Teen Readers Share the Last Books They Loved: Magic, Moxie, and Fierce Female Friendships

Meet the Young Adults, the B&N Teen Blog’s swat team of awesome teenaged bloggers. YA literature is a strange and wonderful landscape of books that should be read by everybody, but each month we highlight the perspective of teens reading the best of the best books written for and about them. Check back monthly to see what they’re recommending next, and read previous installments here

You Bring the Distant Nearby Mitali Perkins
A beautiful book sharing the tales of generations of Bengali women, You Bring The Distant Near, is truly unique among YA books. Rather than romance, it focuses on the relationships between family, and all of the complications they entails. The author shares their stories in an artful novel, full of depth, emotion, and passion. All five protagonists are compelling in their own right, and the relationships between each of them are as beautiful as they are tear-jerking. If you love complex female characters, intricate plots, and diverse storylines as much as I do, this may just be the best you’ll read all year.

–Katelyn L., 15, loves all genres of books, has too many unread ones on her shelf, and desperately wishes for more time to read.

Wonder Woman: Warbringerby Leigh Bardugo
Welcome to Themyscira, a gorgeous island home to fierce female warriors that had died honorably in battle in their former, mortal lives. Diana, however, is the only Amazon to have never experienced warfare; she was born on the island. Eager to prove herself to her warrior companions, Diana enters a highly-anticipated foot race. Though her path to victory is clear, she sacrifices her lead when she hears an explosion off the coast of the island. Alia, the mortal she rescues is not just a human, though, she is a Warbringer, destined to bring chaos to the world. With Alia, a prophecy, and a magical heartstone, Diana embarks on an adventure in the world of man in order to prevent a new age of war. Though superhero stories often focus exclusively on their titular characters, Warbringer showcases the beloved heroine’s power, grace, and wisdom while also demonstrating the strength of sisterhood. Though Alia and Diana are women of vastly different time periods, their trust in each other always prevails. The inherent goodness of Diana and the strength she instills in the people around her is what truly makes this novel extraordinary.

–Nicole S., 16, loves books, biology, and Italian food. Her life goal is to reach five feet in height.

How to Disappearby Sharon Huss Roat
In a world of social media, it’s easy to feel left out. Seeing photos posted of friends out without you, a concert you couldn’t snag tickets to, your crush kissing his new girlfriend, all can make you feel empty. Discarded. #alone. It’s exactly this way for Vic. Her only friend in her high school has moved to Wisconsin, and now she’s alone. She spends most of her time in her room, playing around with Photoshop while everyone she knows has fun without her. It’s not always that she doesn’t get invited, but her crippling social anxiety forces her to decline. One day, in a fit of boredom, she Photoshops herself into a concert photo. Soon, through either inspiration or madness, she starts a new Instagram account featuring herself, wildly costumed, and Photoshopped into all kinds of insane settings—and Vicurious is born. Vicurious is all the things that Vic is not—brave, funny, outgoing, self confident, and kind. She ends up going viral, hidden behind the screen of her computer and offering anonymous reassurance to everyone out there who needs it. When things in Vic’s life take a turn for the wilder, though, she starts to see that maybe she and Vicurious aren’t so different after all. This book was absolutely lovely, and far less tropey than I expected. The characters were clever and funny, not at all fitting any stereotypes that one might expect from a high school story set around social media. You might even find a little of Vicurious in yourself—and realize that you aren’t #alone after all.

Jamie R., 14, is a book lover and avid writer with a passion for theatre. You can always find her either reading or singing, sometimes both at the same time!

If There’s No Tomorrow, by Jennifer L. Armentrout
On a scale of retro diners to novels heavy enough to kill, this book is a party like a George Washington party. Every book lover can relate to a room packed to the brim with books, the way Lena’s bedroom is. Or the savings that magically disappear when you hit the bookstore. And just like her, I would love to have a bedroom with a conveniently located deck, so I can have late night visitors. I look up to her immense strength and her drive. Armentrout writes beautifully. I felt as though I was tossed in the middle of Lena’s life. Vivid imagery and palpable emotions make this book heartbreakingly impactful. I could never stop loving Armentrout’s words because they’ll stick with me forever. This book is a really important read, but beware: it punches you in the feels. I can’t even count on one hand how many times this book made me cry. It’ll definitely be a staple on my bookshelf for years to come.

Kaitlin D., 15, professional procrastinator and self-proclaimed bibliophile. Lives in the pantry. May have taken a bite out of the moon.

Seekerby Veronica Rossi
Taking place a few months after the events of the first book, Riders, Seeker tells the story of Daryn and the riders and their quest to save Sebastian from a world of suffering. Through a series of missteps, Daryn falls back with the horsemen and together they journey into the dark world, where Sebastian has been stuck for eight months. I say dark because not only is the very world set on twisting their minds, there are terrifying creatures and the looming threat of Samrael, the demon locked in the world along with Sebastian. As the three horsemen and Daryn tromp around this evil dimension, they face their inner selves head on and in the end, it’s the psychological threats that will do them in. The best part of the book though, is the ending because it is the ultimate battle of good versus evil and boy is it anxiety inducing. With the omniscience granted from multiple POV narration, it was like watching a car crash in slow motion and not being able to do a thing. To feel things that viscerally is the mark of a good book, and I can assure you that’s what you’ll get from Seeker.

