33 of October’s Best YA Reads

October is such a delicious reading month, because you just know so many of these books were meant to consumed with apple cider, trick-or-treating, and general autumnal merriment and spookiness. There’s one for every day of the month here (plus two more to keep you company when Halloween chills keep you up all night!), spanning all genres and full of varied and beautiful representation, so let’s get down to it!

The Last True Poets of the Sea, by Julia Drake (October 1)
This debut is a straight-up stunner that creeps up on you with every page until it’s completely consumed your heart and soul. It follows Violet Larkin, who’s spending the summer with her uncle in Lyric, the coastal Maine town founded by her famous ancestor, Fidelia, who was the sole survivor of a shipwreck. The summer is intended to put some space between wild, hard-partying Violet and her family, which feels more necessary than ever following her brother Sam’s suicide attempt. Wracked with guilt for ignoring signs of Sam’s deep depression, Violet becomes obsessed with the idea of finding the wreck, a dream the two of them had had as children. She enlists her new friends—including her sweet and gorgeous coworker, Orion, and the intensely brilliant Liv, who has her own fixation on the wreck—to hunt it down, but lands in a complicated love triangle that threatens to drown them all, if their mission doesn’t do it first.

10 Blind Dates, by Ashley Elston (October 1)
Sophie desperately needs a break from her parents, and a Christmas in which they go off to Louisiana to be with her very pregnant sister is the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, her boyfriend also wants a break, which isn’t exactly what Sophie had planned. Miserable, Sophie seeks solace in spending the holiday with her grandparents and wacky extended clan, and there she’s presented with a plan: Sophie must go on ten dates, each one selected by a member of the family. It’s definitely different…and Sophie agrees, subjecting herself to some of the most ridiculous dates she could never have imagined. Then Griffin comes crawling back, which would’ve been exactly what Sophie wanted, if only she hadn’t already gone and fallen for someone else—someone sweet, hot, familiar, taken, and completely off limits.

Crier’s War, by Nina Varela (October 1)
Look, I can and will tell you the plot of this debut series opener, but can we all be honest about the fact that “slow burn enemies-to-lovers f/f fantasy” is all we really need to know? Or that you probably didn’t even to look past that stunning cover to know you’d sell an organ for it? Okay, now that we’ve been up front about that, meet Ayla, the human handmaiden to the Automae Crier, who plots to avenge the destruction of her family and people by killing the very princess she serves. And meet Crier, who was designed to be beautiful and perfect, only to discover she was designed with a bonus “flaw” she’ll do anything to keep hidden. As Ayla learns there’s more good to Crier than she’d thought, and Crier learns there’s more evil to both her father and her betrothed than she’d thought, the two are drawn together. But as war wages between humans and Automae, falling in love might just be the most dangerous act either could commit.

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All, by Laura Ruby (October 1)
YA fans already know Ruby well from her Printz-winning Bone Gap, but she’s changing up genres with her newest, set in Chicago during World War II and starring Frankie, who’s living with her siblings in an orphanage after the death of her mother and disappearance of her father. Her dad was supposed to return as soon as he made enough money to take care of them, but when he shows up for a weekend visit that turns out to be his final goodbye as he takes off for greener pastures with his new wife, Frankie and her sister, Toni, are now on their own, forcing Frankie to figure out how to make a life in a world that’s burning to embers around them. This ghostly tale just got named a finalist for the National Book Award, so if you somehow needed any more of a push to dive into Ruby’s newest world, consider it done.

Now Entering Adamsville, by Francesca Zappia (October 1)
I happen to be of the opinion that Zappia is one of YA’s most brilliant and underrated authors (please go read Eliza and Her Monsters and tell me there is any arguing with that), so I am extremely thrilled to be able to include her in this preview for the first time. Her third book stars Zora, an asexual girl who’s framed for a crime she didn’t commit when someone sets fire to the school janitor’s house and kills him in the blaze. Zora’s innocent, but she has no idea who the real killer is, and in a town with a ghostly past, she only has so much time to solve the mystery before she becomes the killer’s next victim.

