If we’re all being honest, we’ve all got our favorite genres, and yes, contemporary is mine. It’s where issues get tackled, romances blossom, thrillers screw with my mind, and mysteries twist and turn, all within the confines of a world with rules we already know (or at least think we do). For many more amazing contemporaries, check out our LGBTQAP post for titles including The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (October 1) and Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett (October 29), our Sophomores post for books like Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi (September 3) and Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao (October 15), and our debuts post for contemps from brand-new voices including Natasha Diaz (Color Me In) and Erin Stewart (Scars Like Wings)!
Symptoms of a Heartbreak, by Sona Charaipotra (July 2)
This is B&N Teen’s very own Sona Charaipotra’s first solo novel, and as a huge fan of both Tiny Pretty Things and Doogie Howser, I could not be more excited for this contemporary about an Indian American girl who happens to be the youngest doctor in America. Saira’s days are hard enough, proving she deserves to wear the same white coat as all the adult doctors around her, which include her mother. But when she falls for teen cancer patient Link, she puts her career on the line in order to take a chance at saving him.
The Best Lies, by Sarah Lyu (July 2)
Toxic friendship is one of my absolute favorite topics in YA, so I am extremely psyched to get to know Remy, Elise, and…well, we probably missed the boat on Jack. He was Remy’s boyfriend, and Elise her best friend. Then Elise fired the shot that killed Jack, leaving Remy wondering what could’ve happened to the friend who was practically her other half. As she conducts her own investigation, independent of the cops’, Remy doesn’t know what she’ll find, or whether things between her and Elise can or should ever be salvaged.
The Arrival of Someday, by Jen Malone (July 23)
I first fell in love with Malone’s YA in its lightest form with the delightfully banterrific Wanderlost, but I’ll happily keep following as it takes a progressively more serious note as it does in this newest, about a bold, roller derby-ing girl named Amelia whose world is rocked by a flare-up of her rare liver disorder. Now she needs a transplant, and finding a donor is looking increasingly less likely, despite all efforts from her loved ones. But a focus on fixing her up isn’t what Amelia wants most, and that’s why a pleasant distraction in the form of a romance with Will is the most welcome relationship of all. Still, there’s only so long she can avoid taking a hard look at the truth of her future, and what it’ll take to make sure she has one.
Truly, Madly, Royally, by Debbie Rigaud (July 30)
Well this book is a freaking delightful entry into the mini-trend of royal YA fiction, and underneath all that soft romance is the deep impression of just how important Meghan Markle is to young Black girls. When Zora Emerson heads off on an elite summer program with idealistic goals of changing the world, she knows she’s not going to fit in among her wealthy, predominantly white classmates. But when she clicks with Owen, it turns out she does fit in with the most elite of them all: a literal prince. It’s a lot to handle, but if she really thinks Owen’s worth it, Zora’s gonna need to up her game. Royally.
Hello Girls, by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry (August 6)
It’s been a big year for both authors, with Henry releasing The Sky Falls on Splendor and Cavallaro tying up her Charlotte Holmes series, so they really did not have to hit this hard with their first joint effort. But wow am I glad they did, because this Thelma-and-Louise contemp opens with a bang and just keeps on bangin’ all the way through, until you finally release that breath you didn’t know you were holding. Winona’s grown up with privilege, and, more secretly, a father who’s as abusive as he is famous. Lucille’s on the opposite end of the wealth spectrum, but she’s suffocating every bit as much, especially when her drug-dealing brother brings danger to their door. When the girls make a pact to escape, and find an unexpectedly perfect destination, they embark on a wild adventure with twists and turns they definitely don’t see coming, to say nothing of the fact that they have no idea what awaits them at the end.
I’m Not Dying With You Tonight, by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal (August 6)
Speaking of collaborative novels, Segal and Jones team up for this one about privilege, race, and violence, with each one writing a protagonist experiencing a riot erupting at a football game one night. The girls, Lena and Campbell, aren’t friends, and they don’t have anything in common. But they’ll need each other to survive the night when the city itself goes up in flames.
