It’s that time of year again! Yes, the time in which we agonize over which few books to feature of the so many obscenely good-looking contemporary YAs coming out over the next six months (oh, yes, we’ll be doing this all over again for the epic collection releasing between July and December), weep over the terrifying heights of our to-read stacks, and moan over the 500 books we’re drooling over that we didn’t get to list. (On that note, make sure you check out all our other preview posts for a whole bunch more contemporary awesomeness, including The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas; The Education of Margot Sanchez, by Lilliam Rivera; Eliza and Her Monsters, by Francesca Zappia; Goodbye Days, by Jeff Zentner; American Street, by Ibi Zoboi; Done Dirt Cheap, by Sarah Nicole Lemon; Little Monsters, by Kara Thomas; Overturned, by Lamar Giles; and Geekerella, by Ashley Poston!)
See all 2017 previews here.
Because of the Sun, by Jenny Torres Sanchez (January 3)
Dani’s entire life is an existential crisis; that’s the only way to tolerate living with her mother. But then her mother is violently killed, and her life is thrown into upheaval when she moves in with an aunt she doesn’t know, in a state she’s never called home. To survive her new existence, Dani takes long walks to clear her head and get some space, and it’s on one of those sojourns that she meets Paulo, who just may be the key to making her care about life again, and bridging the gap between her and the mother she’s just lost.
Whenever I’m With You, by Lydia Sharp (January 3)
Forget about admittedly adorable fluffy romance for a second; if that’s what you’re expecting when you crack this one open, you’re gonna be thrown for a loop fast. Not that Gabi and Kai don’t have their cuteness down from page one, but this contemp isn’t about their solid ship; it’s about what happens when their bond potentially makes Kai feel a little too invincible. Empowered by Gabi to pursue whatever it’ll take to fix his sullen mood of late, Kai sets off to do just that. But when it turns out that means trekking through the Alaskan wilderness on foot in order to hunt down a father who may or may not still be alive to receive him, Gabi grabs Kai’s near-estranged brother and sets out on a survivalist adventure of hope, survival, and strengthening bonds that seemed shattered beyond repair.
Allegedly, by Tiffany D. Jackson (January 24)
This frighteningly compelling debut follows Mary Addison to group home, where she has finally been transferred after serving six years in “baby jail” for allegedly killing an infant while babysitting. Not that Mary has ever admitted guilt, but in the case of a Black girl and a white baby? There wasn’t any question about who’d be paying for it. Only now Mary’s expecting a baby of her own, and she’s tired of taking the fall and letting her mother run around free of guilt, telling her it’s the right thing to do. She wants freedom to be a mom herself, and to be with Ted, the father of her child no one knows she’s even been with. But getting the powers that be to hear a new truth is a struggle is its own struggle, especially when you’re as hated as Mary. And especially when that truth comes with its own set of questions Mary isn’t prepared to answer. I believe my exact words when I finished this book were “Holy crap,” so, yeah, I’d say I recommend it.
After the Fall, by Kate Hart (January 24)
Triangles are complicated, but Raychel’s situation with two brothers isn’t quite what it looks like. Andrew’s a secret relationship, the one she’s actually sleeping with; his brother, Matt, is her best friend, soother of her nightmares, and supporter as she deals with her world falling apart and the aftermath of being assaulted by a classmate. But when tragedy strikes, Raychel’s forced to reexamine her relationships, her life, and what can still be salvaged when everything seems beyond hope. Early reviews would suggest this debut is best read in private unless you’re down to bawl in public.
Fire Color One, by Jenny Valentine (January 31)
Iris is drawn to fire, but when she sets one too many, it means the end of her life in LA. Or at least it’s Iris’s arsonist tendencies her mother blames it on when she moves the two of them, along with her own feckless boyfriend, to England. There, they move in with the father Iris has never known, but who can certainly afford to house her. It’s his fortune Iris’s mother really wants, and if she can just get him and Iris close enough, she hopes to claim it (art collection and all) when he succumbs to the illness that’s slowly killing him. But the more time Iris spends with the father she never knew, the more she realizes she had no idea who he really was, and that might change everything she knows about herself.
Piecing Me Together, by Renée Watson (February 14)
Jade needs an escape from her neighborhood, and she works her butt off to make sure she gets a permanent one someday. Until then, she’s focusing on Spanish, with her eye on the prize of a trip abroad. But what she gets instead is a mentor for “at-risk” girls, an opportunity she neither needs nor wants, especially if her mentor’s gonna be a huge flake. But having a mentor does help Jade find her voice to speak up for herself and educate those around her on how they’re failing her and girls like her, and that’s where Watson’s awesome always shines: in depicting teen girls learning the importance of their own activism, their own words, and their own worth.
