Do you feel that? The tingles that accompany the return of some of YAs most notable, bestselling, hardhitting, gamechanging debut authors, here to dazzle with their second books? Sophomore novels are hard enough feats, but when you’re following up the amazingness these debuts had to offer, well. I’m pleased to report these authors have knocked it out of the freaking park a second time, so if you were on the fence about making someone an instabuy author based on just one book, go ahead and pick up their second; I guarantee it’ll make you feel much, much better.
For even more sophomore novels, check out the LGBTQAP previews for titles including Our Year of Maybe, by Rachel Lynn Solomon (January 15), author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone; You Asked for Perfect, by Laura Silverman (March 5), author of Girl Out of Water; Birthday, by Meredith Russo (May 21), author of If I Was Your Girl; Like a Love Story, by Abdi Nazemian (June 4), author of The Authentics; If It Makes You Happy, by Claire Kann (June 4), author of Let’s Talk About Love; All Eyes on Us, by Kit Frick (June 4), author of See All the Stars; and Tell Me How You Really Feel, by Aminah Mae Safi, author of Not the Girls You’re Looking For!
Two Can Keep a Secret, by Karen McManus (January 8)
After spending more time on the bestseller list than I spent at my first job, One of Us is Lying doesn’t need any introduction, and it’s found a worthy successor in this thrilling (and unrelated) follow-up. (Although yes, there is a sequel to McManus’s debut coming soon as well!) Ellery’s never been to Echo Ridge, but now she has no choice but to move there to live with her grandmother, even though it’s a town that seems to swallow girls her age whole. Ellery’s horrified to see that tradition continue with a threat against homecoming before school even starts. In a town where everyone has secrets, including Ellery’s own family, good luck guessing any of them before the end.
Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday, by Natalie C. Anderson (January 15)
Anderson made a major splash with her debut, City of Saints & Thieves, and now she’s back with another Africa-set title, this time starring a Somali boy named Abdi who’s forced to become a child soldier when his family is kidnapped. To save the people he loves, he agrees to become a spy, granted cred because his brother is already a soldier. Soldier life is hell, and when an injury during a mission gives him an opportunity to escape to Kenya, he knows he has to take it. But life there is simply filled with different hardships, terrible memories, and legal threats that threaten whatever grasp on a normal life he has left.
No One Here is Lonely, by Sarah Everett (February 5)
The author of Everyone We’ve Been knows how to both break and repair some hearts, and she’s back to do it again with the story of Eden, a girl who goes from having two incredibly close relationships to none when her boyfriend, Will, is killed and she and her best friend, Lacey, drift apart. But there is one way to reclaim Will: engage with the account he made with a service that effectively creates a digital companion. The more Eden clings to this digital Will, the more life passes her by, until a flesh-and-blood option she’d never been able to consider before is suddenly right in her face: Lacey’s twin, Oliver. Eden finally has the chance to find real love again, but only if she can let the traces of her last one go.
On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas (February 5)
I don’t know if The Hate U Give is literally the most successful YA debut of all time, but it sure feels like it, and a book could not be more worthy. But Angie Thomas is no one-and-done; joining Starr in the most memorable heroines of YA canon is Bri, an up-and-coming rapper hailing from the very same Garden Heights as Starr Carter. Bri has a lot to prove to both the world and herself as the daughter of a rapper who died on the verge of greatness, but she never seems to get the respect she deserves, instead being dismissed as a two-bit hood rather than the talent she is. When her first track goes viral for the wrong reasons, Bri’s crushed, but she and her mom need the money success will bring too much to fight it. If she’s ever going to be seen as her real self, she might have to let the world believe in who they think she is in order to get there.
Nick and June Were Here, by Shalanda Stanley (February 12)
Let me tell you the story of me reading Stanley’s debut, Drowning is Inevitable. I had taken myself out to lunch, and I was eating a burger, and I opened this book on my e-reader, and after a few pages, I stopped reading and switched over to the internet to look up which agent represented the book. Why? Because I was consumed by how mindblowing it must’ve been to have this voice hit your desk. And we’re talking, like, page four. And then I pick up this sophomore, and would you believe I still have not learned not to read Stanley’s absolutely gutting books in public? Nick and June are best friends turned boyfriend and girlfriend, but no matter how close they are, their visions always clash. Nick can’t seem to disentangle himself from the criminal lifestyle he turned to in order to pay the bills, and June wants a collegiate future, but has a mental illness developing that’s becoming all-consuming. When Nick is caught on one last job while June is in the hospital getting diagnosed with schizophrenia, it’s starting to look like a shared future may be impossible…if they follow the rules.
