Forget new year, new me. New year, new bookshelf is more like it. There are over 700 YA novels with a 2019 release date that have already been announced, and it's been known that when YA fiction gets it right, it gets it really, really right. Where other forms of media are struggling to diversify their top-earners (or to acknowledge the excellence being created by POC and LGBTQ artists), the new releases in literature are more inclusive than ever, and you know we're ready for the massive heap of fantasy, romance, and tragedies that are about to be released onto an unsuspecting public.
Our YA countdown narrows this list down to the buzziest, best new novels that we can't wait to get our hands on this year. Young adult or just adult-adult, you'll probably want to read these YA novels anyways.
Balzer + Bray
You should be looking forward to making some time for Angie Thomas's sophomore novel following the instant classic The Hate U Give (now a movie starring Riverdale hottie K.J. Apa).
On the Come Up isn't just a rehashing of The Hate U Give. Its protagonist isn't always right all the time like Starr, and even though OTCU still looks at similar themes to THUG, it holds a different space in the genre. One tragedy doesn't define the action of the novel. Rather, OTCU explores the daily life of a teen girl trying to use hip hop to get out of a bad situation while confronting very real sexism in the hip hop industry. With a second otherworldly strong novel under her belt, Angie has cemented herself as one of the all-time greats.
Katherine Tegen Books
Happy Death Day was dope and broke the curse of time loop films being super annoying. Opposite of Always looks perfect for people trying to recreate Happy Death Day's vibes, just minus the whole serial killer thing, which was honestly the least important part of that movie IMO.
In Opposite of Always, Jack Ellison King finds his happily ever after, and then she dies. That should be it, right? But somehow, Kate's death sends Jack back to the moment they first met, and he's given the chance to prevent her death before it happens. Little changes lead to deadly consequences (has this kid never seen Back To The Future?) and he learns that he can't have it all without making some big sacrifices.
Jennifer E. Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight is severely underrated. It's the whole reason a generation of YA readers still think they might end up sitting next to their one true love on a plane! John Green, who? Her new novel, Field Notes on Love looks poised to create the same warm, fuzzy feelings that only an almost-possible rom-com can.
In Field Notes on Love, Hugo's post-grad train trip across the U.S. hits a snag when his girlfriend dumps him... and her name is on the tickets. Looking for another Margaret C., "Mae" answers Hugo's spare ticket offer online, and they fall in love on their spontaneous cross-country adventure. Then, it's time for the couple to see if life off of their locomotive bubble will derail their love forever.
Viking Books for Young Readers
Julie Berry is a Printz Honor-winner author with a knack for historical fiction, and reviewers are already calling Lovely War a can't-miss novel of 2019.
In 1917, two couples find love under the shadow of World War I. Thirty years later, the Grecian goddess Aphrodite tells their interwoven stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares during the apex of World War II. She tries to find a solution that will sate the jealous Hephaestus and instead stumbles upon music, racism, and trauma as she attempts to reconcile the connection between Love and War.
Penguin Random House
Laurie Halse Anderson's name has become synonymous with novels for teen girls suffering from Big Problems. Her debut novel, Speak, was a New York Times bestseller and a National Book Award finalist based on her own experience as a rape victim at thirteen years old. Another bestseller, Wintergirls, follows two girls suffering from eating disorders, and her YA novels always follow realistic tragedies in the lives of young women that WILL make you cry.
Speak was written twenty years ago, and nothing has changed. Shout is Laurie's way of releasing some of her righteous rage, a call-to-action in free verse and personal stories as she continues her unflinching advocation for survivors of sexual assault. Time is most definitely up.
Ruse is the long-awaited sequel to 2017's Want, a near-future dystopian novel where the wealthy can buy longer lives and the poor just have to deal. Of course, protagonist Jason Zhou falls for the CEO of the evil corporation that's destroying his city because what else was going to happen here?
Posting Ruse's synopsis here would give too much away about Want, but there's a relocation to Shanghai, kidnapping, ~murder~, and the age-old question of who exactly Jason can trust. Cindy Pon's books have always been a major W for diversity in YA-fiction, and it doesn't look like that'll be changing any time soon.