How the Light Gets In, by Katy Upperman (August 6)
Ready for some romance guaranteed to twist your heart in knots? I hope so, because Upperman is back to do what she does best with her third novel, about a girl named Callie who’s floundering since the death of her sister. Or perhaps floundering suggests movement, while Callie’s pretty much just been standing still. Until she heads off to her aunt for the summer to help with renovations to her coastal Victorian home. Not only is the sweet town kind of a lovely place to be, but it’s also got Tucker, who manages to thaw out Callie’s frozen heart. She’s finally starting to come around, at least during daylight hours. But when she’s haunted at night by confusing dreams and the feeling that her sister is trying to communicate with her, Callie must figure out the missing piece holding her back.
Start Here, by Trish Doller (August 13)
Doller’s debut was one of my first big YA loves, establishing her as an author I’ll follow pretty much anywhere, and certainly into this gorgeous story of two friends who must spend the summer together seeing if their friendship has a future when the vertex that kept their triangle together, their best friend Finley, dies before their summer sailing trip. As Willa and Taylor embark on the trip alone with a list of clues that point them to different destinations along the way from Ohio to Key West, they have to rediscover who they are, both together and apart, now that Finley is gone.
The Silence Between Us, by Alison Gervais (August 13)
Maya’s had a comfortable life full of academic and career aspirations at Pratt School for the Deaf, and as if moving across the country wasn’t bad enough, having to transfer to a hearing school is the nail in the coffin. Now she’s stuck in a place that views her being Deaf as a disability, which is the last thing she needs if she’s going to break into the medical field. At least one guy at school is trying: Beau, the student body president who learns ASL in order to be able to converse with her more easily, bringing them closer together and giving her some significant Feelings. But even Beau doesn’t really understand her pride in being Deaf and her disinterest in getting a cochlear implant, making her wonder if there’s any real chance for them at all.
The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, by Brandy Colbert (August 20)
There are few authors in contemporary YA today who write with Colbert’s quiet power and nuance, and her fourth novel is a perfect example. It stars Dove “Birdie” Randolph, who’s set up her entire life around following her parents plans for her, even when it’s meant giving up things she loves. But then she falls for a boy who definitely doesn’t fit into their ideals, and she’s not giving up Booker for anything. Further shaking things up is the fact that her mom’s estranged sister, Carlene, is moving in with them, and it’s clear no one’s happy about having her there, especially after all her years in and out of rehab. But her attitude and drive are exactly what Birdie needs, and she’s thrilled to get the opportunity to grow close to her aunt. Then getting too close reveals family secrets Birdie never wanted to know, and now nothing will ever be the same for the Randolphs again.
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.
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.
10 Blind Dates, by Ashley Elston (October 1)
Sophie desperately needs a break from her parents, and a Christmas in which they go off to Louisiana to be with her very pregnant sister is the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, her boyfriend also wants a break, which isn’t exactly what Sophie had planned. Miserable, Sophie seeks solace in spending the holiday with her grandparents and wacky extended clan, and there she’s presented with a plan: Sophie must go on ten dates, each one selected by a member of the family. It’s definitely different…and Sophie agrees, subjecting herself to some of the most ridiculous dates she could never have imagined. Then Griffin comes crawling back, which would’ve been exactly what Sophie wanted, if only she hadn’t already gone and fallen for someone else—someone sweet, hot, familiar, taken, and completely off limits.
Look Both Ways, by Jason Reynolds (October 8)
One of the best things I read this year was Reynolds’s short story in Black Enough, about a group of boys dreaming of the perfect sandwich, and he’s already back to rock some worlds again with his newest, told over the course of a ten-block walk. (If the aforementioned short story isn’t enough to convince you of how powerful Reynolds can be with a tiny space of time, by the way, Long Way Down should definitely have that covered.) It’s a slice of life, or really of a bunch of lives, about what happens as you’re living, the detours and the conversations and the truth and the connections, and to make it even better, it’s an illustrated work, with art by Alexander Nabaum.
