38 of the Best YAs of June

I know you thought with May being over, we were out of the danger zone of there being waaaaay too many tempting and amazing books a-comin’, but I’m sorry to report that June is here and looking dangerously delightful. We’ve got boarding school in Swaziland, a kick-butt group of girls ready to take on Silicon Valley, a superhero questioning her asexuality, an enemies-to-lovers lesbian rom com, a novel in verse about Joan of Arc, a graphic novel playing on Queen Elizabeth’s exile, a debut told entirely in text, and so much more, so sit tight and get read for find your next read! (Or twenty!)

If It Makes You Happy, by Claire Kann (June 4)
Do Kann’s books get the best cover models or what?? This one portrays Winnie, spending the perfect last summer before college working at her grandma’s 50’s-themed diner. Then she’s named Misty Haven’s Summer Queen, and she is not psyched; she doesn’t need the whole matchmaking mess that comes with it when she’s perfectly happy in her queerplatonic relationship. The whole thing is a whirlwind of photoshoots and engagements Winnie has no interest in, especially considering the attendant fatphobia and racism. But the biggest surprise of all may be her Summer King, an unwelcome intrusion into her ordered world who makes her feel romantic attraction for the first time. It’s going to be a major summer of learning and growth for Winnie, but it still has the potential to be the best summer yet in very unexpected ways.

The Rest of the Story, by Sarah Dessen (June 4)
There is no bigger name in contemporary YA romance than Sarah Dessen, and news of a new book by her is always a Big Deal. This time around the star is Emma Saylor, a girl whose mom died when she was ten and who has been living with just her dad and their memories ever since. Then she learns she’ll be spending the summer at North Lake with her mother’s family, despite not having seen that side in years. When Emma arrives, she’s surprised to find North Lake isn’t exactly the community she imagined, and though it was once home to both her parents (her mother as a resident, her father as a summer tourist), they lived very different lives. Now Emma is, too—one as Emma, daughter to the wealthy guy who summered at a resort, and one as Saylor, granddaughter of a working-class family. And as Saylor, she means something to Roo, a boy who was once her childhood best friend, and is happy to help her piece together her past. But at some point, the summer will end, and she’ll have to decide which version of herself she’s meant to be.

Like a Love Story, by Abdi Nazemian (June 4)
I adored Nazemian’s YA debut, The Authentics, but his sophomore is on a whole other level and immediately flew straight into the pantheon of my “must recommend this to everyone” books. Set in 1989 New York City amid the AIDS crisis, it’s a spectacular tribute to gay history and the perfect Pride Month read, following three best friends. There’s Reza, an Iranian boy who just moved with his mother to the city to live with his new stepfather and stepbrother, and is terrified of anyone finding out he’s gay. There’s Art, the only out-and-proud gay kid at his new school. And there’s Judy, who dates new boy Reza with no idea he’s gay like the AIDS-activist uncle she worships…and that the fact that he’s getting closer with Art means more than she thinks. Now Reza has to find a way to tell her the truth without breaking her heart, in a world that isn’t friendly to that truth.

When the Ground is Hard, by Malla Nunn (June 4)
At Swazi boarding school Keziah Christian Academy, Adele and her best friend, Delia, are two of the most popular girls…until Delia drops her for a richer girl. That leaves Adele with rebellious outcast Lottie, who’s definitely not going to help her social standing. But the two girls end up bonding over a favorite book, and Adele both softens Lottie’s sharp edges and learns there are perks to bluntness, especially when you’re dealing with bigoted teachers. And when a boy goes missing, the two will have to make use of their newfound partnership and friendship to figure out what has gone down.

All Eyes On Us, by Kit Frick (June 4)
If you loved the mean girl thriller vibe of Frick’s debut, just you wait until you meet Amanda Kelly, who, along with her boyfriend, Carter Shaw, is poised to inherit, well, everything. That is, at least, until the texts show up—messages that seem to come from an admirer of Amanda’s but also aim to destroy her relationship and reveal her boyfriend to be a cheater. As it happens, the fact that he’s a cheater is well-known to Amanda, as it is to his other girlfriend, Rosalie. But Rosalie is deeply devoted to her girlfriend, using Carter as nothing more than a beard for her fundamentalist Christian parents to avoid ever being sent back to conversion therapy. Soon, the mysterious texter is trying to mess with both girls, but they’ve deeply underestimated how even women scorned will work together to take a blackmailer down. I will cop to not once but twice having thought “Well, the answer sure is obvious!” and having been completely wrong both times, so if whodunits (especially with queer relationships) are your jam, get this on your to-read list ASAP.

