor, for their YouTube channel. Together they talk about anything and everything: their families, pop culture, the Islamophobia Aneesa faces. But Sebastian can never truly forget what he did and how it tore apart his family. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called Barry Lyga’s novel a “raw exploration of persistent social stigmas, a beautiful study of forgiveness, and an unflinching portrait of a parent’s worst nightmare.”

On shelves: April 18


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Vincent and Theo

Onward, onward

Readers looking for nonfiction this spring will not want to miss Deborah Heiligman’s biography of Vincent and Theo Van Gogh. Together the brothers, one an artist and the other an art dealer, vowed to support each other in their search for “meaning in life and meaning in art.” Vincent’s breathtaking work inspires people all over the world, but an appreciation of his art is incomplete without acknowledging his greatest champion and supporter: Theo. Over their lifetimes, Vincent wrote Theo 658 letters describing his dreams, fears, art, and hopes for the future. This is a touching story about brotherhood that is sure to inspire artists of all kinds to seek out support and to endure in the face of failure.

On shelves: April 18


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Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Reader, I dated him

Bookish readers already know that we love Jenny Han. So clearly we were ecstatic to learn that she had one more Lara Jean story to share with us. The series began with Lara Jean watching her older sister, Margot, moving away to college and leaving her high school boyfriend behind. Now Lara Jean is a senior and wondering what the end of the year will bring for her and her boyfriend, Peter. She has a lot of reasons to be happy: Things are going great with Peter, her dad is getting married, and Margot is coming home for the wedding. But Lara Jean can’t shake her fears about what comes next. We can’t wait to see what the future holds in store for Lara Jean, and hopefully we’ll learn a bit more about our beloved Margot too. Bring on the love letters and snickerdoodles.

On shelves: May 2


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The Lines We Cross

No human being is illegal

Michael is familiar with protests. His parents force him to go with them often to speak out against immigrants and refugees entering the country. Their arguments make sense to him, so he doesn’t think too hard about the issue. But then he meets Mina. She’s a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan and on scholarship at his prep school. She blows him away with her courage, intelligence, and humor. Randa Abdel-Fattah presents both points of view, giving readers valuable insight into Mina’s experiences and Michael’s growing understanding of the refugee crisis and Islamophobia. It’s a timely book that reminds readers of the men, women, and children at the heart of the issue.

On shelves: May 9


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Crossing Ebenezer Creek

March to the sea

Tonya Bolden’s historical novel is inspired by a tragic event that occurred after Union soldiers emancipated Southern slaves. After they’re freed, Mariah and her brother Zeke join William T. Sherman’s march from Atlanta to Savannah. There are thousands of liberated people marching alongside the Union soldiers, but Mariah finds herself drawn to a young black man named Caleb. As they talk, she begins to feel as though a new future is truly within her reach. Love, happiness, a family—it could all be hers. But as they move forward, the soldiers begin ransacking and raiding the towns they walk through and Mariah feels less certain about where the future is taking her. This is a haunting and poetic tale of a painful chapter in American history.

On shelves: May 30

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