Adriana Mather's past works have been awesome because they're inspired by her actual family history. Like, also they're well-written, but how many people can say they're descended from the dudes that caused the Salem Witch Trial with a family history that has ties to the Titanic, the first Thanksgiving, and the Revolutionary War? I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that Killing November breaks from this pattern unless she's lowkey admitting to being related to assassins.
November Adley doesn't know why she's been sent to the Academy Absconditi, where the students train to follow in their families' footsteps as assassins, spies, and manipulators. When November becomes the #1 suspect in the murder of another student, she'll need to figure out WTF is going on and fast before she becomes the next victim.
TBH, if one more person tries to talk to me about Hamilton, I'm going to scream. We all know it's great, but it's been four years. Find something else to stan, internet people! But Melissa De La Cruz is a great author who knows how to keep a series going without it getting stale, and people really like her Alex & Eliza trilogy, which is coming to an end with All For One this spring.
Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler are happily in love with a baby on the way, so Eliza takes it upon herself to try and set up her oldest brother, John, with an orphaned teen she brings into her home. Meanwhile, Alex's latest legal case might destroy their entire lives. Gee, I wonder how this one ends.
Admit it, we've all felt like the Hot Dog girl at one point in our lives. This queer romance has a bisexual lead character (yay!) and a twisty web of romance, but really it's just going to appeal to anyone who can relate to feeling like they're stuck in a hot dog costume while everyone around them falls for a princess.
Lou Parker gets a job at Magic Castle Playland as a dancing hot dog, while her pirate crush Nick is dating the park's Princess. Lou needs to find a way to stop this summer at Magic Castle from being the park's last when she discovers plans to shut down the Playland permanently while scheming to set up her BFF with the perfect girl and secure Nick for herself.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
YA readers are huge fans of Maurene Goo. The lady knows how to make a good rom-com. Somewhere Only We Know takes what Maurene does best and infuses it with elements from Roman Holiday (a favorite for the elderly, like myself) and K-Pop (a teen sensation) to make a fast-paced, enjoyable read. It's not going to change your life, but you'll have a nice time. It's also another win for Asian representation in fiction.
In this tale of star-crossed love, K-Pop star Lucky just wants a hamburger. Posed for an American breakthrough and coming off a Hong Kong performance of her hit song, Lucky really, really is only thinking about that burger. Jack is a tabloid reporter looking for a story. When he runs into a pretty girl who (shocker!) is just looking for a small burger in a big world, their lives change forever.
It's been eighteen years and the 9/11 terror attacks still permeate through our culture and our everyday lives. Julie Buxbaum's novel explores its lasting impact through the lens of today's internet culture in a story about teens who grew up in the shadow of the attacks.
Abbi Hope Goldstein is famous. Well, not ~her~ so much as baby her. Baby Hope was the subject of an iconic photograph during 9/11, as she held a red balloon and wore a birthday crown while the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses behind her. Looking for anonymity, Abbi takes a job as a summer camp counselor to surround herself with four-year-olds who don't know anything about her viral alter-ego. Fellow counselor Noah Stern, however, has his own trauma connected to the attacks and takes the arrival of Baby Hope as a sign that it's time to ask some difficult questions about the history of the Baby Hope photo.
I, personally, don't know much about Elizabeth Acevedo or her work. She's been on the National Book Award longlist and written a New York Times bestselling spoken word fiction book, and her upcoming prose novel With the Fire on High is on every 2019 YA Must-Read list you'll find.
With the Fire on High follows Emoni Santiago, a teen mom whose live revolves around caring for her little one and her Abuela. Her magical talent for cooking leads her to consider a life she never thought possible. Early reviews have praised With the Fire on High for its female empowerment and diverse cast of characters.
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
The Things She's Seen follows Beth Teller after her death. The only people that can see her are her grieving detective father and a stranger named Isobel Catching, who has a strange connection to an arson-related murder at a home for troubled youth that is being investigated by her father.
The harrowing premise alone is enough to hook readers, but The Things She's Seen's real hook is that it's a story about an Aboriginal girl in Australia written by two Aboriginal women. Their culture and history are woven throughout the story, and more people should be aware of the long, tragic history of Indigenous Australians that persists still today.
