2020 was a rough year and, as with all years, good books helped us survive it. Some of the best storytelling is happening in the young adult world, where coming-of-age narratives remind us of the essential struggles and joys of being alive. Here were just a few of the YA books that came out in 2020 that made it into our TBR pile.
Top New Young Adult Books December 2020
The Cousins by Karen M. McManus
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: Dec. 1
Den of Geek says: A tale of family and suspense, this novel about uncovering a bloody secret looks like it’s full of atmosphere and a tinge of horror.
Publisher’s summary: Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.
Their parents are all clear on one point–not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious–and dark–their family’s past is.
The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over–and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.
A Universe of Wishes by Dhonielle Clayton
Type: Short story collection
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Release date: Dec. 8
Den of Geek says: Some of the SF/F genre’s best authors (not to mention YA’s best authors) come together in a collection of fantasy from the We Need Diverse Books initiative.
Publisher’s summary: From We Need Diverse Books, the organization behind Flying Lessons & Other Stories, comes a young adult fantasy short story collection featuring some of the best own-voices children’s authors, including New York Times bestselling authors Libba Bray (The Diviners), V. E. Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic), Natalie C. Parker (Seafire), and many more. Edited by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles).
In the fourth collaboration with We Need Diverse Books, fifteen award-winning and celebrated diverse authors deliver stories about a princess without need of a prince, a monster long misunderstood, memories that vanish with a spell, and voices that refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. This powerful and inclusive collection contains a universe of wishes for a braver and more beautiful world.
AUTHORS INCLUDE: Samira Ahmed, Jenni Balch, Libba Bray, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Mark Oshiro, Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, V. E. Schwab, Tara Sim, Nic Stone
This is How We Fly by Anna Meriano
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release date: Dec. 15
Den of Geek says: It wouldn’t be a geek rec list without this grab bag of high school coming-of-age and Quidditch. Whether you’re a current or recovering Harry Potter fan or looking for a unique setting, this might have something for you.
Publisher’s summary: 17-year-old vegan feminist Ellen Lopez-Rourke has one muggy Houston summer left before college. She plans to spend every last moment with her two best friends before they go off to the opposite ends of Texas for school. But when Ellen is grounded for the entire summer by her (sometimes) evil stepmother, all her plans are thrown out the window.
Determined to do something with her time, Ellen (with the help of BFF Melissa) convinces her parents to let her join the local muggle Quidditch team. An all-gender, full-contact game, Quidditch isn’t quite what Ellen expects. There’s no flying, no magic, just a bunch of scrappy players holding PVC pipe between their legs and throwing dodgeballs. Suddenly Ellen is thrown into the very different world of sports: her life is all practices, training, and running with a group of Harry Potter fans.
Even as Melissa pulls away to pursue new relationships and their other BFF Xiumiao seems more interested in moving on from high school (and from Ellen), Ellen is steadily finding a place among her teammates. Maybe Quidditch is where she belongs.
But with her home life and friend troubles quickly spinning out of control–Ellen must fight for the future that she wants, now she’s playing for keeps.
Top New Young Adult Books November 2020
The Way Back by Gavriel Savit
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release date: Nov. 17
Den of Geek says: A shimmering historical fantasy brings its heroes on a journey through worlds of demons and the dead based on Jewish folklore.
Publisher’s summary: For the Jews of Eastern Europe, demons are everywhere: dancing on the rooftops in the darkness of midnight, congregating in the trees, harrowing the dead, even reaching out to try and steal away the living.
But the demons have a land of their own: a Far Country peopled with the souls of the transient dead, governed by demonic dukes, barons, and earls. When the Angel of Death comes strolling through the little shtetl of Tupik one night, two young people will be sent spinning off on a journey through the Far Country. There they will make pacts with ancient demons, declare war on Death himself, and maybe– just maybe–find a way to make it back alive.
Drawing inspiration from the Jewish folk tradition, The Way Back is a dark adventure sure to captivate readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust.
Release date: Nov. 17
Den of Geek says: Onyebuchi returns to his anime-inspired anti-war series with Afrofuturism in space.
Publisher’s summary: It’s been five years since the Biafran War ended. Ify is now nineteen and living where she’s always dreamed–the Space Colonies. She is a respected, high-ranking medical officer and has dedicated her life to helping refugees like herself rebuild in the Colonies.
