Not quite contemporary, but definitely not fantasy—magical realism lives in that dreamy, foggy space where the starkness of reality gets a heady dose of the inexplicable. Moody and atmospheric, it’s still relatively rare in YA, where writers like Laura Ruby, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Daniel José Older are carving out a space that’s growing fast. In fact, there are several novels coming your way this year that explore that murky, magical middle. Herewith, some 2017 magical realism must-reads to your TBR list!
Wild Beauty, by Anna Marie McLemore
With her first two books, The Weight of Feathers and When the Moon Was Ours, McLemore quickly established herself as a voice to be reckoned with, lush, riveting, and magical. In Wild Beauty, the Nomeolvides women have long lived with a tragic legacy: the men they fall in love with vanish. But when Estrella finds the wild boy who appeared in the gardens of the La Pradera estate, he’s a mystery to all of them, even himself. Will their connection fall prey to the curse? Or can love save them both from the darkness that lurks beneath?
American Street, by Ibi Zoboi
Zoboi’s stunning debut centers on Fabiola Toussaint, a stranger in a strange land even amongst family, motherless after her own is held at customs. Landing in the harsh wilds of Detroit, she tries to make a home among her very American cousins, and faces issues both timely and timeless: love, racism, class, and culture, all under the eye of a mystical homeless man who may be an embodiment of vodou figure Papa Legba. But will piecing a new life together cost her more than she can afford to give?
Gray Wolf Island, by Tracey Neithercott
Ruby has long heard stories about Gray Wolf Island—a poem that’s a map leading toward it; a hidden treasure long buried. She’s mourning the loss of her sister, who had one dying wish: to get to the bottom of it all. So Ruby gathers a ragtag team, each with their own shadows chasing them, to find the treasure. Together, they’ll face the challenge and each other, and maybe come out of it stronger than they started—if they make it out at all.
The Shadows We Know By Heart, by Jennifer Park
Ten years ago, Leah’s brother died. Since then, her life has been in shambles: her mom’s a drunk, her dad’s anger is out of control, and she’s losing it. Right? I mean, that must be the explanation for the trio of sasquatches she has been seeing in the woods behind her house. She’s heard the stories—who hasn’t?—but can’t believe her eyes, especially when she meets the boy with no memory who lives among them. As their lives intertwine and legend becomes reality, the balance of her life threatens to implode.
But Then I Came Back, by Estelle Laure
Eden has just come out of a coma—but she fears she didn’t come out of it alone. In her dream state, she was haunted by a girl who tried to share a secret with Eden but failed. Now awoken from her dream state, Eden discovers the girl, Jasmine, still lays comatose in the same hospital, where she’s visited by an alluring boy named Joe. He and Eden form a fast connection, partly based on their investment in Jaz. Will the girl ever awake and share her secrets? And if she does, what will that mean for Eden and Joe?
The Secret of a Heart Note, by Stacey Lee
Along with her mother, Mim is one of only two aromateurs left in the world—and so she knows her future will be that of a matchmaker, mixing elixirs and setting people on the path to love. And being a love witch means she can never fall herself, lest she lose her delicate abilities. But when a love potion she’s mixed falls into the wrong hands, she must team up with soccer star Court Sawyer to get it back…and let’s just say their chemistry is combustible. Will she give up her powers to give in to love? (This is technically a 2016 title, but not to be missed.)
The Heartbeats of Wing Jones, by Katherine Webber
When tragedy strikes, a young biracial girl in mid-90s Atlanta discovers a passion that helps her come into her own. Wing Jones has never fit in: Ghanian and Chinese, she grew up raised by her mom and two very different grandmothers, plus her big brother, who cast a large shadow. But when tragedy leaves him in a coma, Wing tries to run from her problems—literally, and discovers that she is, perhaps, magically good at it. Lush and captivating.