Happy 2019, y’all! New year, new books, new resolution to read everything I can get my hands on without coming up for air (it’s the resolution I make every year, and in some ways, it’s the easiest since it’s what I most want to do all the time). I’m sharing a list of Young Adult books (and a few middle grade) that I either have read already and loved, or cannot wait to read and expect I will love. This is an entirely subjective list made from perusing spring and summer publishing catalogs, with the help of some ARCS I’ve gotten, and there are so, so many books to look forward to this year that I didn’t get to on this list.
Read It, Loved It, I’m Starting A Fan Club:
Dragon Pearl – Yoon Ha Lee
I finished this book last week and I’ve already texted a friends about it a bazillion times. With this wild, wild west-style space opera, full of Korean folklore, mythical creatures, futuristic societies, and truly original world-builing, Yoon Ha Lee brings all the talent and verve that have made her name in adult horror and science fiction, and makes a fantastic middle-grade debut. I’ve loved everything the Rick Riordan Presents imprint has published so far, and Dragon Pearl is such a worthy addition.
Bonus: if you’re an audiobook fan, this is a good one to listen to!
If You’re Out There – Katy Loutzenhiser
I think anyone who is or has been a teenager well understands that feeling of watching the friends we’ve known since forever grow up alongside us and… grow into someone we don’t actually know as well anymore. If You’re Out There is one such universal coming-of-age story, but don’t think that means it’s a predictable plot—Zan’s unique angst and her refusal to simply let her best friend go made this one of the freshest, most heartfelt, and yes, fun take on this common theme and I want everyone to read this the second it hits the shelves.
This Time Will Be Different – Misa Sugiura
One of my favorite books of 2017 was Misa Sugiura’s gorgeous It’s Not Like It’s A Secret (if a story combines a coming of age narrative, positive queer representation, and the mystery of a family’s long-held secret, I’m there), and I’m only a couple of chapters into This Time Will Be Different, but I can already confidently recommend this gem. If you loved the sweet romance interwoven with history and complicated families in The Sun Is Also a Star and Picture Us In The Light, this is definitely a book for you, and it’s going to be the book I feverishly press into the hands of every friend, family member, and passing stranger I see this year.
Also, I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we all do it AND JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER.
Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi
Speaking of covers, here’s another I can recommend you lovingly stroke while diving into the fast-paced, intricate story of fantastical magic, ancient artifacts, and dark inheritance. Set in a fictionalized version of Paris, Chokshi’s brilliant, gem-faceted world holds all the lush, layered mystery of books like Swordspoint and Six of Crows—best of all, you can read it now.
Dealing in Dreams – Lilliam Rivera
From the author of The Education of Margot Sanchez, this book has a brilliant premise, a frame-worthy cover, and a story full of swagger and singular, unforgettable voice. The story of Nalah and her Las Mal Criadas, the “baddest girl gang in Mega City,” is all I ever wanted from a high-octane futuristic feminist dystopian fantasy about a group of teen girls fighting their way through an inhospitable world.
Haven’t Read Yet But Would Follow These Authors Anywhere:
A Thousand Sisters – Elizabeth Wein
Code Name Verity stole my heart and made me sob (all three times I’ve read it), and I’ve relished every Elizabeth Wein book that’s come after, so I can’t wait to get my hands on A Thousand Sisters. Wein’s Young Pilots series is my gold standard for well-researched historical fiction, so it only makes sense that she should write a book about the Night Witches, “Soviet women who flew World War II bombing missions in flimsy bi-planes made of balsa wood and fabric.” Even if you don’t reach for nonfiction very often, treat yourself to this one: Wein’s storytelling abilities have a way of putting you in the moment so well you’ll be just as entranced as with a novel.
The Meaning of Birds – Jaye Robin Brown
Did you love Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit? Me too, and while it may have a heavier storyline, I expect Brown’s skillful treatment of queer teen stories and complex, genuine characters will make The Meaning of Birds just as important and uplifting.
Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle of Spirits – Anna Meriano
My favorite clan of pastry brujas is back and I cannot wait to read this follow-up to one of my favorite books of 2018. Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble was full of wacky fun, family secrets, and sisterly love (and trouble)—I fully expect A Sprinkle of Spirits to be just as spicy, spooky, and sweet. Bonus: for those of y’all in the Houston area, you can celebrate the book’s release with Houston-based author Anna Meriano at Brazos Bookstore on Febrary 9.
The Vanishing Stair – Maureen Johnson
Did you fall in love with the twistery mystery of Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious? I was sold from the first page (The dedication reads: “For everyone who has ever dreamed of finding a body in the library.” How does she know??) and when my local indie bookstore opened on Tuesday, January 22, you bet I was at the door waiting to get my hands on a copy. I’ll probably finish it in one gulp and then regret not making it last a little long. Oh well.
Somewhere Only We Know – Maurene Goo
One of my favorite books I read last year was The Way You Make Me Feel, and I was so thrilled to get to see Maurene Goo, in all her intimidating-coolness, at the 2018 Texas Book Festival. Imagine my shriek when I came across Somewhere Only We Know in a spring catalog—a new book by the queen of fresh, original YA rom-coms, starring a Kpop star and a teen tabloid reporter? I’ve never hit pre-order so fast.
The Raven’s Tale – Cat Winters
I adore Cat Winters’s particular brand of bone-chilling historical fiction, and am both excited and slightly terrified to see how she tells this tale of the King of Creep himself, young Edgar Allen Poe. While I wait for April 16, I will buy extra light bulbs for the coming nights when I can’t sleep. Future Lydia will thank me.
And Still More I Can’t Wait to Read:
Dough Boys – Paula Chase
The Usual Suspects – Maurice Broaddus
Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined – Stephanie Hemphill
Like a Love Story – Abdi Nazemian
Destroy All Monsters – Sam J. Miller
With the Fire on High – Elizabeth Acevedo
Pumpkinheads – Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Let Me Hear A Rhyme – Tiffany D. Jackson
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali – Sabina Khan
Tell Me How You Really Feel – Aminah Mae Safi
The Tiger at Midnight – Swati Teerdhala
A Good Kind of Trouble – Lisa Moore Ramée
Orange for the Sunsets – Tina Athaide
Other Words for Home – Jasmine Warga
These Witches Don’t Burn – Isabel Sterling
Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens – Tanya Boteju
Stand on the Sky – Erin Bow
Love and Other Curses – Michael Thomas Ford
One Last recommendation: This one isn’t technically YA or middle-grade, but how could I write this post and not shriek about a new fantasy novel from multiple award-winning author Ann Leckie (who also just happens to be one of my favorite living authors?). The answer is: I could not, and should not. We should all be basking in the glory of Leckie’s boundless imagination, dry, subtle wit, and heart-stealing characters.