38 of the Best YAs of September

Fall is kicking off with a major bang, making sure you’ve got the perfect books whether you’re still relaxing by the pool, gearing up for school, getting in the spooky spirit of impending Halloween, stocking up on reads for the high holidays, heading off to college, or anything in between. There are way too many books to talk about so let’s get to it!

The Truth Is, by NoNieqa Ramos (September 3)
Verdad may be brilliant, but she’s also a girl with a lot of questions, like “What am I?”, “What gender is that new kid?” and “How do I go on and figure this stuff out when my best friend is gone?” It’s been just about a year since the movie theater shooting that changed Verdad’s life forever, and she’s still seeing her best friend, Blanca, everywhere she goes. It’s a comfort, really, especially as she clashes with another girl at school and finds herself questioning her sexuality more deeply than ever before when Danny comes into her life. Danny has his own traumas; he’s faced with a constant barrage of transphobia and scrutiny, and he and his entire friend group are comprised of queer kids who were kicked out of their homes. Verdad can’t relate to that part…until her mom catches her with Danny and Verdad finds herself moving in with her father instead. As Verdad struggles to acclimate to her new life, relationship, lessons, and identity, it may also be time for to finally let Blanca go so she can start moving forward. The voice is strong in this complex sophomore novel, but that’ll come as no surprise to anyone who lost themselves in Ramos’s The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary.

Permanent Record, by Mary H.K. Choi (September 3)
Pablo Neruda Rind is a college dropout and social media semi-savant working the graveyard shift at a Brooklyn “health food store” and sweating his piles of debt. But there’s a major bright side to his job when it introduces him to Leanna, who shows up at his bodega at five in the morning in the middle of the winter. Leanna, who’s actually a pop star. Leanna, who’s about to change Pablo’s life and have hers changed right back. This sophomore is chock-full of complex family dynamics, a delightful cast, and glimpses into the difficulties of taking the next step in life, and perfect for readers looking for something more on the side of New Adult.

Have a Little Faith in Me, by Sonia Hartl (September 3)
Let me count the ways I adored this debut about a girl named CeCe who pretends to be Christian in order to follow her ex to camp and win him back, and drags her best friend Paul along for the ride. First, there’s CeCe’s palpable heartbreak in not just the loss of her boyfriend, but in not understanding what she “did wrong,” why he’d sleep with her and then leave. Then there’s Paul, who, as the son of a pastor and a former camper, has his own complex relationship with Christianity. Of course, there’s the chemistry between the two as they pretend to date in order to make CeCe’s ex jealous. But perhaps my favorite thing of all, amid the summer camp setting and the bible verse battles, is the way the book serves as sort of “emotional sex ed,” teaching the important stuff about feelings and consent that even the most thorough class rarely covers.

Red Skies Falling, by Alex London (September 3)
Black Wings Beating is one of the coolest, bloodiest, and most heartbreaking fantasies I’ve read in a while, thanks to its falconry magic and the brother-sister team of Brysen and Kylee who anchor it. But London’s definitely upped his game with this sequel that has Kylee training to master communication with the deadly ghost eagle and Brysen struggling to survive in the Six Villages as the Kartami attack. Between the twists and turns among Kylee’s allies and enemies and the emotions running high between Brysen and Jowyn, every few pages had me holding my breath as the separated siblings did their best to care for each other and save their people from outside invasion. Plus, between Kylee being aroace and romance brewing between the boys, this is one of the most delightfully queer fantasies I’ve read in a while. All in all, this is my new mid-trilogy standard for excellence.

She’s the Worst, by Lauren Spieller (September 3)
Spieller manages to take quieter contemporary like Your Destination is on the Left and turn it into something so new and special, it gets a spot on your comfort read shelf. She’s following up her nomadic artist-centered debut with one about two sisters who aren’t particularly close until April decides to shake things up. Jenn is sad about staying home for college, and her little sister knows exactly what’ll cheer her up: making good on their old pact to spend an epic day exploring LA. Then April learns Jenn has a secret that threatens to destroy their family, and suddenly their big day together becomes the one that will make or break their relationship for good.

