29 of August’s Best New Young Adult Books

We’ve got one last full month of summer left, and YA is making sure you’ve got incredible books to enjoy every single day of it. (And if you’ve only got time for quick reads in between dips in the pool or shifts at your summer job, there are several amazing anthologies happy to accommodate you!) Here’s what we’re reading this month.

The Dark Beneath the Ice, by Amelinda Bérubé (August 7)
Though I’ve never seen Black Swan, if you tell me there are shades of it in a book, I am allll over it; the combo of creepiness, queerness, and competition is just too fabulous to ignore. So I’m incredibly psyched for this debut that promises to be a mashup of that movie and Paranormal Activity, about a girl named Marianne who quit dance and keeps losing pieces of her life ever since. Not to mention all the bizarre and unsettling things happening around her, like mirrors breaking and the river calling to her. Is she slowly going insane? Or is there something otherworldly in the works? The only person she can turn to for help is Ron, the new girl at school and the daughter of a local psychic. But when their first attempt at an exorcism doesn’t go as planned, all hell breaks loose and threatens to tear them apart.

Finding Yvonne, by Brandy Colbert (August 7)
Multi-award-winning author Colbert returns with her third YA, about a supposed musical prodigy who has fallen out of love with what was supposed to be her future. What happens when your life just isn’t gonna look how you thought it would? When the guy may not be the guy, and your missing mother may be affecting you more than you thought, and you’re constantly learning new things about your pot-smoking, often-absent single father? When all the building blocks to rebuild your life are there, and it’s up to you to figure out how to use them to make your own yellow brick road, what do you build? This book explores all of that, while also putting it in the greater context of how much more complex these questions get for Black kids and especially for Black girls.

Nine, by Zach Hines (August 7)
It’s humans, not felines, who’ve got nine lives in Hines’s debut, and each life is an upgrade from the next in every way—incentivizing death as population control. Julian’s friends may be keen on the idea of burning through lives to become better versions of themselves, but after seeing the way that made his mother sick, he’s clinging to his first for dear life. But he knows he can’t hang onto it forever, especially with the leader of a Burner club targeting him. And there’s more to the life in between than Julian ever knew, and he’s determined to find answers about not just his mother’s spiral but a worldwide conspiracy.

Heretics Anonymous, by Katie Henry (August 7)
Henry’s debut stars atheist teen Michael, who finds himself in his own version of hell when yet another move lands him in Catholic school. But he’s surprised to find a girl who makes it all seem worth it, and who just might share his (lack of) beliefs. Only it turns out she doesn’t: Lucy wants to be a priest. And she isn’t the only religious outcast at St. Clare; there’s also Celtic Reconstructionist Polytheist Eden, Jewish (and gay) Avi, and unique Unitarian Max. Together, they’re Heretics Anonymous, and at Michael’s encouragement they attempt to dismantle their school’s hypocrisies, from an unbalanced dress code rules to a teacher being fired for marrying her wife. But when things go too far, and Michael’s own life threatens to blow up, he has to grapple with what he believes, what he wants, and the hope that Lucy takes the virtue of forgiveness very, very seriously. 

The Other Side of Lost, by Jessi Kirby (August 7)
Mari has worked hard to cultivate the perfect online persona, and she has the thousands of fans to prove it. But when she breaks down, confessing it’s all a lie and her life is nowhere near as perfect as the facade she’s been presenting, the backlash is fierce. In need of some space away from her following, she decides to hike the John Muir Trail, something she and her late cousin, Bri, had planned to do together for their eighteenth birthday. It also happens to be the perfect way to honor her cousin and make up for the fact that Mari pushed her away as her internet star rose. With Bri’s diary in hand and boots on her feet, Mari commences a journey both literal and metaphorical in the hopes of once again finding herself.