A Season of Daring Greatly, by Ellen Emerson White (February 14)
Fans of the TV show Pitch are well advised to check out this YA about—you guessed it!—the first female pro pitcher in the modern MLB. Jill Cafferty is more than ready to put college on hold and start on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Class A Short Season Team, but that doesn’t mean the team, or the rest of the country, is ready for her. As Jill navigates the ins and outs of not just the coolest first job anyone has ever had, but entering pro sports as a teen and as the first woman in her particular job, the spotlight is entirely on her, and many are just waiting for her to crash and burn.
The Names They Gave Us, by Emery Lord (March 7)
YA’s newest queen of simultaneously hurting your heart and opening it up to new book boyfriends is back with the story of Lucy, a girl whose faith is seriously put to the test when her mother’s cancer reappears, her boyfriend puts their relationship on hold, and her cushy summer Bible camp job turns into one caring for troubled youth instead. Lucy’s determined to make it work, though, spending Sundays with her mother, making friends with her new co-counselors, and even finding a new guy to crush on. But no matter how resilient she is, even Lucy may not be able to withstand the blow of unexpected family secrets…
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (March 7)
Sal’s life has been calm and happy thus far, despite the bumpy start at its beginning, when he lost his mother and found a loving adoptive father. But suddenly things are changing, and so is he, and he’s not sure he likes who he’s becoming. This new Sal is the violent sort of protective, taking a swing at anyone who might attack his gay dad or hurt his best friends. And his dad and best friends need him now more than ever, as they go through their own life changes. The more he learns about his dad’s sacrifices for him, the more he wonders about his place in his evolving family. Can he be the son and friend he needs to be? If you’ve already read Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, you don’t need me to tell you how lovely and gently raw his writing is. It’s a pleasure to see it again here.
The Heartbeats of Wing Jones, by Katherine Webber (March 14)
One of the hardest things to wrestle with is someone you love unconditionally doing a terrible thing, and that’s exactly the situation Wing is in when her brother’s drunk driving has fatal consequences. As they await the news of his fate, Wing finds the only way to escape her brother’s shadow is to do so quite literally, by taking up running. Turns out, she’s damn good at it, and as she finds a way to redefine herself with this new passion, she manages to find love and empathy in an unexpected place as well. Rife with romance, heartache, new challenges, and fabulous grandmothers who give great windows into Wing’s multicultural heritage (she’s half-Black, half-Chinese), this is a lovely debut that’s not to be missed.
Dead Little Mean Girl, by Eva Darrows (March 28)
Emma hates her stepsister, Quinn, a girl with a nasty streak a mile wide who’ll take down anyone who gets in her way—the opposite of quiet loner Emma, who’s content just to chill with her video games. But then Quinn dies unexpectedly, leaving Emma in a shocking state of mourning in which she learns there was a whole lot about the girl in the room next door she never knew. Definitely looking forward to checking out the subversive author of The Awesome tackling how reliance on typical teen stereotypes will ultimately show us we don’t know jack.
Letters to the Lost, by Brigid Kemmerer (April 4)
Juliet’s life seems to have lost its color since her mother, a noted photojournalist, was killed in a car accident, and the only way to bring any of it back is to write her mother letters and leave them at her tombstone. But when one of those letters comes back with a reply in decidedly masculine handwriting, she’s furious someone has not only been reading her notes, but thinks they understand them. Little by little, though, it becomes clear the guy on the other end does understand the kind of loss and heartbreak she’s feeling, and the friendship they strike up through the letters they exchange becomes the most important thing in both their lives. There’s just one problem: they know each other in real life, too; they just don’t know it yet. And when they each find out the other’s identity, it might tear them apart forever. This is Kemmerer’s first contemporary after making her name in YA with the Elemental series, and fans of Katie McGarry and Trish Doller will definitely be begging her to stay.
Alex, Approximately, by Jenn Bennett (April 4)
I was a little late to Bennett’s YA debut, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, but as soon as I devoured it, I knew whatever her follow-up was, it would go right to the top of my to-read list. Bailey’s totally falling for a guy, but thus far, she only knows “Alex” online. Then she moves in with her dad, and just like that, she’s living in Alex’s town. But she can’t exactly tell him that without sounding like a creepy stalker, and she can’t exactly make a real romance happen with a guy who doesn’t even know she’s in walking distance. So maybe Bailey should just settle for Porter? Sure, he’s a pain in the butt, but she’s already stuck with him all the time, given they work at the same museum. When they both get stuck there one night, Bailey has to make a choice: reach for the dream by holding out for Alex, or suck it up for the guy who’s right in front of her? Or, you know, deal with the fact that it turns out they’re actually one and the same.
The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli (April 11)
Molly’s lack of a love life is not for lack of imagination. She’s got crushes; it’s reciprocity that’s the problem. But never has she felt it so starkly as she is right now, watching her twin, Cassie, fall head over heels for a new girl. Cassie does her best not to leave Molly in the dust, pairing her up with a cuter guy than Molly ever dreamed of having. For the first time in her life, Molly has a chance to “catch up” to the romances around her…so why is she stuck thinking about the guy who fits in even worse than she does? I have never in my life fallen so hard, so fast for an entire cast of characters as I did while reading Albertalli’s sophomore novel, and I can’t watch to watch this book become a massive teen favorite.
