Fantasy novels may tend to have the highest profile in YA lit, but as much as I love them, contemporary will always have my heart. Whether it’s a coming of age, a heart-fluttery romance, a pitch-perfect friendship story, a heart-racing thriller, a tearjerking examination of grief and tragedy, or an empowering and inspiring look at those just finding their voices, contemporary may be set in the very real world, but it’s nothing short of magic.
For more exciting contemporary novels coming in 2018, including On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas; Tyler Johnson Was Here, by Jay Coles; Girl Made of Stars, by Ashley Herring Blake; Always, Forever, Maybe, by Anica Rissi; Anger is a Gift, by Mark Oshiro; Monday’s Not Coming, by Tiffany Jackson; and The Beauty That Remains, by Ashley Woodfolk, make sure you check out the preview posts for our most anticipated LGBTQA, sophomore, and debut novels!
See all 2018 previews here.
A Taxonomy of Love, by Rachael Allen (January 9)
I’m a bit of a Rachael Allen fangirl, and that’s a hilariously gross understatement, so any and everything she writes jumps right on my to-read list. The day Spencer met Hope back in seventh grade was life-changing for him; having Tourette’s and a charismatic older brother did not set him up for the popularity lottery. But Hope is loud, fearless, brave, and everything Spencer loves to be around, and their friendship is everything to him, even as it grows, changes, and has its blackout periods. Six years later, Spencer’s not so sure that what’s between them can still be classified as friendship alone, but is a romance between them meant to be? Thankfully, Spencer’s science skills mean he can use all sorts of taxonomy charts to figure out how to classify who they are and what they’ve been—but what if the answer doesn’t fit in a neat box?
Love, Hate, and Other Filters, by Samira Ahmed (January 16)
Life is a tricky balance for Maya, who wants to please her traditional Muslim Indian parents, but also wants to explore her passions for photography and a decidedly non-Muslim white boy. The fact the she has secretly applied to New York University is weighing heavily on her, but at least she’s willing to give their selected suitor a shot…while also pursuing her own. It’s complicated, but nothing compared to how much harder life gets when an act of terrorism is committed, the primary suspects shares her last name, and her world turns upside down. This sweet, honest, charming debut skillfully balances joy and pain, loyalty and independence, humor and heartbreak, and establishes Ahmed as a definite author to watch.
All We Can Do is Wait, by Richard Lawson (February 6)
When the Charlestown Bridge collapses, it rocks the city of Boston, including five teenagers whose lives will never be the same. Among those teens are Skyler, whose sister was on the bridge, and without whom she’s not sure how to go on; Scott, who’s desperate to hear the fate of his girlfriend, Aimee; and Jason and Alexa, siblings a year apart who’ve been increasingly drifting as Jason’s behavior gets more and more unbearable. But Jason isn’t trying to be a jerk; he just doesn’t know how to be himself anymore when that would include being open about the fact that he’s gay with people he doesn’t trust to know it. There’s no question the collapse of the bridge will change everything for all of them, but how will they move forward?
Prettyboy Must Die, by Kimberly Reid (February 13)
Getting tagged in a photograph by a classmate as “Pretty Boy” might be cool in theory…if Peter weren’t a CIA prodigy operating as a high-school student. Now his shaky standing with the government agency is more tenuous than ever, thanks to the #Prettyboy hashtag going viral, and his celebrity can’t do anything to fix the situation of hostiles breaking into his school. He’s got a lot of work to do if he’s gonna keep his job, save his school, and live to see another pretty day.
This Tiny, Perfect World, by Lauren Gibaldi (February 27)
After how much I loved The Night We Said Yes, I’m here for any and all Lauren Gibaldi, including this book about a small-town Florida girl who’s perfectly content with her established future plans: community college with her best friend, marry her high school boyfriend, and take over the family diner. Then she gets a scholarship to a prestigious theater camp, and spending the summer in an environment that’s completely new to her brings with it a major shift in perspective, as does adding both new friends and an intriguing new guy into the mix. Now, Penny has to consider whether the life she’s always expected to lead is truly the right one for her.
