These 27 picks for teens offer so much for young people pushing to define themselves--first love, fantastical worlds, betrayal, political upheaval, and more.
More Best Books:
Ahmed, Samira. Hollow Fires. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316282642.
Gr 9 Up–Alternating between the perspectives of Safiya, who is investigating hate crimes at her prep school and in the local community, and Jawad, a missing Muslim public school student whose haunting voice tries to lead Safiya to his body, Ahmed’s gripping title shines a light on Islamophobia in society and the white supremacist radicalization of teens online.
Albert, Melissa. Our Crooked Hearts. Flatiron. ISBN 9781250826367.
Gr 9 Up–Past and present are side by side as Ivy navigates the occult happenings that creep ever closer to home—and her mother’s past. Subtle foreshadowing, ominous supernatural
elements, and nuanced relationships propel this character-driven novel.
Burton, Jessie. Medusa. illus. by Olivia Lomenech Gill. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781547607594.
Gr 9 Up–On a deserted island, the Gorgon Medusa lives out her days until the lost sailor, Perseus, arrives, rocking her very foundation. This lyrical revamp of a myth is filled with lush emotive earth-toned illustrations and a dynamic young woman tackling issues of power balances and gender inequality.
Chima, Cinda Williams. Children of Ragnarok. HarperCollins/Balzar + Bray. ISBN 9780063018686.
Gr 7 Up–Eiric and Reginn, a Viking and a foundling with magic, are both set on separate quests to find the island refuge for sorcerers in this Norse adventure. Infused with themes of justice, autonomy, and found family, Chima’s series opener is a tapestry of satisfying plot twists and nuanced worldbuilding.
Chokshi, Roshani, Evelyn Skye & Sandhya Menon. Three Kisses, One Midnight. Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250797230.
Gr 7 Up –On Halloween night in small-town Moon Ridge, three friends each have until midnight to find romance. Separate but interconnected stories show the teens meeting this goal in different ways. A diverse cast, a masquerade ball, and a touch of magic enhance this sweet story.
Ferguson, Jen. The Summer of Bitter and Sweet. HarperCollins/Heartdrum. ISBN 9780063086166.
Gr 10 Up–Lou, who is Métis, plans to spend the summer with her family and friends while working at her family’s ice cream shack. However, a series of unexpected events, including that her mother’s rapist—Lou’s biological father—is now free, forces the teen to reckon with her identity and sexuality in Ferguson’s searing and moving debut.
Hammonds, Jas. We Deserve Monuments. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781250816559.
Gr 9 Up–When Avery’s family moves down South to take care of her terminally ill grandmother, secrets long buried are brought to light. This debut is a bittersweet look at navigating trauma through three generations of women that doesn’t shy away from the complex relationships that tie them to their roots.
Hur, June. The Red Palace. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250800558.
Gr 8 Up–When Hyeon’s role in palace intrigues jeopardizes her friends and mentors, she tries to unravel what happened the night she was the prince’s alibi. Details and high stakes bring Korea’s Joseon era to life with a fascinating mystery, highlighting an underrepresented historical moment for YA literature.
Jackson, Tiffany D. The Weight of Blood. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780063029149.
Gr 9 Up–Maddy Washington has been passing for white in her small town until a rainstorm reveals the truth, leading to a national spotlight on the racism that dominates her high school. When pushed to her limit and when racial tensions reach a boiling point, the teen uses supernatural abilities to exact justice on those who have done her wrong in this suspenseful novel.
Kaylor, Serena. Long Story Short. Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250818416.
Gr 9 Up–Teen genius Beatrice agrees to a four-week theater camp to prove to her parents that her smarts can translate to social intelligence. A strong neurodiverse character leads an equally diverse cast through theater shenanigans that center on growing relationships, taking risks, and a dash of enemies-to-lovers’ romance.
La Sala, Ryan. The Honeys. Scholastic/PUSH. ISBN 9781338745313.
Gr 9 Up–After the death of his twin, genderfluid Mars takes her place at exclusive, expensive Aspen summer camp, where strange and dangerous things linger under the idyllic, cloyingly nostalgicsurface. This slow-build horror deftly explores grief, gender-role toxicity, and the strong grip of generational expectations.
Latham, Irene & Charles Waters. African Town. Putnam. ISBN 9780593322888.
Gr 7 Up–Told in 14 voices, this moving novel-in-verse chronicles the journey of the last slave ship, Clotilda, to arrive in America. From the voice of the ship, to those of the enslaved, a moment in history not frequently in the spotlight is given its time, complete with back matter that provides further background on the voyage and the state of African Town today.
Lee, Kristen R. Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman. Crown. ISBN 9780593309155.
Gr 9 Up–Savannah accomplished her goal of getting into the illustrious Wooddale University but wasn’t expecting the racism and microagressions that followed. She begins the difficult journey of overcoming adversity, becoming involved in activism, and ultimately deciding if “the best” university is really what is best for her in Lee’s striking debut.
Len, Vanessa. Only a Monster. HarperTeen. ISBN 9780063024649.
