Must-Read YA for Spring 2014: Immigration, Supervillains, and Fairy Tales

Must-Read YA for Spring 2014: Immigration, Supervillains, and Fairy Tales

Ahh, spring is almost here! The birds will be singing, the flowers blooming, and six-foot tall praying mantises will be fornicating all over town. Spring’s new YA books promise to answer the following questions: Can boys and girls be just friends? What is it like to have your head attached to another body? What are those praying mantises doing, and how can we stop them? Read on for more highlights of spring’s up-and-coming must reads!

The Hit

If there were a drug that would give you one amazingly euphoric week before killing you, would you take it? In the world of Melvin BurgessThe Hit, many do. Intended for the elderly, the drug called Death becomes the leading catalyst behind teenage suicides. For Adam, a way out is appealing: His girlfriend has lost interest, his brother is missing, and a future in poverty is all that awaits him. But taking Death is not as simple as it seems.

Side Effects May Vary

You’ve got to love self-aware YA. Julie Murphy’s clever debut pokes fun at the “sick lit” genre pioneered by John Green: When she’s diagnosed with cancer, 16-year-old Alice ropes her best friend Harvey into carrying out her bucket list—mostly revenge on people who’ve wronged her, like her ex and the school’s most popular girl, though she also opens up to Harvey about her feelings for him. Then… she goes into remission. Suddenly, Alice has to deal with the consequences of her vengeful list and acknowledge that, sick or not, she’s kind of a bitch.

V is for Villain

Growing up in the shadow of a sibling is never easy. It’s even tougher if, like Brad Baron, your older brother is a superhero. In V is for Villain, Peter Moore takes the “finding out you have superpowers” trope and turns it on its head: In a world where super-strength and flight are the norm, Brad’s genius mind is overlooked. In a novel designed for comic book fans, Moore explores what makes a villain a villain.


Printz Award winner John Corey Whaley’s second novel is finally here. Five years after Travis Coates’ death, he has returned—with his head on a different body. While the science of how this works is what first grabs you, what makes this book compelling are the complications that arise from returning from the dead. A lot can change in five years, and Travis has to learn how to navigate a world that is not quite the same as the one he remembers.


Marissa Meyer blew us away with her inventive reimaginings of Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood in Cinder and Scarlet, respectively. The third book in the Lunar Chronicles series is a high-stakes, engaging YA/sci-fi crossover. In terms of retelling classic fairy tales, Cress takes an even bigger leap than its predecessors. Cinder set up the war between the Earth and the Moon by introducing us to the cyborg Cinder. Scarlet brought in Little Red as a girl searching for her missing grandmother and the Big Bad Wolf as a part-man, part-lupine street fighter. In Cress, we meet Crescent Moon, a Lunar citizen exiled to a satellite orbiting Earth. Though she’s meant to be a spy, this isolated basket case with endless hair is drawn into the rebels’ movement.

Better Off Friends

While it’s widely believed that boys and girls can never be “just” friends, Macallan and Levi are set on proving that notion wrong in a new YA book best described as “When Harry Met Sally for the younger set.” It’s no surprise that their friendship causes some problems: Boys won’t come near Macallan because they believe she’s dating Levi, and significant others are constantly getting jealous. Will these two give in to the pressure and get together, or are they better off as friends?

The Secret Side of Empty

M.T. is a straight-A student, blonde haired and blue-eyed, American as apple pie—except that she’s an undocumented immigrant. No one knows: not her friends, nor her teachers. But as graduation looms, M.T. finds it harder to hide; and, with no Social Security Number, college is out of the question. Author Maria E. Andreu, a former undocumented immigrant herself, sheds light on this often misunderstood but extremely important subject in The Secret Side of Empty.

Grasshopper Jungle

This book, you guys. Andrew Smith tops last year’s coming-of-age tale Winger with Grasshopper Jungle. Protagonist Austin Szerba makes a frank, neurotic storyteller, swinging between reliable and unreliable narrator based on his own fears and identity issues. But we’ve got to cut him some slack: He’s at the stage of boy-becoming-man, oh and six-foot-tall praying mantises are eating and screwing their way through his hometown. We don’t want to give away another single detail because it’s such a rich, funny, gripping book that will appeal to all readers, whether or not you’re a horny teenage boy facing the end of the world.

Breakfast Served Anytime

Before Breakfast Served Anytime was even written, it won a YA Novel Discovery Contest: Sarah Comb submitted the first 250 words of a novel that follows a girl named Gloria to “Geek Camp” at a fictional Kentucky university. Though initially unhappy to be there, she finds that her fellow campers and counselors keep things interesting. First, there’s her conservative roommate, whose family believes in mountaintop removal, and a boy named Mason who dresses like the Mad Hatter. Then there’s Professor X, who teaches his students by leading them on scavenger hunts with mysterious clues. It’s a life-changing summer and a life-changing read.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

In a genre crammed with dystopian titles, it’s refreshing for a book to remind us that sometimes the most high-stakes obstacles of adolescence revolve around crushes. You’ll love that Lara Jean writes sweet, uncensored letters to every boy she’s crushed on or kissed—with the caveat that she hides them away once she’s let out all of her feelings. You’ll love that somehow her secret stash of letters gets circulated to her crushes. And you’ll love living vicariously through this nightmare and seeing the good it brings.

Plus, pick up these great books that are already out!
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi
Uninvited by Sophie Jordan
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Avalon by Mindee Arnett
No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
Vitro by Jessica Khoury
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson


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