Jackpot, by Nic Stone (October 15)
The New York Times bestseller is back, this time with a book about a girl named Rico who knows there’s better out there than the rut she’s stuck in, if only she could afford to get out of it. It’s hard to make waves when your entire day consists of school, work, and watching your little brother. Then she sells a winning lotto ticket, and when no one cashes it in, she takes it upon herself to find the winner…together with Zan, her rich and popular classmate, with whom she strikes up an unexpected friendship. But when push comes to shove, can these friends who come from two completely different backgrounds stay on the same team?
Light it Up, by Kekla Magoon (October 22)
Magoon has written no shortage of groundbreaking work, and this follow-up to How it Went Down, told in a similar vignette style, promises to be no exception. It follows what happens when a thirteen-year-old girl is shot on her way home, and nothing but excuses about everything from height making her look like an adult to her not listening to the officer (she was wearing headphones when the officer called after her) comes in response. Now we see the aftermath of a community divided, some wanting justice and some wanting to reinforce white supremacy, and none of it able to bring the girl back home.
Every Stolen Breath, by Kimberly Gabriel (November 5)
It’s been two years since Lia’s father was killed by a violent mob dubbed the Swarm, but she can’t give up looking for rhyme or reason behind his murder. Unfortunately, her debilitating asthma and PTSD make it impossible to hunt on her own, so when the time comes to take the search to the next level, Lia finds a team: a teen hacker, a reporter, and a stranger who knows the Swarm a little too well. Now they must work together to find out who’s behind the murderous mob, and if they can’t do it quickly, Lia might be the next Swarm’s next victim. Not gonna lie, that titles feels like a preview for how it must feel to read this premise, but I am always psyched to find new voices in thrillers, especially if they might leave me gasping for air.
All-American Muslim Girl, by Nadine Jolie Courtney (November 12)
Things for Allie are complicated, even if it doesn’t look like it from the outside. After all, if you’re cool and popular and smart and dating a sweet guy, what more could you possibly want? Well, you could maybe not want your boyfriend’s father to be the biggest conservative shock jock in the country, especially if your family is Muslim, whether anyone knows it or not. When Allie sees a rising wave of Islamophobia, both within her small town and without, she decides that her faith is more important than she ever realized. She embarks on studying it, observing it, and even dealing with the blowback from people who don’t know any better. But if she isn’t exactly who everyone thought she was, then who is she?
When the Stars Lead to You, by Ronni Davis (November 12)
Eighteen-year-old Devon longs for two things. The stars. And the boy she fell in love with last summer. When Ashton breaks Devon’s heart at the end of the most romantic and magical summer ever, she thinks she’ll never heal again. But over the course of the following year, Devon finds herself slowly putting the broken pieces back together. Now it’s senior year and she’s determined to enjoy every moment of it, as she prepares for a future studying galaxies. That is, until Ashton shows up on the first day of school. Can she forgive and open her heart to him again? Or are they doomed to repeat history?
Crying Laughing, by Lance Rubin (November 19)
It’s an incredibly tough thing to write truly hilarious fiction, but Rubin’s been a notable master ever since he broke onto the YA scene with Denton Little’s Not Dead. His new contemporary is about an aspiring comedian named Winnie who’s taken her standup act on hiatus after bombing big at her Bat Mitzvah. When one of her jokes lands with the funniest guy at school, Winnie thinks maybe it’s time to get back on the metaphorical stage. But then her dad, a comedian and her biggest inspiration, is diagnosed with ALS, and despite the fact that he’s still laughing as much as ever, Winnie knows there’s nothing funny about it, even if she’ll pretend otherwise to keep him happy. When you’ve got a complicated relationship with humor and all you want to do is cry, what do you do when laughter might actually be the best medicine?