Gr 9 Up–Joan discovers her monstrous heritage and is determined to use her ability to steal time to save her family. This time-travel paranormal is a fun, adrenaline-infused adventure, entwined with deeper questions about morality and justice as readers follow Joan on her ascent into villainy.
Locke, Katherine. This Rebel Heart. Knopf. ISBN 9780593381243.
Gr 9 Up–In colorless 1956 Budapest, Csilla, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, is grappling with her father’s role in setting up the brutal Communist secret police. When a university student begs for help finding his boyfriend and an angel of death saves Csilla, she must decide her role in the emerging Hungarian Revolution in Locke’s fantastic, fabulist novel.
McCrina, Amanda. The Silent Unseen: A Novel of World War II. Farrar. ISBN 9780374313555.
Gr 7 Up–In 1944, Maria is desperate to find familial war survivors, but returning home means reconciling who’s friend or foe. Following multiple perspectives, this unique chapter of WWII life in Poland gives voice to a forgotten resistance squad and European civilians alike as they reckon with finding home during wartime.
Onoseta, Rimma. How You Grow Wings. Algonquin. ISBN 9781643751917.
Gr 9 Up–Follow Cheta and Zam, two sisters in modern Nigeria, as small choices drastically divide and change the course of their lives. Told in dual perspectives, this narrative highlights societal colorism, classism, and how distanced sisters fight outside forces and resentment to find a way back to each other.
Padilla, Francesca. What’s Coming to Me. Soho Teen. ISBN 9781641293358.
Gr 10 Up–Seventeen-year-old Minerva needs her job at the local ice cream stand, especially because her mother is in the hospital. After a traumatizing robbery that she thinks her predatory boss may have been involved in, the Dominican teen decides to fight back in this coming-of-age thriller that explores grief and class.
Reynolds, Jason. Ain’t Burned All the Bright. illus. by Jason Griffin. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy. ISBN 9781534439467.
Gr 7 Up–Ten sentences, three Breaths, and 300 pages of art about what it means to be Black in America. Reynolds’s captivating poetry alongside Griffin’s art have created a viscerally intelligent piece of mixed media focusing on contemporary events and their consequences.
Romero, R.M. The Ghosts of Rose Hill. Peachtree. ISBN 9781682633380.
Gr 9 Up–The discovery of a long-forgotten Jewish cemetery in Prague and a handsome ghost-boy with a troubling story set Ilana on a path to a deeper understanding of what it means to sacrifice for those we love. A poignant, meticulously crafted novel-in-verse that creates an immersive reading experience.
Scelsa, Kate. Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062465030.
Gr 8 Up–Growing up in present-day Salem has not been particularly magical for Eleanor, but with the appearance of a strange new book about tarot and a cute witch named Pix, she may find the motivation to reckon with her past in favor of a happy future. A witty romance full of flying sparks that nevertheless tackles some heavy topics.
Schwartz, Dana. Anatomy: A Love Story. Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250774156.
Gr 10 Up–Granted a rare opportunity for entry into a surgical program, Hazel teams up with resurrection man Jack in what begins as a run-of-the-mill corpse collecting scheme that turns into something much more sinister. A Gothic romance set in 1817 Scotland wrapped in a horrifying and thrilling mystery, chock-full of grit and gore.
Sepetys, Ruta. I Must Betray You. Philomel. ISBN 9781984836038.
Gr 9 Up–In 1989 Romania, Christian is forced to become an informer for the tyrannical Communist regime and betray everyone he loves. Rife with tension and historical details, Sepetys’s novel shines a light on another dark moment in history and forces readers to ask themselves what they would do.
Shaw, Tucker. When You Call My Name. Holt. ISBN 9781250624864.
Gr 10 Up–At the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1990, 17-year-old Adam experiences first love while Ben comes out to his mother and leaves for New York to begin a new life. In this heartrending novel, their worlds collide as they deal with the impact AIDS has on the gay community, finding a sense of belonging, and love.
Summers, Courtney. I’m the Girl. Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250808363.
Gr 10 Up–When Georgia’s dreams of working at exclusive Aspera intersect with investigating the death of her crush’s little sister, she dives headfirst into a world of extravagance and secrecy that no one can survive unscathed. An unflinching look at the myriad dangers facing teenage girls that is at once jarring and deeply resonant, tender, and furious.
Tahir, Sabaa. All My Rage. Razorbill. ISBN 9780593202340.
Gr 9 Up–After The Fight creates a rift, Salahudin and Noor carry on shouldering their respective families’ burdens until a breaking point, when they must decide what the true value of their friendship is. This brutal, beautiful story is a testament to the power of friendship and forgiveness in the face of fury and heartbreak.
Thomas, Aiden. The Sunbearer Trials. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250822130.
Gr 7 Up–In this Mexican-inspired fantasy, 10 teen semidioses compete in the Sunbearer Trials: the winner brings light to the temples of Reino del Sol, while the loser is sacrificed to Sol to protect the people. This page-turning adventure and first in a duology centers trans and queer characters.