Back in the still devastated Nigeria, Uzo, a young synth, is helping an aid worker, Xifeng, recover images and details of the war held in the technology of destroyed androids. Uzo, Xifeng, and the rest of their team are working to preserve memories of the many lives lost, despite the government’s best efforts to eradicate any signs that the war ever happened.
Though they are working toward common goals of helping those who suffered, Ify and Uzo are worlds apart. But when a mysterious virus breaks out among the children in the Space Colonies, their paths collide. Ify makes it her mission to figure out what’s causing the deadly disease. And doing so means going back to the homeland she thought she’d left behind forever.
How to Pack for the End of the World by Michelle Falkoff
Release date: Nov. 10
Den of Geek says: This small stakes high school drama nevertheless feels timely for a world in which it seems like another disaster strikes every day.
Publisher’s summary: If you knew the world was going to end tomorrow, what would you do?
This is the question that haunts Amina as she watches new and horrible stories of discord and crisis flash across the news every day.
But when she starts at prestigious Gardner Academy, Amina finds a group of like-minded peers to join forces with—fast friends who dedicate their year to learning survival skills from each other, before it’s too late.
Still, as their prepper knowledge multiplies, so do their regular high school problems, from relationship drama to family issues to friend blow-ups. Juggling the two parts of their lives forces Amina to ask another vital question: Is it worth living in the hypothetical future if it’s at the expense of your actual present?
Top New Young Adult Books October 2020
Return of the Thief by Megan Whelan Turner
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: Oct. 6
Den of Geek says: The latest book in this acclaimed, long-running series known for intricate plotting and twists follows the continuing political machinations of Eugenides, the titular thief, in fantasy world-building based loosely on Greek mythology.
Publisher’s summary: This beloved and award-winning series began with the acclaimed novel The Thief. It and four more stand-alone volumes bring to life a world of epics, myths, and legends, and feature one of the most charismatic and incorrigible characters of fiction, Eugenides the thief. Now more powerful and cunning than ever before, Eugenides must navigate a perilous future in this sweeping conclusion. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Patrick Rothfuss, and Sarah J. Maas.
Neither accepted nor beloved, Eugenides is the uneasy linchpin of a truce on the Lesser Peninsula, where he has risen to be high king of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis. As the treacherous Baron Erondites schemes anew and a prophecy appears to foretell the death of the king, the ruthless Mede empire prepares to strike.
The New York Times–bestselling Queen’s Thief novels are rich with political machinations, divine intervention, dangerous journeys, battles lost and won, power, passion, and deception. Features a cast list of the characters in the Queen’s Thief novels, as well as two maps—a map of the world of the Queen’s Thief, and a map exclusive to this edition.
Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker (Seanan McGuire)
Release date: Oct. 6
Den of Geek says: An experimental companion to McGuire’s intricate novel Middlegame, Over the Woodward Wall first came to life as a middle grade story that serves as a pop culture touchstone for the characters in that adult novel. It’s also a story by a master in its own right, although how well it holds up outside the companion novel is yet to be determined.
Publisher’s summary: Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework – without complaint, without fuss, without prompt.
Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable.
They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds.
On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under – an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures.
And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives.
Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release date: Oct. 6
Den of Geek says: This sounds like a sports anime with dragons in book form. A compelling mystery as a tour of a fantastical racing league promises action and ambitious characters.
Publisher’s summary: Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner―the only player without a dragon steed―is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.
But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire―a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form―the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.
Top New Young Adult Books September 2020
Night Shine by Tessa Gratton
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release date: Sept. 8
Den of Geek says: We’re all about crossovers between fantasy and YA here, and this looks like a good stepping stone for a kid who is just about ready to start reading high fantasy. The prose style is slow and deliberate as the author tells a tale of romance, kidnapping, and friendship.
Publisher’s summary: In the vast palace of the empress lives an orphan girl called Nothing. She slips within the shadows of the Court, unseen except by the Great Demon of the palace and her true friend, Prince Kirin, heir to the throne. When Kirin is kidnapped, only Nothing and the prince’s bodyguard suspect that Kirin may have been taken by the Sorceress Who Eats Girls, a powerful woman who has plagued the land for decades. The sorceress has never bothered with boys before, but Nothing has uncovered many secrets in her sixteen years in the palace, including a few about the prince.
As the empress’s army searches fruitlessly, Nothing and the bodyguard set out on a rescue mission, through demon-filled rain forests and past crossroads guarded by spirits. Their journey takes them to the gates of the Fifth Mountain, where the sorceress wields her power. There, Nothing will discover that all magic is a bargain, and she may be more powerful than she ever imagined. But the price the Sorceress demands for Kirin may very well cost Nothing her heart.