Rebel, by Marie Lu (October 1)
Just when you thought the Legend series was done, Lu pulls you back in with this fourth installment, starring Day’s little brother, Eden, who dreams of shedding that particular identity. Sure, Day’s a hero, but Eden’s a success in his own right, a top student at school and a wildly impressive inventor. Not to mention the fact that Day is more recluse than public hero these days, content to live a private life with June and do whatever he needs to do to keep Eden safe. But as they grow more distant, Eden feels a continued pull to the dark side of Ross City, the Antarctican city that’s home to his elite school…a pull that may lead to dangers too great for even Day to overcome.

Shadow Frost, by Coco Ma (October 1)
You know what I could always stand to see more of in YA? Powerful princesses who happen to be demon hunters, and then maybe discover that they’re actually being targeted in an assassination plot, and then realize they and their friends have been raised in a web of lies and maybe the deceit is coming from within, and then realize they don’t know who they can trust or how far they’ll have to go to save the world as they know it. What’s that you say? I’ve just described the plot of this exact debut? Well isn’t that convenient??

The Memory Thief, by Lauren Mansy (October 1)
Etta despises living in the corrupt city of Craewick where memories serve as currency, citizens are divided by their abilities, and the Gifted can take memories at will with no more than a touch. She’s had enough of living under ruler Madam’s thumb, but she’s also struggling with her guilt over an accident that left her mother asylum-bound. Then her mother is put up for auction, her memories out there for purchase by the highest bidder before she’s killed, and Etta will do anything to save her…even join the rebel group she swore to leave behind and embark on a dangerous mission that will change her life forever.

Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance, ed. by Bethany C. Morrow (October 1)
What could be more inspirational than a diverse group of your faves writing about activism? There are so many great names in this collection, contributing marginalized perspectives via prose, poetry, and art, and it’s a solid mix of familiar bestsellers, authors who are just launching their careers, and established writers getting into YA for their first time. (Though several of the contributors, including the editor herself, have debut YA novels coming up in the next two years, so when you find your fave contributions? You’re gonna wanna remember those authors’ names, because you’re about to see a whole lot more of them!)

The Good Luck Girls, by Charlotte Nicole Davis (October 1)
This debut is a straight-up dazzler, billed as Westworld meets The Handmaid’s Tale and definitely living up to its comps. It centers on a group of five girls—Aster, Violet, Tansy, Mallow, and Clementine—who were all sold to a “welcome house” and rebranded with both their floral names and literal brands as children. When young Clementine accidentally kills an important man who’s come a-calling, the girls know they have to get her out of there, and that the time to save the rest of their lives has begun. Together, they go on the run, desperate for justice and salvation that may never come, with only the hope that a legend passed down through generations of Good Luck girls is true enough to yield the key.

The Grace Year, by Kim Liggett (October 8)
Anyone who thinks YA is over Dystopian novels had better get their head straight with this newest book by notable author Liggett, which has already been optioned for film. The titular year refers to the taboo sixteenth year in a girl’s life, where in Garner County, they’re banished in order to release the energy of their feminine wiles, the very power emitted by the essence of their youth, so that they may then return in a pure state for matrimony. It’s a year not every girl survives in the wild, and as the time nears for Tierney, it becomes clear that not everything that ultimately presents as danger lies among that they’ve been taught to fear. Sometimes, the most dangerous and toxic enemies are those you thought were safest.

A Kingdom for a Stage, by Heidi Heilig (October 8)
The music of For a Muse of Fire dances back into your soul this fall with a sequel starring Jetta, who now finds herself a wanted outlaw in danger of being charged for treason against the crown. There’s also the small matter of the magic that runs through her veins, allowing her to animate whatever she likes (including weaponry), that makes her way too attractive to both the army and the rebels. But Jetta doesn’t want to use her power for evil; she’s already seen it corrupt and she won’t fall prey to the same trap, especially not when she’s already done and lost so much. Still: to save her country, she may not have a choice.

By Any Means Necessary, by Candice Montgomery (October 8)
For my money, Montgomery (who debuted with Home and Away) is rocking one of the very best voices in YA right now, and I fell in love with gay Black beekeeping college (yes, college) freshman Torrey from page one of this sophomore novel. It’s impossible not to feel for him immediately, when he gets a phone call while still in orientation that his beloved bee farm, left to him by a family member who meant so much to him, is in danger of foreclosure. Now Torrey’s thinking of picking up and moving home to fix things, but he doesn’t want to leave college, his new friends, or his new potential boyfriend behind. Can he handle it all? And should he even try, for a community that doesn’t seem to love him back?