–Kelvin L., 17, is a figure skater and audiobook lover and thinks teleportation is the most useful superpower. He is definitively a Ravenclaw, a water type Moroi (who secretly wants to be fire type), and an Erudite; he cannot see Hollowgasts and would 100% not survive the Hunger Games.

Not Your Sidekickby CB Lee
Not Your Sidekick is the YA rendition of superheroes I’ve always wanted. Its sequel Not Your Villain, certainly lived up to all the expectations created by the first book. This time, we see Bells’ story, the shapeshifting “Chameleon” who’s turned from a hero to a villain, as he along with Jess, Abby and Emma embark on a resistance against the government. Bells is pure Slytherin, and I loved him. The book delves a little bit into the past as well, and the trans rep was handled really well.( There’s a flashback scene where little Bells decides on what he wants to be called, and it’s one of the cutest scenes ever ) I adored the dynamics between Bells and Emma, as I really liked the sparks between them from the first book, and their relationship is different, yet cute. Overall Not Your Villain was a fabulous sequel with action, emotion, humour, suspense and loads of cuteness that you shouldn’t miss if you have read the first book! ( If you haven’t, then all the more reason why you have to get to NYS:))

–Mishma N., die-hard fan of Victoria Schwab, lover of villains and antiheroes, old movies and a capella covers, dreams of working in publishing and opening a bookstore in the future.

Allegedly, by Tiffany D. Jackson
Tiffany D. Jackson’s debut is a haunting novel revolving around a Black girl named Mary, who was charged, at all of nine, with the murder of a white baby. In it, Mary is now 16, living in an abusive group home with a boyfriend she met at the nursing home she works at. Before, Mary had to only worry about herself and Ted, but when Mary discovers she’s pregnant, she now has another life to care for. How will she be allowed to keep her baby when she’s charged with the murder of another? Mary decides to try to clear her name so she can keep her baby, and in the process, brings up secrets long left in the past. Allegedly is a captivating look at family relationships, the United States criminal justice system, life in a group home, and so much more, and it’s absolutely incredible. It will leave all readers speechless and needing Tiffany Jackson’s future books.

–Ava M. is a teenaged book blogger, reader, and writer of YA. She is an intersectional feminist and advocate for diversity, and drinks a lot of tea. She likes organized bookshelves and reads too many fantasy novels.

When We Collidedby Emery Lord
Verona cove is a perfect town. Perfect weather, perfect vacation spot, perfect people… except when it comes to Jonah Daniel’s family. With 6 kids, a dead father and a grieving and depressed mother, Jonah has been forced to take care of his family in their small town of Verona Cove. Until one day, a new exciting tornado of a person, Vivi,  comes town and sweeps Jonah up with her. Boisterous and a little strange, Vivi meets Jonah and his family and falls in love quickly. Before they know it, Jonah and Vivi’s lives are changed forever as they help mend each other’s hearts. Jonah’s from grief and Vivi’s from the life and the troubles she left behind when she moved to Verona Cove. Though this book was a contemporary love story, Emery Lord managed to still explore topics of grief, mental health and family in a serious and realistic way. Anyone looking for an adorable romance, an honest depiction of life, a look at sibling dynamic and vivid, loveable characters should look no further- Lord has delivered it all to you in one book: When We Collided.

–Ellie T., 17, spends the majority of her time doing homework, or reading and buying YA books. When she’s not doing that you can find her binge-watching Netflix or singing off-key to Hamilton.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me, by Leah Thomas
Because You’ll Never Meet Me dictates the letters of two pen pals quite unlike any others. Ollie is allergic to electricity, and Moritz has pacemaker; their meeting could only end in tragedy. But that doesn’t stop them from forming an intense bond spanning continents as they each strive to define themselves in a world unprepared for them. This book will play your emotions like a harp. As the two boys form a friendship, they push each other to question the boundaries imposed on their lives, and to strive for something better. For Ollie, Moritz is a connection to a world he can’t interact with, one that would kill him if he tried. For Moritz, Ollie is a call to action, to take control of the life he’s resigned himself to. Alone, they’re hopeless. But together, they just might do something extraordinary.

–Assaf T., 17, likes his books very interesting and very heavy, because exercise isn’t as fun but is still important.
A few years ago, if someone had asked me what my favorite book was, I wouldn’t have been able to tell them. Today, I don’t even have to think about the answer. I was recently lucky enough to pick up the exact book I needed to read at the exact time I needed to read it, and my life has never been the same. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was that book. Sáenz’s writing is beautifully lyrical but also grounded and genuine in a way that life should be but often isn’t. As it chronicles a blooming friendship between two Latinx teenagers, the book reveals simple, poignant truths about identity, family, and love without ever being pretentious.
–Ian L., 17, has a million projects to finish and a million books to start. They can usually be found doing something other than what they are supposed to be doing and having miniature existential crises.

