Winter’s Must-Read Young Adult Books: Blood Diamonds, Doomed Romance, and the Rapture

Winter’s Must-Read Young Adult Books: Blood Diamonds, Doomed Romance, and the Rapture

With holiday break stretching out in front of them, teens can get a jump on the season’s hottest upcoming titles. And they must’ve been extra good this year, because these reads are pretty fantastic. Gayle Forman’s latest promises all of the emotional depth and heartache that we know and love from her, while Marissa Meyer is delighting us with a prequel to her fairy tale reboot series. Then there’s a based-on-real-events story about South African blood diamonds, a high school clique’s plot to date like men, and a suicidal love story that strikes equally poignant notes on life and death. Get ready for action, adventure, romance, and a few tears with this season’s picks.


1. Diamond Boy

Diamonds are a boy’s worst enemy

From the author of Now Is the Time for Running, this is a captivating and affecting tale of greed, political struggle, and freedom. Seeking a better life, Patson and his family journey across Zimbabwe to work in his uncle’s diamond field. Mining for riches has a way of corrupting young minds and Patson begins to succumb to a growing greed inside of him. Everything changes, however, when the soldiers arrive. Based on Zimbabwe’s Great Marange Diamond Rush and the corrupt government’s brutal takeover of the fields, Patson’s fictional story of fighting for survival is all too real and incredibly powerful.

On shelves: December 2


2. Love & Other Theories

A rule made to be broken

Don’t be tricked into thinking this is just another romantic comedy. High school junior Aubrey and her friends are on a mission to avoid heartbreak. Their clique’s leader, Shelby, lays out the big issue with boys their age: They’re all commitment-phobes. Instead of aiming to change them, the girls come up with their own rules to enjoy sex and expect nothing after. The plan begins to fall apart, however, when Aubrey meets Nathan. With all of the elements of typical romantic comedy and high school drama lined up, readers will be pleased when the inevitable happens (the plan fails spectacularly) and surprised when the ensuing fallout doesn’t cave in to easy cliches.

On shelves: December 30


3. Vivian Apple at the End of the World

It’s the end of the world as she knows it

Another year, another end of the world prophecy. Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple doesn’t take the Rapture seriously, even if her parents do. They’re devout followers of Beaton Frick, the founder of the Church for America, and they believe they’re about to be called home. So when Vivian returns home from a Rapture’s Eve party to find two holes in the ceiling and no parents, she begins to wonder if she was the one in the wrong. A road trip through a now-paranoid America commences as Vivian and her friends Harpreet and Peter search for the truth. It’s contemporary satire that will serve series-readers and those looking to branch out from dystopian trends well.

On shelves: January 1


4. All the Bright Places

Won’t you stay with me

Violet Markey was in the car accident that killed her sister, though surviving is harder than it seems. Intending to jump from her school’s bell tower, she instead meets Theodore Finch—who is just as surprised to find someone at his suicide spot as she is. The two make it down alive and Finch makes it his mission to pull Violet back into the world, even while his continues to darken. Told in alternating perspectives, this story of learning to live will resonate with any reader who has ever felt the dark pull of depression. Comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars are inevitable, though this one stands firmly on its own.

On shelves: January 6


5. Hellhole

Hell-arious reading

Max Kilgore is in a hellish predicament. He accidentally opens up a crater that unleashes a devil named Burg, who promptly sets up camp in Max’s basement. A fan of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and killing people, Burg must be shown the door before he decides to wreak havoc on the world. But getting rid of an unwanted houseguest and getting rid of a devil are two very different tasks. Teaming up goth girl Lore, Max sets out on a hilarious mission to reclaim his basement and his life from a big red jerk.

