33 of January’s Best New Young Adult Books

Let’s get this 2019 party started, and do it in style with a fantastic new book for every day of the month and then some!

The Similars, by Rebecca Hanover (January 1)
Boarding school YAs will forever be my jam, and this one rocks the setting hard by filling it with six new students…who are actually clones of existing students. The Similars are the talk of the school, especially since their creation is illegal, but Emmaline doesn’t care about them or anything else since her best friend, Oliver, died. Then she meets Levi, who happens to be Oliver’s clone, and learns there’s a way she can sort of have her best friend back. But she doesn’t want anything to do with the forbidden clones…does she?

Two Can Keep a Secret, by Karen McManus (January 8)
McManus made a huge name for herself with debut thriller One of Us Is Lying, and now she’s back with another twisty tale leading to an explosive conclusion. Ellery has never been to her mother’s hometown of Echo Ridge, but now she’s forced to live there with her grandmother while her mom is in rehab, even though it’s a place 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 book’s end.

Black Enough, edited by Ibi Zoboi (January 8)
You already know Zoboi from her excellent YA novels, and now she’s back as editor (and contributing writer) of this anthology of stories by Black YA authors ranging from established bestsellers like Jason Reynolds and Renée Watson to relatively new voices like Jay Coles and Liara Tamani. It’s a truly fantastic collection, including authors who are pros at short fiction, like Dhonielle Clayton and Lamar Giles, and those hungry for intersections will be happy to find them here. It’s a must for every classroom and library, and every individual reader will find plenty of pieces to love. Did I cry? Yes. (Thanks, Varian Johnson.) Did I stare blankly at the wall, kind of unable to function? Yes. (Hats off, Kekla Magoon.) Would I read it all over again? In a heartbeat.

The Wicked King, by Holly Black (January 8)
Hands down one of the year’s most anticipated sequels, we’ve got less than a week to go until the follow-up to The Cruel Prince. After the shocking revelations of the series opener, Jude’s top priority is keeping her brother safe. To do this, she has bound the wicked King Cardan to herself, which gets increasingly complicated the more she takes the reins of his throne while he does everything possible to undermine her, as a maddening attraction continues to grow between them. When Jude learns there’s a traitor in her life bent on destroying her, she must uncover their identity while fighting her feelings for Cardan in order to maintain control of the kingdom.

Inventing Victoria, by Tanya Bolden (January 8)
Bolden’s no stranger to historical YA; her Crossing Ebenezer Creek was set just a couple of decades before this 1880s story about a Black girl named Essie living in Savannah who dreams of a more glamorous past in post-Reconstruction America. She has all but given up hope that she’ll ever be a woman of means; Black girls just don’t get lives like that. Then she meets one who has: the wealthy and glamorous Dorcas Vashon, who’s willing to take Essie under her wing and remake her as a society woman named Victoria. It’s everything she ever dreamed, but does embracing becoming Victoria mean saying goodbye to Essie for good?

The Girl King, by Mimi Yu (January 8)
Yu’s debut has everything awesome in fantasy, from feuding sisters to deadly magic to political intrigue. Sisters Lu and Min are the princesses of the Empire of the First Flame, and everyone knows Lu is set to be named heir of the empire and the dynasty’s first female ruler. Then their father names their male cousin Set as his heir instead, throwing the girls’ plans into upheaval. Lu isn’t letting the throne go without a fight, but she’ll have to make her plans while on the lam. Quiet Min is left behind to face the wolves…and her hidden power is unleashed, a forbidden deadly magic that could secure the throne for Set, unless she wants it for herself. Meanwhile, Lu meets the lone survivor of a shapeshifter clan, who might have the power she needs to secure her throne. Set started out as a common enemy, but the sisters who always expected to work together may end up becoming the dynasty’s greatest rivals.