The Confusion of Laurel Graham, by Adrienne Kisner (June 4)
Is there anything better than when the author of a queer YA debut returns the next year with another one, and you just know they’re gonna be filling your shelves with rainbows for years? I was overjoyed to learn that Kisner, author of the awesomely titled Dear Rachel Maddow, is returning with another queer girl book in 2019, this one about a girl who aspires to become a world-renowned nature photographer. Step one in Laurel’s plan (which includes crushing her fellow nature reserve volunteer, Risa) is to win a contest with Fauna magazine, a contest her grandmother placed in years ago. Her grandmother is her favorite partner in crime, and together, they make a fabulous bird discovery. But then gran is hit by a car, falling into a coma, and everything in Laurel’s world starts to fall apart.

I’ll Never Tell, by Abigail Haas (June 4)
Take note in (metaphorical) big capital letters: this is a reissue of Dangerous Girls; it’s not a new Haas title. That said, if you haven’t read Dangerous Girls yet (or even if you have and just want to complete your Haas set), you are definitely gonna wanna grab this book, because it’s quite literally my favorite YA thriller. When Anna and her friends go on spring break to Aruba, their plans include sunning, swimming, and swilling drinks. But those plans go awry when Anna’s best friend, Elise, is found dead, and fingers point to Anna as the culprit. The only way to exonerate herself is to find out who really held the knife, but the more she digs, the worse the secrets and betrayal she uncovers. Can she save herself in time? Or will she lose both her best friend and her freedom?

Virtually Yours, by Sarvenaz Tash (June 4)
Tash is one of my favorite instabuy authors, bringing something fresh to the table every time with books I know without a doubt I would’ve loved when I was in high school. This time Tash transports us to the campus of NYU (go Violets!), where freshman Mariam has stayed solo for the five long months since Caleb broke up with her. With a coupon for a dating service on the verge of expiration, Mariam decides to take the plunge and gets matched. With Caleb. And also with her new best friend, Jeremy. Can her head, her heart, and her app all get on the same track?

War of the Bastards, by Andrew Shvarts (June 4)
This is one of my favorite fantasy series because it’s just so much fun, but if you’re caught up, you know the ending of City of Bastards was intense. The third and final book picks up a year after the fall of Lightspire, with a usurper on the throne and Tilla and her friends relegated to the role of rebel fighters hiding in the outskirts. Everything looks to be utterly hopeless as the usurper’s power grows—until a raid results in the discovery of Lord Elric Kent, now a prisoner with revenge on the brain, and Syan See, a girl from the Red Wastes who possess an incredible magic, and brings word of a civilization in the Wastes that’s new to them all. The group heads out on a journey to find Syan’s people, who may offer their last hope for victory, but the trip itself proves to be its own kind of test.

Not Your Backup, by CB Lee (June 4)
I’m so happy to see Lee’s gloriously fun and inclusive Sidekick Squad return with its third book, this one centered around Emma Robledo, whom we last saw questioning her places on the aromantic and asexual spectra while doing the whole Fighting Powerful Corruption thing. Emma’s tired of people refusing to take her seriously because she’s the only one in the squad without powers; she knows she has plenty of natural strength. As the inevitable challenge between the Resistance and the League of Heroes nears, Emma has to figure out exactly where she belongs in this fight, even if it means taking control of the whole team.

Shadow & Flame, by Mindee Arnett (June 4)
The closer in the duology that began with Onyx & Ivory again centers around Kate Brighton, aka the Wilder Queen, aka the one-time “Traitor Kate,” though no one would call her that after she has saved so many in the war between the magical wilders and the Rimish Empire. She doesn’t wanna be the Wilder Queen, either, but she has no choice—not so long as the illegitimate Rimish king, Edwin, sits on the throne. With war once again on the horizon, threats brewing, and armies rising, all Kate’s hope may fall on a prisoner slave named Clash who could be the key to ending the conflict for good.