The Beauty of the Moment, by Tanaz Bhathena (February 26)
Naturally, my excitement level is always extra high when I not only loved an author’s debut, but found it to be a particular standout in YA, and in case you weren’t aware, I was alllll over these emotions with A Girl Like That. Bhathena takes her skills with fish-out-of-water situations, unexpected relationships, and Zoroastrian representation and gives them a whole new vibe in this far lighter romantic contemporary about an artsy Malayali girl named Susan and a rebellious Parsi boy named Malcolm set in Canada. Both Susan and Malcolm could use some support in their lives, especially with her parents’ marriage falling apart and his mother’s death leaving him with an abusive father. No one expects them to strike up a surprising friendship that turns into a tender romance with obstacles of its own.
Dealing in Dreams, by Lilliam Rivera (March 5)
Rivera certainly proved she had a capital-v Voice with her debut, The Education of Margot Sanchez, and she’s about to hammer it home with her sophomore, about a girl named Nalah who leads a fierce all-girl crew. Being in her position comes with a lot of perks, but it also comes with a lot of doubt, and Nalah’s feeling all of it; she’s ready for a safer, more legit life and the perks that come with that, including a spot living in Mega Towers. But landing a spot there comes with its own mission that puts Nalah at risk and threatens to alienate everyone who has had her back until now.
Internment, by Samira Ahmed (March 19)
One of my favorite upticks in YA lately is the number of really excellent #ownvoices books with Muslim protagonists, and Ahmed’s bestselling debut, Love, Hate, and Other Filters, was one of the first in this lovely wave. She’s back now with a sophomore that looks poised to provide a much-needed punch in the face to anyone who needs it. Set in the near future, this thriller stars seventeen-year-old Layla, who’s forced into an internment camp for Muslim Americans along with her parents. But Layla won’t be kept down for long, and soon she’s forging new alliances, making use of old ones, and preparing to fight for her freedom.
How to Make Friends with the Dark, by Kathleen Glasgow (April 9)
Glasgow’s debut, the hard-hitting and poignant Girl in Pieces, is, in my opinion, one of the best YA debuts of all time, and is everything teen me would’ve killed for in a book. So I have full faith she will nail every emotional nuance in this sophomore, about a girl named Tiger who has always been a two-person team with her mother, and must now figure out how to continue to live when her mother dies.
Last Girl Lied To, by L.E. Flynn (April 16)
There are few debuts I’ve devoured with the intensity I did Firsts (I think I actually tried reading it in the shower, if I recall correctly), but now that Flynn has turned to writing a full-on thriller, it may break that record. This sophomore stars Fiona, who has just lost her best friend, Trixie, to what’s being ruled a suicide. Fiona doesn’t know about that, or much about anything, since she can’t remember the night in question. But she doesn’t believe Fiona is dead, and is determined to find out the truth for herself. When her hunt leads her to two different boys, one of whom was hooking up with Trixie and the other of whom rejected Fiona, it’s the beginning of discovering that maybe the biggest mystery of all was Trixie herself.
If I’m Being Honest, by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (April 23)
If I’m being honest, Always Never Yours was probably my favorite romcom of 2018, so yeah, I was pretty freaking psyched to see this pair returning with another. Once again heavily inspired both implicitly and explicitly by Shakespeare (in this case, The Taming of the Shrew), the engaged (!) duo’s sophomore novel focuses on Cameron, a girl whose beauty makes her popular and whose bluntness makes her…occasionally a little less so. When the guy she wants decides the ugly side of her might be a little too ugly for him to tolerate, Cameron decides to take on a project to prove to him that underneath her prickly shell beats a heart of gold. But when she starts off her apology whirlwind tour with Brendan, whose life she kinda ruined with a terrible nickname, she’s stunned to find there may be someone who’s capable of liking her for exactly who she is.
With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo (May 7)
WELL, let’s see. In 2018, her powerful debut verse novel The Poet X hit the New York Times bestseller list and won a little prize called the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, so you could say Acevedo is an author to watch. Between those accolades, that skill, and that incredible cover, rest assured we are watching out for this second Acevedo title, about a talented teenage mother named Emoni whose whole adolescence has become about taking care of other people. But the kitchen is where she can be free, be creative, and dream of a future as a chef, no matter how impossible pursuing that dream may be. Is it possible there’s a future out there for her that can combine it all?