The Forest Queen, by Betsy Cornwall (August 7)
This Robin Hood retelling from New York Times–bestselling Cornwall stars Sylvie, sister to John, the newly appointed Sheriff of Loughsley. Her brother has way more power than anyone should, especially someone with such a cold heart. As the book opens, he’s trying to marry Sylvie off to an older lord, to whom she has no interest in surrendering her life. So off she runs with her best friend, Bird, and new friend Little Jane, who’s pregnant and depressed following her rape. From there they grow into the band we’ve come to know and love from the legend, albeit entirely genderbent and perhaps not so merry as they are intent on winning their freedom and making a difference.

#Murdertrending, by Gretchen McNeil (August 7)
Good God but this book is horrifying in the very best way. Imagine a world where convicted criminals are sentenced to an island called Alcatraz 2.0, set of a reality show in which people observe them right up through their brutal executions by one of a team of stylized serial killers. That’s only the beginning of this twisted and terrifying tale, which sees a group of said criminals team up to escape death and unmask the villain behind the baddest of bad places. And on top of it all, Dee’s got a whole other mission: find out who really killed her stepsister and framed her for the crime that landed her at Alcatraz 2.0…a fate made that much harder by the fact that her first day on site saw her become its new most notorious criminal.

These Rebel Waves, by Sara Raasch (August 7)
New York Times bestseller Raasch is back with a brand-new fantasy series, this one set on the high seas. War was one thing for soldier Adeluna, aka Lu, but it’s in the tumultuous period afterward that things really go haywire. When a delegate from Agrid, the country Lu helped defeat, goes missing during peace talks, she knows she has to help find him to prevent more bloodshed. Helping her is pirate and expert navigator Devereux (aka Vex), who’s now under suspicion for the disappearance. And then there’s Benat, who, despite being crown prince of the religious Agrid, can’t stop thinking about the magic of the country that defeated them, off limits as it may be to him and his people. And when the potential arises for it to open up to him and his people with some diplomatic effort, Ben has a serious and dangerous choice to make. What happened in the past, where they’re headed in the future, and conspiracies of the present are all anybody’s guess…

This Story is a Lie, by Tom Pollock (August 7)
The problem with being a huge thriller fan is you can often see the twists coming. With Pollock’s debut, originally published in the UK as White Rabbit, Red Wolf, good freaking luck with that. Peter Blankman’s absolutely brilliant at math, but human interaction is another story. His debilitating panic disorder leaves him particularly attached to the two people in his life he’s always been able to rely on: his brilliant scientist mother and his twin sister, Bel. But when he bears witness to an attempt on his mother’s life the night she’s being honored, Peter has no choice but to let himself be dragged to safety by a group he doesn’t know if he can trust. And the more he learns, the more the questions pile up, until even those most reliable standbys of his life become the biggest questions of all. Who tried to kill Peter’s mother? Who took Bel? And how is he supposed to survive any of this when he can barely breathe?

Dance of Thieves, by Mary E. Pearson (August 7)
Those who’ve already read Pearson’s Remnant Chronicles will recognize the world of this new series, which stars Jase, new leader of the rebellious Ballenger Empire, and Kazi, a former street thief who’s now a Rahtan warrior. When Kazi is sent on a mission from Queen Zezelia, to investigate Jase’s notorious outlaw family, who doesn’t recognize the queen’s sovereignty, she’s surprised to learn Jase isn’t exactly what she expected. And certainly neither one expects to be kidnapped, or to have to work together to find their way to freedom, or how deeply they’ll fall for each other as they do.

The Last Best Story, by Maggie Lehrman (August 7)
Grant and Rose are two soon-to-be graduates experiencing the journey to the end in very different ways. Rose is ready to go. She’s tired of feeling ignored as a journalist (and so quits the paper) and tired of being overlooked by Grant (who happens to edit said paper). She is, however, ready to prom it up and kiss high school goodbye in all the right ways. Grant, in the meantime, is dreading leaving the paper behind, and utterly befuddled (and kind of pissed) that Rose has already done so. And he’s not feeling all that great about the fact that she brought another guy to prom, either. So what to do when the only tool in your arsenal is the power of the pen? You lure a girl back to her journalism roots for the story of a lifetime…and hope it’s got one hell of a happy ending for its reporters.