Wild and Crooked, by Leah Thomas (June 4)
Bless queer friendship novels, for they are far too rare and very special. You may know Thomas from her debut, Morris Award finalist Because You’ll Never Meet Me (which was also queer, by the way), and you’ll definitely want to get to know her newest, about a pansexual boy and a lesbian girl who form a deep bond of friendship amid their struggles. Kalyn feels like her life will forever be defined by the murder her father committed back in his own teen years; she even has to attend her small-town school under a pseudonym to hide their connection. The pseudonym allows her to make friends with Gus, similarly sick of being defined by something out of his control—in his case, cerebral palsy. And then there’s the fact that he’s the son of a guy murdered by Kalyn’s dad. When the truth about their fathers comes to light, and the events that took place come into question, their friendship is put to the ultimate test.

I Wanna Be Where You Are, by Kristina Forrest (June 4)
I am always so happy to find new rom com authors to love, and especially when they bring marginalized main characters who rarely get fluffy, happy endings to the table. Forrest’s debut stars a ballerina named Chloe who’s forced to take some ill-advised action when her mother forbids her from applying to her dream dance conservatory. Her secret road trip to auditions is immediately crashed by her neighbor Eli (and his stinky dog), but there’s no time to waste fighting a blackmailer, and soon they’re off, ready for every adventure that comes their way. Probably.

Sorcery of Thorns, by Margaret Rogerson (June 4)
Elisabeth was raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s great libraries, surrounded by magical grimoires that have the power to transform into ink-and-leather monsters. She knows as well as anyone just how evil sorcerers are. But when the library’s most dangerous grimoire is set free, Elisabeth’s desperate act to protect the kingdom implicates her in the crime, and she’s brought to justice. Her only option for help is Nathaniel Thorn, a sorcerer and her enemy. Together, they fall down the rabbit hole of an ancient conspiracy that proves Elisabeth’s world has been full of lies, and they’ll have to work together to ensure there’s future for the Great Libraries and the world as they know it.

This Time Will Be Different, by Misa Sugiura (June 4)
At the core of Sugiura’s powerful and nuanced sophomore novel is the history of Japanese internment in America and the ways in which white people continue to profit off of it generations later. CJ loves working at her family’s flower shop, partly because it means helping out her aunt Hannah and partly because it keeps her close to her family’s legacy; they owned the shop decades ago, then sold it for pennies on the dollar when they were shipped off to internment camps, and finally bought it back years later for an exorbitant price. But she doesn’t love learning that it’s bleeding money, and when her mother threatens to sell it to the very family who pulled it out from under them, CJ decides to take a stand against the people who have already taken so much. Between her David and Goliath battle, confusing romantic entanglements, her track record of succeeding at approximately nothing, and the shields on her heart, CJ threatens to crack under the pressure.

The Beholder, by Anna Bright (June 4)
Selah is the heiress to Potomac, and it’s been a calm life so far, full of reading fairy tales and crushing on her childhood friend, Peter, even though she should be searching for her perfect match. When Peter rejects her, Selah’s stepmother uses the opportunity to send her on a journey to find a way more politically savvy The One. Sailing on a ship called The Beholder across the Atlantic, Selah encounters all sorts of legends she’s only read about in stories, and ends up on a journey of dangers and surprises she could never have anticipated.

 Ordinary Girls, by Blair Thornburgh (June 4)
This contemporary take on Sense and Sensibility stars the Blatchley sisters: quiet, contemplative Plum and, three years older, the dramatic Ginny. As their source of income unexpectedly runs dry, the girls face different but very real financial concerns, with fifteen-year-old Plum stressing about keeping their home while Ginny worries about paying for college. The hustle to make it all work is accompanied by secret relationships, questions about their family, and the sisters’ identities independent of each other in this smart and cerebral coming-of-age.

