Spring’s Best Young Adult Novels: Sarah Dessen, David Levithan, and More!

Spring’s Best Young Adult Novels: Sarah Dessen, David Levithan, and More!

This season’s crop of titles digs deep beneath the surface and uncovers poignant themes, unforgettable narrators, and stories that deserve to be heard. From one boy’s journey to the depths of schizophrenia to the struggle of a teenage prostitute, readers are in for thoughtful and affecting books this spring. But there is still plenty of room for fun and games, including David Levithan’s long awaited gay musical extravaganza and a mythical Beauty and the Beast retelling from fantasy bestseller Sarah J. Maas. Whether you’re looking for a title that will resonate with a personal struggle or something to make you laugh until you cry, you’re sure to find something inspiring in this season’s picks.

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Dead to Me

Lights, camera, action

Hollywood’s golden age is stripped of its glamour in this dark noir thriller from debut novelist Mary McCoy. The daughter of a wealthy PR agent, Alice Gates grew up wanting for nothing… nothing except her sister, Annie, who left home when Alice was 12. Four years later, though, Annie has turned up in a hospital, nearly beaten to death and in a coma. Alice, determined to find out who her sister’s assailant was, sets out on a journey that will lift the veil over her eyes and show her just how dirty her famous town can be.

On shelves: March 3

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The Tragic Age

If a body meet a body, comin’ thro’ the rye

The world is insane, and anyone willing to take part it in it must be insane, too. That’s at least how Billy feels after watching his twin sister die. Content to live life from the safety of the sidelines, Billy’s world is turned upside down when he meets Twom Twomey, the charismatic and reckless teen that breaks into the mansions of the rich to eat their food, have sex in their beds, and generally cause some mayhem. Billy is drawn to Twom’s lawless attitude, but also finds himself thinking about Gretchen, a friend of his sister’s. Gretchen is everything Twom isn’t: sunny, optimistic, selfless. Billy knows that if he follows Twom’s path of breaking into homes, the end is dangerous. The open-ended nature of pursuing Gretchen is what scares him. Life hasn’t been kind to him in the past; why should he trust it now? A clever coming of age story that’s already receiving comparisons to Catcher in the Rye, The Tragic Age is ideal for clever, philosophical readers.

On shelves: March 3

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The Winner’s Crime

Don’t believe a word I say

The second book in the Winner’s Trilogy finds Valorian-born Kestrel and former Herrani slave Arin once again trapped in a web of lies and deceit. Kestrel used her wits to spare the lives of Arin’s people after their revolt, though the price was her own freedom. Now engaged to the Emperor’s son, she’s would be in more danger than ever should anyone learn her true feelings for Arin. To save both of their lives, no one can know… including Arin, who believes that she betrayed him. As Arin begins searching for allies to help protect his people and maintain their freedom, Kestrel toes a dangerous line between dutiful Valorian and Herrani informant.

On shelves: March 3

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The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B

Can’t stop

Adam Ross’ life is a mess. He tries to keep everything in order, but that’s kind of the problem—when you suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, putting everything in order requires rituals, and rituals take more time than most people have patience for. The only people who really understand are the other members of his young adult OCD support group. Every week the ritual is the same, until the day that a new member shows up: Robyn. Adam already plays the white knight for his horder mother, anxiety-suffering half brother, and other members of his OCD group. But once Robyn enters the room, he bumps her name to the top of the list. The problem? If he wants to be her Batman, he needs to save himself first. The humor, honesty, and use of superheroes as alter egos make this an excellent read for anyone, though it’s the realism and insight into the condition that will leave the greatest impact.

On shelves: March 10

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Hold Me Closer

Shine on

Tiny Cooper is ready for his closeup. After playing second fiddle in David Levithan and John Green’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Tiny wants the spotlight shining only on him—which is why he wrote and staged a fabulous, over-the-top, Gay with a capital g, autobiographical musical. Tiny spends much of WGWG crafting a musical and readers are given glimpses, yet nothing compares to this companion novel where you can read Tiny’s masterpiece in full. If you thought it couldn’t get better, just wait: Levithan wants to crowdsource the soundtrack. Composers, get cracking! Readers, be prepared to laugh out loud.

On shelves: March 17

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We All Looked Up

The end of the world as we know it

What would you do if the world were going to end tomorrow? A few months before graduation, four high school seniors all notice a strange blue light in the sky. What they believe to be a star turns out to be an asteroid heading straight for the planet. After being given two months to live, these seniors have to forget the what ifs of the futures they had only recently been planning and instead focus on what to do with the precious days they believe they have left. À la Breakfast Club, a jock, a brain, a slacker, and a flirt come together and find out who they’d be if there were no tomorrow to worry about. Starred by both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, it’s a thought-provoking book to watch out for this season.

