Those tender, transitional post-high school years have long been a tricky stage for publishing to nail, and when New Adult didn’t quite take off on the traditional path, it seemed we might never get our college kid books. But lo and behold, YA has gone from the trickle of books seen in past years and is finally making it rain, giving teenaged college protagonists a home. Check out these ten new and forthcoming books that highlight independence, long-distance relationships, growing up, identity, sexuality, marginalization, assault, roommates, and much more.
Emergency Contact, by Mary H.K. Choi
There’s so much good packed into this Choi’s debut, I don’t even know where to begin: With the complicated mother-daughter relationship between Penny and her very attractive, very flighty mom? With wonderfully unusual mc Penny, an aspiring writer who’s leaving a blah life (and a blah boyfriend) behind, but is a little too awkward and antisocial to be thrilled with her new one? (She’s also hilarious, insightful, and learning, wonderfully, how to call people out.) With Sam, who’s coming off a toxic relationship and still trying to figure out both himself and his future in film? The two have a killer chemistry, not just in a romantic sense but as friends and a mutual support system. Their connection begins with a couple of IRL meetings then takes off via constant, hilarious texting, until they wonder whether what they’ve got is too good to mess up by hanging out face to face. Pick this one up ASAP.
I Hate Everyone But You, by Gaby Dunn and Alison Raskin
YouTube stars Dunn and Raskin teamed up for this New York Times bestseller that deftly captures the two divergent experiences of best friends who go to schools across the country from each other. For Ava, anxiety is a defining facet of her college experience, and not having Gen around as she navigates school and a possible first romance isn’t helping. For Gen, who’s exploring her sexuality and trying on different labels until she finds the one that fits, space from Ava might be a good thing. The two share a lot of frank discussions as they work through their growing pains and learn to experience life apart in this excellent take on adolescent life and relationships on the brink of the future.
Let’s Talk About Love, by Claire Kann
The Cutie Code for this debut is as off the charts as Takumi, which is a joke you’ll get once you pick up this contemporary romance starring Alice, a biromantic asexual college sophomore who has just been dumped by her girlfriend for not caring about sex. Her recovery from the breakup pain is complicated by her new coworker, Takumi, who’s possibly the most attractive guy Alice has ever seen, confusing her about where she stands on the ace spectrum. It doesn’t help that she’s feeling too bruised from being dumped to try again, or that her family’s breathing down her neck about her career plans. (Their pick: lawyer. Her pick: literally anything else.) But with good friends, strong bonding, and solid therapy, Alice finds there’s plenty of room in her heart and happiness in her future.
We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour
LaCour’s protags have always erred on the side of upper YA, but in her Printz-winning newest (and my biggest ugly-cry of 2017), Marin is squarely in college, “celebrating” winter break following her first semester at college by holing up alone in her dorm and mourning those she has lost, both living and dead. But one person won’t let her push them away, even after a journey that took them from best friends to girlfriends to nothing at all. Having Mabel by her side over the course of a few intense, emotional days helps Marin face the pain she’s been drowning in, and may allow her to finally begin to heal.
Freshmen, by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
Originally published in the UK as Freshers, this import from the team behind A Totally Awkward Love Story introduces Phoebe and Luke, two York freshmen from the same high school. Phoebe’s looking to reinvent herself in college and to nab a boyfriend—preferably Luke. Luke isn’t looking to change anything at all, but change happens anyway, including a breakup from his longtime girlfriend. He and Phoebe do get together, just as she’d dreamed, but when Luke’s soccer team is at the center of a photo scandal that has the women on campus out for their blood, the new couple is left in the middle of a firestorm.
Wrecked, by Maria Padian
This timely contemporary look at rape culture on campus centers around the rape trial of a freshman girl, Jenny, from the points of view of her roommate, Haley, and Richard, a friend of the accused rapist, Jordan. Haley and Richard are advisers on the trial, based on each having seen or spoken to accuser and accused after that night. As the story unfolds through different lenses and amid the bureaucracy of the college justice system, different views and truths come to light and Haley and Richard grow closer. This one is messy, authentic, and far too necessary.
We Are Still Tornadoes, by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen
It’s 1982 and email isn’t yet a thing, and this epistolary novel is made up of the letters sent between childhood best friends and neighbors Scott and Cath, as Scott stays home after high school to pursue a music career and Cath goes to college. Both feel, at times, adrift and alone in the paths they’ve chosen, and while the book may be set over thirty years ago, the feelings of navigating new situations, expectations, roommates, and more haven’t aged—nor has the confusion that blossoms between them about whether and how their relationship is changing into something else entirely.
Frat Girl, by Kiley Roache
Roache’s debut gets a bit of an asterisk here, as Cassandra isn’t yet a college girl, but the guys of Delta Tau Chi don’t know that. To them, she’s a pledge; in reality, she’s a high school student going undercover to find proof of the misogyny that landed them on probation and to expose them, thereby earning herself a scholarship to her dream school. But what she finds there isn’t what she expected, and fellow pledge Jordan certainly isn’t, giving Cassandra a lot to think about when it comes to her assumptions about fraternities, feminism, and her future.
Nice Try, Jane Sinner, by Lianne Oelke
Irreverent, hilarious Jane has been expelled, which means it’s community college for her if she wants to graduate high school. She’ll do it, but there’s one thing she wants in return: to get out of her parents’ house and away from their scrutiny and their religious observance that doesn’t seem to be a fit for her. The only way to accomplish that is to have her rent covered elsewhere, which is where House of Orange comes in. All she has to do is make it onto the reality show set at Elbow River Community College and she’ll have a place to live and a shot at a car…if she wins, that is. Pairing up with housemate Robbie to ensure victory may give her an edge, but she’ll also have to face the past year and the mental health issues that pushed her to the edge.
American Panda, by Gloria Chao
Mei’s a seventeen-year-old freshman at MIT, where she’s supposed to major in biology, find a Taiwanese boy to marry, and devote all her free time to studying. But none of that is who she is or wants to be, no matter how hard she tries. And she does try: shadowing a doctor, keeping up with her studies, trying not to fall too hard for adorable but Japanese Darren. But the more she tries to be who her mother wants her to be, the more Mei realizes it’s just not in the cards. She’ll have to do the seeming impossible and find a way to be true to herself and the family she loves. From impossible expectations to sexually transmitted infections, this delightful debut definitely nails aspects of college living, including the challenge of developing relationships when you’re younger than your peers.