A word of advice, readers: Get the biggest beach bag you can find because you’ll need a lot of space for all of these books. We’re rounded up ten of this summer’s must-read young adult books, and you won’t want to miss a single one. Aminah Mae Safi debuts with a story of identity and friendship, Kiersten White returns to conclude her bloody historical fiction saga, and Lamar Giles puts together a stunning anthology with some of our favorite writers. We’ve given you the list, all you need to do is decide where to start.
High school seniors Hannah and Emory have been avoiding each other for months, which is no easy task when you live next door. They’ve been neighbors and best friends their entire lives, but their friendship went up in smoke after a heated argument that culminated in Emory calling Hannah a “sheep” for not questioning her father’s religious beliefs. The girls are brought together once more when Emory’s boyfriend Luke is found unresponsive in his car outside of Hannah’s home. Luke is revived by Hannah and her father, which leads Luke to question his own thoughts on fate and a higher power. The chapters alternate between Hannah and Emory, giving readers a deep and insightful look into their lives as they confront change, loss, and skepticism.
On shelves: June 5
Readers craving some magical realism this summer won’t want to miss this journey to the island of By-the-Sea. The island is mostly populated by ordinary families, aside from the Fernweh women, who possess magic, and their 300-year-old ancestor Annabella who takes the form of a bird and visits the island every summer for the annual festival. Seventeen-year-old twins Georgina and Mary are the latest in the Fernweh line. Their gifts (particularly their mother’s hangover cure) are appreciated by the islanders, but when Annabella is murdered, superstitious eyes turn on Mary. Georgina sets out to uncover the truth, with a little help from a very cute visiting birdwatcher named Prue.
On shelves: June 5
Aspiring novelist Laila Piedra lives for her creative writing class. She’s working on a science fiction novel, and eagerly drinking in praise from her teacher Mr. Madison. But when Mr. Madison is replaced three months before graduation by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist, Laila finds herself suddenly struggling in her favorite class. Dr. Nazarenko is critical and seemingly impossible to please. Laila flounders until she heeds Dr. Nazarenko’s advice to get out of her own head and live a little. Challenging herself to take risks is frightening and thrilling, and along the way Laila learns a great deal about herself, her sexuality, and her dreams. In a starred review Kirkus said, “Final Draft hits every mark: A must-read.” We think you’ll agree.
On shelves: June 12
Aminah Mae Safi’s debut novel is a stunning story about identity, family, and friendship. Arab-American Muslim Lulu Saad is trying to find the balance between the various parts of her identity. It’s no easy task when her desire to drink and party seems to be too American for her father’s Muslim values, while her mom’s Louisiana family doesn’t understand her religion at all. When she isn’t juggling family drama, she’s attempting to enjoy her senior year—but even that comes with baggage when her actions cause a rift between herself and her friends. Lulu is a complex, flawed, and relatable heroine who will empower readers to be themselves no matter what. Those searching for a tale of self-discovery, friendship, and humor will find that this is exactly the book they’re looking for.
On shelves: June 19
Sixteen-year-old Indy Ferguson studies hard and stays out of trouble, but it doesn’t stop the people in her life from assuming that she’ll end up just like her alcoholic mother. She’s sent to the island of Nassau to live with her aunt, who her grandmother believes can offer Indy a better life than her mom. But Indy’s aunt isn’t there when she’s needed most, and Indy is raped by her cousin. When Indy discovers she’s pregnant, she feels trapped and unsure of where to turn. It’s only when she discovers a yoga retreat that Indy finds people who support her rather than judge her. This is a heartbreaking but powerful story about resilience, injustice, and hope.
On shelves: June 26
Historical fiction fans, rejoice—the final installment in Kiersten White’s Conqueror’s Saga is here. This genderbent retelling of Vlad the Impaler comes to a dramatic close this summer. Will Lada walk away with everything she’s ever dreamed of or nothing at all? Lada and her brother Radu are on opposite sides of the war, with Lada reigning their homeland of Wallachia, and Radu at Emperor Mehmed’s side. Mehmed, desperately in love with Lada, hopes to reconcile, but she makes her feelings on the matter clear when she has the corpses of men from his peace envoy delivered to his door. We don’t know if everyone will make it out of this fight alive, but we do know this is going to be a bloody and gripping conclusion.
On shelves: July 10
It’s been a year since Julia Blake, a rising star at the National Ballet Theatre Academy, suffered an injury that left her unable to dance. She disappeared shortly after and no one has seen or heard from her since, not even her sister Sylvie, a fellow ballerina. When a book of fairy tales from the sisters’ childhood arrives in Sylvie’s mailbox, she wonders if the strange list of names inside could be a clue from Julia. Determined to find her sister, Sylvie sets out on a road trip with her best friend’s brother Jack. But does Julia truly want to be found? And if she is, can Sylvie save someone who may not wish to be saved? With hints of magical realism woven throughout, this is ideal for readers looking for the perfect blend of fairy tales and reality.
On shelves: August 14
Fresh Ink edited by Lamar Giles
This anthology, edited by We Need Diverse Books cofounder Lamar Giles, brings together some of today’s best voices in young adult literature. The twelve stories contained in this collection explore a wide range of diverse experiences: Melissa de la Cruz’s story sees an undocumented Stanford student confronting hateful graffiti at her college, Schuyler Bailar’s involves a trans boy attending his first swim practice after coming out to his school, and Nicola Yoon’s is a tale of a black superhero whose powers came from his mother’s wish for a world where bullets couldn’t hurt him. Covering a variety of genres (including a play and a graphic short), this collection truly has something for everyone. The other authors featured in the include: Sara Farizan, Sharon G. Flake, Eric Gansworth, Malinda Lo, Walter Dean Myers, Daniel José Older, Thien Pham, Jason Reynolds, Aminah Mae Safi, and Gene Luen Yang.
On shelves: August 14
Readers looking for a gripping thriller this summer will want to add Kit Frick’s debut to the top of their TBR pile. The story begins with Ellory returning to school after a summer spent at art camp and two-month suspension. The present day is intercut with flashbacks from the past year that slowly reveal the truth behind Ellory’s suspension and the events that tore apart her group of friends. Tensions heighten with each new secret revealed, and readers will find themselves glued to the page until they uncover the plot’s final twists and turns.
On shelves: August 14
Darius Kellner doesn’t feel as though he fits in at his high school in Portland, Oregon and he doesn’t have high hopes that things will be any different when his family flies to Yzad, Iran to visit his dying grandfather. He struggles at first to connect with his Persian family, but things begin to turn around when he meets their neighbor, Sohrab. Slowly, Darius begins to leave his insecurities behind and embrace the things that once made him feel odd and different. In the country of his ancestors, Darius finds himself. This book is one of our must-reads, and it’s on quite a few authors’ favorites lists as well. Nic Stone, author of Dear Martin, raved that Darius the Great Is Not Okay “powerfully demonstrates how connecting with where you come from can illuminate who you are and help you figure out where you’re going.”
(Psst: We have the first few chapters over on BookishFirst!)
On shelves: August 28