A Girl Like That, by Tanaz Bhathena (February 27)
I don’t know what I was expecting from Bhathena’s debut, but truth be told, nothing really could have prepared me for its power. It’s set in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, beginning just after teens Zarin and Porus have been killed in a car accident. While it starts with an If I Stay vibe, this skillfully crafted and wonderfully nuanced contemporary quickly becomes something wholly unique as it shifts among four POVs to dig back into the events leading up the crash and in doing so, reveals a dangerous level of sexist double standards. What makes this effort especially stand out is the exploration of the multiculturalism of Saudi Arabia and the experience of being an Indian expat there, specifically a non-Muslim one. (Zarin is Zoroastrian.) It digs into something truly new in YA, and good luck digging yourself back out once you’ve finished.
A Kiss in the Dark, by Gina Ciocca (March 6)
Ciocca’s third contemporary romance is actually her second of the year; if you loved Last Year’s Mistake as much as I did, you’ll be able to snatch up Busted (which you’ll find on our most anticipated sophomores list) while you wait for this one! Macy’s got a mystery on her hands when she’s kissed in the dark during a football game and can only narrow the identity of the kisser to one of three guys. Was it Noah, the hot transfer student who’s taking credit for it? Was it Joel, her old crush? Or was it Ben, who might’ve been an almost once-upon-a-time, back before everything fell apart? And how does the mystery tie into the events of the previous year, that turned everything upside-down?
More Than We Can Tell, by Brigid Kemmerer (March 6)
Kemmerer’s deeply touching Letters to the Lost gets a companion follow-up this year centering around Rev, a boy with a deeply scarring past who has found new hope in a wonderful adopted family. But when his abusive father gets back in touch for his 18th birthday, it brings back unwanted memories he never wanted to revisit or felt he can share. Then he meets Emma Blue in a churchyard, and she feels like the first person he can really talk to. Emma, meanwhile, has her own issues with an overly critical mother, a disinterested father, and unwanted attention from the players in the game she’s creating that she hopes will please them both.
12 Steps to Normal, by Farrah Penn (March 13)
Kira’s life got turned upside-down when her father entered rehab for alcoholism, so she’s pretty pissed when she returns from a year of living with her aunt to find he has moved three of his rehab friends into their house. It’s like he isn’t even trying to reconnect with her, which stings all the more when she learns her friendships aren’t where she expected them to be, one of her former best friends is dating her ex, and she’s still struggling with school. The only person she can talk to is Alex Ramos, who used to have a big crush on her, and maybe still does…but her ex is the guy she wants, isn’t he? After all, that’s part of the twelve-step program she made to get her life back to normal. But maybe normal isn’t right for her anymore. Maybe her normal was never that great to begin with. And maybe her new life, including the unwanted guests in it, are a better fit than she could have ever imagined. This quiet, lovely, strong debut shows that forgiveness is a lot of things—powerful, healing, and worthwhile—while never making it look easy.
I Have Lost My Way, by Gayle Forman (March 27)
After a brief foray into adult lit, YA is thrilled to see Forman’s return in a new story that brings three strangers together in Central Park. Freya is struggling with losing her voice in the process of recording her debut. Harun needs to find the boy he loves, and will give up anything, even home, in his pursuit. Nathaniel is grieving and dealing with a family tragedy that left him alone across the country. Together, over the course of a single day, the three of them will find listening ears and empathy in each other, as well as the courage to handle the future.
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi (March 27)
God, I am so happy that more YA books are being set in college, and this debut sounds like a perfect addition to that little canon. It stars Penny Lee, who’s studying how to become a writer in Austin, Texas, and is relieved to be leaving her utterly mediocre life in her rearview. It also stars Sam, an aspiring movie director who’s both working at and living in a café, and counting on gleaning inspiration from this temporary phase later. The meeting between them isn’t exactly the stuff of movies, but despite all the awkward, they exchange numbers and become text buddies. As casual as it sounds, the friendship that develops between them becomes something of a lifeline, as they share things with each other about their days and their lives that they can’t share with anyone else.
