One of my favorite trends in YA is seeing the ages of main characters creep up, because being a teen doesn’t generally stop upon high school graduation. There’s plenty to explore in that first year of college, from new roommates to new loves to new freedom to whether college is even the right choice for you. Whether you’re headed in that direction or not, fall is the perfect time to settle in for some schooling via YA. Once you’ve devoured last year’s college set, here are five new books that explore the upper end of teenagedom with college student main characters.
By Any Means Necessary, by Candice Montgomery
One of my favorite contemporary novels out this fall is this sophomore about a college freshman named Torrey who’s barely begun orientation when he’s informed that his beloved bee farm is about to be foreclosed by the bank. The farm is his favorite uncle’s legacy, and Torrey will do anything to save it, but his fight starts to take its toll when it means struggling to balance his education, his new friends, and his hot new guy with traveling down the California coast to L.A. to handle legal matters and be there for his family. When it becomes too much to handle, Torrey has to weigh the lightness and acceptance of his new life with the roots and gravity of his old one, and figure out how to stay true to who he is and what he wants.
The Shortest Distance Between Love and Hate, by Sandy Hall
Hall is no stranger to college-set YA, having debuted with A Little Something Different, and she’s back at it with this contemporary romance starring Paisley, a girl who can’t wait to explore everything college has to offer. Phase one? Go to a college party and make out with a hot mystery guy. Phase two? Learn that hot mystery guy is actually her former middle school tormentor, Carter, and she’s managed to make the worst decision ever before even hitting her first mid-term. After all, she can’t exactly pretend it never happened when he turns out to be in three of her classes and her work study. What’s a freshman to do?
Again, But Better, by Christine Riccio
Some might say Shane’s been rocking college, between her GPA and…well, no, actually, that’s it. She’s killing it at the academic part of college, but the social part, not so much. When she decides to make a change, it takes her all the way to London for a semester abroad, where she makes friends, finds love, and finally gets to have the experiences she’s been missing out on by burying her nose in her books. But even living an international dream comes with its difficulties (like falling for a guy who’s already taken?) and Shane may be a budding doctor, but she’s still got plenty to learn.
Carmilla, by Kim Turrisi
Sometimes your biggest problem in college is a tough professor, and sometimes it’s having your roommate disappear and learning that the girl who replaced her is a vampire. In this novelization of the popular webseries, it happens to be the latter. Laura’s barely spent any time with Betty before her roommate disappears completely, her bed taken over by the mysterious Carmilla. When Laura learns Betty isn’t the first girl to disappear, she launches an investigation into the mysteries plaguing Silas University, vlogging as she goes. But no one seems more suspect than her new roomie, who has weird habits and weird hours, and who’s also starting to look way too attractive to Laura….
Permanent Record, by Mary H.K. Choi
After debuting with one of the most popular college-set books in YA, Choi’s returned with a main character for whom college wasn’t quite working. Instead, Pablo’s working his butt off doing the graveyard shift at a bodega, riddled with credit card debt and student loans from his brief time at NYU. It’s exhausting, but it comes with a major perk when pop star Leanna Smart walks into the store way too early on a winter morning and the two hit it off, sparking a secret relationship that turns his world upside-down and eventually leads him to figure out what he needs to do to make his dreams come true.