Get ready for a trip to the bookstore, readers. Spring is here and it’s bringing with it books that can’t be missed. Beloved authors like Becky Albertalli and Gayle Forman are returning with new reads, while debut authors like Emily X.R. Pan and Elizabeth Acevedo are making their mark on our shelves and our hearts. We’ve rounded up twelve of this season’s must-read young adult books. All you have to do is decide where to start.
Who run the world? Rebel girls. In this inspiring collection, graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles twenty-nine brave and bold women who shaped the world we live in today. The book begins with a look at the life of Clémentine Delait, a bearded lady who lived in 20th-century France. From there, it gives readers glimpses into the lives of Christine Jorgensen (a trans woman and pioneer of reassignment surgery), Sonita Alizadeh (an Afghan rapper and activist), Naziq al-Abid (a Syrian women’s rights activist), and Mae Jemison (the first black woman to travel to space). It’s a diverse and engaging collection that is sure to spark a desire in readers to learn more about these incredible women.
On shelves: March 6
Inspired by the life of painter Artemisia Gentileschi, this debut verse novel whisks readers away to 17th-century Rome. At the age of 17, Artemisia is one of the most talented painters in Rome, though no one knows it. Tired of her abusive father stealing credit for her work, Artemisia accepts Agostino Tassi’s offer to tutor her. Artemisia believes she’s found a man who appreciates her talent and wants to help her grow into the artist she is destined to be. Instead, Agostino’s behavior becomes increasingly controlling and violent, until one evening he rapes Artemisia. He assumes that she won’t reveal what happened, but Artemisia refuses to stay silent. In recalling the stories of Roman heroines that her mom once told her, Artemisia finds the strength to stand up and fight. Historical fiction fans won’t want to miss out on Joy McCullough’s novel. Mackenzi Lee, author of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, sums it up perfectly: “Tragically relevant and unflinchingly feminist, Blood Water Paint is the kind of book all historical fiction should aspire to be.”
On shelves: March 6
National Slam Champion Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut novel transports readers to Harlem, where a young girl finds her voice through the power of slam poetry. Fifteen-year-old Xiomara Batista struggles to verbalize her emotions. Whether she’s listening to her mother lecture her on the importance of being a good Catholic girl or facing street harassers, she can’t seem to shape her feelings into words. The only place she truly feels free to speak her mind is in the pages of her journal. She writes about questioning her faith, the way she feels compared to her twin brother, and her growing feelings for Aman, a Trinidadian immigrant in her biology class. When Xiomara is offered the opportunity to share her poetry with her school’s slam poetry club, she must decide if she’ll let fear hold her back or if she’ll speak out loud and proud. Acevedo’s book is a love letter to the power of words and a reminder to teen readers that their voice matters.
On shelves: March 6
Fifteen-year-old Leigh Chen Sanders shared her first kiss with Axel Moreno, her best friend and crush, on the same afternoon that her mother died by suicide. Leigh’s struggled with feelings of overwhelming guilt and regret ever since. She begins to avoid Axel, and she finds no solace in her distant father. When she sees a giant red bird, Leigh becomes convinced that it is her mother, transformed. The thought inspires her to travel to Taiwan to visit her mother’s family. Once there, she explores places that her mother frequented while growing up and uncovers family secrets. Emily X.R. Pan deftly weaves magical realism into this touching story about grief and healing.
On shelves: March 20
Do you have a box of tissues ready? Gayle Forman is known for her emotional and moving young adult novels, and her latest promises to be no different. The story explores the lives of three teenagers whose lives are brought together by an accident in Central Park. Freya ends up in the park after she loses her voice while attempting to record her debut album. Nathaniel arrives after landing in New York City with only a backpack, a map, and the desire to escape his father. Harun is heartbroken after being dumped by his boyfriend and struggling with the idea of coming out to his family. Their lives intertwine in surprising ways, and readers will eagerly turn pages in the hopes of seeing all three characters find the love, acceptance, and happiness that they’re seeking.
On shelves: March 27
Jenn Bennett takes her characters from friends to enemies to something more in her newest novel. Even though their families never got along (Zorie’s dad blames the drop in business at his wellness clinic on the sex shop Lennon’s two moms opened next door), Zorie and Lennon have always been best friends. That all changed at last year’s homecoming dance. The two have avoided each other like repelling magnets ever since, but they’re forced to confront what happened when a camping trip leaves them stranded together in the woods. It’s there that they also realize they share feelings for each other that aren’t quite platonic.