The Pros of Cons, by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman (March 27)
Three great authors each take on a different POV in this fandom-centric friendship story. The girls aren’t at the same convention, mind you; taxidermy assistant Callie, writer Vanessa, and drummer Phoebe just happen to be staying at the same hotel. Callie’s at the World Taxidermy Championships to accompany her father-slash-boss in the hopes of bridging the distance that’s formed between them since her parents’ divorce, Vanessa’s at the We Treasure Fandom convention (aka WTFcon) to finally meet her online girlfriend, and Phoebe’s at the Indoor Percussion Association convention with an eye on the prize…and her other eye on her cute bandmate. All of the girls could use some support, but they never expect to find it in the form of a friendship with strangers forged upon a mix-up in the hotel lobby.
And She Was, by Jessica Verdi (March 27)
My favorite thing about Jessica Verdi is that she truly gets better with every book, and this one has my heart above all. When Dara sees her birth certificate for the first time at eighteen, she’s stunned to see names she doesn’t recognize listed as her parents. Confronting her mother, Mellie, leads to some shocking news for Dara: her mother’s transgender, and the name listed as her father’s was Mellie’s name prior to transition. The name listed as her mother’s, however, is a total mystery. Angry at Mellie for keeping this a secret her whole life, Dara needs to get away from her for a while, and what better trip to take than one to find the family of her deceased biological mother and get some answers? And so off she goes, along with her best friend, Sam, to get the story…or at least the part of it the family is willing to provide. Filling in the rest is Mellie herself, via a series of emails she sends to her daughter, sharing everything from the brutal truths of her battles with abuse and suicidal ideation to the beautiful reason behind her name choice. By the end of her journey, everything Dara thought she knew about herself and the relationships in her life has been shaken, but it’s what she does with what she’s learned that’ll matter most.
Now a Major Motion Picture, by Cori McCarthy (April 3)
As the granddaughter of famous feminist fantasy novelist M.E. Thorne, making a name for herself that stands on its own is a challenge for Iris, who’s considerably more interested in the music industry. Now she’s headed to Ireland to see the film set for the adaptation of her grandmother’s book, and let’s just say she’s…not all that excited. But Ireland takes her by surprise, and between the beauty of the land and the hotness of a certain member of the cast, Iris is having a way better time than initially anticipated. But there are surprises still in store, and they aren’t all good…though they may be what’ll finally help Iris see through the haze of the celebrity-adjacent life she’s been resenting for years.
Starry Eyes, by Jenn Bennett (April 3)
Zorie and Lemmon used to be best friends, but since last year’s homecoming dance, they’ve become enemies, just like their families have always been. But avoiding each other becomes impossible when they get stuck alone in the wilderness after a group camping trip goes awry and they’re forced to fend for themselves. Amid the fighting and struggle for survival, true feelings come to light, making them more like Romeo and Juliet than ever. But can that closeness last beyond the state of emergency? Enemies-to-lovers plus a forced proximity scenario from one of YA’s reigning queens of contemporary romance? Yessssss, please!
Royals, by Rachel Hawkins (May 1)
Even if you’re not familiar with Rachel Hawkins’s extensive knowledge on the social lives of historical royals, you gotta know this book is gonna be an utter delight, especially if you’re counting down the minutes to the royal nuptials. Daisy Winters isn’t the royal type, not like her classy and perfect spotlight-ready sister, who has all but got a ring on her finger from the Crown Prince of Scotland. But when the paparazzi drive her into desperation for privacy, the only place she can go to truly get away is the castle her sister will be calling home. There, the charming Miles has taken on the task of turning Daisy into a lady…a task younger prince Sebastian has no interest in seeing him succeed at, since he’d rather have a partner in troublemaking crime.