On shelves: January 6


6. The Ghosts of Heaven

Endless Infinities

After wowing readers with the Printz Award-winning Midwinterblood, Marcus Sedgwick delivers a series of four tales that seamlessly blends historical and science fiction, and will leave readers deep in thought. Sedgwick lets readers decide for themselves if they wish to read the stories in chronological order or if they would prefer to skip around, providing readers with 24 unique reading experiences. The first story begins with a girl drawing in a cave, the second with a witchcraft trial in England, the third with a psychiatrist being driven mad by a patient in an asylum, and the fourth on a spaceship. The presence of spirals in each story provide the most obvious connection, and the rest are scattered throughout and left to be picked up by intuitive and intelligent readers. No matter where readers begin and end, they are certain to feel in awe of this powerful work.

On shelves: January 6


7. The Boy in the Black Suit

Not all tears are an evil

After his mom dies and his dad fails to make ends meet, Matthew finds himself suiting up to work at the local funeral home just to get by. It seems strange and depressing at first, though Matthew begins to feel comforted by surrounding himself with others who are grieving and understand what he’s been through. Grief can be so isolating and he finally begins to feel like he isn’t completely alone. Then he meets Lovey, a girl who’s dealt with even more than he has but remains much stronger. He can’t help but feel drawn to her, hoping that against all odds she can help him heal.

On shelves: January 6


8. When

The final countdown

Author Victoria Laurie is a professional psychic and writer, and she brings both of these gifts to her debut young adult novel where a girl can see the death date of every person she meets hanging just above their forehead. Maddie’s entire life has been plagued by this “gift,” which helps her make money for herself and her alcoholic mother but wasn’t enough to save her police-officer father. When a little boy is found dead on the day that Maddie predicted, she becomes entangled in an official investigation… as the lead suspect! As more people begin to disappear, Maddie is racing the clock to find the real murderer before she ends up a victim herself.

On shelves: January 13


9. Fairest

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Winter is coming… but not yet. First the Lunar Queen must take her turn in the spotlight. A prequel for Marissa Meyer’s rebooted, futuristic fairy tale series The Lunar Chronicles, Fairest explores the origin of the most evil woman in the galaxy. Based on Snow White’s Evil Queen, the novel begins with Levana, a 15-year-old girl living in a toxic home with a cruel older sister who enjoys nothing more than abusing Levana physically and verbally. With her sister set to one day be Queen, Levana’s future looks bleak. But something happens, everything changes, and the Levana that readers know begins to take shape.

On shelves: January 27


10. I Was Here

The one left behind

Gayle Forman, the author who brought us the heartbreaking If I Stay, delivers another insightful and emotional novel this winter. In her latest, Forman explores the unimaginable loss Cody experiences when her best friend Meg commits suicide. Cody struggles to come to terms with what has happened. She knew everything about Meg, so how did she not know Meg was depressed? Traveling to Meg’s college to gathering her belongings, Cody begins to piece together the image of a girl she didn’t know at all. In light of her recent loss, Cody fights to reconcile with what she remembers of Meg and what she’s found.

On shelves: February 10


11. Shadow Study

High fantasy heroine

The fourth book in the Study series and the first in the Soulfinder series, Shadow Study finds Yelena yearning for her days as a poison tester. That’s how you know things have gotten bad. Her magic keeps the countries of Ixia and Sitia at peace, though power struggles on both sides threaten to ruin all she’s worked for. And just when she needs it most, Yelena’s magic fails her. She’ll have to keep that little fact a secret if she hopes to stay alive long enough to save her city and her beloved Valek. This high fantasy release from New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder is sure to be excellent news to fans of her Study series.

On shelves: February 24


12. The Sin Eater’s Daughter

A rogue goddess

Twylla and X-Men’s Rogue would likely get along fairly well. Plucked from her home by the mad Queen Helewys, Twylla is forced to ingest a poison every month that allows her to embody a goddess, a goddess who can kill with a single touch. The Queen appoints Twylla her royal executioner, a job that turns her into a social pariah. Even the prince, her betrothed, won’t go near her and her poisonous skin. With the arrival of a charming new guard, it seems as though Twylla finally has met someone who sees past her role as executioner to the girl underneath. But love isn’t exactly easy when you can’t even hold hands, and the Queen has a plot that would destroy any hope Twylla has for ever being happy. Readers, be prepared for love, drama, magic, and sequels.

On shelves: February 24

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