Darling Firekeeper's Daughter Instructions for Dancing The Summer of Lost Letters All of Us Villains The Sea Is Salt and So Am I The Last Legacy
Be Dazzled The Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life Zara Hossain Is Here You're So Dead Gilded You'd Be Home Now Me (Moth)
Smoke Firekeeper's Daughter A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions No Beauties or Monsters You Can Go Your Own Way Violet Ghosts No Beauties or Monsters
Dark and Shallow Lies The Girls Are Never Gone The Big Reveal Faking Reality Skin of the Sea White Smoke The Big Reveal

Best of 2021 YA

By Susan the Librarian

By Susan the Librarian
Firekeeper's Daughter

Firekeeper's Daughter

Angeline Boulley

$18.99 $17.66

No Beauties or Monsters

No Beauties or Monsters

Tara Goedjen

$17.99 $16.73

The Big Reveal

The Big Reveal

Jen Larsen

$17.99 $16.73

This unapologetically feminist and body positive YA contemporary novel will resonate with all young women who have ever been shamed and objectified for having bodies (so, all young women...). Debates over the validity and empowerment of sex work take center stage, but complex friendships, budding relationships, and amazingly witty banter keep the feminist message from feeling overly preachy. The high stakes plot makes it difficult to put this one down. I highly recommend this novel to fans of YA contemporary fiction.

All of Us Villains

All of Us Villains

Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

$18.99 $17.66

I am so obsessed with this world and these characters! A thrilling blend of the Hunger Games and the Triwizard Tournament, the battle between the four morally gray protagonists features a balance of magic and bloodbaths, calculating strategy and hopeful idealism. My only complaint is that the sequel isn't out yet! A fun page-turner for YA fantasy readers who can stomach a bit of gore.

You Can Go Your Own Way

You Can Go Your Own Way

Eric Smith

$18.99 $17.66

Romantic, funny, and heartwarming, this YA contemporary has a perfect blend of fun and emotional depth. The pinball background and general '80s nostalgia creates a delightful atmosphere, and I found myself longing to be part of the Old City shop owners' community with their wonderful, hilarious camaraderie. I highly recommend this to fans of YA contemporary fiction and YA rom coms.

Skin of the Sea

Skin of the Sea

Natasha Bowen

$18.99 $17.66

This book has a classic structure (magical heroine goes on a quest with the boy she secretly loves to defeat a powerful villain) and yet it feels fresh and exciting. Not only does it draw from the wealth of underrepresented West African folklore, but the incorporation of the real and terrible history of the enslavement of African people gives the novel a grounded quality you might not expect from a story of mermaids and gods. Bowen consciously weaves in West African culture, including mathematics, art, and gender politics, ensuring that her characters and the unnamed people on the slavers' vessels are defined by their own rich and diverse identities, not by slavery. This excellent book is a must-read for YA Fantasy fans and an excellent addition to any public library or high school collection.

Gilded

Gilded

Marissa Meyer

$19.99 $18.59

No praise I can write here will do this book justice. Masterfully told and spun from many threads of rich German folklore, this novel is far more than a Rumpelstiltskin retelling. The world-building is immersive, luxurious, and chilling; the characters nuanced; the heroine delightful and surprising; and the dialogue modern without feeling out-of-place. Not only is this one of my favorite books of the year, but it is one of my favorite fantasies I've read in a long time. I cannot recommend it highly enough!

The Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life

The Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life

Amy Butler Greenfield

$18.99 $17.66

Spanning two wars and featuring colorful characters from eccentric millionaires to rumrunning gangsters, this true story at times feels like fiction. Though marketed to teens, adults will enjoy this fascinating biography just as much as younger readers. Greenfield is honest about holes in the historical record but still manages to uncover enough information to piece together a cohesive picture of Friedman’s secretive life and contribution to counterintelligence. Bits of code included in the text along with instructions for deciphering it add a beautiful interactive element to the book. I highly recommend this one to teens and adults alike!

The Last Legacy

The Last Legacy

Adrienne Young

$18.99 $17.66

Young returns to the cutthroat world of the FABLE duology for a story of political intrigue and forbidden love. Fans of FABLE and SKY IN THE DEEP may be surprised at the almost courtly start to this novel, as the well-bred, gown-wearing young woman arrives to take her place in her powerful family. But the story quickly gets underway with all of the grounded world-building and visceral story experience you can expect from Adrienne Young. The plot kept me guessing, the characters surprised me, and the romance threw me off-balance in the best possible way. This was one of my favorite books of the year. Highly recommend!