August and Everything After, by Jen Doktorski (May 1)
The final straw was getting caught with a teacher, but that was nowhere near Quinn’s worst moment; that would be when her best friend, Lynn, was killed in front of her eyes. Now Quinn is living with her aunt by the Jersey Shore, spending a summer away from everything: her angry mother, Lynn’s parents, her own guilt. And that’s where she meets Malcolm. Wrestling with his own demons, he’s currently in recovery for a painkiller addiction that stemmed from the accident that killed his bandmates. But Malcolm’s also trying to put himself back together, and as he gets ready to embark on a solo career, he enlists Quinn as his drummer, and they find they make some seriously beautiful music together. (That is both literal and a euphemism, in this case!) But with both of them on shaky ground and unsure what the future holds, hitting that perfect note may not be enough. There’s a rare, appreciated, gentle teardown of the compulsive caretaker expectation placed on women in this deceptively light-looking romantic contemporary that helps it stand out from the pack, but it’s also a solid choice for a summery beach read.
Tradition, by Brendan Kiely (May 1)
Fullbrook Academy may be an elite prep school, but that doesn’t mean it’s every student’s dream. Jules has had enough of the toxic masculinity and rape culture that hang over every hallway, and for that matter, so has Jamie, who has the weight of his scholarship and parents’ expectations on his shoulders. Neither has the respect for the school’s obsession with “tradition” that they’re supposed to; they know exactly what insidious ugliness hides behind that word. But are they strong enough and brave enough to call it out for what it is, if it means putting all their work on the line and placing their respective futures in jeopardy?
Puddin’, by Julie Murphy (May 8)
This companion to the New York Times–bestselling Dumplin‘ reunites us with Millie Michalchuk, a fat girl who is tired of fat camp. This year, she’s going to spend time chasing her dream: to become a newscaster. (And, okay, maybe to finally kiss the boy she’s crushing on.) Making friends with the pretty and popular Callie Reyes isn’t exactly an agenda item, but somehow, that’s exactly what happens, surprising everyone, and the two of them most of all.
The Way You Make Me Feel, by Maurene Goo (May 8)
The author of one of our favorite romcoms of 2017 is back with a new one that’s destined to be another favorite. It stars a prankster named Clara whose punishment for a joke gone too far is to spend the summer working on her dad’s food truck, made even worse by the fact that her new coworker is boring, uptight classmate Rose. But the longer she spends out there, the more she realizes Rose isn’t so bad…and neither is taking part in her dad’s business…and neither is the cute boy who’s crushing on her. But if all these feelings are changing and Clara is evolving, does that mean she’s leaving the old her behind?
We Are All that’s Left, by Carrie Arcos (May 15)
Zara and Nadja may be mother and daughter, but connecting seems to escape them both. Zara’s tired of being left in the dark about Nadja’s childhood in Bosnia, and Nadja doesn’t understand Zara’s passion for photography. Then their lives are literally blown apart by a bomb that leaves Nadja in a coma and Zara with PTSD, waiting for her mother to wake up and filled with questions in the meantime. It helps to meet Joseph, who’s also full of thoughts on life and faith and also has someone in the hospital: his grandmother. What sounds really excellent about this story is that it alternates perspectives between Zara’s modern-day experiences to Nadja’s childhood in war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina, a perspective I’m not sure we’ve seen in YA despite it having been just a couple of decades ago.
Give Me Some Truth, by Eric Gansworth (May 29)
The author of the critically acclaimed If I Ever Get Out of Here returns with this contemp about Carson, a rising senior in high school who’s hoping that winning a Battle of the Bands, with its prize of a trip to New York City, will be the perfect way to get off the reservation and into a life of fame. But it’d probably help if he actually had a band. And if his brother hadn’t just been shot in a racist attack. Then there’s Maggi, who’s feeling similarly antsy about her life on the rez and the way it defines her art. She’s anxious to mix it up, be allowed to grow, and maybe even find love. It’s a complicated life for both of them, but together, they just might make it through and find a little of the happiness they both seek.
The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls, by Jessica Spotswood (June 5)
If you’re a fan of Spotswood’s historical fantasy series, you know the magic she can weave with sisters, and if you’re a fellow Wild Swans fan, you know what she can do with quiet, romantic contemporary. The best thing? Her newest merges both in a quadruple-POV story about a set of four sisters experiencing a summer that changes everything. There’s Des, who’d like to focus on something other than taking care of her family and their bookstore for once; Vi, who’s got a crush on the (taken) girl next door (who doesn’t like girls…does she?); Kat, whose idea of coping with facing her ex and his new girlfriend is to embark on a revenge romance; and Bea, who has had things all figured out for a long time now…but maybe doesn’t want those things anymore. The summer will change their lives, their loves, and maybe even their relationships with each other.