Little & Lionby Brandy Colbert
Little & Lion is a YA contemporary novel about a sister and brother, Suzette and Lionel, known to each other as Little and Lion. Suzette has just returned to LA from Massachusetts, where she attended a boarding school for her junior year, and finds that her life is not exactly how she left it. Before Suzette left, Lionel was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and the person she returns to is not the brother she remembers. More so, Suzette spends the course of the novel discovering her own sexuality, having recently been with a girl for the first time but knowing that she also still like books. A novel that effortlessly slips in diversity—Suzette and her mom are both black, while Lionel and his father are white, which leads to some uncomfortable glances from outsiders—and exploration of sexuality, Little & Lion is written beautifully, with an engaging plot and well-developed, realistic characters. I didn’t expect to love this novel as much as I did, and I certainly didn’t expect it to soon become one of my favorite novels of the year. I can’t pinpoint what exactly made me fall in love with this novel, but all I can say is this novel is the perfect combination of everything you could possibly hope for out of a YA contemporary. I highly recommend you pick it up.

Kav L., 16, is a booktuber and Prideathon co-host who loves media, books, and social justice. They are frequently active on Twitter and YouTube, talking about a combination of book-related and social justice-related topics. They enjoy fawning over James Carstairs, playing with their pets, consuming too much caffeine, and interacting with members of the book community.

Dreadnought, by April Daniels
Imagine if you could have anything in the world. For Danny, that meant being a girl. And her wish is granted by Dreadnought, the most famous superhero on the planet. Suddenly, Danny is a girl. And Dreadnought. But she doesn’t have much time to think about her role in life when she has to hunt down the last Dreadnought’s killer. I loved reading about Danny’s exploration of her new body and superpowers. Her isolation from the rest of the superheroes mimics the isolation she feels from her family. Not only did she have to wrangle her family members and fellow superheroes into understanding, but she also had to deal with her newfound powers. She could embrace being Dreadnought or leave it all behind. It was her choice, and I respect what she chose. The fantastical aspect of the book was handled in a unique manner. I’ve never thought of a web to explain how superheroes use their powers before. I can’t wait to see what’s next in Dreadnought’s story.

Hiya, I’m Wren L., the weirdo who watches anime and obsesses over fictional characters. Currently hiding in my hoodie.

Iron Cast, by Destiny Soria
I love historical fiction, especially anything having to do with Prohibition era. Iron Cast is about best friends Ada and Corinne and their lives as hemopaths—people with “afflicted” blood who can create art through illusion. The two are an unlikely pair, with Corinne being an outspoken heiress and Ada being a biracial daughter of immigrants. They create magic together at the Iron Cast club, a safe haven for homeopaths, and help keep it afloat. But when Ada is imprisoned at Faversham Asylum, their lives begin to unravel, danger at every turn. There needs to be more books about friendship between girls in YA and Iron Cast proves why. The friendship was everything and was written so beautifully. If you love awesome stories about friendship then Iron Cast is a definite must.

-Tatiana J. is a teen reader who always carries a book around and constantly has her headphones in. She is also an intersectional feminist who spends her time uplifting black and brown women. She spends way too much time listening to K-Pop and playing video games. 

Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu
Are you tired of reading about damsel in distress female characters? Are you tired of books where the female MC is the only girl in the bunch? Are you tired of reading about two girls fighting over some boring, one dimensional teenaged boy? I’ve got a feeling that you might be a Moxie girl. Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie is a fabulous, funny, feminist novel that is sure to be a favorite for years to come. Back in the 90s, Vivian’s mom was a wild, runaway Riot Grrl, but those days are long gone. The only remnants of those days are a cat named Joan Jett, and a box full of memories labeled “Misspent Youth” shoved in the back of her closet. After witnessing a string of sexist incidents at her high school, Viv decides to take a page out of her mom’s past and start a feminist zine called Moxie to vent her frustrations. Soon the girls at her school have bonded together in the name of Moxie, and Viv finds herself with a highly unexpected feminist revolution on her hands.

–Evalyn H., 16, loves scented candles, Broadway musicals, and strong female characters. She can usually be found hoarding books, struggling with character development, or daydreaming about having a pet dragon. 

Whichwoodby Tahereh Mafi
Whichwood follows Laylee, the only remaining mordeshoor in her town. She spends her days washing the dead bodies delivered to her doorstep, preparing their souls for their afterlife with a kind of magic only she possesses. As her strange occupation takes a toll on her, she grows weaker, losing her color and her magic. When two strangers (whom readers will recognize from Furthermore, to which this book is a companion) appear at Laylee’s house, she struggles with admitting her need for help and allowing her cold, silver exterior to melt. This book weaves a story of friendship together with magic and healing that will twist your heart one way and another. Laylee is the protagonist we could only dream of, with a strength still living in her withering form that makes her a special type of hero.

–Naomi N. is a YA-loving 16-year-old who spends her free time trying to decide what movie to watch, bullet journaling, resisting the urge to buy more books, writing short stories, and searching for new music to love. She hopes to fill her bookshelves and catch up on sleep in the near future.

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