Where I End and You Begin, by Preston Norton (June 4)
Gender and sexuality confusion abound in this speculative novel about a boy named Ezra who badly wants to ask a girl named Imogen to the prom, only to find himself facing the misery that is her best friend, Wynonna. But Ezra’s problems get considerably bigger when an eclipse somehow leads to a full-on body swap between him and Imogen’s BFF, and now he and Wynonna are learning way more about each other than they’d ever cared to, including that Wynonna has a big ol’ crush on Ezra’s best friend, Holden. As Ezra and Wynonna cope with swaps that seem to be coming more and more frequently, they strike a deal—while in each other’s bodies, they’ll help each other with their romantic prospects. But doing so raises moral quandaries, endless embarrassments, and one big question for Ezra: why does he feel more comfortable as Wynonna than he does as himself?

Tell Me How You Really Feel, by Aminah Mae Safi (June 11)
Let’s all take a pause while we mentally wallpaper our homes in that cover. Okay, now, take another one while I tell you that yes, this book is every bit as good as it looks and then some. Sana is the perfect girl—smart, well-achieving (including an early acceptance to Princeton), athletic (a cheerleader!), and…uncertain. All she wants is to make sure her path toward becoming a doctor is the right one. She decides the best way to do that is to apply to a fellowship in India she doesn’t tell a soul about. Then there’s Rachel, a type-A scholarship student who needs to make the perfect film so she can win scholarship money for NYU film school. Too bad absolutely nothing on Earth meets her standards, including the gorgeous, peppy cheerleader who pretended to ask her out years earlier and earned her ire forever. When a literal crash landing has them working together on Rachel’s final attempt, the two realize they have a lot to learn about each other and the ways they view themselves.

The Language of Fire, by Stephanie Hemphill (June 11)
This novel in verse looks at the life of Joan of Arc, aka Jehanne, an illiterate peasant who never really fit in at home. Then she hears a voice calling her, telling her she’s destined for greatness, and realizes it’s God summoning her to save France. She runs away, disguises herself as a man, and convinces an army to let her lead them, promising a victory for France despite the odds against her. If you’re a fan of a category where teens are the heroes, how can you not love and read all things Joan of Arc?

The Grief Keeper, by Alexandra Villasante (June 11)
Marisol dreams of being an American; from everything she’s seen on TV, it seems like paradise. Getting there illegally was never her plan, but when her brother is killed and it looks like her sister is going to be next, Marisol doesn’t have a choice, especially since falling for Liliana is what put her brother in jeopardy in the first place. But Marisol is caught at the border, rendering her asylum request all but pointless…until she’s offered an opportunity to stay in the U.S. All she has to do is become a grief keeper, someone who takes another’s grief into her own body to save a life. It’s tough and risky and guarantees unbearable pain, but saving Gabi’s life is worth everything to Marisol. Even if it means putting her heart on the line.

Rise, by Ellen Goodlett (June 11)
All hail Ellen Goodlett for not even making us wait a year after the royal rivalry of Rule before pulling us right back into the contentious competition between sisters Akeylah, Ren, and Zofi for inheritance of the crown of Kolonya. But the secrets they each hide threaten to be the downfall of any one of them, especially when King Andros discovers what’s in their pasts. Now the sisters must make allies of each other if they’re going to protect Kolonya and everyone they love from the threat growing nearer.

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon, by Mary Fan (June 11)
In an epic fantasy that comes out swinging, Anlei is chosen to be the bride of the powerful viceroy who saves her village, and knows she must accept in order to save her people. It’s part of the bargain they make—he marries a village girl, and they give him their sacred River Pearl in exchange for protection. Then a thief steals the enchanted pearl, throwing the plans off course and forcing Anlei to find the thief herself. But when she does, she discovers he needs the pearl, too, and together they quest into the Courts of Hell on a journey that opens her eyes to what’s really at stake.

Screen Queens, by Lori Goldstein (June 11)
Comparing something to The Bold Type is the easiest way to shoot something to the top of my to-read list, and the fact that this has Good Trouble vibes too, with its designing and coding heroines, is just icing on the “I need it” cake. Lucy, Maddie, and Delia are the Screen Queens, and they’re ready to kick butt at a five-week high school tech incubator competition that would land them incredible internships…if they can become the first all-girl team to win in the competition’s entire history. They’ve got romantic distractions, a mentor they can’t trust, and so many odds stacked against them, but they’ve also got the talent and the drive to show Silicon Valley that it isn’t just a boys’ club anymore.