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Type: Novel in Verse
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: Sept. 1
Den of Geek says: Authors like Tochi Onyebuchi have taken hold of the moment to write political novels about incarceration in the last few years. This mix of poetry and prose adds to that genre with real world experience from prison reform activist Yusef Salaam.
Publisher’s summary: The story that I thought
was my life
didn’t start on the day
I was born
Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.
The story that I think
will be my life
Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?
With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.
Gold Wings Rising (The Skybound Saga) by Alex London
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release date: Sept. 1
Den of Geek says: It’s always nice to see a fantasy series that moves away from the staple creatures, even if I love dragons, and this series replaces them with ghostly birds that give it a horror movie flavor.
Publisher’s summary: The war on the ground has ended, but the war with the sky has just begun. After the Siege of the Six Villages, the ghost eagles have trapped Uztaris on both sides of the conflict. The villagers and Kartami alike hide in caves, huddled in terror as they await nightly attacks. Kylee aims to plunge her arrows into each and every ghost eagle; in her mind, killing the birds is the only way to unshackle the city’s chains. But Brysen has other plans.
While the humans fly familiar circles around each other, the ghost eagles create schemes far greater and more terrible than either Kylee or Brysen could have imagined. Now, the tug-of-war between love and power begins to fray, threatening bonds of siblinghood and humanity alike.
Top New Young Adult Books August 2020
Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: Aug. 18
Den of Geek says: This looks like it could be an incisive and hard-hitting book that speaks to the way American Latinx students experience racism and navigate high school social life. It has gained high praise from authors including Celeste Ng.
Publisher’s Summary: Liliana Cruz is a hitting a wall—or rather, walls.
There’s the wall her mom has put up ever since Liliana’s dad left—again.
There’s the wall that delineates Liliana’s diverse inner-city Boston neighborhood from Westburg, the wealthy—and white—suburban high school she’s just been accepted into.
And there’s the wall Liliana creates within herself, because to survive at Westburg, she can’t just lighten up, she has to whiten up.
So what if she changes her name? So what if she changes the way she talks? So what if she’s seeing her neighborhood in a different way? But then light is shed on some hard truths: It isn’t that her father doesn’t want to come home—he can’t…and her whole family is in jeopardy. And when racial tensions at school reach a fever pitch, the walls that divide feel insurmountable.
But a wall isn’t always a barrier. It can be a foundation for something better. And Liliana must choose: Use this foundation as a platform to speak her truth, or risk crumbling under its weight.
Lobizona by Romina Garber
Publisher: Wednesday Books (Macmillan)
Release date: Aug. 4
Den of Geek says: Described as a Hogwarts-style fantasy world with werewolves, this fantasy doesn’t flinch from the real world effects of ICE and deportation.
Publisher’s summary: Some people ARE illegal.
Lobizonas do NOT exist.
Both of these statements are false.
Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.
Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.
Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past―a mysterious “Z” emblem―which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.
As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
Publisher: Levine Querido
Release date: Aug. 25
Den of Geek says: Charming illustrations and a ghost story deeply tied to a family’s history promise a richly textured tale from this Lipan Apache author.
Publisher’s summary: Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.
There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.
Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.
Darcie Little Badger is an extraordinary debut talent in the world of speculative fiction. We have paired her with her artistic match, illustrator Rovina Cai. This is a book singular in feeling and beauty.
The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: Aug. 4
Den of Geek says: Described as atmospheric and salt-soaked, this F/F romance might be a good introduction to readers who want to switch from post-apocalyptic YA to dark fantasy.
Publisher’s summary: A gripping, dark LGBT YA fantasy about two girls who must choose between saving themselves, each other, or their sinking island.
Every year on St. Walpurga’s Eve, Caldella’s Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking.
Lina Kirk is convinced her brother is going to be taken this year. To save him, she enlists the help of Thomas Lin, the boy she secretly loves, and the only person to ever escape from the palace. But they draw the queen’s attention, and Thomas is chosen as the sacrifice.
Queen Eva watched her sister die to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won’t make the same mistake. She’s willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city.
When Lina offers herself to the queen in exchange for Thomas’s freedom, the two girls await the full moon together. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other as water floods Caldella’s streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice.