We Are Lost and Found, by Helene Dunbar (September 3)
No stranger to queer YA, Dunbar (Boomerang) is back with her first historical, set during the AIDS Crisis in the 1980s. Michael’s already watched his brother, Connor, get kicked out of their house for being gay. He knows if he wants to escape the same fate, he’ll have to keep his mouth shut about his identity. But he’s already feeling completely wrung out between living in a homophobic house, being overshadowed by his best friend, and constantly worrying about AIDS, and he needs an escape. He finds it in The Echo, a club where he can dance away his feelings. But then he meets Gabriel, and he has consider whether his silence is worth the cost of the boy who might become his first love.

Only Ashes Remain, by Rebecca Schaeffer (September 3)
The undoubtedly chilling and gory sequel to Not Even Bones immediately attacks that cliffhanger ending with Nita dead-set on revenge against Fabricio, the boy who betrayed her. It isn’t just pride that drives her; now that there’s a video of her self-healing out there on the dark web, she’s a bigger target than ever, unless she can strike fear into the hearts of everyone who would come after her. Destroying Fabricio would certainly help achieve that, but can she?

Caster, by Elsie Chapman (September 3)
Some books are just inherently cool, and this fantasy mashup of Avatar: the Last Airbender and Fight Club is one of them. Aza Wu isn’t just feeling the loss of her sister on an emotional level; she’s feeling the financial pressure of Shire no longer bringing in cash from casting magic. And when corruption comes a-calling, Aza has no choice but to follow a dangerous path to what turns out to be a secret magical club that’ll have her fighting other casters for money. And competing at a deadly level isn’t Aza’s only worry, especially when she learns there were some mysterious circumstances behind Shire’s death. The stakes keep rising, the challenges keep coming, and the creativity is pretty freaking wild. If Chapman’s story was one of your favorites in the excellent Hungry Hearts collection that released earlier this year, you definitely wanna pick this one up.

Eclipse the Skies, by Maura Milan (September 3)
The sequel to Ignite the Stars sees Ia surprising even herself by working for the Olympus Commonwealth. But what choice did she have when she found out her brother Einn was trying to destroy the universe? If she wants to see him die by her own hand, she has to help the Royal Star Force find him, no matter how contrary to her nature it is. Meanwhile, Brinn is facing public backlash against the identity she’s only just begun to claim, and it’s tearing her and her friendship with Ia apart.

Rated, by Melissa Grey (September 3)
Grey’s already proven she writes a great cast with her Girl at Midnight trilogy, and she keeps it up with this varied group of students all subject to a universal ranking system that keeps them under the thumb of the administration of Maplethorpe Academy. Bex, Hana, Javier, Chase, Tamsin, and Noah might not start out having much to do with one another, but when the doors to their school are graffiti’d with “The Ratings are Not Real” and they start receiving secretive messages, they’ll have to find one another and work together to figure out who’s behind it. And yeah, if they can knock a certain troublemaker off her high horse to save one of their own and find some romance in their ranks, well, all in a day’s work in this fun Dystopian!

Five Dark Fates, by Kendare Blake (September 3)
I’m not sure if there’s a more anticipated fantasy series ender this year as the world of Three Dark Crowns comes to a close and the fate of the three sisters while finally be unveiled. For now, Katharine’s still in charge, but she doesn’t have everything; Mirabella and Arsinoe have managed to form a close sisterly relationship, while she still remains on the outside. But even that isn’t as it seems, and when warning arrives from the dead queens, Katharine learns Mirabella isn’t to be trusted…something a very busy and burdened Arsinoe has already learned the hard way. The time has come for the rivalry to end for good.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back, by Adrienne Young (September 3)
Tova is a Truthtongue, gifted with an ability to see into the future, which is an ability the Svell people who saved her from the shore as a child have always been happy to use. Her skin marks her as magic, but she doesn’t remember anything else about where she came from, and as war threatens to rise between the Svell and two new allied clans, it’s looking like her future isn’t all that certain either. Now they want her to cast the rune stones and see what lies ahead, in order to help them decide whether to choose war or peace…but no one expects what she sees, or the hope it brings to the girl who’s never had a true home.