On shelves: March 24

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The Walls Around Us

The jailbird and the ballerina

A haunting and compelling tale of truth and lies, this story interlaces the perspectives of two girls speaking three years apart. The first is Amber, an inmate at a girls’ juvenile detention center. Freedom and individuality evade her, and instead she speaks of herself as just one of the many inmates. Then there’s Violet, a talented dancer vying for a spot at Juilliard. The world revolves around her, but there’s a secret that she’s keeping, one that she shares with Amber and could ruin everything. The two girls aren’t reliable narrators, and they manipulate their tales in performance for the reader. But as the two perspectives dance together towards the conclusion, the dark and shocking truth finally comes out.

On shelves: March 24

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Challenger Deep

Gazing into the abyss

Caden Bosch is sinking quickly. His thoughts are divided between the real world and his hallucinations of life on a ship headed for the deepest point on Earth. As his schizophrenia becomes worse, his parents commit him to a psychiatric unit and Caden fights to find a way to swim to the surface and connect with what is real. Neal Shusterman crafts an insightful and never romanticized portrait of a young boy just starting to comprehend what it means to live with a mental illness. Illustrator Brendan Shusterman, son of the author, has struggled with mental illness and his art in the novel portrays not only Caden’s, but his own struggle to navigate life with mental illness in a world that often cannot understand its true depths.

On shelves: April 21

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Every Last Promise

To tell or not to tell

Kayla always loved her hometown of Winbrooke, Missouri, but not anymore. When she returns for senior year, lips sealed tight to protect a secret, even her friends treat her with hostility. You see, the secret isn’t hers alone. There was a party one night where Kayla witnessed a rape, an event that led to Kayla’s involvement in an accident that killed a boy. Already on dangerous grounds, spilling her guts could turn the entire town against her. Is it worth doing the right thing if it means she loses everything she loves? With rape culture rarely out of the news, Kristin Halbrook’s tale of one teen’s wrenching battle to make a choice she can live with will strike home for many readers.

On shelves: April 21

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A Court of Thorns and Roses

Tale as old as time

Bestselling author Sarah J. Maas puts a twist on the classic tale of a beauty falling for a beast in this story of a huntress captured by a faerie. After killing a wolf in the forest, 19-year-old Feyre comes face to face with Tamlin, an immoral and dangerous faerie who once ruled the world. As punishment for slaying the wolf, Tamlin whisks her away to his estate and holds her prisoner there. While the skeleton structure of the fairy tale is in place, Maas weaves in an epic battle with an ancient evil force that keeps the action just as compelling as the blossoming romance. Fans of her Thrones of Glass series are in for a far different type of story, but are still sure to enjoy this sexy and thrilling take on an old tale.

On shelves: May 5

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Saint Anything

The ties that bind

Sarah Dessen has shaped the reading tastes of many high schoolers, introducing them to poignant tales of heartbreak, loss, and redemption. In this new book, Dessen takes readers into the home of Sydney Stanford. Sydney has always been in the background, shadowed by the accomplishments of her brother Peyton. After a drunk night behind the wheel leaves Peyton in jail and a young boy paralyzed, her parents seem more focused on him than ever. Slowly, Sydney begins to find solace in the family of her friend Layla. She envies their ability to work together as a family and as they pull her deeper into their group, she feels truly seen for the first time—especially by Layla’s very hot brother Mac. In Saint Anything, Dessen gives readers a sensitive and touching look at how loss can affect a family and the importance of finding those who support you, no matter what.

On shelves: May 5

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Dime

Escaping the system

In this novel, told in a series of flashbacks, a teenage prostitute sacrifices everything she has to save a friend. After getting kicked out of her foster home, 14-year-old Dime thinks she’s gotten lucky when she meets Daddy. He takes her in, buys her clothes, and doesn’t let his two other “wifeys” pick on her. Thinking she’s finally found love, Dime agrees to turn tricks on the streets with the other two girls to help Daddy make money. Everything seems to finally be falling into place, until an even younger girl joins their little family and Dime begins to realize that she could save someone from the life she’s fallen into. Ten years after writing Wrecked, E.R. Frank returns with an important title that is certain to spark discussions on the loss of innocence, human trafficking, and the foster care system.

On shelves: May 26

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