The young adult genre is still booming, providing romance, adventure, and more for teens and adults alike. Here are some of the YA books from April 2021 we’re most looking forward to or are currently consuming…
Top New Young Adult Books April 2021
Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release date: April 6
Den of Geek says: A strong YA voice brings a diverse story of trying to fit in. It’s hard when you’re a teen, and has its own wrinkles when you’re an immigrant like Zara.
Publisher’s summary: Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.
But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.
The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release date: April 13
Den of Geek says: Lots of people today are involved in fandom. In this book, obsession takes a dark turn as the titular club might end up in horror too real for their tastes.
Publisher’s summary: When it comes to horror movies, the rules are clear:
x Avoid abandoned buildings, warehouses, and cabins at all times.
x Stay together: don’t split up, not even just to “check something out.”
x If there’s a murderer on the loose, do not make out with anyone.
If only surviving in real life were this easy…
New girl Rachel Chavez turns to horror movies for comfort, preferring stabby serial killers and homicidal dolls to the bored rich kids of Manhattan Prep…and to certain memories she’d preferred to keep buried.
Then Rachel is recruited by the Mary Shelley Club, a mysterious society of students who orchestrate Fear Tests, elaborate pranks inspired by urban legends and movie tropes. At first, Rachel embraces the power that comes with reckless pranking. But as the Fear Tests escalate, the competition turns deadly, and it’s clear Rachel is playing a game she can’t afford to lose.
Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release date: April 27
Den of Geek says: There’s a rich tradition of werewolves as metaphor, and this one both fits perfectly and offers a new perspective. Chronic illness is talked about more often today than in the recent past, but it’s still a space with plenty to explore in fiction.
Publisher’s summary: Priya worked hard to pursue her premed dreams at Stanford, but a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease during her sophomore year sends her back to her loving but overbearing family in New Jersey—and leaves her wondering if she’ll ever be able to return to the way things were.
Thankfully she has her online pen pal, Brigid, and the rest of the members of “oof ouch my bones,” a virtual support group that meets on Discord to crack jokes and vent about their own chronic illnesses.
When Brigid suddenly goes offline, Priya does something out of character: she steals the family car and drives to Pennsylvania to check on Brigid. Priya isn’t sure what to expect, but it isn’t the horrifying creature that’s shut in the basement.
With Brigid nowhere to be found, Priya begins to puzzle together an impossible but obvious truth: the creature might be a werewolf—and the werewolf might be Brigid. As Brigid’s unique condition worsens, their friendship will be deepened and challenged in unexpected ways, forcing them to reckon with their own ideas of what it means to be normal.
Top New Young Adult Books March 2021
Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release date: March 9
Den of Geek says: It’s a double twist on The Phantom of the Opera: the heroine is the lurker in the opera house, and music includes magic that can distort memory. Whether or not this fanfic-like premise works for you may depend on mileage, but we have a weakness for the nostalgia and Gothic romance of the Phantom.
Publisher’s summary: Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.
Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.
But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.
Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place.
Buy Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson.
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release date: March 16
Den of Geek says: A YA mystery from an author from the Ojibwe community of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Firekeeper’s Daughter promises a diverse, unique tale. And you know what they say, but we do really love that cover.
Publisher’s summary: Eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. She dreams of a fresh start at college, but when family tragedy strikes, Daunis puts her future on hold to look after her fragile mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team.
Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into an FBI investigation of a lethal new drug.
Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, drawing on her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine to track down the source. But the search for truth is more complicated than Daunis imagined, exposing secrets and old scars. At the same time, she grows concerned with an investigation that seems more focused on punishing the offenders than protecting the victims.
Now, as the deceptions―and deaths―keep growing, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go for her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.
Flamefall by Rosaria Munda
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release date: March 23
Den of Geek says: Of all the YA fantasy releases this month, this one seems like one of the most jam-packed with magic. Dragonriders add high-flying adventure to dense high fantasy politics in this sequel.
Publisher’s summary: After fleeing the revolution and settling into the craggy cliffs of New Pythos, the dragonlords are eager to punish their usurpers and reclaim their city. Their first order of business was destroying the Callipolan food supply. Now they’re coming for the dragonriders.
Annie is Callipolis’s new Firstrider, charged with leading the war against New Pythos. But with unrest at home, enforcing the government’s rationing program risks turning her into public enemy number one.
