30 of the Best YA Books of April

In this month’s best new YA releases, find blood magic and dastardly saints, small towns and big secrets, fatal resistance and history we should never forget. From an adorable fandom romance to a wrenching tale of grief to a Chinese myth–inspired fantasy debut, these are the books you’ll be lining your shelves with this April.

Wicked Saints, by Emily A. Duncan (April 2)
Just how bloody can a YA get? That’s a question really well answered by this darkest of the dark debuts, centered around a girl named Nadya, who’s her people’s last remaining all-powerful cleric. When the war that has always threatened comes knocking at the door of the very place that’s kept her safe her whole life, Nadya knows their best chance at salvation lies with her. Together with some unexpected travelers she meets along the way, she devises a plan to assassinate the heretic king. But along with all the anticipated dangers come some very new unexpected ones, as the line between allies and enemies blur, and so does the one between hate and love. If you’re the type of fantasy reader who’s in it for the villains, this is one trilogy opener you do not wanna miss.

The Devouring Gray, by Christine Lynn Herman (April 2)
A new girl moves to a secretive small town in Herman’s atmospheric modern Gothic, tipped as Stranger Things meets the Raven Cycle. Violet is the descendant of one of Four Paths’ founding families, and is thrown by the respect-bordering-on-fear paid to her by her new neighbors—until she meets a quartet of fellow founder family children, and learns there’s something fearsome about Four Paths after all. And then the bodies start turning up, setting the five teens on a twisting journey into the woods.

White Rose, by Kip Wilson (April 2)
This timely historical tale of resistance and sacrifice centers on the true story of Sophie and Hans Scholl, siblings and activists who stood up against the advancing tide of Nazism in their native Germany. The brother and sister formed resistance group the White Rose, devoted to distributing letters and leaflets to help undermine Nazi propaganda. Wilson’s debut focuses on Sophie Scholl and her brave, life-threatening stand against fascism.

The Princess and the Fangirl, by Ashley Poston (April 2)
If you loved Geekerella as much as we did, join us in being thrilled by the prospect of revisiting Poston’s world of Starfield fandom in this companion. Imogen Lovelace is desperate to keep her fave, Princess Amara, from being fridged out of her favorite franchise. Unfortunately, Jessica Stone, the actress behind Amara, isn’t dreading the impending death nearly as much. Jess’s done with fandom, done with expectations, and done with Excelsicon…after this year. But at the convention, Imogen gets mistaken for Jess, and it doesn’t lead to anything good between them. Then an important script leaks, and when Jess becomes the main suspect, the two girls will have to switch places to figure out who’s really behind it.

Since We Last Spoke, by Brenda Rufener (April 2)
In this wrenching tale of grief and star-crossed love, Rufener explores the fallout of a fatal car accident, and its effect on the younger siblings of the driver and passenger. Childhood friends, Aggi and Max had finally admitted they were in love with each other when the car accident ripped their worlds apart. Now, there’s more than just a restraining order standing between them—but after a year of silence, their friends conspire to bring them back together, to see if some of what was broken can be mended.

Forward Me Back to You, by Mitali Perkins (April 2)
Bringing one of the most unique storylines to this season, Perkins newest stars teen jujitsu champ Katina (aka, Kat) and Indian adoptee Robin, both struggling with their pasts. When they meet on a summer service trip in Kolkata where they’re working with victims of human trafficking, the growing connection between them proves an important ingredient in their respective journeys of healing from the past and moving into the future.

Defy Me, by Tahereh Mafi (April 2)
After taking a beat to write a bestselling, National Book Award longlisted contemporary, Mafi’s back to her Shatter Me series with book number five, which finds Juliette dealing with the fact that the person she thought she could trust most in the world has been keeping secrets from her that change everything she knows. If she can’t trust Warner, where can she get the answers she needs about who she really is, and what will she have to face down to do it?

We Rule the Night, by Claire Eliza Bartlett (April 2)
A factory worker and the daughter of a general, each facing punishment for defiant acts, team up in order to escape punishment. Pooling their magic, the two instant enemies set off on dangerous after-dark flights across enemy lines, learning to rely on each other in time of war.

Descendant of the Crane, by Joan He (April 9)
In this Chinese-inspired fantasy debut, a reluctant princess takes the throne under dark circumstances. Princess Hesina’s father has been murdered, and her inherited kingdom is in turmoil. She turns first to a soothsayer to guide her in finding his killer—though magic was long ago outlawed—then to a prickly investigator with his own criminal past.

In the Neighborhood of True, by Susan Kaplan Carlton (April 9)
You might not think a book set in 1959 could feel wildly relevant, but wow does this YA set in Atlanta that explores anti-Semitism in the south during the Civil Rights era feel incredibly on point after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. In both cases, the synagogue was specifically targeted for being not just a place of worship for Jews but for being active participants in the eternal American fight against racism. In the case of Carlton’s poignant novel, the rabbi at Shir Shalom is a strong advocate for integration, something protagonist Ruth feels she wants to advocate for too, in any way she can. But she’s already a secret outsider in the south, keeping her Judaism a secret from her new friends and especially her new boyfriend, who assume that she’s as Christian as her mother, who was once their town’s social queen. They don’t know her mother converted to Judaism later, or that her recently deceased father was Jewish, and Ruth, who’s finally learning to be happy again since losing her father, knows telling them means risking everything. But then the synagogue is bombed, and Ruth thinks she knows who did it. She’ll have to pick a side, but which one will it be and what will she lose in choosing it?