Our Year in Love & Parties, by Karen Hattrup (October 8)
If there’s anyone I trust to bring raw and unexpected nuance to a book about parties (though lemme tell you, I love books about parties), it’s the author of Frannie & Tru. In her newest, Hattrup tells the story of two teens, Tucker and Ericka, over the course of four parties set during a single year. Through the parties, the two teens discuss and share the gamut of emotions and experiences in slices of very real life and very real feelings.

Into the Crooked Place, by Alexandra Christo (October 8)
The author of To Kill a Kingdom returns to kick off a duology about four magical outsiders struggling to survive. There’s Tavia, a busker with a collection of dark magic who dreams of leaving Creije and her criminal past behind her. There’s Wesley, a gangster with ambitious dreams that will drive him to do just about anything. There’s Karam, a warrior by day and underground fighter by night. And there’s Saxony, a resistance fighter hell bent on revenge. When Tavia makes a mistake and accidentally delivers dark magic, it explodes into a conflict that threatens to destroy the world as they know it. Can four of the least trustworthy people in the land learn to trust one another if it’s the only way to save themselves, their home, and the world?

Look Both Ways, by Jason Reynolds (October 8)
One of the best things I read this year was Reynolds’s short story in Black Enough, about a group of boys dreaming of the perfect sandwich, and he’s already back to rock some worlds again with his newest, told over the course of a ten-block walk. (If the aforementioned short story isn’t enough to convince you of how powerful Reynolds can be with a tiny space of time, by the way, Long Way Down should definitely have that covered.) It’s a slice of life, or really of a bunch of lives, about what happens as you’re living, the detours and the conversations and the truth and the connections, and to make it even better, it’s an illustrated work, with art by Alexander Nabaum.

Rogue Heart, by Axie Oh (October 8)
This companion to Rebel Seoul is set in Neo Beijing in 2021, two years after the Battle of Neo Seoul, where Ama works in a cafe by day and as a lounge singer by night. The telepath is enjoying her anonymity, until PHNX, a resistance group, approaches her to expose a government experiment. Having escaped one herself, Ama can’t say no, and soon she’s putting her powers to work as a rebel spy. But she could never anticipate what turns out to be her most complex mission yet: to infiltrate the base of the Alliance’s new war commander…who happens to be Alex Kim, the boy who betrayed her. The boy she loved. The boy who is almost certain to recognize her if he catches her posing as one of his officers. The boy who could send her to her death, no matter what feelings she may still have.

The Beautiful, by Renée Ahdieh (October 8)
Does anything sound more sultry and glamorous than life and death among vampires in 1872 New Orleans? It certainly enraptures Celine, a young dressmaker from Paris who’s been forced to flee her home and find safety in the Ursuline convent during Carnival. From there, it’s only a matter of time until the city’s dark and deadly underworld grasps her in its clutches, especially after Sébastien, leader of the group La Cour des Lions, makes her acquaintance. Celine’s attraction to Sébastien is impossible to fight, but when one of the girls from the convent is found dead in his lair, both fear and guilt tear her apart. As the body count rises, it becomes clear there’s a serial killer in the city, and Celine has become a target.

Mooncakes, by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu (October 15)
It’s been a fantastic year for queer YA witches, and I can’t imagine a better way to bring in the spooky season than with a graphic novel about them! The star of this one is Nova Huang, who spends lots of time around spell books while working at her grandmothers’ New England bookshop. When Nova follows a tip on a white wolf into the woods, she finds the werewolf is none other than Tam Lang, her childhood crush. Tam needs help, and who better than Nova to provide it, especially if it helps bring them closer and find their feelings are as strong as ever?

Tarnished Are the Stars, by Rosiee Thor (October 15)
Anna’s an outlaw with a secret: she’s the Technician, providing illegal medical technology to the sick and injured, despite the Commissioner forbidding it. Her newest patient, Nathaniel, has a big secret, too: he’s the Commissioner’s son, on a mission to capture the Technician. (He’s also discovering he’s aroace, by the way.) It’s a dangerous game, especially when Eliza, a deadly lesbian spy, enters the mix, looking for information on the Commissioner. But as she and Anna get closer, she begins to question everything, including where her allegiances lie. Soon, a tenuous alliance is formed between them, and when they discover a secret about a lethal epidemic, they’ll have to work together against the Commissioner powerful enough to end them all.