Butterfly Yellow, by Thanhha Lai (September 3)
The Việt Nam War is nearly over when Hằng makes her way to the airport with her little brother, dead-set on getting them both to America. Then her life changes in an instant when Linh is ripped from her arms and Hằng is left behind. It’s six more years until she makes it to Texas as a refugee, and there she meets LeeRoy, an aspiring cowboy who agrees to help her try to find Linh. But their success isn’t all she dreamed it would be when the siblings are reunited and Hằng learns Linh doesn’t remember a thing, including who she is.

There Will Come a Darkness, by Katy Rose Pool (September 3)
When the Seven Prophets disappeared, leaving just one final foretelling behind, they left chaos in their wake as the people awaited the Age of Darkness and the birth of a new Prophet who might be their only path to safety. This debut is the story of a prince, a killer, a leader, a gambler, and a girl on her deathbed, any and all of whom might hold the key.

The Lady Rogue, by Jenn Bennett (September 3)
Theodora is a wildly curious reader and dreamer, and she’d love more than anything to join her father on one of his treasure hunts, but he’s not having it. Instead, Huck, the former keeper of her heart, gets to join him while Theodora mopes from her hotel room. Then Huck returns to her alone, soliciting her help in saving her father, and when the two learn that said father had been on a quest for Dracula’s ring, they’re forced to work together to finish his journey in Romania, aiming for a more successful ending. But they aren’t the only ones on this particular treasure hunt, and the murderous occult society seeking the very same ring will do whatever it takes to get it.

The Hive, by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden (September 3)
Cassie’s living in a future where social media’s under control, where cyberbullies and cybercriminals are managed by the Hive, a group that punishes online infractions with real-life lessons you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. It’s a system that’s always worked for Cassie, until a moment of weakness spurred on by grief leads her to make a joke online that goes way too far. Now she’s being hunted by the Hive, and it’s set her on the run to find other Hive outcasts who might be able to help her. Together, they’ll have to race to reveal the truth about the system before she becomes the Hive’s next victim.

Serpent & Dove, by Shelby Mahurin (September 3)
Louise le Blanc is a witch without a coven, having escaped from hers two years earlier to take refuge in Cesarine. Her magic must stay secret, because in the city of Cesarine, witches have targets on their backs, and torches are forever at the ready to prevent magic for good. Reid is one of the Church’s huntsman, charged with making sure all witches meet their ends. But he didn’t count on a witch like Lou, and he certainly didn’t count on being forced to marry her. Now both are in impossible situations, especially as real feelings grow between them, and Lou is forced to make a choice that will define the rest of her existence.

The Tiger Queen, by Annie Sullivan (September 10)
This fantasy adventure retelling of “The Lady, or the Tiger?” centers on a princess named Kateri who lives in the desert kingdom of Achra and is mandated by law to fight in order to prove her right to rule. With so much riding on her victory, losing isn’t an option. But when she learns who her opponent will be, it seems winning won’t be an option either. She only has one choice left, deep in the desert, and it isn’t one she ever thought she’d make. But it may be the only one she can, even if she lives to regret it.

Capturing the Devil, by Kerri Maniscalco (September 10)
I’m so sad to be seeing this historical mystery series meet its end, but what better way to cap it off than by capturing the infamous White City Devil? Audrey Rose and Thomas may have left London behind, but plenty of blood fills Chicago, too, with the notorious serial killer on the loose at the World’s Fair. It isn’t uncovering his identity that stymies the detective pair, but how to catch him. They’ll have to contend with his torture chamber and his twisted, wily mind to bring him down, or else they’ll brutally die trying.