Star-Touched Stories, by Roshani Chokshi (August 7)
The New York Times–bestselling Star-Touched series gets its newest entry in this book of three short stories, each set in the dark, lush, magical world we’ve come to know and love. The first is a dangerous romance between Night and the Lord of Death, the second returns us to Queen Gauri and King Vikram as Aasha’s fight to control her powers is tested by the opportunity to assist them (and leads her to a love she never imagined), and the third is the mythical tale of a bride whose groom dies on the eve of their wedding…or does he?

The Looking Glass, by Janet McNally (August 14)
Sylvie Blake and her sister, Julia, shared a favorite fairytale book, which Julia retitled Girls in Trouble. Then former ballerina Julia goes missing following a post-injury pain pill overdose, and it seems like she‘s the girl in trouble—but is she? Sylvie doesn’t understand the circumstances behind her sister’s departure, but when their old fairytale book shows up with Julia’s handwritten list inside—and characters from the tales the girls loved start appearing in the real world—she knows it’s time to go looking for her sister. With her best friend’s enigmatic brother along for the ride, Sylvie embarks on a journey to rescue Julia, or to learn whether she wants to be saved after all.

Fresh Ink, edited by Lamar Giles (August 14)
What do you get when an incredible collection of writers, both new and well established, get together to write an anthology full of creative and diverse stories? What better way to find out than to pick up this collection featuring authors such as Malinda Lo, Nicola Yoon, Aminah Mae Safi, Sara Farizan, and Jason Reynolds, edited by one of the best thriller writers in YA? Oh, and did I mention it contains a one-act play from the legendary Walter Dean Myers that has never been in print before? Sooo, yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.

Our Stories, Our Voices, ed. by Amy Reed (August 14)
The subtitle of this anthology is “21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America,” and if that’s not enough to make you smash your finger on the Add to Cart button, the lineup will: it includes, in addition to the prolific and talented Reed herself, Printz-winning Nina LaCour; National Book Award longlister, Morris finalist, and Stonewall honoree Anna-Marie McLemore; Stonewall and Cybils winner Brandy Colbert; Stonewall honoree Hannah Moskowitz; New York Times bestsellers Aisha Saeed, Amber Smith, Sandhya Menon, Ellen Hopkins, and Julie Murphy; and upcoming debut Somaiya Daud (see below). The collection also includes contributions from two previously unpublished authors alongside more familiar names like Jaye Robin Brown, Martha Brockenbrough, Sona Charaipotra, I.W. Gregorio, Alexandra Duncan and Stephanie Kuehnert, and honestly, what better subject to introduce new voices?

See All the Stars, by Kit Frick (August 14)
This debut sounds like everything I love tied up in one gorgeously covered book, and I am extremely here for it. Ellory was once part of a BFF foursome, but now Bex, Jenni, and Ret are gone, and even her one-time love Matthias is out of her orbit. After the tragedy that ripped her world apart and a subsequent two-month suspension, Ellory’s back to figure out how to live from now on. But when an anonymous tormentor won’t let her forget the past and her role in it, she’s left with no choice but to confront the truth she has tried so hard to avoid.

A Touch of Gold, by Annie Sullivan (August 14)
The legend of King Midas goes YA in this debut about Princess Kora, a girl still suffering the consequences of her father’s wish to turn anything he touched into gold…including her skin. Never mind that King Midas gave up his power after it almost killed her. She’s still drowning in rumors and hiding her powers for as long as she can, veiled and locked away from the world. Then a new visitor, a duke, arrives at the palace, and Kora finally has reason to hope there’s a love out there for her after all. But when a theft from the royal treasury throws everything out of whack, forcing Kora to put her gold-sensing ability to use, she must embark on a dangerous journey to track the villain down, no matter what it may cost.