Jackpot, by Nic Stone (October 15)
The New York Times bestseller is back, this time with a book about a girl named Rico who knows there’s better out there than the rut she’s stuck in, if only she could afford to get out of it. It’s hard to make waves when your entire day consists of school, work, and watching your little brother. Then she sells a winning lotto ticket, and when no one cashes it in, she takes it upon herself to find the winner…together with Zan, her rich and popular classmate, with whom she strikes up an unexpected friendship. But when push comes to shove, can these friends who come from two completely different backgrounds stay on the same team?

Monster of the Week, by F.T. Lukens (October 15)
The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic has got to be one of the cutest YA fantasies of all time, so learning there’d be a sequel to this bi YA was an utter delight, especially since it kicks off with Bridger’s life being fine and dandy. Boyfriend? Check. Best friend? Check. College acceptance? Check. Great job in the world of magic? Check. Concerns about the future? Check. Return of estranged dad? Check. Investigation opening into the strange events of last fall, threatening to put the myth world back at risk? Check. Huh. Maybe things aren’t that smooth after all…

Our Wayward Fate, by Gloria Chao (October 15)
If you read American Panda and prayed that Chao would keep contributing more fabulous Taiwanese American contemporary to YA, you are about to be so, so happy. In her sophomore novel, the star is yet another Taiwanese American girl, though Ali tries to blend in as much as possible in order to survive living in rural Indiana. Then another Taiwanese kid comes to school, and not only is Ali no longer the Only One, but uhhhh…Chase is pretty freaking great. And cute. And it’s really, really nice to have someone else who gets where she’s coming from. He should be a slam dunk for a boyfriend choice, but Ali’s mom doesn’t feel that way; she wants Ali to end it. And when Ali learns why, it’ll turn her entire world upside-down.

Fireborne, by Rosaria Munda (October 15)
If in the wake of the end of Game of Thrones, you’re among the readers looking for something to fill that gap, welcome to the Aurelia Cycle, a new series starring Annie and Lee, two teens on the rise in a new regime borne of a revolution that gave everyone an equal chance to test into the ruling class of dragonriders. Though they were raised in the same orphanage after their families’ respective executions, the rivalry for the top spot in the dragonriding fleet is tearing them apart…until survivors from the old regime return with a plan for vengeance and reclamation. Now Annie and Lee have to make impossible choices about home and about each other.

The Never Tilting World, by Rin Chupeco (October 15)
It’s getting almost impossible to keep track of all of Chupeco’s outstanding series, but vivid worlds, an intense magic system, well-drawn main characters, and queer girls in complicated love should ensure this duology opener stays on your radar. This fantasy, billed as Frozen meets Mad Max: Fury Road, is set in a world where twin goddesses have ruled for centuries, until one sister betrayed it all. Now there are two realms, one in which it’s forever night and one that’s a perpetual sunny desert, and each has a daughter…who doesn’t know the other daughter exists. When each one sets out toward the Great Abyss in order to repair their broken world, they face unimaginable dangers and romantic surprises. But that’s nothing compared to what awaits them if they finally complete their respective journeys….

The Fountains of Silence, by Ruta Sepetys (October 22)
I’m not sure anyone’s made as big a name for themselves in historical fiction as repeated New York Times bestseller Sepetys, so it’s always a thrill when she comes back with a new historical. Set in 1957 Madrid, under Franco’s fascist dictatorship, wealthy Daniel Matheson is new to his mother’s birth country, and eager to learn more about it as a photographer. But when taking pictures leads him to Ana, he learns the country so popular with rich tourists and foreign businessmen like his father is filled with dark, oppressive secrets, some of which are well revealed by his photos. Now he’s torn between helping to shed light on the truth about the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and protecting the people he loves.

Light it Up, by Kekla Magoon (October 22)
Magoon has written no shortage of groundbreaking work, and this follow-up to How it Went Down, told in a similar vignette style, promises to be no exception. It follows what happens when a thirteen-year-old girl is shot on her way home, and nothing but excuses about everything from height making her look like an adult to her not listening to the officer (she was wearing headphones when the officer called after her) comes in response. Now we see the aftermath of a community divided, some wanting justice and some wanting to reinforce white supremacy, and none of it able to bring the girl back home.