How to Be Remy Cameron, by Julian Winters (September 10)
You already know how delightfully Winters delivers cuteness from his debut, Running With Lions. Now you can watch him up his game with his sophomore novel, a rom com that explores the labels people put on us and how it affects the way we understand who we are. Remy is popular, out as gay, one of five Black kids in school, and adopted into a wonderful family. But when an AP Lit assignment forces him to describe who he is, he draws a blank. He knows what labels others put on him, but how does he see himself? The unexpected return of a very cute classmate and an even more unexpected message from his past just may be the first steps on his journey to finding out.

Hope is Our Only Wing, by Rutendo Tavengerwei (September 10)
In a Zimbabwe torn apart by conflict, Shamiso is the new girl, trying to adjust to her new home now that her mother’s moved them from London after her father’s fatal car accident. It’s not quite working, but there is one girl who takes a chance on offering friendship at their boarding school: Tanyaradzwa, who happens to be dying of cancer. Shamiso knows that by befriending a dying girl, she’s opening herself up to heartbreak all over again, but her new friend gives her strength and courage, which is exactly what she needs if she’s going to embark on discovering the truth behind her journalist father’s death.

The Prom, by Saundra Mitchell, Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin, and Matthew Sklar (September 10)
Based on the Tony-nominated musical, this romance stars seventeen-year-old Emma, a lesbian who wants nothing more than to bring her secret girlfriend to prom. But said secret girlfriend, Alyssa, is firmly in the closet, as she has to be to maintain her seriously A-list status in their homophobic Indiana town. When the news spreads that Emma wants to bring a girl, the PTA (led by its president, who happens to be Alyssa’s mom) starts a crusade to cancel prom in order to cut her off at the pass. But then a couple of Broadway stars intervene and set everything awry, creating a huge publicity mess that isn’t good for anyone, except maybe themselves. They’ll all have to learn to work together to bring happiness to the couple and to the town, to make it safe for Alyssa to come out if she so chooses, and to make it a prom to remember.

Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi (September 10)
The author of the massively critically acclaimed adult novel Freshwater brings their talents to YA with this brilliant, power-packed story of a Black trans girl named Jam, who’s selectively nonverbal and growing up in the town of Lucille, where children are raised to believe that monsters no longer exist. But then how to explain Pet, a colorful horned creature that comes right out of a painting in Jam’s house with a drop of her blood? When Pet proclaims it has arrived to help get a rid of a human monster in Jam’s best friend Redemption’s home, the three set forth on a quest to get rid whoever inspired Pet’s arrival. But who is the lurking monster, what have they done, and how can they get anyone else to help them if all of Lucille keeps insisting its monsters are gone? In a major note of relevance, I believe this is the first mainstream-published YA starring a trans girl of color, so let’s hope we start seeing more to follow.

His Hideous Heart: Thirteen of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Stories Reimagined, ed. by Dahlia Adler (September 10)
Am I biased? Yes. Do I think this collection of Poe retellings done by rock stars of sci-fi, dark fantasy, and thrillers both psychological and action is incredible and would make a perfect addition to any library, classroom, or personal collection? Also yes! Whether you’re most interested in a heartbreaking queer take on “Annabel Lee,” a (literally) torturous modern version of “The Pit and The Pendulum,” watching a team of hacking twins throw all their firepower into a sci-fi “The Fall of the House of Usher,” seeing just what kind of magic Death herself brings to a party in a Bostonian “Masque of the Red Death,” or something else entirely, this lineup has got you covered for the perfect spooky read for fall.

A Treason of Thorns, by Laura E. Weymouth (September 10)
This historical fantasy set during the 19th century stars Violet, a girl who’s spent the last seven years in exile. Violet dreams of returning to Burleigh House, one of England’s great houses, whose magic kept the countryside happy until her father committed treason. When she finally gets the opportunity to return home, nothing is as she remembers, and Burleigh’s power is now a dangerous one borne of anguish. Can Violet save it? Or is it doomed to destruction, taking Violet with it?