On shelves: April 3
High school senior Danny Cheng knows that this year will turn his life upside down, though he assumes that will be because he’s graduating, not because he uncovers a dark secret from his family’s past. Danny’s known that he had an older sister who died in China before his parents immigrated to America. But when he uncovers a mysterious file filled with papers that his parents refuse to explain, he wonders what they aren’t telling him about their past. Meanwhile, Danny is also thinking about his future: Before he leaves for college, should he reveal his crush on his best friend Harry Wong? Kelly Loy Gilbert’s latest novel is an honest exploration of family history and personal identity.
On shelves: April 10
Readers first met Leah Burke in Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and they’ve been counting down the days until they could see her shine in her own story. Leah is known for her dry humor, her sick drumming skills, and her devotion to her friends. But there are secrets that she’s kept from the people in her life that she doesn’t know how to share. Coming out as bisexual to her gay best friend Simon should be easy, but Leah can’t ever find the words. With graduation on the horizon, Leah feels more pressure than ever before to figure out who she is, what she wants, and how to share it with the world. This book hits shelves in late April, giving you plenty of time to read (or reread) Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and to see Leah in all her wry glory in the movie adaptation, Love, Simon.
On shelves: April 24
Millie Michalchuk is ready for a change. She’s done with obsessing over diets and spending her summers at fat camp. Instead she’s dedicating her time and energy to her dream of becoming a broadcast journalist. But when her uncle stops funding her school’s dance team and the members retaliate by trashing his business, Millie ends up using some of her precious free time helping him rebuild. She isn’t working alone, though. One member of the dance team, mean girl Callie Reyes, was caught and is being forced to pitch in. Millie and Callie have never gotten along, but as they spend time together, they begin to realize that they may have misjudged the other. Readers familiar with Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ will love reuniting with Millie in this companion novel.
On shelves: May 8
If you’re looking for drama, betrayal, and obsession, we’ve got the perfect book for you. Miri Tan runs the Undertow Society, a high school club dedicated to the book Undertow, written by 23-year-old Fatima Ro. When Miri learns that Fatima will be signing books nearby, she grabs her closest friends (Soleil Johnston, Penny Panzarella, and Jonah Nicholls) and they craft a plan to become BFFs with the author. But in their desire to be a part of Fatima’s life, they open up and reveal damning secrets about themselves, secrets that are revealed to the world when Fatima publishes a new book inspired by Miri, Soleil, Penny, and Jonah. Our favorite early review of this book comes from Dahlia Adler, author of Just Visiting, who took to Twitter to say, “I am gonna hype [Lygia Day Peñaflor’s] All of This Is True because I read it today and pardon my French but holy shit… you need this book.” This book is sure to keep you up late into the night—don’t say we didn’t warn you.
On shelves: May 15
Vaneeta “Winnie” Mehta envisions her romantic life to be as perfectly plotted as the Bollywood movies she loves so dearly. A pandit read her star chart and said she would meet her soulmate before her 18th birthday, and her boyfriend of three years, Raj, fits the pandit’s description perfectly. At least he did, before she caught him with Jenny Dickens. To make matters worse, an administrative error results in Raj taking her role as chair of the student film festival. Winnie knows her life is in need of a major rewrite if she hopes to achieve her prophesied happily ever after, but she didn’t expect change to come in the form of Dev Khanna, a classmate and film fanatic who soon sweeps her off her feet. Thankfully, Shah Rukh Khan (the King of Bollywood) begins paying Winnie visits in her dreams to help her decide if her future is truly fated in the stars or if it’s time to take destiny into her own hands. Readers looking for a charming and hilarious spring read will not want to miss Nisha Sharma’s debut.
On shelves: May 15
Mark Oshiro introduces readers to Moss Jefferies, a gay high school sophomore who is fed up with being treated like a criminal based on the color of his skin. He knows firsthand how deadly that assumption can be: Six years earlier, his father was murdered by a police officer, and his name was dragged through the mud by the media in the aftermath. Moss is tired of random searches and racial profiling disguised as a safety concern, and he isn’t the only one. He begins to work together with his fellow students to take a stand. Early reviews are just starting to come out, but this one from Adam Silvera, author of They Both Die at the End, is all we needed to add this book to our TBR pile: “Anger is a Gift is an explosion of fury and revolution. Mark Oshiro’s beautiful and brutal debut proves that not only can anyone be a hero, but great change comes when the heroes work together.”
On shelves: May 22