When the Truth Unravels, by RuthAnne Snow (January 8)
It’s been a month since Elin attempted suicide, and only her best friends—Jenna, Rosie, and Ket—know it. All they want is to put the past behind them and make prom great, especially if it’ll convince Elin everything will be okay. Then Elin disappears at prom, leaving her friends to figure out what happened. But they each have other prom drama to deal with, from blackmail to budding romance to…whatever it is that’s tearing Jenna apart. The friends will need to be there for both themselves and each other, which means finally coming clean about the secrets that lie between them.

Slayer, by Kiersten White (January 8)
The wildly prolific White is back just a few months after her latest release with the first in a series set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Nina and Artemis are twins who’ve grown up at Watcher’s Academy, a boarding school where teens are trained to be guides for Slayers, girls with supernatural strength who fight the forces of darkness. But Nina has really never been into the whole bloody Watcher thing; she’s more of a healer, even taking on a role as the school’s medic. But she has no choice: not only is she chosen as the next Slayer, but due to her father’s death while protecting the legendary Buffy of Slayer fame, she’s going to be the last. How can you not devote your life to Slaying when you’re the last one the world will ever know? She teams up with Leo, the student training to become her Watcher, to learn everything she has to know and do the fighting she must. But as the violence escalates, someone Nina loves may be the next to die.

The Field Guide to the American Teenager, by Ben Philippe (January 8)
Being a Black French Canadian is probably not an asset when you’re moving to Texas, Norris knows, but as a reluctant new Austinite all he can do is observe it from the inside, breaking everyone down into cliques and stereotypes in the hopes that he can at least keep himself entertained until he gets to go back home. But then the cynical transplant actually makes friends, despite all his worst intentions. And when he screws everything up on prom night, he realizes it’s finally time to stop hiding behind the snark and start living life for real.

Firestarter, by Tara Sim (January 15)
Sim’s fantastic debut fantasy trilogy comes to a close with our central crew in captivity and facing a brutal choice: join the crew responsible for the plan to take down the world’s clock towers, or rebel, no matter what it may cost them. But Zavier, the leader of the terrorist group Prometheus, has an even wilder plan: to bring back the lost god of time. Colton, Daphne, and the rest will have to make choices about what they’re willing to sacrifice, who they’ll risk everything to save, and what kind of world they’re prepared to live in.

Echo North, by JoAnna Meyer (January 15)
In Meyer’s sophomore novel, retelling Norwegian fairy tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” heroine Echo finds her lost father half-frozen in the forest six months after his disappearance—and guarded by the talking wolf who attacked her when she was a child. The wolf gives Echo a choice: live with him for one year, and he’ll get her father home safely. But the wolf’s enchanted house is beyond anything Echo could have imagined, full of dark secrets and magic and a library of books-turned-mirrors trapping a young man named Hal in their depths. As the rooms of the house begin to disappear during the year’s passage, Echo’s time to uncover the secret of the wolf’s enchantment is running out, threatening to trap her, Hal, and the wolf forever.

Pretty in Punxsutawney, by Laurie Boyle Crompton (January 15)
Andie’s addicted to movies, especially the romantic ones full of kissing, something she has yet to experience firsthand. Okay, no rush…until she moves to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (a town you might remember from Groundhog Day?), and finds herself repeating her first day of school on a loop she thinks will only break when she meets her true love. Now she’ll have to get in with every clique in school to find the boy who can break the spell, and what she learns about people, groups, boys, friends, aspirations, anxiety, and more will show her there’s no one way to live a single day, and there just may be happy endings to be found by bedtime.

Famous in a Small Town, by Emma Mills (January 15)
Mills has written some of my absolute favorite contemporaries in recent years, with the perfect blend of friendship, humor, heart, romance, and a main character with book smarts who’s still kind of working out the whole “relationships with humans” thing. Her newest is every bit as banterrific as we’ve come to expect, with main character Sophie picking her way through the tricky art of fundraising her school marching band’s way to the Rose Parade, regardless of how impossible her goals may be. It also proves that, while Mills continues to deliver what I love about her work, she has plenty of surprises up her sleeve.