Top New Young Adult Books In July 2020
Feathertide by Beth Cartwright
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: July 30
Den of Geek says: This has won a lot of praise for its prose. While some fairy tale adaptations can come off as empty, not actually adding anything to the context of the tradition they’re supposedly writing in, this one’s specificity seems like it might set it apart and add detail to the central metaphor about a young girl’s search for her family.
Publisher’s summary: Born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets, Marea has always known she was different, but never known why. And so to find answers, she goes in search of the father she has never met.
The hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted.
And Mara will never forget what she learns there.
Running by Natalia Sylvester
Publisher: Clarion Books
Release date: July 14
Den of Geek says: A political novel of a different type. This fantasy of being part of a presidential campaign seems like it has a lot to say about family and change.
Publisher’s summary: In this authentic, humorous, and gorgeously written debut novel about privacy, waking up, and speaking up, Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals. As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was.
But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?
A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green
Release date: July 7
Den of Geek says: YouTube sensation Hank Green’s science fiction debut, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, kicked off this series about alien robots. The sequel shows the aftermath, and continues to engage with the author’s internet in internet culture and science.
Publisher’s summary: The Carls disappeared the same way they appeared, in an instant. While the robots were on Earth, they caused confusion and destruction with only their presence. Part of their maelstrom was the sudden viral fame and untimely death of April May: a young woman who stumbled into Carl’s path, giving them their name, becoming their advocate, and putting herself in the middle of an avalanche of conspiracy theories.
Months later, April’s friends are trying to find their footing in a post-Carl world. Andy has picked up April’s mantle of fame, speaking at conferences and online; Maya, ravaged by grief, begins to follow a string of mysteries that she is convinced will lead her to April; and Miranda is contemplating defying her friends’ advice and pursuing a new scientific operation…one that might have repercussions beyond anyone’s comprehension. Just as it is starting to seem like the gang may never learn the real story behind the events that changed their lives forever, a series of clues arrive—mysterious books that seem to predict the future and control the actions of their readers—all of which seems to suggest that April could be very much alive.
In the midst of the search for the truth and the search for April is a growing force, something that wants to capture our consciousness and even control our reality. A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor is the bold and brilliant follow-up to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. It is a fast-paced adventure that is also a biting social commentary, asking hard, urgent questions about the way we live, our freedoms, our future, and how we handle the unknown.
Top New YA Books June 2020
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release date: June 2
Den of Geek says: After reading The Deep, I’m on board with the idea of black mermaids meeting YA fantasy world-building. The friendship at the center of this novel sounds cute and sweet.
Publisher’s summary: In a society determined to keep her under lock and key, Tavia must hide her siren powers.
Meanwhile, Effie is fighting her own family struggles, pitted against literal demons from her past. Together, these best friends must navigate through the perils of high school’s junior year.
But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice at the worst possible moment.
Soon, nothing in Portland, Oregon, seems safe. To save themselves from drowning, it’s only Tavia and Effie’s unbreakable sisterhood that proves to be the strongest magic of all.
Hood by Jenny Elder Moke
Release date: June 9
Den of Geek says: An adventure in which a young girl joins Robin Hood’s adventures, this one reminds me of fanfic in the best way. A re-examination of legendary characters with the pacing of contemporary YA could be cinematic fun.
Publisher’s summary: You have the blood of kings and rebels within you, love. Let it rise to meet the call.
Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John’s ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle’s father, Robin Hood.
As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf’s clutches and find the father she’s never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear?
In Hood, author Jenny Elder Moke reimagines the world of Robin Hood in lush, historical detail and imbues her story with more breathless action than has ever come out of Sherwood Forest before. This novel is a must-read for historical-fiction fans, adventure lovers, and reluctant readers alike!
Sisters of Sword and Song by Rebecca Ross
Release date: June 23
Den of Geek says: A sisterly bond provides the heart at the center of this story of magic and war. The Ancient Greece-inspired world and the promise of magic and battles look good, but the emphasis on characterization and familial love raise this one above the rest.
Publisher’s summary: After eight years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon unexpectedly appears a day early, Eva knows something is wrong. Halcyon has charged with a heinous crime, and though her life is spared, she is sentenced to 15 years.
Suspicious of the charges, brought forth by Halcyon’s army commander, as well as the details of the crime, Eva volunteers to take part of her sister’s sentence. If there’s a way to absolve Halcyon, she’ll find it. But as the sisters begin their sentences, they quickly learn that there are fates worse than death.
Top New YA in May 2020
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release date: May 19
Den of Geek says: It’s arguable whether a new Hunger Games book from the point of view of the man who will become the despotic President Snow is really what readers wanted, but it’s here. Inevitably this one will spark a lot of conversation after the runaway success of the original series.