The Exact Opposite of Okay, by Laura Steven (June 11)
Izzy’s biggest worry used to be getting out of their small town after graduation, but when a compromising picture of her with the son of a politician is posted online, even being an aspiring comedian can’t make her laugh her way through being slut-shamed and centered in a national scandal. Still, Izzy finds her way into making her voice heard, no matter what she has to weather to get there.

The Art of Breaking Things, by Laura Sibson (June 18)
Skye’s eyes are on the prize: art school. And once she’s there, she’s going to put the crapfest that was high school behind her and move on with her life. But when her mother hooks back up with the guy who crossed the line with Skye when she was younger, she knows there’s one part of her past she can’t leave behind anymore, not if she’s going to protect her little sister from the same fate. The truth must come out, but how will Skye find the courage to tell it?

Hungry Hearts, ed. by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond (June 18)
This utterly delicious collection of stories from a diverse collection of YA faves will have you reaching for snacks with every story. There’s something for every kind of reader—whether you’re into superheroes or romance, suspense or meditations on life—and something for so many different kinds of eaters, too, from magical pan dulce to a soup with some…special effects. (Plus, the ways the stories and characters tie in to each other makes for a really fun bonus.) Full of culture, food, and delightful bites of truly excellent voices.

Patron Saints of Nothing, by Randy Ribay (June 18)
If you’re looking for the perfect way to celebrate Philippines Independence Day, you’re definitely gonna wanna get your hands on Ribay’s third novel, about a boy named Jay whose entire plan for his final semester of high school is to play video games, until he learns his Filipino cousin Jun was a victim of President Duterte’s war on drugs. No one else in the family wants to discuss it, but Jay needs to find the truth behind his cousin’s murder, even if it means traveling to the Philippines to get it. He isn’t at all prepared for what he learns there, especially the fact that Jay himself had his own part in Jun’s death.

Soul of the Sword, by Julie Kagawa (June 18)
The follow-up to Shadow of the Fox returns us to Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko as she’s faced with the mission of taking her piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers to the Steel Feather temple in an effort to prevent the summoning of the great Kami Dragon, the Harbinger of Change, from granting a wish to the scroll-holder. But with the demon Hakaimono now free and possessing Kage Tatsumi, who’s supposed to be protecting Yumeko, it’s become a more dangerous mission than ever. She is the only one keeping Hakaimono from breaking the curse of the sword and setting himself free, as long as she can hold on to her piece of the scroll. But he will do anything in his power to stop her, and this journey may be Yumeko’s last.

Something Like Gravity, by Amber Smith (June 18)
The author of the lesbian-led The Last to Let Go is back with another queer YA, this one revolving around a cis girl and trans boy who come together through a near-fatal car accident. Maia and Chris can’t seem to get along since their inauspicious first meeting, but unless they want to have a miserable summer, they’ll have to learn, since they are currently neighbors. And while things may keep backfiring between them, they also can’t seem to stay away from each other. With Chris still processing the aftermath of his assault, and Maia grieving the loss of her sister, both have a lot of work to do on their own hearts before they can let anyone in. But those hearts want what they want, and what they want right now is a love they never expected.

All of Us With Wings, by Michelle Ruiz Keil (June 18)
Xochi is seventeen and on the run in post-punk San Francisco when she becomes a governess for a wealthy rockstar family after meeting their tween daughter, Pallas, at Golden Gate Park. Living with the band in their Victorian mansion is chill yet glamorous, and it’s the perfect new home for Xochi…until she and Pallas accidentally summon a pair of ancient creatures through a Pagan ritual gone wrong, whose whole M.O. is to avenge the wrongs of Xochi’s childhood. Now memories of her abandonment and betrayal are everywhere, and no one in her life, past or present, is safe.

Last Bus to Everland, by Sophie Cameron (June 18)

The Out of the Blue author returns to bless us with yet more queer YA, this time starring two boys whose lives are forever changed by their meeting. Brody is struggling to connect with anyone in his life when he meets art student Nico, who takes him to a “knockoff Narnia” called Everland that opens at a specific day and time each week for Nico and his misfit friends. In Everland, Brody finally feels like he’s found his people; it’s an antidote to everything he’s struggling with in the real world. But when he has to choose between leaving Earth to stay in Everland for good or never being able to return to it, what will he pick?