Our Year of Maybe, by Rachel Lynn Solomon (January 15)
Back with yet another beautifully crafted dual-POV YA, Solomon introduces us to best friends Sophie and Peter, who have the kind of friendship some people only dream about. They can rely on each other for everything—including a kidney, the ultimate that Sophie gives Peter just before senior year. She’s happy to do it, especially since not only is Peter her best friend, but she’s also in love with him. But granted a new chance at life, he’s not sure he wants Sophie to consume as much of it as she used to, especially when he meets the extremely cute Chase and sparks fly. Sophie doesn’t even know Peter’s bisexual (although he is out to his family), which makes it all the more freeing for him when he meets Chase’s friends-slash-band and suddenly has a whole queer crew. But where does that leave Sophie and their friendship? And how much of Peter can really belong to someone else when a piece of Sophie is literally inside him?

The Gilded Wolves, by Roshani Chokshi (January 15)
After taking a brief break to write bestselling middle grade novel Aru Shah and the End of Time, Chokshi is back with a lush YA fantasy set in 1889 Paris. Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is a treasure hunter and wealthy hotelier who’s just missing one thing: his true inheritance. When he’s offered the chance to reclaim it by helping the powerful Order of Babel on their quest to track down an ancient artifact, he can’t say no. Alongside his expert team of misfits, Séverin explores the dark heart of the City of Lights—but no one is prepared for the secrets and truths they uncover, and they may not live to tell about them.

96 Words for Love, by Rachel Roy and Ava Dash (January 15)
A mother-daughter team pairs up for this modern retelling of the classic Indian legend of Shakuntala and Dushyanta, reimagined as the story of a seventeen-year-old girl named Raya panicking about her over-planned future ever since her acceptance arrived from UCLA. Then her grandmother dies, and the chance to mix things up one last time arrives in the form of a summer spent at the ashram in India where her grandparents met. But there are more surprises and new experiences to be found there than Raya imagined, including love in more forms than she ever knew existed.

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 one 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.

Circle of Shadows, by Evelyn Skye (January 22)
The New York Times bestseller is back with a brand-new fantasy series, this one about a pair of apprentice warriors named Sora and Daemon of the Society of Taigas, an elite group marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect their kingdom. But while they look forward to showing what they can do, it’s proving a bit of a challenge in a kingdom that has been free of violence ever since a years-ago rebellion. Then, while scouting, they happen upon a camp of mysterious soldiers and decide to infiltrate it. The effect on Sora is a life-changing one, necessitating such great deception she may never be able to return.

The Birds, the Bees, and You, and Me, by Olivia Hinebaugh (January 22)
Sex ed goes rogue in this bold, informative, and empowering debut about a girl who takes matters into her own hands when she observes firsthand how her school is being failed by abstinence-only education. Lacey may never have been kissed, but that doesn’t mean she thinks it’s acceptable not to know basic information about contraceptives and STIs. Between her firmly supportive mother, aspirations to go to nursing school, and internship with a doula, she’s got plenty of knowledge to give out—and give it out she does, no matter where she has to hide, where she has to store those condoms, or how much trouble she gets in. Meanwhile, she’s also doing some hands-on learning with her new guy, who unfortunately has to remain just as much a secret.

Song of the Dead, by Sarah Glenn Marsh (January 22)
Your favorite bisexual necromancer is back in this sequel to Reign of the Fallen, which sees Karthia massively changed. Raising the dead is outlawed and the borders have been opened, inspiring Odessa to explore the world and heal her broken heart, though Meredy joining her on that trip may make that last bit a little more challenging. Still, it’s a fascinating journey to behold when they end up in a land where the Dead rule the night and dragons walk among pedestrians. As Odessa and Meredy explore this new place and their growing feelings for each other, they’re summoned back home by a nightmare of political unrest and foreign invasion. Fighting back seems impossible, until one of the queen’s mages creates a weapon that could bring them invincibility. But is it enough without the Dead they’ve been forbidden to summon?

