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Last year, after being let down yet again by a heavily recommended Young Adult novel full of clunky dialogue and one-dimensional characters, I was just about ready to give up on the YA genre all together. I had made my way through all of the most popular novels on Goodreads, and although there were a few I enjoyed, the vast majority didn’t live up to the hype. Luckily, I persevered and discovered some hidden gems along the way that, in my opinion, haven’t gotten nearly enough love. Here are some of my favourites!

Noteworthy – Riley Redgate

Fans of Pitch Perfect and She’s The Man, this one is for you! Noteworthy tells the story of Jordan Sun, a student at a prestigious boarding school for the arts that can’t seem to land a role in the school musical due to her low singing voice. The solution? Join an all-male acapella group, of course!

Jordan is probably one of my favourite YA protagonists ever. She’s funny, flawed and realistic, and her journey of self-discovery and growth is nothing short of phenomenal. Author Riley Redgate also doesn’t shy away from discussing serious topics – from sexuality to gender identity to classism, important issues are brought up and dealt with in an authentic and thoughtful way. Add in some hysterical dialogue and a fast-paced plot, and you’ve got all the makings of a stellar novel.

The Wrong Side of Right – Jenn Marie Thorne

The Wrong Side of Right follows the story of Kate, living with her aunt and uncle following her mother’s untimely death. However, her life changes dramatically when a media leak reveals that Kate is actually the product of an affair between her mother and the current U.S. Republican presidential candidate. With the election looming, her father’s team is desperate to do damage control, and so Kate finds herself thrust into the spotlight and representing a political party she fiercely opposes.

Although this might sound like a highly depressing, US-centric book, I promise it’s not! Important issues are discussed, but Jenn Marie Thorne does a great job of balancing that with snarky humour and realistic dialogue. The characters are all flawed, real people and the relationships Kate forms with her new family and friends are wonderfully complicated. I definitely didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did, so I highly recommend giving it a try!

Prince In Disguise – Stephanie Kate Strohm

After Dylan’s older sister Dusty wins a Bachelor-style reality TV show called “Prince In Disguise,” Dylan is forced to fly to Scotland to attend her sister’s highly-televised wedding. However, when she gets there, she learns that the entire event is being filmed as a reality TV special – and they want to make Dylan the star of the show. 

This book is the sweetest, fluffiest read that fulfils all my dreams of disappearing into the Scottish countryside. I loved Dylan and Dusty’s realistic sibling relationship, and Dylan’s love interest Jamie is ridiculously adorable. If you’re a fan of The Bachelor, you’ll also enjoy Stephanie Kate Strohm’s many tongue-in-cheek references to the franchise. Prince In Disguise is definitely a feel-good book that’s perfect for those days when you just want to lose yourself in another universe.

Foolish Hearts – Emma Mills

This book has everything I love: boybands, high school theatre, awkward love interests and realistic sibling relationships! Claudia is used to keeping her head down until she’s pushed out of her shell by combative classmate Iris after they’re forced to join the crew of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She and Iris become unlikely friends and are soon joined by Gideon, the dorky lead of the show.

Emma Mills is probably my favourite contemporary YA author, simply because she masterfully avoids the common YA trope of pitting female characters against each other. Although this book is a romance, it’s also a love letter to powerful friendships that never fails to fill me with joy every time I reread it. I’d also highly recommend Famous in a Small Town and This Adventure Ends, two of my other favourites by this author.

Tweet Cute – Emma Lord

If you loved A Cinderella Story and You’ve Got Mail, Tweet Cute is the perfect book for you. Pepper is the heir to the Big League Burger franchise, trying to juggle managing the company’s Twitter page with her busy school schedule. Jack is attempting to save his family’s failing small diner and thinks he’s finally found a way to when he discovers that Big League Burger stole his grandmother’s famous grilled cheese recipe. The two engage in a brutal Twitter war as mortal enemies, unaware that they’re actually real-life classmates and friends.

I normally avoid books that overuse pop culture references, but author Emma Lord does a great job of adding in current trends in a subtle and endearing way. The use of social media in this book is also done cleverly and really enhances the story- as someone who works in social media marketing, I could definitely relate to a lot of it! Tweet Cute is a bit more popular than the rest of the books on this list, but it was far too adorable to leave out.

The books above are some of the best Young Adult novels that I’ve ever read, and I will forever be sad that they didn’t get more love. If you do decide to pick up a book from this list, let me know – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Nicole Persaud

Wilfrid Laurier '21

Nicole is a 4th Year BBA student double minoring in Medieval & Medievalism Studies and Political Science. You can find her ignoring her readings, hanging out with her dogs, and planning her next Disney vacation.