January’s Top Picks for Teens

This month’s most anticipated teen novels take young readers on trips across time, into dark dystopias, and, most dangerously of all, into the halls of a modern-day high school under siege. From a paranormal standalone by The Selection author Kiera Cass, to a series starter from The Darkest Minds author Alexandra Bracken, these are the books every teen will want on their shelves in January.

Cruel Crown, by Victoria Aveyard
If you just can’t wait till the release of Red Queen sequel Glass Sword (and we don’t blame you), check out two prequel stories that begin long before Mare Barrow revealed her Red-blooded powers to the Silver court. In Queen Song, Cal and Maven’s calculating mother, Queen Coriane, shares her romantic history and her dangerous secrets. And in Steel Scars, rebel leader Captain Farley recruits fellow rebels, and first hears tell of the Red girl with the impossible abilities.

The Siren, by Kiera Cass
When the ship she’s in with her family is attacked by sirens, Kahlen makes a terrifying choice: life, and decades of servitude to the Ocean, over death. She joins the ranks of the sirens, whose voices lure humans to drown. But even 80 years later, she’s still stricken with guilt over every life she takes…and when she meets a human boy she finds as irresistible as her own fatal song, she’s willing to break the rules that have kept her alive. The Siren was completely rewritten by Cass, best-selling author of The Selection series, from an earlier, self-published work.

Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken
Etta is a talented, high-strung teen violinist preparing to make her concert debut when things fall spectacularly apart: after witnessing a fight between her mother and her mentor, she’s shunted back through time, becoming a hostage on an era-hopping ship. She quickly learns she belongs to one of the remaining few families with the ability to time travel—and the ship’s captain, former slave Nicholas, has been charged with carrying her to this elite crew’s most powerful member. Soon Etta and Nicholas form a dangerous alliance, traveling across a patchwork globe of different time periods to retrieve an artifact hidden by Etta’s mother.

A Midsummer Night #nofilter, by William Shakespeare and Brett Wright
The latest in the OMG Shakespeare Series reimagines Shakespeare’s supernatural comedy of romantic misunderstanding as a tale told entirely in texts, emojis, check-ins, and, deadliest of all..relationship status updates. The fairies, the parted lovers, and the general romantic mayhem remain, but the telling is completely fresh.

Macbeth #killingit, by William Shakespeare and Courtney Carbone
Another canonical tale retold through OMG-speak, this one much darker than the fairy froth of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Macbeth and his dastardly Lady have smartphones in this adaptation, and are reimagined as a couple of hellbent social climbers. The texty tale sizzles with intrigue, wit, and, of course, loads of emojis, as the central couple wades more and more deeply into bloody deeds they can’t wash their hands of.

Anna and the Swallow Man, by Gavriel Savit
Anna is 7 years old in Poland in 1939 when her father leaves her with a friend…and never returns. Soon she’s on her own, wandering lost until she meets the Swallow Man. He’s an imposing figure who can speak to birds, and swirls with mysteries he doesn’t share. He and Anna set off on a years-long walkabout across the country, encountering adventures steeped in magical realism, as seen by a child, as well as starker horrors that come into focus as Anna grows up. The Swallow Man teaches her how to survive in a dangerous world, and builds with her a redemptive bond after her entire world falls apart.

The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman
Before the arrival of the mysterious Lord Carlston into her well-ordered Regency world, Lady Helen Wrexhall’s greatest fear was being forced into an unwanted match. But Carlston’s dark influence, as well as the strange new abilities Helen suddenly possesses—heightened senses, inhumanly fast reflexes—herald her induction into a dark order, one that may have everything to do with her late mother being stamped as a traitor to the crown. Soon Helen finds herself choosing between two men who represent divergent paths: one a life of adventure and supernatural service in the demon-hunting Dark Days Club, the other the life of high-society elegance she was bred for.

My Name Is Not Friday, by Jon Walter
In the waning days of the Civil War, Samuel is an orphaned, free-born African American, sold into slavery by a priest he believed was his protector. Renamed Friday, he’s bought by the master of a Mississippi cotton plantation, where he faces further injustices and brutality. But Samuel maintains both his faith and his iron grip on literacy—and his wish to be reunited with his younger brother. His fight for freedom begins but doesn’t end with the dangerous decision to teach his fellow slaves to read and write.

This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp
The world can change in a minute. Nijkamp’s taut debut covers 54 of them, from just before a school shooting begins to its harrowing aftermath. Narration is shared among four students, both in and outside of the auditorium where the shooting occurs, all of whom have some link to the shooter. The cast is diverse, and their lives realistically tangled, in a story that combines almost painful tension with flashbacks that ground the sadly topical drama in an attempt at answering the question everyone asks after every pointless shooting: Why?

Traveler (Seeker Series #2), by Arwyn Elys Dayton
In Seeker, Quin Kincaid trained with her cousin, Shinobu, and their friend, John, to become Seekers, time-traveling, justice-seeking warriors. But it didn’t take long for Quin and Shinobu to realize they’d be used as pawns by Quin’s tyrannical father. They hid out in Hong Kong, while John followed his own, vindictive path. In follow-up Traveler, John has turned against Quin and Shinobu, who must navigate ancient grudges, dark alliances, and a coming eruption of violence that threatens to end them.

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