Mariam Sharma Hits the Road, by Sheba Karim (June 5)
What do you get when you put three Pakistani American teens (including a religious, closeted kid and a girl who scandalizes her parents with a Times Square billboard) on a road trip to the American south? I am dying to read this book (it has one of my favorite covers of the year) and find out. With stops including a Muslim convention, a college drag party, and the titular character’s own uncle’s house, where she hopes to learn more about the father she doesn’t know, this journey promises to be a memorable one.
Save the Date, by Morgan Matson (June 5)
Charlie’s thrilled her sister’s wedding is uniting all four siblings again, especially since their family home is about to go up for sale: it’s the perfect distraction from everything she’s looking to avoid. But nothing pans out as she’d hoped or expected, and the magical reunion is turning into something of an unmitigated disaster. It’s three days of misery, but it also may be exactly what Charlie needs to move on with her life, embrace her future, and accept that things are changing and that might not be the worst thing. Oh, and yeah, there’s a cute boy, because Morgan Matson would never let us down in that regard, God bless.
Final Draft, by Riley Redgate (June 12)
Redgate has become one of my favorite authors to watch in the last couple of years, and this may be my favorite of her premises yet. Sci-fi writer Laila is used to being an overachiever at her craft; she has always been her writing teacher’s shining star. Then he’s replaced by Dr. Nazarenko, who’s both extremely successful (Pulitzer, anyone?) and extremely picky and critical. Laila’s determined to keep up and please her new professor, no matter how ridiculous the assignments seem, and how far they push past her personal limits. But how much can Laila possibly be expected to suffer for her art? And hey, what if the entire concept of suffering for your art is total crap, anyway?
The Fall of Innocence, by Jenny Torres Sanchez (June 12)
Eight years ago, Emilia was attacked in the woods behind her elementary school, and she’s been suffering for it ever since. Yes, she’s done her best to block out the memories, but it’s impossible to escape the effect of the trauma, the recollection of what it felt like to choke on her own blood, or the feeling that it’s the crows who watched over her that day who saved her and continue to do so. Still, she’s doing her best to move on and forget Jeremy, the boy responsible for the attack, and enjoy life with her family and boyfriend. Then she learns new information about the identity of her attacker, and everything Emilia’s been burying is forced to the surface.
Your Destination is on the Left, by Lauren Spieller (June 26)
The road trip YA jumps to the next level in Spieller’s fun, artsy, heart-filled debut, which stars an artist named Dessa who travels around the country with her family of nomads and their caravan, ruled by the mantra “Always keep moving.” But Dessa isn’t sure she wants to keep moving. Now that she’s been rejected from every college to which she’s applied, and she finally has a chance at an internship that feels like the only thing that could create a positive turn in her future, she wants to settle down, learn all she can, and experience a life that’s a little less transient. But shaking up the plan doesn’t sit well with her family, or with Cyrus, the caravan member she’s been crushing on hard who seems to be reciprocating her feelings.
Learning to Breathe, by Janice Lynn Mather (June 26)
Indira tries hard to live by her grandmother’s rules, but she is her mother’s daughter, and trouble seems to find her wherever she goes…including to her aunt’s home in Nassau, where she’s been sent to live. Now she has an unwanted pregnancy to hide, no support, no money, and no guidance outside of hand-me-down pregnancy books. She’s desperate for somewhere she can be safe and nurtured, and when she stumbles onto a yoga retreat, she may find in it not just the home she’s been seeking, but the family she and her fetus so badly need.
For even more contemporary for your radar, check out You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, by Rachel Lynn Solomon (January 2), Truly Devious, by Maureen Johnson (January 16), Nothing Left to Burn, by Heather Ezell (March 13), Along the Indigo, by Elsie Chapman (March 20), Not if I Save You First, by Ally Carter (March 27), Stay Sweet, by Siobhan Vivian (April 24), and Little Do We Know, by Tamara Ireland Stone (June 5)!