The Truth About Leaving, by Natalie Blitt (January 22)
Lucy is fresh off two different breakups: a more traditional one with her boyfriend, Scott, and a physical one, in which her mother has left their family in Chicago to pursue a career opportunity in Berkeley. Both required Lucy to give up pieces of herself, from her love of dance to the free time she has now ceded to babysitting her little brothers, but when a new kid named Dov transfers to her small school for senior year, he gives her a little piece back, and even finds a few she never knew were absent. The two are assigned to work together on a poetry assignment, and as they bond over the lyrical language of Yehuda Amichai and e.e. cummings, they also learn there’s still joy out there for them both. But how real can it get and how long can it last when Dov is headed back to Israel next year to begin mandatory army service? This contemporary romance is a great choice for teens who already have or who want a special connection to Israel, or just readers who love reading about swoony love!

The Vanishing Stair, by Maureen Johnson (January 22)
Stevie and the gang are back in one of the most highly anticipated sequels of the year, a follow-up to the wild cliffhanger that had everyone screaming “What?!” at the end of Truly Devious. Between finally having a clue pointing to the culprits in the original 1930s case, scaring off a potential suspect in the newest killing, and an extremely puzzling romance, everything is up in the air for detective-in-training Stevie Bell, especially since her parents have taken her home from Ellingham Academy after learning what has been going on at the elite boarding school. But now she’s found a dubious ticket back—and even though it means making a deal with the devil to get it, Stevie will do anything to figure out exactly what happened and to solve the final riddle school founder Albert Ellingham left behind. The cases continue and the questions keep piling up, but will answers come, too? Time to finally find out!

That’s Not What I Heard, by Stephanie Kate Strohm (January 29)
Strohm is not only a personal favorite, she’s wildly prolific, having just released her last title just two months before this one. No matter, as I will gladly buy whatever she’s selling, including this newest about an entire school up in arms as rumors of a breakup between Kimberly Landis-Lilley and Teddy Lin spread through the halls like wildfire, with even the teachers taking sides in the he said/she said/everyone-seems-to-have-said.

Spin, by Lamar Giles (January 29)
Giles is one of the freshest and most fun thriller authors in YA, and his newest might be my favorite yet. Paris Secord, aka DJ ParSec, has been killed, and everyone wants answers. That includes her former best friends, Kya and Fuse, the two people who found her body that night. It also includes ParSec Nation, Paris’s rabidly devoted group of loyal fans whose darker contingent leaps on Kya and Fuse—far from friends themselves—when some ill-advised social media sniping suggests they’ve got blood on their hands. Now it isn’t just curiosity driving them to find the killer; it’s saving their own lives.

The Lonely Dead, by April Henry (January 29)
Legendary mystery author Henry is back at it again with this newest about a girl named Adele who can see and speak to the dead…not that she wants to. And she definitely didn’t want to discover her ex–best friend Tori is dead by coming upon her shallow grave in the woods, especially when she can’t give an alibi for the murder. Now Adele is the number one suspect, and the only way to clear her name is to work with Tori’s ghost to find out who’s really behind her death, and do it before she becomes the killer’s next victim.

The Wild Lands, by Paul Greci (January 29)
I have a huge thing for survival stories and for stories set in Alaska, so this book in which Alaska has been cut off from the world by natural disasters and a tiny ol’ breakdown of civilization is at the top of my to-read list. Travis and his little sister, Jess, are two of the only survivors remaining, and food is running out. They have hundreds of miles to cross, rife with desperate and dangerous survivors and starving animals who see them as prey. But they must attempt the journey in order to stay alive, even if the travel itself might kill them.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely, by Brigid Kemmerer (January 29)
Kemmerer is double trouble this year, and the first of her two releases is this fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast. (You can find more on the other one here.) Prince Rhen is the heir to Emberfall, cursed to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year until a girl falls in love with him. But at the end of each autumn, he turns into a violent, destructive beast, and now that he has destroyed everything that matters, he’s out of hope that the curse will ever be lifted. Then Harper is sucked into his world from the streets of Washington, DC, and she has no idea what to make of it or of him. What she does know is how to survive, and Rhen will need her by his side when a powerful enemy tries to take Emberfall down.