Fireworks, by Katie Cotugno (April 11)
Katie Cotugno is one of my favorite instabuy authors, because she always brings something unique and nuanced to the YA moral complexity playground. With her third novel, Cotugno pulls us
back into the 90s at the height of boy-band fandom, for a fabulous BFF contemp that reads like being backstage at American Idol. Dana’s only supposed to be keeping Olivia company at her girl-band audition; everyone knows her best friend’s the one with the singing chops. But when both of them get selected for stardom, it becomes increasingly clear there’s only room for one onstage. And if they can’t be buddies in the spotlight, can they stay buddies when they’re out of it?
North of Happy, by Adi Alsaid (April 25)
Carlos is a rule follower with a passion for cooking and a life path that has already been laid out for him, which he’s more than happy to follow. Until his brother is killed in a tragic accident, and Carlos starts hearing his voice guiding him to live the life less traveled. A dual citizen, Carlos runs away across the Mexican border to start a new life in the U.S. under the tutelage of his dream chef to the stars. But a little too much happiness throws everything into upheaval, and Carlos has to find the right middle ground of who he’s gonna be from here on out.
The Wonder of Us, by Kim Culbertson (April 25)
Riya and Abby are childhood best friends who’ve been torn apart by distance, and as determined as they were not to let the Atlantic get between them figuratively as well as literally, it may have proven to be too much for them to handle. But Riya has a plan to fix them: a six-week adventure around Europe. But what kind of BFF trip can you have when you haven’t spoken in weeks, and there are still so many things left you couldn’t say if you were?
And We’re Off, by Dana Schwartz (May 2)
Being an artist is in Nora’s blood. It’s a talent her grandfather not only passed down but is more than happy to nurture, to the tune of an all expenses paid trip to Europe. There’s only one condition: Nora has to send him an original piece of artwork at every stop. Not exactly a catch when you’re dying to paint across Europe! But Nora’s mother isn’t quite as excited as her daughter, and is afraid of how the trip might derail her future. After weeks of fighting, the time to leave has arrived, but things don’t go down quite as Nora planned. Because her beautiful, dreamy, artistic solo trip across Europe? Suddenly isn’t quite so solo anymore.
That Thing We Call a Heart, by Sheba Karim (May 9)
After getting into a fight with her best friend, Farah, Shabnam Qureshi makes some bad life choices that set her up for a totally boring and isolated summer. Then she meets Jamie, who’s working at his aunt’s pie shack and finds Shabnam totally entrancing. But Farah isn’t quite as enamored with Jamie as Shabnam is, and together, the two of them dig a little deeper not just into him but into her family’s past, specifically what happened to them during the Partition of India in 1947. Now Shabnam wants nothing more than the rebuild the relationships she’s wrecked, and to figure out who she truly is and what she wants.
In a Perfect World, by Trish Doller (May 23)
Ever since her debut, Something Like Normal, Doller has been a personal fav. Everything she writes jumps onto my to-read list, and her newest is no exception. Caroline’s summer is thrown into upheaval when her mother opens an eye clinic in Egypt, taking her family from Ohio to North Africa in a heartbeat. Caroline’s dreading spending her summer and beyond surrounded by the unfamiliar, but what she doesn’t expect is to fall in love with her new home, and a wonderful new guy in it.
I Believe in a Thing Called Love, by Maurene Goo (May 30)
Desi has mastered a lot in her academic and intellectual life, but her impressive skill set doesn’t quite extend to romance. More specifically, she has never had a boyfriend, and if you’ve ever seen her try to flirt, you’ll understand why. But Desi’s ready for a change, and she knows the perfect source for her education: K-Dramas! If the heroines in her father’s favorite TV shows can find love, so can she, right? But reality isn’t exactly like it appears onscreen, and Desi has a lot to learn about life, love, and the art of pursuit. If there’s anyone I trust to rock this premise with a whole lot of heart and humor, it’s the author of Since You Asked.
Bad Romance, by Heather Demetrios (June 13)
Demetrios has an absolutely killer record with excellent contemps that cut unexpectedly deep and pull no punches when talking about the tougher side of adolescent life, so this one is absolutely at the top of my to-read list. Grace needs to escape her life, to get out of her house and away from the mother and stepfather who make her feel like she can’t breathe, let alone be the vibrant, cosmopolitan artist she dreams of being. So when she meets the charismatic and talented Gavin, he feels like the first stroke of good luck she’s had in a long time. Which means she can overlook the fact that he’s controlling, manipulative, and downright dangerous; after all, he loves her, and isn’t he the only one who does? But what happens when the relationship you’ve used to escape everything else in your life becomes the worst trap of all?