Girls Like Us, by Randi Pink (October 29)
It’s been a minute since Pink’s Into White, but it’s clear she hasn’t shied away any from complicated stories about identity. This one revolves around four teenage girls: Ola, who’s pregnant and living in rural Georgia; Izella, her little sister, who’s tasked with taking care of her; Missippi, their neighbor, who’s also pregnant but doesn’t seem to understand everything it entails and what it means for her future; and Susan, a white girl who’s the daughter of an anti-choice senator, who lives in Chicago and meets Missippi when the latter is sent there to give birth. There are two unplanned pregnancies, four girls dealing with them, and so many ways for the stories to go in this sophomore novel about a woman’s right to choose and what it really means in this country and across racial lines.

All the Things We Do in the Dark, by Saundra Mitchell (October 29)
Mitchell’s back for the second month in a row, this time with a thriller centered around Ava, a girl who’s a lot of things: pansexual, a rape survivor, a girl who seems to be losing her best friend, and someone who’s falling in love for the first time. Unfortunately, the object of her affection is is the daughter of the cop next door, who can’t know that Ava’s found a woman’s body in the woods and decided to solve the murder by herself, rather than going to police.

Full Disclosure, by Camryn Garrett (October 29)
If ever there were a debut to watch, it’s this young author who’s been making a name for herself since she was firmly in YA territory herself. (Not that she’s too far out of it now!) This story, about an adopted HIV-positive girl falling in love and wanting to learn about sex for the first time, while also questioning her bisexuality as she reflects on the girl who broke both her trust and her heart, feels like it was written by a (brilliant, insightful) teen in all the best ways: it’s sharp, authentic, funny, romantic, real, and bursting with personality. Simone Garcia-Hampton has walked on eggshells as much as anyone with her directorial talent and bold personality can, but now she’s at a new school and she’s tired of putting life on hold, even if she has to work harder than ever to keep being positive a secret. When sparks ignite between her and Miles, Simone is thrilled to finally get to experience romance again for the first time since she was betrayed by someone she trusted. Then it threatens to happen all over again as a blackmailer warns Simone that if she doesn’t tell Miles about her status soon, they will. Now Simone has to decide who she can trust, what relationships are worth saving, and when it’s time to let go and live on your own terms.

Beyond the Black Door, by A.M. Strickland (October 29)
Kamai is a soulwalker, just like her mom, which means they can visit other people’s souls while they sleep. And while souls take on different forms, some of which are gorgeous and some of which are terrifying, there’s one constant for Kamai: the black door. It’s in every soul she sees, and she has no idea what’s behind it, because she’s always listened to her mother when she said to leave it be. Until now. When Kamai makes the mistake of touching and listening at the door, she’s lured into doing the only thing she’s forever been told not to, and she is not prepared for the dangers that await her and her soul on the other side.

I’m a Gay Wizard, by V.S. Santoni (October 29)
Don’t you just love when books can completely sell you with their title alone? Gay wizards are shockingly underdone in YA for how many exist in Harry Potter fanfiction, so seeing Santoni’s debut among the very first Wattpad Books is thrilling on several levels. Johnny is the titular gay wizard, a boy so into the idea of magic that he and his best friend, Alison, spend the summer messing with it. But when what should be a harmless pastime leads to them unleashing an earthquake, it stops being fun and games and starts drawing the attention of the Marduk Institute. Johnny and Alison look like perfect candidates for an organization that molds young wizards, and they don’t exactly have a choice; there’s no returning to normal life. Now Johnny and Alison have to get used to a life of monsters, magic, mayhem, and mayhaps even a couple of cute fellow students.

The Light at the Bottom of the World, by London Shah (October 29)
Set in the final days of the twenty-first century, Shah’s debut sees humankind struggling in a ruined London, surrounded by sea creatures swimming through unfathomable depths and hoping that some day they’ll reach the surface again. Among those humans is Leyla McQueen, a submersible racer who’s determined to compete in the city’s annual marathon in order to win the Prime Minister’s promised prize of whatever they wish, which she plans to use to save her father from false imprisonment. But then Leyla discovers secrets and lies she was never meant to learn, and together with a…difficult companion, she’ll have to fight the powers that be if she’s going to save her father, and herself.

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