When disparate people are thrown together by events beyond their control, anything can happen. When you find a crew—a new family—it can be tense, it can be awkward, but it can also be healing and lift us up. It makes carrying out magical heists a lot easier, too. Here are six of the best YA ensembles, all of which remind us that life is precious, and we really need to rely on each other.
The Sidekicks, by Will Kostakis
Australian author Kostakis’s first stateside novel is a touching exploration of grief that focuses on Ryan, Harley, and Miles, three teens struggling to come to terms with the death of their friend Isaac. The three are all very different—Ryan is the swimmer, the jock of the group; Harley is the rebellious drug-dealer; Miles is movie-obsessed—but they are all connected by the loss of Isaac. Each of them narrates a section of the book, which lets us see exactly how each one is processing what happened. None of them like each other at first. But as the novel progresses, they come to realize they might have more in common than they know, and having each other’s friendship might just be better than being alone.
Spellbook of the Lost and Found, by Moira Fowley-Doyle
All the think pieces about what Taylor’s new song “Gorgeous” is about clearly have it all wrong: It’s not about a boy, it’s about the prose in Fowley-Doyle’s mystical, bewitching story of four Irish teens who discover a tattered old spellbook. In this beautifully written, moving tale, Olive is dealing with the drifting away of her friend, Rose, when she meets Holly, Ash, and Rowan (the nature-based names are merely the first of many lovely layers to be discovered here). They’ve all lost something, and the spellbook promises a way to get those things back. But all magic comes at a price, and Olive, Holly, Ash and Rowan have no idea what their spells will cost them. An extraordinary contemporary fairy tale, told with lush lyricism.
The Disenchantments, by Nina LaCour
In this lovely Pacific Northwest-set tale, the ensemble is an all-girl band, The Disenchantments. They’re aptly named. Post-graduation, Bev had plans to travel to Europe with Colby so they can explore their creativity and live an artistic life. When she breaks their pact, it breaks Colby’s heart… but the band has a tour lined up, and Colby had promised to be their chauffeur, which means he has to drive Bev—and her bandmates Meg and Alexa—up the West coast in his Uncle’s vintage VW bus. The tension between Bev and Colby hardly makes for a harmonious atmosphere. Along the way, Colby meets fellow lost souls, and learns something from each of them as he works out what his now-empty future should look like. It’s a sparkling coming-of-age roadtrip that also digs into what it means to be creative and control your own destiny.
Bass Ackwards and Belly Up, by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain
From two of the key creative minds behind the CW show The Secret Circle (based on the LJ Smith YA series of the same name) comes this whirlwind tale of four friends hungry to chase down their dreams. Now that they’ve graduated high school, Harper, Kate, Sophie and Becca are bailing on college for what they’re calling the “year of dreams.” The dreams include making it in Hollywood, writing the great American novel, and falling in love. The four girls have each other’s backs as they discover that sometimes following your dreams not only changes everything in your life but also changes who you are.
One of Us is Lying, by Karen McManus
It’s no secret that one of the greatest ensembles in pop culture is The Breakfast Club. Don’t @ me. We really didn’t forget about them, huh? Many movies and books have drawn inspiration from The Breakfast Club over the years, and One of Us is Lying provides a satisfyingly fresh twist on the classic tale. Five students—Nate (the criminal), Simon (the outcast), Cooper (the athlete), Addy (the beauty), and Bronwyn (the brain)—start detention one afternoon. Only four make it out alive. Simon is dead, and the other four are the key suspects in this Pretty Little Liars-style thriller. Especially when it comes to light that Simon was planning to reveal some intense gossip about each of them the next day. There are twists and turns galore as more and more is revealed about the survivors in this quickly paced, always surprising page-turner.
Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
If The Breakfast Club was one of the greatest ensembles… is Six of Crows the absolute greatest? Hot take: probably. At the very least it’s up there with The Avengers. If you haven’t read this yet, please do so immediately. You won’t be sorry. Set in the same Grisha-verse as the Shadow and Bone trilogy, Six of Crows takes place in Ketterdam, a wonderfully scuzzy, incredibly atmospheric, and crime-ridden town. Kaz, a brutal and mysterious gang leader with a haunting past, gets offered the ultimate heist, and has to put together a misfit/awesome crew to take that heist down. And what a crew it is: Inej the Wraith, Nina the Grisha, Matthias the Grisha hunter, Jesper the sharpshooter, and Wylan, the pampered son of a business leader. They’re all damaged, all trying to come to terms with broken dreams and shattered lives, and they’re some of the most fascinating, entrancing and wonderful characters in all of YA. The heist itself is electrifyingly told and impeccably plotted, but it’s these six diverse characters that keep us reading.