Frankly in Love, by David Yoon (September 10)
Get ready for one of this year’s biggest debuts to bust out onto the scene and completely steal your heart. As you may have gathered from the title, it stars a guy named Frank Li, although that’s his American name; Sung-Min Li is his Korean name, which no one on the planet uses. But while his parents may not care if he speaks Korean or what name he uses, they will definitely care that he’s fallen for a white girl. Brit is everything to Frank…except someone he can bring home. The solution? Find a friend who’s in the same spot and get to plotting so you can both keep your relationships happy and your parents in the dark. It should be a great option for both Frank and Joy, but life and matters of the heart so rarely go as planned.

The Survival List, by Courtney Sheinmel (September 17)
When Talley dies by suicide, her sister, Sloane, is racked with grief, but also with confusion. Why would someone as happy and popular as Talley take her own life? All Sloane has to go on is a puzzle Talley left behind, one full of seemingly random names and places that eventually leads her to Adam, who lives in California and claims not to even know Talley. As the two of them search for answers, they grow closer, all while Sloane’s sure Adam isn’t quite telling her everything. But then, maybe she isn’t quite ready to uncover the secrets that might answer all her questions.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them, by Junauda Petrus (September 17)
Mabel is a sixteen-year-old girl living in Minneapolis, confused about her ex-boyfriend and the feelings she has for a girl. Then her father makes an announcement that’s about to rock her world: his best friend and said friend’s daughter, who’s been living in Trinidad until now, are coming for dinner. The daughter in question is Audre, who’s been shipped off to live with her dad since her religious mother caught her with the pastor’s daughter, who happens to have been her secret girlfriend. While she’s hopeful that her grandmother’s right that Audre won’t lose her roots, even in Minnesota, she has no idea what she’s in for in her new home. And neither of them is prepared for how strongly they feel about each other, or the trials they’re about to face together.

It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories, ed. by by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman (September 17)
While most Americans think of December as being the holiday season, September is the Jewish Big Time, and what better way to usher in the new year than wish this collection of contemporary Jewish stories, all by Jewish authors? Covering the familiar and unfamiliar territory of summer camp, college orientation, high school, services, Shabbat dinner, flights to and trips in Israel, and more, this collection is a much-needed break from the tragedy-heavy nature of Jewish fiction, and a great introduction to some of the authors comprising its present and future.

Suggested Reading, by Dave Connis (September 17)
From the author of The Temptation of Adam comes a brand-new clever contemporary about a girl named Clara who decides to fight back when she learns her high school principal has a banned book list that forces the school to remain free and clear of whatever he deems inappropriate. She starts her own underground library, making sure that all titles are available to get into the hands that need them. But then unexpected tragedy strikes, and when it’s linked to one of her favorite books, Clara has a lot to think about the power of stories and the role she’s set herself up to play in disseminating them.

A Dream So Dark, by L.L. McKinney (September 24)
In A Blade So Black, McKinney asked what if a bi, Black Buffy the Vampire Slayer had fallen down the rabbit hole instead of Alice? Now she’s learning the answer something fierce in her quest to stop the Black Knight, heading deeper and deeper into Wonderland on her journey. What’s more is there’s a new enemy in play, a poet who uses nightmares to both influence the living and raise the dead. A poet who wants Alice’s power and will stop at nothing to get it.

The Infinite Noise, by Lauren Shippen (September 24)
The host of the award-winning The Bright Sessions podcast is debuting in YA with a series by the same name, about three teenagers with supernatural abilities who all see the mysterious Dr. Bright, a therapist who specifically works with “atypicals.” One of those atypicals is Caleb, a champion running back dealing with extreme mood swings as the result of being an empath. Complicating things is Adam, one of Caleb’s classmates, who feels things hugely and somehow seems like a perfect fit for Caleb himself. What is there behind their connection, and why is Dr. Bright so in favor of it? Just one of the many mysteries running through this series that explores what would happen if the X-Men explored therapy instead of superheroism.