Marie Claire compared Girl Gone Viral to an episode of Black Mirror, but I think it's a little closer to the awesome novel-turned-Dave Franco-film Nerve.
After her father's sudden disappearance after her tenth birthday, Opal Hopper enrolls in a boarding school for tech geniuses and learns to code her way back to a passably decent mental health state. When the world's biggest VR company hosts a contest where the winner gets to meet its billionaire founder, Opal hacks her way into victory in an attempt to come face-to-face with the man she believes murdered her dad. When Opal goes viral and shoots into internet stardom, she gets sucked into a world of lies, manipulation, and techy stuff.
Tiffany D. Jackson takes stories about real issues facing the black community (unfair incarceration, the media's lack of f*cks about black girls, etc.) and turns them into gripping, emotional psychological thrillers. Her endings never really live up to the scenes she sets (no tea, no shade), but you still feel this intense need to know what's happened, even if you're pretty sure you'll leave saying, "Seriously??" Half the fun is getting there, right?
Let Me Hear a Rhyme deviates from Tiffany's norm a little bit by focusing on the gritty world of underground rap. Instead of tragedies specific to black *women*, LMHAR's central conflict seems to come from the murder of rapper Steph, whose best friends and little sister promote his music after his death under a new name. When his mixtape catches the attention of a record company, the trio needs to prove Steph's rap dominance while hiding his death and rediscovering its circumstances.
Lesbian witches? We think yes. The first in a series, These Witches Don't Burn looks perfect for fans of Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina and has been receiving stellar reviews from advance copy recipients.
Hannah's a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. You'd think they'd be cool with that kind of thing over there, but Hannah could lose her magic forever if she's caught using it in front of a Reg (a non-magical person). So, she spends her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (a witch in more ways than one), hanging with her BFF, and working in a magic store that caters to tourists, goths, and some Wiccans. When a terrifying blood ritual starts a deadly chain of events through town, Hannah has to team up with her ex to stop the Blood Witch while simultaneously trying to date a pretty new ballerina.
Danielle Vega's books are so freaky, even their covers can give you nightmares. Every bookish teen from the '00s must remember seeing The Merciless sitting on a bookshelf, even if they didn't read it. No title, no author's name, just a pentagram alone on a small leather book that made the color pink look downright menacing. What's actually *inside* of her books actually manages to live up to the hype — aka, absolutely judge her books by their cover.
Her latest paranormal scare-fest follows Hendricks Becker-O’Malley as her family moves to a tiny town to escape her dark trauma. Naturally, the family accidentally moves to a house that is most definitely haunted, and things get violent real quick. Hendricks and the boy-next-door team up to take down the ghosts before she becomes the next victim.
Better Than The Best Plan follows seventeen-year-old Ritzy after her mom randomly bails on her to go to Mexico. After someone reports that Ritzy has been living alone, she gets placed into a foster home. Weirdly, she was in foster care as an infant and didn't know about it, and she finds herself back in the home that could have been hers. A gorgeous house and an equally gorgeous boy-next-door? She could get used to that. But Ritzy's mom suddenly returns from her sabbatical, and Ritzy needs to choose between her old life and her new one.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January is being called one of the most unique pieces of fiction *ever* by YA fantasy goddess Tamora Pierce. The *only* Goodreads reviewer I trust (and, incidentally, the most-followed reviewer on the site) is waiting for a copy with bated breath, and fellow fantasy authors like Joshiah Bancroft recommend it highly. That's a lot of pressure on a debut novel.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a portal fantasy, where January Scaller discovers a strange book in her strange home that reveals unseen worlds. To quote the official synopsis (as the summary is, I believe, intentionally and carefully vague): "Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own."
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
I am so heated that The Beautiful won't be released until October. It's been long enough, let's bring back vampires.
Set in 1872 New Orleans, Celine Rousseau finds refuge with the sisters of the Ursuline convent and their six other wards after she flees her life in Paris. She becomes enamored with the city's underworld and their charismatic, beautiful leader Sébastien Saint Germain. After one of her fellow wards is found dead in the heart of the Lion's den, Celine needs to reconcile her attraction to Sébastien with her increasing suspicions that he's the serial killer run amok in the city. All the while, Celine is hiding her own dark secret.