5 YA Books You Shouldn’t Read on an Empty Stomach

It’s happened to us all. Out of nowhere, the book you’re reading is taken over by beautifully delicious paragraphs full of savory treats and refreshing drinks, and suddenly you’re running to the kitchen, scavenging for snacks. Hunger-inducing fiction is a challenge readers have faced since we were kids salivating over the dining hall scenes in Harry Potter, or vivid descriptions of the Capitol’s lavish desserts in the Hunger Games trilogy.

Writers. Why? Why are you like this? I mean, I get it: taste and smell are our two of our most nostalgic senses, capable of transporting us instantly through space and time—and therefore irresistible to storytellers. With that in mind, here are some of the masters of driving your appetite wild. Read on, maybe with a bag of Doritos nearby.

The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli
From the Cadbury eggs to the buttercream cupcakes, Becky Albertalli sprinkles delectable treats throughout her second novel about a teen girl who has had over two dozen unrequited crushes. Why so many? The idea of rejection terrifies her, unlike her twin sister, who is currently spiraling into a swoon-filled romance with a cute new girl.

It’s definitely the sort of story that gives you butterflies, especially once Molly meets Reid, a super geek with a big heart who makes her question whether her approach to romance (that is, to not approach it) is the right one. And alongside the butterflies you’ll feel is the overpowering need to snack on crème-filled chocolates and frosted cupcakes. But believe me: it’s all worth it. (Also See: Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the novel and forthcoming movie adaptation that will continue to fuel Oreo sales from now until the end of time.)

North of Happy, by Adi Alsaid
Alsaid’s latest YA contemporary centers on a teen who dreams of being a chef. So right away, you know the deal: There’s going to be food, and there’s going to be a lot of it. But this book goes the extra mile toward making you hungry, by including a recipe at the start of each chapter. As the story takes readers on Carlos’ journey from living a life of wealth and ease in Mexico City to struggling as he tries to make it in the U.S. working for a celebrity chef, his way is paved with deliciousness you can re-create at home.

Tell Me Three Things, by Julie Buxbaum
I mean, the cover has waffles on it. That should be enough to send you into a Leslie Knope–style waffle frenzy. Buxbaum’s novel is a charming YA contemporary mashed together with a mystery, as Jessie, a new student at a fancy prep school, finds herself navigating her new surroundings with the help of an anonymous stranger—someone who knows the unfamiliar hallways all too well. You’ll follow along as she tries to unravel the mystery of her secret guide, all while wrestling with the trauma of losing her mother and joining a new family unit she isn’t terribly fond of. There’s music (my favorite thing in YA contemporary!) and friendships, love and waffles. You’ll love every page.

Who’s That Girl, by Blair Thornburgh
Another YA contemporary novel filled with music, hooray! In addition to the sweet storyline of a teen girl who finds herself the subject of a hit song, in a very “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s moment, we’re treated to some scrumptious delights throughout the story. After all, a big part of the novel focuses on the heroine and her longtime friend (and possibly…more?) baking to support their school’s LGBTQIA alliance, raising money to make the school formal a more inclusive event. From the pies to the cupcakes, Thornburgh is guaranteed to make you want to raid the local bakery, and maybe queue up a Spotify playlist of your favorite pop punk and emo hits.

Sweet, by Emmy Laybourne
“Wait, wait, wait…isn’t Sweet about an artificial sweetener that sends anyone who eats it into a cannibal-esque, zombie-ish rage? How will this make me hungry?” you ask, crossing your arms skeptically. Well, yes. It is. But Laybourne treats us to some truly delicious spreads, which the people on her doomed cruise ship devour with gusto. After all, they’re made with a new sweetener guaranteed to help you shed the pounds no matter what you eat. In fact, it works while you eat, so the desserts and entrees beckon you to dig in without consequences.

Except there are major, terrifying consequences. Sweet is a novel told in shifting POVs as an untested sweetener ravages passengers and leaves two lovestruck teenagers fighting for their lives along the way. It’s thrilling and imaginative, and talks about body image in an entirely unconventional way.

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