Publisher’s summary: It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.
The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.
House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 12
Den of Geek says: This YA fantasy distinguishes itself primarily by a varied cast of five characters, making it a good introduction to epic fantasy plus the “fun group of friends” appeal of a superhero squad. Also, there are dragons and a frightening fantasy job interview, two of my favorite things.
Publisher’s summary: When the Emperor dies, the five royal houses of Etrusia attend the Call, where one of their own will be selected to compete for the throne. It is always the oldest child, the one who has been preparing for years to compete in the Trial. But this year is different. This year these five outcasts will answer the call. . . .
THE LIAR: Emilia must hide her dark magic or be put to death.
THE SOLDIER: Lucian is a warrior who has sworn to never lift a sword again.
THE SERVANT: Vespir is a dragon trainer whose skills alone will keep her in the game.
THE THIEF: Ajax knows that nothing is free–he must take what he wants.
THE MURDERER: Hyperia was born to rule and will stop at nothing to take her throne.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Release date: May 5
Den of Geek says: This looks like it could be both a tearjerker and a sweet story of sisterly love. The tragic death of their father brings Camino and Yahaira Rios into each other’s lives in a new way.
Publisher’s summary: Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Top New YA in April 2020
Little Universes by Heather Demetrios
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release date: April 7
Den of Geek says: It’s not often that YA books focus on family, and the sisterly relationship at the heart of Little Universes looks well-crafted and heart-wrenching. When tragedy strikes, each sister will need to find a way to move on.
Publisher’s summary: One wave: that’s all it takes for the rest of Mae and Hannah Winters’ lives to change.
When a tsunami strikes the island their parents are vacationing on in Malaysia, it soon becomes clear that their parents are never coming home. Forced to move to Boston from their sunny California home for the rest of their senior year, each girl struggles with secrets their parents’ death has brought to light and with their uncertainty about the future. Instead of getting closer, it feels like the wave has torn them apart.
Little Universes explores the powerful bond of sisters, the kinds of love that never die, and the journey we all must make through the baffling cruelty and unexpected beauty of human life in an incomprehensible universe.
What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release date: April 7
Den of Geek says: YA romance, and digital age romance in particular, can easily come off as cheesy or derivative. But this ‘love triangle between two people’ looks like a twist on relationships and online identity, plus the coziness of a crush story.
Publisher’s summary: There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.
He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…
Except who she really is.
Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.
That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.
Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.
If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.
Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost
Release date: April 14
Den of Geek says: It’s an interesting time for historical fantasy, and this looks a bit like a YA cousin of Upright Women Wanted, with more robots and monsters. Check out the crunchy mechanical horses on that cover.
Publisher’s summary: In this sweeping Dust Bowl-inspired fantasy, a ten-year game between Life and Death pits the walled Oklahoma city of Elysium-including a girl gang of witches and a demon who longs for humanity-against the supernatural in order to judge mankind.
When Sal is named Successor to Mother Morevna, a powerful witch and leader of Elysium, she jumps at the chance to prove herself to the town. Ever since she was a kid, Sal has been plagued by false visions of rain, and though people think she’s a liar, she knows she’s a leader. Even the arrival of enigmatic outsider Asa-a human-obsessed demon in disguise-doesn’t shake her confidence in her ability. Until a terrible mistake results in both Sal and Asa’s exile into the Desert of Dust and Steel.
Face-to-face with a brutal, unforgiving landscape, Sal and Asa join a gang of girls headed by another Elysium exile-and young witch herself-Olivia Rosales. In order to atone for their mistake, they create a cavalry of magic powered, scrap metal horses to save Elysium from the coming apocalypse. But Sal, Asa, and Olivia must do more than simply tip the scales in Elysium’s favor-only by reinventing the rules can they beat the Life and Death at their own game.
Top New YA Books in March 2020
The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release date: March 3, 2020
Den of Geek says: To put a twist on historical fantasy, author Marie Lu focuses just to the side of a world-changing life. Nannerl Mozart was a real person, and has appeared in fiction before with the aim of bringing some recognition to the famous musician’s talented but forgotten sister. The fairy tale element sounds like it will provide strong atmosphere in this musical novel.
Publisher’s Summary: Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish–to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age–her tyrannical father has made that much clear.
And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true–but his help may cost her everything.
In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.