Dark and Shallow Lies

Dark and Shallow Lies

Ginny Myers Sain

$17.99 $16.73

World-tilting twists and an eerie, immersive atmosphere guarantee a gut-plummeting ride in this YA Mystery-Horror hybrid. Though it takes a few chapters to acclimate to the number of important players and their various superhuman abilities, the volume of characters and secrets makes the mystery that much more difficult to unravel. Suspense junkies won’t want to miss this stellar debut!

The Girls Are Never Gone

The Girls Are Never Gone

Sarah Glenn Marsh

$17.99 $16.73

Deliciously chilling, THE GIRLS ARE NEVER GONE has the perfect blend of eerie atmosphere and ancient mystery, blood-curdling scares and false alarms–not something you’ll want to bring on your vacation to a remote lake! Its queer romance and Type-1 Diabetes representation set it apart from other YA horror while the thoughtful character development is just as engrossing as the mystery. Pick this one up if you want a ghost story that will have you jumping every time someone turns on a faucet!

You'd Be Home Now

You'd Be Home Now

Kathleen Glasgow

$18.99 $17.66

Gorgeous prose and an infusion of classic literature elevate this story of a community’s coming-of-age into something truly exquisite. The suspenseful plot pushes readers along while authentic and complex emotions pull us deeper into the characters’ world. Though the novel takes on two mammoth social problems (the opioid crisis crisis and slut-shaming culture), Glasgow anchors them both in her protagonist’s struggle to be both noticed and respected by her family and community and also in the subplots of the parents and school community struggling to see outcasts as human beings. This novel is a must-read for any fan of YA contemporary fiction!

Me (Moth)

Me (Moth)

Amber McBride

$18.99 $17.66

This beautiful YA novel-in-verse explores the ways that our ancestral history and romantic love can both root us in the world and set us free. Poignant and surprising, the story brims with complex emotions and exquisite yet authentic poetry. Fans of Elizabeth Acevado and anyone looking for a thought-provoking, immersive literary novel will not want to miss this gorgeous debut!

White Smoke

White Smoke

Tiffany D. Jackson

$18.99 $17.66

Jackson makes her pivot from psychological thrillers to horror look easy in this ghostly, unputdownable novel about a girl overcoming fears and prejudices to take on both supernatural and human threats to her family and community. As in all of Jackson’s work, the characters are multifaceted, the family and community dynamics complex, and the social justice themes prominent, accessible, and timely. Fans of YA horror and/or psychological thrillers will not want to miss WHITE SMOKE! If depictions of marijuana use won’t turn off your gatekeepers, this title could work well in teen book clubs, too.

Violet Ghosts

Violet Ghosts

Leah Thomas

$18.99 $17.66

Although there is a thrilling dose of speculative fiction in this ghost story, at its core, VIOLET GHOSTS is a story of surviving and healing after abuse and fighting to be true to one’s identity. It is set in the recent past, and until late in the book, Dani doesn’t know that there are other transgender people in the world (or even the term “transgender”). His struggle to figure out how to identify and even describe himself parallels the struggle of the ghosts to find a new way to fit into the world where they’ve existed merely as invisible victims, lying in the places where they died for years or even decades. The story is beautifully, emotionally told (I keep wanting to use the word haunting, but it will sound like a bad pun … but it is haunting…), and ultimately full of hope. I highly recommend it to fans of YA speculative fiction AND fans of YA contemporary.

The Summer of Lost Letters

The Summer of Lost Letters

Hannah Reynolds

$18.99 $17.66

From the jacket summary and cover art, I did not expect to laugh out loud at this romance--but the banter! The premise of the romance of the grandparents and the tension between families left room for angst (and there was angst) but the thrust of the contemporary romance is summer fling turns to forever love over a series of adventures and capers. It was sweet, funny, and at times heart-wrenching, full of history and thorny ethical dilemmas, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Highly recommend to fans of YA contemporary romance who like family drama and a bit of mystery.

Darling

Darling

K. Ancrum

$18.99 $17.66

This dark Peter Pan twist is impossible to put down! I loved how Ancrum turned it into a thriller instead of a fantasy, drawing out the darkness that already exists in the original Peter Pan and infusing it with a new take on the concept of “eternal youth.” I was riveted. Highly recommend to fans of YA thrillers and dark contemporary.