The Voice in My Head, by Dana L. Davis (May 28)
Davis already made a name for herself with her beautiful handling of both family dynamics and mental health issues in debut Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now, so I’m thrilled to see her returning with a novel that again centers on both. This time, the relationship at the core is a sisterly one, with Indigo facing a life that doesn’t include her twin sister, Violet, who’s terminally ill and on the verge of dying. When Indigo begins to hear God’s voice telling her that there is a way to save Violet, if only she brings her to a remote rock formation in the desert, she knows her brain must be playing tricks on her. But Violet agrees to go if the whole family will make the trip from Seattle to Arizona together—and as much as Indigo struggles with the rest of her family, there’s no disagreeing with a dying request. The trip is a mess in so many ways, but it has its worthwhile lessons, too, including how to deal with the voices that plague her.
Love From A to Z, by S.K. Ali (May 7)
Morris finalist alert! You (should) already know Ali from her excellent Saints and Misfits, a brave and nuanced take on assault within religious communities, and her second novel sounds way too good to ignore. When Zayneb gets suspended for responding to her teacher’s Islamophobia, she takes off early for spring break at her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar. The fact that no one there knows her makes it the perfect place to try out being a newer, nicer version of herself, someone who wouldn’t have gotten her friends in trouble the way she did. Then she meets Aiden, who has his own secret life, hiding his recent multiple sclerosis diagnosis from his grieving father and doing everything in his power to simply make life lovely for his little sister. They’re both hiding things. They’re both doing the best they can for the others in their lives. And they might be the best thing that could happen to each other.
Girl Gone Viral, by Arvin Ahmadi (May 21)
Genre-jumping from his contemporary coming-of-age road trip story in Down and Across, Ahmadi’s sophomore features a coder named Opal who attends a boarding school for technical prodigies, the perfect place to hone her skills and avoid the fact that her father’s still gone. Opal has all but given up hope that she’ll ever again see the man who disappeared after her tenth birthday leaving nothing but a cryptic note, until an opportunity surfaces in the form of a contest whose winner will get to meet the billionaire founder of the world’s biggest virtual reality platform. But he’s more than just a tech superhero to Opal; he’s the guy who worked with Opal’s dad and her best hope of finding out what happened to him. He may also be the guy who killed him.
Fake it Till You Break It, by Jenn P. Nguyen (May 28)
Long titles and adorable fauxmances are Nguyen trademarks, as seen in The Way to Game the Walk of Shame and now in this tale of Mia and Jake, two teens who can’t stand each other but are constantly pushed together thanks to their moms being best friends. They’ll never have their own romantic lives if their moms won’t stop sabotaging them in the hopes they’ll end up together, and the only way to stop it? Pretend they’ve tried dating, and then let it blow up spectacularly, so their mothers will finally understand they aren’t meant to be. But it throws a wrench into their plans when their fauxmance proves that maybe their moms were onto something after all.
This Time Will Be Different, by Misa Sugiura (June 4)
At the core of Sugiura’s powerful contemporary follow-up to It’s Not Like It’s a Secret is the history of Japanese internment in America and the ways in which white people continue to profit off of it generations later. CJ loves working at her family’s flower shop, partly because it means helping out her aunt Hannah and partly because it keeps her close to her family’s legacy; they owned the shop decades ago, then sold it for pennies on the dollar when they were shipped off to internment camps, and finally bought it back years later for an exorbitant price. But she doesn’t love learning that it’s bleeding money, and when her mother threatens to sell it to the very family who pulled it out from under them, CJ decides to take a stand against the people who have already taken so much. Between her David and Goliath battle, confusing romantic entanglements, her track record of succeeding at approximately nothing, and the shields on her heart, CJ threatens to crack under the pressure.
For even more sophomores that should be on your radar, check out The Cold is In Her Bones, by Peternelle Van Ardsdale (January 22), author of The Beast is an Animal; Cold Day in the Sun, by Sara Biren (March 12), author of The Last You Thing You Said; Fear of Missing Out, by Kate McGovern (March 19), author of The Rules for 50/50 Chances; The Dating Game, by Kiley Roache (March 26), author of Frat Girl; Since We Last Spoke, by Brenda Rufener (April 2), author of Where I Live; When Summer Ends, by Jessica Pennington (April 9), author of Love Songs & Other Lies; and Ordinary Girls, by Blair Thornburgh (June 4), author of Who’s That Girl?!