Bid My Soul Farewell, by Beth Revis (September 24)
The closer to the dark and deathly duology that began with Give the Dark My Love has Nedra in a considerably more dangerous place, embracing her necromantic powers even thought Emperor Auguste is determined to eradicate them from Lunar Island. Caught in between is Grey, who loves Nedra but knows her dark magic and army of revenants, who are currently at the quarantine hospital, are a danger to his people. Meanwhile, Nedra hopes to find a way to free the dead and their souls, as long as it won’t mean losing her sister. But what happens when her mission takes her too far, and how long can Grey stand by her side?

Rules for Vanishing, by Kate Alice Marshall (September 24)
How can you not love books where even the little description makes you shiver down to your bones? Told in the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project, this creeptastic tale follows a girl named Sara who must face down a ghost in order to find her missing sister. It’s been a year since Becca vanished while searching for the ghost of Lucy Gallows, an ill-advised game the bravest locals dare to play on the lone day a year a certain road appears in the forest. It’s supposed to be nothing more than a story, but Sara knows it’s real, and knows she has no choice but to follow the path to search for Becca. With her friends joining her, Sara begins the journey, but it’s far more terrifying and treacherous than any of them expected, and even if Sara does find Becca, there’s no guarantee that she herself will ever be able to return.

Six Goodbyes We Never Said, by Candace Ganger (September 24)
Anyone familiar with Ganger’s debut, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash, knows she’s no stranger to finding love through pain, and she starts the hurt early in her sophomore about a boy named Dew and a girl named Naima whose lives and grief intersect in unexpected ways. They find themselves thrown together when Naima’s marine father is killed and she moves in with her grandmother in Indiana, only to find herself living next door to the Brickmans, the family Dew’s been adopted into following the sudden death of both of his parents. As they both struggle to navigate grief, their respective mental illnesses, and their unexpected new lives, they find themselves drawn together in a way that helps them both begin to heal.

SLAY, by Brittney Morris (September 24)
As if Kiera weren’t enough of a standout, being one of Jefferson Academy’s only Black students (and an honors student at that), by night, she’s one of thousands of Black gamers in an online RPG called SLAY…and its developer. No one knows that last part, especially not her boyfriend, who hates video games. And when a teen is murdered due to a fight that took place in-game, SLAY gets even more unwanted attention than ever, of the “reverse racism” outcry variety. Kiera knows the incredible world she created for her fellow Black gamers is something worth saving, no matter what the haters and trolls think. But how far will she go to protect it, and to protect herself?

High School, by Tegan & Sara (September 24)
Why yes, that is a memoir from queer pop icons Tegan & Sara about their high school years. It goes back to their years as teens in Calgary, Alberta, growing up during the grunge era of the nineties and emerging as the icons they are now through a journey of identity and sexuality exploration, dealing with their parents’ divorce, academic pressures, questions about the future, struggles with drugs and alcohol, celebrations of love and friendship, and so much more.

The (Other) F Word: a Celebration of the Fat & Fierce, ed. by Angie Manfredi (September 24)
This non-fiction collection of fat-positive essays and art promises to give space to a host of experiences that are so rarely represented in YA, and even less frequently represented well. It also has one of the more unique contributor pools I’ve ever seen for a YA anthology, combining established and new authors in both young adult and middle grade (like Dumplin’ author Julie Murphy, Undead Girl Gang author Lily Anderson, Belly Up author Hillary Monahan, George author Alex Gino, I Wish You All the Best author Mason Deaver, and up-and-comers Sarah Hollowell and Adrianne Russell) with well-known fat activists and celebrities like Fat Girl Flow blogger Corissa Enneking and comedian and essayist Samantha Irby.

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