The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson
Type: Illustrated memoir
Release date: March 3
Den of Geek says: Stevenson’s cute illustrations and enthusiastic storytelling have delighted me in her adaptation She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, so a look into her life and career sounds like an interesting look into the business of art, the animation industry, and living as a creative person.
Publisher’s Summary: From Noelle Stevenson, the New York Times bestselling author-illustrator of Nimona, comes a captivating, honest illustrated memoir that finds her turning an important corner in her creative journey—and inviting readers along for the ride.
In a collection of essays and personal mini-comics that span eight years of her young adult life, author-illustrator Noelle Stevenson charts the highs and lows of being a creative human in the world.
Whether it’s hearing the wrong name called at her art school graduation ceremony or becoming a National Book Award finalist for her debut graphic novel, Nimona, Noelle captures the little and big moments that make up a real life, with a wit, wisdom, and vulnerability that are all her own.
A Phoenix First Must Burn, edited by Patrice Caldwell
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 10
Den of Geek says: A grab-bag of some of the best writers of color in the YA space today,this anthology faces challenges head-on to tell stories of Black women and gender-non-conforming people. It looks like a good mix of realistic and fantastical stories, set past, future, and present.
Publisher’s summary: Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.
Top New YA Books in March 2020
Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland
Type: Novel (Second in series)
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: 2/4/20
Den of Geek says: Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation was a buzzy historical zombie novel with a keen awareness of racial dynamics in Civil War-era America. The sequel looks to be just as intense as the first.
Publisher’s summary: The sequel to the New York Times bestselling epic Dread Nation is an unforgettable journey of revenge and salvation across a divided America.
After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.
But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodemus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880s America.
What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears—as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.
But she won’t be in it alone.
Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by—and that Jane needs her too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.
Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive—even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.
Cast Away: Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shihab Nye
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: 2/11/2020
Den of Geek says: This unique book of poetry seems perfectly suited to today’s environmental and humanitarian issues. What happens to the things we throw away? What happens to the people who aren’t wanted? The metaphor is rich.
Publisher’s summary: Acclaimed poet and Young People’s Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye shines a spotlight on the things we cast away, from plastic water bottles to those less fortunate, in this collection of more than eighty original and never-before-published poems. A deeply moving, sometimes funny, and always provocative poetry collection for all ages.
“Nye at her engaging, insightful best.”―Kirkus (starred review)
“How much have you thrown away in your lifetime already? Do you ever think about it? Where does this plethora of leavings come from? How long does it take you, even one little you, to fill the can by your desk?”―Naomi Shihab Nye
National Book Award Finalist, Young People’s Poet Laureate, and devoted trash-picker-upper Naomi Shihab Nye explores these questions and more in this original collection of poetry that features more than eighty new poems. “I couldn’t save the world, but I could pick up trash,” she says in her introduction to this stunning volume.
With poems about food wrappers, lost mittens, plastic straws, refugee children, trashy talk, the environment, connection, community, responsibility to the planet, politics, immigration, time, junk mail, trash collectors, garbage trucks, all that we carry and all that we discard, this is a rich, engaging, moving, and sometimes humorous collection for readers ages twelve to adult.
Rebelwing by Andrea Tang
Release date: 2/25/20
Den of Geek says: Robot dragons? What more to say? The fantastical war story setting and high-energy cast of characters looks like it’ll make this one a good read for fans of Pacific Rim.
Publisher’s summary: Things just got weird for Prudence Wu.
One minute, she’s cashing in on a routine smuggling deal. The next, she’s escaping enforcers on the wings of what very much appears to be a sentient cybernetic dragon.
Pru is used to life throwing her some unpleasant surprises–she goes to prep school, after all, and selling banned media across the border in a country with a ruthless corporate government obviously has its risks. But a cybernetic dragon? That’s new.
She tries to forget about the fact that the only reason she’s not in jail is because some sort of robot saved her, and that she’s going to have to get a new side job now that enforcers are on to her. So she’s not exactly thrilled when Rebelwing shows up again.
Even worse, it’s become increasingly clear that the rogue machine has imprinted on her permanently, which means she’d better figure out this whole piloting-a-dragon thing–fast. Because Rebelwing just happens to be the ridiculously expensive weapon her government needs in a brewing war with its neighbor, and Pru’s the only one who can fly it.
Set in a wonderfully inventive near-future Washington, D.C., this hilarious, defiant debut sparkles with wit and wisdom, deftly exploring media consumption, personal freedoms, and the weight of one life as Pru, rather reluctantly, takes to the skies.