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali, by Sabina Khan (January 29)
Khan’s debut about a Bengali Muslim teen who’s caught between the white girl she loves who’s tired of being a secret and the family who can never know about her is a memorable one. Finding a girlfriend isn’t Rukhsana’s problem; she and Ariana have been happily dating in secret for six months. But Ariana doesn’t understand why Rukhsana can’t come out to her family as she has, and even Ariana’s mother is starting to grow impatient (and Islamophobic) about it. Then the secret comes out in the worst possible way, and soon Rukhsana and her family are on their way to Bangladesh, where things only get harder and more restrictive for her. Then she finds her grandmother’s diary, and learns there’s so much more to her mother and grandmother’s upbringing than she ever could have imagined, and that fighting for her heart is a battle she can’t afford to lose.

Death Prefers Blondes, by Caleb Roehrig (January 29)
If you’ve been dreaming of the perfect queer read for fans of the Ocean’s 11 franchise—or, even better, Ocean’s 8—prepare to feel blessed by Roehrig’s third thriller. This one centers around bisexual heiress Margo, aka Miss Anthropy, aka the head of a thieving ring of drag queens who’ve all got their own private reasons for needing influxes of cash. Also in the gang (and given POV’s) are Margo’s stubborn best friend, Axel; handsome dancer Leif; sweet and tough orphan Davon—and, much to Axel’s chagrin, Axel’s little brother, Joaquin, who’s drawing the eye of another one of the queens. With their acrobatic skills, technological connections, and stellar talents for disguise, the quintet seems unbeatable…until they knock off a dangerous target who hates to lose and has a team of violent minions at his disposal. They’re running for their lives when an even bigger mystery falls into Margo’s lap, one that places a target on her chest too big to ignore.

The Cerulean, by Amy Ewing (January 29)
Hello, and welcome to a fantasy series based out of a Sapphic Utopia. Sounds perfect, right? Not so much to Sera, who seems to be the only Cerulean who doesn’t feel an attraction to girls like she’s supposed to. When she’s chosen to be her people’s latest sacrifice, necessary to help them find a new planet, she doesn’t die. She lands, still alive, on Kaolin, where she meets twins Leo and Agnes, the latter of whom has the inverse of Sera’s problem: she’s a lesbian in a homophobic society. When the twins discover blue-haired, silver-skinned Sera while searching for additions to their father’s freak show, they each bond with her in their own way. But when Sera learns some dangerous secrets, she realizes she must return home before everyone on Cerulean suffers.

Bloom, by Kevin Panetta (illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau) (January 29)
Ari loved working at the family bakery as a kid, but now that he’s graduating high school, all he wants is to move away to the city to be with his band. Then his bakery replacement, Hector, arrives, and bam, he’s messing with Ari’s plans and his heart, with his dream of having the very job Ari’s dying to leave behind. As they spend more time together, feelings blossom out of control against the fragrant backdrop of the bakery—but is there really a future for them when part of Ari’s heart is in the city?

The Dead Queens Club, by Hannah Capin (January 29)
The fastest way to get something on my to-read list is to tell me it’s a contemporary based on a historical event, so guess how incredibly psyched I am for this story helmed by an analog to Anne of Cleves, who’s the only girl to get out of a relationship with her best friend, Henry, relatively unscathed? But there are breakups, and then there are mysterious deaths, and with two of the latter among his exes, Henry’s starting to look guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, even to the one girl who’s supposed to believe in him.

King of Scars, by Leigh Bardugo (January 29)
What do you really need to know about this book other than that it’s by fantasy queen Leigh Bardugo herself?? I guess you might be interested to know it’s set in the Grishaverse and led by King Nikolai Lantsov. You may want to hear that with his borders weakened, there are enemies at the gates, and he has a whole lot of work to do to stop them. And you definitely want to know that there’s a dark magic rising within him that forces him to travel to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic lives, aided by a monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, in order to learn to quell that which threatens to to destroy everything. Ravka, Nikolai, and his legacy are at stake, and no one knows what will remain standing by the end.

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