You're So Dead

You're So Dead

Ash Parsons

$18.99 $17.66

The mystery-thriller plot of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE meets the comic ridiculousness of CLUE in this new YA thriller. Don’t get me wrong–this is a murder mystery and the serial killer will keep you on the edge of your seat–but what makes this novel work is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The premise is over-the-top, but not unrealistic given the over-the-top reality of private-island-festivals and Influencer culture, and there is always a thread of humor, or a comment on the absurd extravagance of the murder’s pageantry, even at the most tense moments. It’s not true farce (like EAT YOUR HEART OUT), but it’s a heart-pounder that will also make you laugh (+ a warm-fuzzy friendship subplot). I’d recommend it to anyone who doesn’t need their thrillers to be dark.

The Sea Is Salt and So Am I

The Sea Is Salt and So Am I

Cassandra Hartt

$18.99 $17.66

Lyrical prose and authentic emotions guide readers through this poetic story. Fans of emotional contemporary YA, such as A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL, WE ARE OKAY, or AN EMOTION OF GREAT DELIGHT will love this quietly beautiful debut. Hartt includes a warning at the start for scenes of suicidal ideation, suicide, and depression, which are upsetting in their realism, but the hope and healing that propels the story makes it a rewarding read for anyone who won't be triggered by the content. I highly recommend this one.

A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions

A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions

Sheena Boekweg

$18.99 $17.66

I think this Jazz Age alternative history was written especially for me. Full of secret codes, espionage, heist-like missions, humor, feminism, and discussion of queer and trans rights, this book is both fun and though-provoking in the best ways. Elsie is a heroine you will love to cheer for (and wish you could vote for!). I highly recommend this wonderful novel to fans of quirky YA history and/or spy/heist books. There is definite crossover appeal for adult audiences.

Be Dazzled

Be Dazzled

Ryan La Sala

$17.99 $16.73

This rom com is adorable and uplifting. By alternating between past and present, La Sala threads the suspense of the competition through the build-up and collapse of Raffy and Luca’s relationship. It’s definitely a page turner! I loved the evolution of Raffy’s relationship with his mom (and Luca’s!) and the depth given to the secondary characters (May and Inaya especially). A well-written, engaging, funny book for fans of YA realistic fiction and/or romances.

Zara Hossain Is Here

Zara Hossain Is Here

Sabina Khan

$18.99 $17.66

Zara finds no easy answers in this nuanced novel about racism, homophobia, and the gut-wrenching flaws in America’s immigration and justice systems. But despite the hard-hitting subject matter and complete lack of sugar-coating, Zara’s indomitable voice and the love and idealism that bind her to her support community keep the novel enjoyable and hopeful even in the darkest moments. An honest and rousing call for change through a character’s frustrating, heartbreaking struggle to be treated as human–highly recommend!

Smoke

Smoke

Darcy Woods

$17.99 $16.73

So refreshing to find a book “about” PTSD that isn’t soul-crushing! The depiction of Honor’s dad’s mental illness is gritty and real–as is the anxiety Honor experiences as a result–but what this book is really about is the lengths to which a person will go to help the people they love. So despite the heavy thematic material, the suspense and thriller elements, and the nebulous shades of morality, hope and love are consistent threads. For all her questionable choices, Honor’s deep, emotional motivations compel readers to cheer for her–even at the moments where we’re watching her destroy a relationship. This book is excellent. The drug trade might preclude it from many classrooms and book clubs, but there is a lot of meat for discussion here. I highly recommend it to fans of YA contemporary and character-driven thrillers.

Instructions for Dancing

Instructions for Dancing

Nicola Yoon

$19.99 $18.59

A truly exceptional, must-read YA romance! There are too many strengths to list, so I’ll stick with a few of my favorites: First, these characters breathe. All of them are so alive, so real, so packed with genuine human emotions and motivations. No secondary character is neglected. Second, this is a romance about heartbreak and loss (don’t worry, there’s an HFN) but it also made me laugh out loud. As with the characters, the plot and prose are packed with the full range of human emotion. Third, there is a chapter where the narrator summarizes a bunch of romance novel tropes, and it is amazing. And finally, this sentence: “Sometimes I think love is the reason language was invented.”

Faking Reality

Faking Reality

Sara Fujimura

$18.99 $17.66

I loved the voice and cast of this adorable YA romance. Dakota is a quarter Japanese and Fujimura incorporates Japanese culture and language seamlessly throughout the narrative. I also appreciated the “reality diva” twist: that Dakota stars in an HGTV show where she gets to renovate houses and other building projects. You don’t expect a “TV princess” to show up in steel-toed work boots, and it is awesome. The gradual build of the romance was actually less engaging for me than Dakota’s personal growth, wrestling with issues of privacy and agency and the pros/cons of being a ratings success. Highly recommend to fans of fun, hopeful, but thought-provoking YA contemporary fiction!