To Be Honest, by Maggie Ann Martin (August 21)
Savannah’s about to start her senior year, and she is not looking forward to it. She’s not ready for a year of living at home without her big sister/best friend, especially since her mother’s obsession with weight loss is only growing. Tired of being watched and pressured, Savannah needs to get out of her house and find someone to fill the hole left by her sister’s absence. And it’s at school where she meets George, a new kid who has his own issues and needs emotional support every bit as much as she does.

We Regret to Inform You, by Ariel Kaplan (August 21)
Mischa knows something’s fishy when she’s rejected by every single school she applies to, including the safest of the safeties. She’s a killer student who works her butt off, just as her single mother did for her. She embarks on a quest to get to the bottom of what happened, and falls down a more messed-up rabbit hole than she ever imagined. But at least she isn’t doing it alone; she’s got her best friend, Nate, and a secret group of high school hackers helping her out, and they won’t rest until the truth comes to light. Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds, but it also has one of the best secondary casts, and love interests, I’ve read in a while.

Brave Enough, by Kati Gardner (August 21)
Cason’s mother is the artistic director of the Atlanta Ballet Conservatory, which means Cason was basically born in toe shoes. Ballet is her past, present, and future…until a diagnosis of Ewing’s sarcoma changes everything. Now she’s getting chemo and watching cancer destroy both her body and her plans. But chemo is also where she’s finding the one person she needs to help her get through it. Davis is a cancer survivor, seven months sober, and doing community service when his world is upended by an ex who’s still using. Together, they must find the strength to move forward into whatever their new worlds will be.

Fierce Like a Firestorm, by Lana Popovic (August 21)
The second book in the sister-centric duology that opened with Wicked Like a Wildfire revisits twins Iris and Malina after they’ve learned the errors of their ways. Instead of reversing the ancient curse that haunts them, Iris has been taken to a realm that exists between the worlds and isn’t meant for living beings, while Lina remains in this world with the quest to find and save her. But Lina’s journey for answers and Iris’s attempts to save herself leave both of them in terrifying spots, on the verge of losing each other for good.

Mirage, by Somaiya Daud (August 28)
It feels like it took forever to finally get to the wealth of gorgeous non-European-inspired fantasy and sci-fi we’ve been enjoying these last few years in YA, and this sci-fi debut is one of our very loveliest rewards for waiting. This Moroccan-inspired world is home to Amani, a girl who’s celebrating her majority night when the festivities are harshly interrupted and she’s kidnapped, brought to the royal palace of the Valthek. There, she learns she bears an uncanny resemblance to Princess Maram, and she’s to take her place at any appearances deemed too dangerous for Her Royal Highness. While Amani yearns to return home to her family, all is not terrible about being in a princess’s shoes…especially when she’s falling for said princess’s fiancé. But nothing compares to what Maram and her family will do if they find out Amani’s most dangerous secret: she has joined up with a rebellion. As epic as the stakes are, my absolute favorite part of this book is the way it operates within a conversation about colonization and how it affects culture, identity, language, and relationships.

Darius the Great is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram (August 28)
Darius struggles with where and how he fits in his family, including a disinterested father, Persian mother, and sister who was taught fluent Farsi while he was not. So when his grandfather’s failing health has his family moving to Iran for the summer, Darius doesn’t know how he’s supposed to handle being in unfamiliar territory with them and the grandparents he has never even met in person. Then he meets sweet, fun, and loyal Sohrab, the first best friend he’s ever had, and for the first time has a sense of belonging with someone. But at the end of the summer, Sohrab will stay in Iran while Darius goes back to the States. This is a wonderful debut, full of nerdiness, great mental health rep, a beautiful friendship, and an unforgettable protagonist at the beginning stages of questioning his sexuality.