Lee struggles to find his place after killing kin for a leader who betrayed him. He can support Annie and the other Guardians . . . or join the rebels who look to topple the new regime.
Griff, a lowborn dragonrider who serves New Pythos, knows he has no future. And now that Julia Stormscourge is no longer there to protect him, he is called on to sacrifice everything for the lords that oppress his people–or to forge a new path with the Callipolan Firstrider seeking his help.
With famine tearing Callipolis apart and the Pythians determined to take back what they lost, it will be up to Annie, Lee, and Griff to decide who–and what–to fight for.
Top New Young Adult Books February 2021
The Project by Courtney Summers
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release date: Feb. 2
Den of Geek says: This critically-acclaimed thriller has won praise for lush writing and thrills. An exploration of power and sisterhood in the shadow of a cult no one believes is a cult, it sounds chilling and thorny in the best way.
Publisher’s summary: Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying―and failing―to prove it.
“The Unity Project murdered my son.”
When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can’t, she must finally leave them alone.
But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her―to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.
Buy The Project by Courtney Summers.
This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release date: Feb. 2
Den of Geek says: Asexual protagonists in fiction are becoming more common (and have existed for decades at least), but it’s always refreshing to see another one. And the steampunk-esque world building in this fantasy adventure promises robots and a mystery that combines science fiction and fantasy politics.
Publisher’s summary: Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.
In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible―she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father―their nation’s greatest traitor―once tried to destroy the automatons.
Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.
The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release date: Feb. 9
Den of Geek says: A Station Eleven reference goes a long way. The plague or zombie element might be rote, but the mention of a magical portal and some weirder things make this an intriguing mash-up of ideas.
Publisher’s summary: When a deadly Fly Flu sweeps the globe, it leaves a shell of the world that once was. Among the survivors are eighteen-year-old Nico and her dog, on a voyage devised by Nico’s father to find a mythical portal; a young artist named Kit, raised in an old abandoned cinema; and the enigmatic Deliverer, who lives Life after Life in an attempt to put the world back together. As swarms of infected Flies roam the earth, these few survivors navigate the woods of post-apocalyptic New England, meeting others along the way, each on their own quest to find life and love in a world gone dark. The Electric Kingdom is a sweeping exploration of art, storytelling, eternal life, and above all, a testament to the notion that even in an exterminated world, one person might find beauty in another.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: Feb. 9
Den of Geek says: It’s hard to resist a good call to adventure or chosen warrior, and Deka’s story will bring that particular fantasy for Black girls and everyone else. High praise and that gorgeous cover suggest this one might be good for fans of dystopian YA who are also ready to go on an adventure like Marvel’s Black Panther.
Publisher’s summary: Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.
But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.
Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.
Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.
Buy The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna.
Top New Young Adult Books January 2021
You Have a Match: A Novel by Emma Lord
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release date: Jan. 12
Den of Geek says: Theres something quintessentially charming about summer camp stories, where kids trade their day-to-day for the wilderness. But this protagonist can’t escape everything at camp, and she’ll need the help of her sister to figure out the story of more than one family.
Publisher’s Summary: When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.
But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.
When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents — especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.
The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.
But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.
Lore by Alexandra Bracken
Release date: Jan. 5, 2021
Den of Geek says: A twist on Greek mythology from an accomplished author promises creative world-building and fantasy adventure.
Publisher’s summary: Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.
Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.
Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.
The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.
Siege of Rage and Ruin by Django Wexler
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release date: Jan. 5, 2021
Den of Geek says: This month’s high fantasy installment is the finale in a popular series, and one that makes us want to see how the characters arrived and where they go from here. Ghost ships! Mind control!
Publisher’s Summary: Isoka has done the impossible―she’s captured the ghost ship Soliton.
With her crew of mage-bloods, including the love of her life Princess Meroe, Isoka returns to the empire that sent her on her deadly mission. She’s ready to hand over the ghost ship as ransom for her sister Tori’s life, but arrives to find her home city under siege. And Tori at the helm of a rebellion.
Neither Isoka’s mastery of combat magic, nor Tori’s proficiency with mind control, could have prepared them for the feelings their reunion surfaces. But they’re soon drawn back into the rebels’ fight to free the city that almost killed them.