This month’s best new teen books include a two-tale sci-fi story from bestselling author Lauren Oliver, sequels to speculative books from Marie Lu and Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and the moving sophomore novel from the author behind last year’s mega-hit All the Bright Places. Here’s what should be on every teen reader’s radar right now.
Holding Up the Universe, by Jennifer Niven
Jack and Libby’s first encounter is not a fortuitous one: he participates in ugly mockery of her size; she punches him in the face. They end up together in group counseling, sharing narration that reveals their shared angst: Libby about her body, which at its heaviest kept her housebound, and Jack about his facial blindness, which makes every day a minefield. Their friendship advances delicately into something more as they become each other’s unexpected confidantes.
Our Chemical Hearts, by Krystal Sutherland
Quiet Henry finds himself falling for misfit Grace when the two of them are thrown together to edit the school newspaper. But Grace is a deeply complicated person, whose troubles may run deeper than Henry is ready to handle. Henry is surrounded by well-drawn friends and family, and Grace is a fascinating cipher, in a book that’s anything but a predictable romance.
Replica, by Lauren Oliver
Two stories told side by side—literally, you can flip the book over and read either tale from front to back—converge in Oliver’s creepy contemporary sci-fi. Gemma’s the sickly daughter of a smothering mother and a rich, distant father, who starts to wonder what weirdness is behind her father’s work and her own lonely existence. Lyra is a “replica,” living a prisoner’s life at the Haven Institute. Gemma follows a hunch to Haven, arriving just after an explosion aids Lyra’s escape alongside another replica. When Gemma decides to help the two escapees, she opens her mind to discovering some dark truths about her life.
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Something in Between, by Melissa de la Cruz
Jasmine is the high-achieving daughter of Filipino immigrants, whose dreams of attending Stanford were just made possible by a scholarship. Then her parents reveal a hard truth: the family is in the country illegally, and may soon face deportation. The revelation gives her a different perspective on her future, and her boyfriend’s politician father’s anti-immigration efforts give her a broader understanding of what her family is truly up against, in a story that’s both timely and fast-paced.
The Midnight Star, by Marie Lu
In The Young Elites Lu introduced a dangerous monarchic world in the years after a blood fever swept its population. Adelina Amouteru survived the fever, but it left her with an eerily altered appearance and abilities beyond her understanding. She’s rescued from her cruel father by similarly gifted survivors the Young Elites, who are vulnerable to two warring sects: the king’s Inquisition Axis, which wants to see the Young Elites dead, and the Dagger Society, which claims to want to protect them. In book two, The Rose Society, Adelina, now known as the terrifying White Wolf, is on the run with her sister, hoping to build up a force to strike back against the Inquisition Axis. In finale The Midnight Star, Adelina fights to hold onto all that she’s gained, even if it means taking on unlikely allies.
What Light, by Jay Asher
Growing up on a Christmas tree farm means Sierra splits her life between Oregon and California, where her family travels each holiday season to sell their trees. When she falls for California kid Caleb, it’s against her father’s dating rules. And when Caleb’s dark secret gets out—about a mistake he made years ago, and can’t outrun—their love story is at threat of being cut short.
Gemina, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
In last year’s Illuminae, the survivors of a brutal attack on a tiny planet are desperate to find refuge at Heimdall space station. Sequel Gemina finds us on Heimdall, whose residents are unaware of what’s coming their way. Like Illuminae, Gemina is told through chat logs, security footage writeups, classified documents, and more, as three teens—station chief’s daughter Hanna, bad boy Nik, and his tech-genius cousin Ella—battle mercenary killers, terrifying space fauna, and hiccups in the very fabric of space-time. The Die Hard comparisons this book has gotten are right on, and it is awesome.
Boy Robot, by Simon Curtis (October 25)
In Curtis’s near-future-set debut, a boy’s blinding headache heralds a strange transformation: he’s not human but Robot, a government creation adopted unwittingly by the mother who now kicks him out. He allies with others like him seeking freedom from vicious pursuers, in a story that examines different kinds of non-belonging, from the extraordinary to the universal.
Star Wars Ahsoka, by E.K. Johnston
This novel set in the Star Wars universe comes from the pen of acclaimed YA writer E.K. Johnston, author of books including The Story of Owen and Exit, Pursued By a Bear. The story follows Ahsoka, a Jedi who fled the order near the end of the Clone Wars. She takes on a new name and tries to carve out a life in hiding, but soon finds herself drawn back into the fight against the Empire, this time as part of the rebel alliance.