Although everything seems so busy and insane right now, I’ve found that curling up with a book for even just fifteen minutes can be incredibly rewarding and calming. So here are some of my favorite new releases in the Young Adult category! This list is completely subjective and certainly not all-encompassing, but I just wanted to share a few of my favorites. Also, please note that the last two books on this list deal with very heavy and potentially triggering topics.
Most Likely by Sarah Watson
This is my top recommendation because this book literally changed my life! It was published about a year ago, but I got to read it a few months early in the fall of 2019, and finished it within a day. Most Likely starts out by telling you that one of four high school friends- Ava, CJ, Jordan, and Martha- will become the first female president of the U.S. The plot centers around their senior year of high school as they all figure out college, friendships, and romance; but the mystery of which one becomes president looms behind everything and is actually very hard to guess! The struggles they face are so real, and I often felt myself relating to CJ in a way that felt uncanny. Most Likely is full of unexpected twists and turns, but it leaves you feeling very happy and secure in whatever life path you’re going on.
More Than Just a Pretty Face by Syed M. Massoud
Set in the East Bay, this story navigates a high school senior’s quest for love and success as he faces a family that envisions him going on a very different path. Danyal Jilani who hasn’t had much success in school and instead wants to pursue a career in the culinary world, but his Pakistani-American parents would like him to attend college and marry someone that they essentially choose for him. So, when he gets selected to compete in his school’s year-long senior academic competition, he knows it’s his chance to impress his family and friends and maybe even woo his longtime crush–even though he has absolutely no interest in research and speeches. This book is a very smooth read that gives an interesting look into the lives of Muslim teens today, and I would highly recommend it if you’re looking for something humorous yet incredibly impactful!
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
The Grace Year is a teen novel set in a regressive future society that bears quite a few similarities to The Handmaid’s Tale. When girls turn sixteen, they are selected by the men of their town to either be married or become an old maid. Then they all must embark on a sort of group quest, where they are taken miles away to live together for a year in the woods. The young women must hone their wilderness survival skills and navigate a difficult social hierarchy in order to make it through, and the main character, Tierney, has an encounter that transforms her entire journey. I can’t say too much about it without spoiling everything, but it is a heart-wrenching yet also empowering novel that leaves you wanting more!
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Okay, so this book is actually about four years old. But it’s a really cute and touching story about a girl named Molly who has had what seems like a million crushes throughout her life and no romantic success, unlike her twin sister Cassie. So, she sets out to find love on a journey that evokes so many emotions! Also, the side stories are really amazing. Definitively set during the summer of 2015 in the D.C. suburbs, before the girls’ senior year of high school, this book is incredibly charming and sweet.
Internment by Samira Ahmed
CW: Islamophobia, xenophobia
Internment is a book that delves into the not-too-far-off scenario that American Muslims are targeted by the government, then rounded up and placed into internment camps like Japanese-Americans during World War II. Seventeen-year-old Layla and her family are taken from their life in southern California to the desert, where they are imprisoned for nothing but their religion. She starts an uprising in the internment camp, and the book really makes you think about how, despite the Trump years being over, Islamophobia and xenophobia are still incredibly pervasive in our society and weaponized by the right wing.
They Went Left by Monica Hesse
CW: Anti-Semitism, discussion of concentration camps
Monica Hesse is actually a columnist for the Washington Post, but you would think that she is a full-time World War II novelist while reading They Went Left. It is told from the perspective of Zofia, a young Polish Jewish woman who has just been freed from a concentration camp and is now a refugee trying to find her brother somewhere in Europe. What was especially interesting about the book is that it deals with the post-Holocaust situation of the millions of displaced people, many of them children, who had lost some or all of their family members; a subject that is not particularly common for historical fiction of the time period. Zofia’s emotions are portrayed in an incredibly raw and gutting way as she finds her way back home, both physically and metaphorically.
This is a non-exhaustive list, of course, and there are a million books on my to-read list for when the semester ends, so don’t be surprised if there is a part two sometime soon! Anyways, I hope you enjoy these books that you probably haven’t heard of before, because I love them so dearly. Happy reading!