That’s Not What Happened, by Kody Keplinger (August 28)
This unique take on the school shooting YA is set three years after the tragedy, and Lee is still trying to piece together exactly what happened. Here’s what she knows: Her best friend, Sarah, is dead. Lee is one of six surviving eyewitnesses, and she was holding Sarah’s hand when she died, so she knows Sarah didn’t die proclaiming her faith. And now there’s going to be a book, authored by Sarah’s parents, that will cement that false legend for good. Four of the other survivors are her best friends in the world (including Miles, who might be something else, too, if Lee can figure out how her complicated feelings fit in with her growing confidence in her asexual label and the coming end of high school), and Lee knows it’s time they finally used their voices to bring their real stories to light. But there’s another voice missing, a voice Lee’s starting to realize she should’ve listened to when she had the chance. A voice who might be the key to the truth, if only Lee can find her.

Seafire, by Natalie C. Parker (August 28)
Feminist pirates take to the seas in this girl-fueled adventure helmed by Caledonia Styx, who made the mistake of trusting one of Aric Athair’s dangerous army of Bullets and will never, ever make that mistake again. Caledonia and her second-in-command, Pisces, lost everything years earlier, but now they’re in charge, with the Mors Navis successfully keeping a fleet of over fifty girls and women alive on the high seas. When an attack brings back way too many memories of life-changing betrayal, she and Pisces clash over how to handle the Bullet who saved the latter’s life. But if trusting the Bullet might bring back the person Caledonia holds dearest in the world, does she really have a choice? 

Hidden Pieces, by Paula Stokes (August 28)
Stokes danced between contemporary romance and high-stakes thrillers for a while, and this newest spins what could’ve been the former into a treacherous entry in the latter. It was bad enough that Embry hooked up with her best friend’s ex—but then the metaphorical heat between them quite literally led to a fire. That was before Embry helped a homeless man escape the flames no one knew she started, getting her labeled as a hero even though the truth about what she did is anything but heroic. It was also before she received a blackmail note, first in a collection of demands forcing her to make terrible choices in order to keep her secret. How far will she go to bury the truth?

The Sacrifice Box, by Martin Stewart (August 28)
If an ancient stone box sits in the forest and five teens aren’t daring enough to use it as a time capsule in 1982, will it still come looking for their blood four years later? Hadley, Lamb, Mack, Sep, and Arkle have no idea, because they did do that very ill-advised thing, and when one of them breaks one of the strict rules they placed on revisiting the box, all will have to pay. Their lives become suddenly, utterly terrifying, until they can figure out how to set things right.

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft, edited by Tess Sharpe, Jessica Spotswood (August 28)
Witches and Brujas bring on some spellbinding magic in this fantastic collection of witchcraft-themed stories by so many of my YA faves, including Lindsay Smith, Zoraida Córdova, Brandy Colbert, Anna-Marie McLemore, Elizabeth May, Emery Lord, Nova Ren Suma, Shveta Thakrar, Kate Hart, Brenna Yovanoff, Andrea Cremer, Robin Talley, notable upcoming debut Tehlor Kay Mejia, and the editors themselves. It’s a diverse collection to be sure, and with a dearth of witchy novels in YA’s recent years, a wildly welcome one that I hope will kickstart the next wave.

Ruin of Stars, by Linsey Miller (August 28)
Fierce was my obsession with Mask of Shadows, the opener to this duology about a genderfluid thief-turned-assassin on a quest for revenge, and seeing Sallot Leon again was everything I dreamed it would be. Sal has fought their way into the elite group of Queen’s assassins, and now it’s time to kill the three remaining people responsible for the obliteration of the Nacean people. But the identities of Risparian and Deadfall remain a mystery, and dark and deadly questions arise when an ear marked with runes is found. Who’s practicing magic and how? Why are children suddenly going missing? What if the villains are even closer than Sal ever dreamed? And what will they have to give up to take everybody else down?

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