Queen of the Sea, by Dylan Meconis (June 25)
Take a beat and just look at those gorgeous graphics. This hybrid novel is based on Queen Elizabeth I’s exile by her sister, Queen Mary, and reimagining it via the life of Queen Eleanor of Albion once her sister takes the throne, banishing her to an island off the coast of her kingdom where she lives amid the nuns at a convent. But they’re not the only ones on the island; there’s also Margaret, a young orphan whose life changes in unexpected ways on Eleanor’s arrival. When the former queen’s life is endangered, Margaret will have to decide whether it’s worth risking her own life to save it.

Better Than the Best Plan, by Lauren Morrill (June 25)
Maritza, aka Ritzy, has the summer all figured out. Her mom may have disappeared on her, but she’s got a job and friends and she knows how to take care of herself. Then her solo living situation is discovered, and because she’s just seventeen, she’s placed into foster care…with the very same woman who fostered her when she was an infant. Turns out, Kristin is as good a mom now as Ritzy imagines she was then, and Ritzy is surrounded by the promises of what her life could’ve been if her bio mom had never taken her back. There’d be this gorgeous house, this adorable boy next door…it’s a dream. But can it be her reality? And what’s more, should it be?

Technically, You Started It, by Lana Wood Johnson (June 25)
Haley is just going about her life when she gets a text from Martin Nathaniel Munroe II. But there are two cousins by that name, and the one Haley thinks she’s texting with isn’t the right one; the one she hates is. The texts are going swimmingly, though, and the pair is clicking in a way neither of them is used to, openly sharing everything from their feelings on family to their sexual orientations (Martin is bi, while Haley is questioning her demisexuality) to the ups and downs of their respective friendships. But Haley’s still got the wrong guy, made worse by the fact that Martin doesn’t know it. If they can’t figure out the right story fast, their ending is going to be an epic disaster.

Call It What You Want, by Brigid Kemmerer (June 25)
Kemmerer is in rare form these days, publishing a solid contemporary every year alongside the fantasies that made her name. This year you can find her on the fantasy shelves in January with A Curse so Dark and Lonely, and opening up the summer with her third contemporary, about Rob and Megan, two teens whose lives have been blown apart. Rob was popular until his father was caught embezzling; now he’s an outcast who has to take care of his father after a suicide attempt on top of everything else. Megan has a secret she’s keeping from everyone about how she stays on top, but when her own sister falters in an unmissable way, her own mistake might be too much to keep to herself. Neither knows how to open up to anyone else anymore, but when they’re paired together for a school project, they might finally learn.

Wicked Fox, by Kat Cho (June 25)
Gu Miyoung is a teenage girl with a big secret: she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who devours men’s energy in order to survive, and she’s hiding in plain sight in Seoul among people who think gumihos are nothing but an old story. But when she happens upon a boy named Jihoon being attacked by a goblin, she makes the forbidden move to rescue him, and thus loses her gumiho soul, in the form of her fox bead. Little does she know that Jihoon has found her bead, and he also knows exactly what she is, though not what it is he holds. Little by little, Jihoon and Miyoung form a friendship that begins to turn romantic, until a shaman tries to bring Miyoung back together with her bead and sets off a chain reaction that will force Miyoung to choose between Jihoon’s life and her own immortality.

Beau and Bett, by Kathryn Berla (June 25)
Beauty and the Beast finds new faces in Beau, a Creole boy who takes a job working off his mother’s debt after she hits one of his classmate’s cars, and Bett, the owner of that car, who happens to be known as “The Beast” at school because of her temper. Beau’s determined to stay away from Bett while working at the Diaz Ranch, but Bett has other ideas. She’s bored and in need of company, even if it comes from Beau. But as the two spend time together, the truth behind Bett’s tough exterior—that it’s her way of protecting herself from the bullying that followed after the classmate who assaulted her was suspended—comes out, and it changes everything for a boy who thought he knew exactly who he was starting to fall for.

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