Through the White Wood, by Jessica Leake (April 9)
Katya is banished from her village because of her ability to control freezing magic, left to the mercy of Kiev’s terrible Prince Sasha. Except the prince becomes an unexpected ally, sharing his own power—to summon fire—and teaching her how to control and celebrate hers. But enemies are approaching the walls of Kiev, and the pair will soon learn whether fire and ice combined will be enough to turn them away.

In the Key of Nira Ghani, by Natasha Deen (April 9)
Nira Ghani hates being the only brown girl in a sea of white kids at her high school, and her Guayanese parents can’t begin to understand what she’s going through. They also can’t understand that she wants to be a musician, not a doctor or scientist. If she’s going to prove to them she’s talented enough to pursue music for real, her school’s jazz auditions are the place to do it. On top of that pressure, friendship dynamics seem to be shifting all around Nira, confusing her as to what’s real and who really has her best interests at heart. With music as her emotional safety net, the idea of her parents taking it away from her is unthinkable. But it turns out she has plenty to learn about them, too.

The Red Scrolls of Magic, by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu (April 9)
Malec fans, rejoice: in this Shadowhunters novel cowritten with novelist Chu, Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood head off on a romantic European vacation, where everything goes great and they stay in a gorgeous Airbnb. Just kidding: things start to go south—like, straight to hell south—in Paris, where they learn about the Crimson Hand, an anarchy-sowing demon-worshipping cult…that appears to have grown out of a years-old joke made by Magnus. The pair embark on a journey to track down the cult’s leader, facing many demons (of both the external and the internal variety) along the way.

How to Make Friends with the Dark, by Kathleen Glasgow (April 9)
Glasgow’s debut, the hard-hitting and poignant (and New York Times-bestelling) Girl in Pieces, was an incredible first foray into YA, so it’s no surprise that she nails every emotional nuance in this sophomore, about a girl named Tiger who has always been a two-person team with her mother, and must now figure out how to continue to live when her mother dies.

When Summer Ends, by Jessica Pennington (April 9)
The arrival of summer is the impetus for two lost teens to find a new path in the latest from the author of Love Songs & Other Lies. Aiden is a gifted athlete who quit the baseball team without warning, hiding the fact that he’s losing both his vision and his imagined path. Olivia lives life by the book, but when she loses an internship and a boyfriend, and regains the estranged mother she’d gotten used to living without, everything is thrown out of whack. Over the long summer months, the two explore the ways new love can offer a new perspective on everything.

The Raven’s Tale, by Cat Winters (April 16)
Gothic tale teller Winters finds inspiration in a very Gothic place: the haunted mind and dissatisfied childhood of Edgar Allan Poe. Her Poe is seventeen years old, intellectually hungry, and counting down the days until he can trade in his wealthy foster family for university and married life. But his life falls apart with the arrival of a Muse named Lenore. Muses are fearsome harbingers of disgrace, that lead artists to misery and ruin. But once Lenore starts making demands of Poe, he has little choice but to heed her…

An Anatomy of Beasts, by Olivia A. Cole (April 16)
It’s always a delight when great adult SFF authors leap over the YA line, which Cole did with last year’s A Conspiracy of Stars. Now she’s back with the sequel, which finds Octavia in an even more precarious position. Now that she’s uncovered the Council leader’s secrets and helped a kidnapped indigenous man escape, she knows her safety, and peace between the N’Terra and the Faloii, is at risk. When the indigenous Faloii discover the N’Terran’s artificially weaponized creature, Octavia and her friends must embark on the research project to end all research projects in order to make peace and change the planet of Faloiv’s dangerous future.

Last Girl Lied To, by L.E. Flynn (April 16)
This sophomore stars Fiona, who has just lost her best friend, Trixie, to what’s being ruled a suicide. Fiona doesn’t know about that, or much about anything, since she can’t remember the night in question. But she doesn’t believe Fiona is dead, and is determined to find out the truth for herself. When her hunt leads her to two different boys, one of whom was hooking up with Trixie and the other of whom rejected Fiona, it’s the beginning of discovering that maybe the biggest mystery of all was Trixie herself.

Serious Moonlight, by Jenn Bennett (April 16)
Jenn Bennett’s contemporary romances are perpetually my most anticipated books in any given year, so of course I’m all over this one between book-loving Birdie and charismatic Daniel, who meet when they end up working at the same Seattle hotel. Birdie’s used to being insular and living in the pages of her novels, especially thanks to her strict upbringing, so she looks forward to the change to get out of her shell at her new job. Thankfully, Daniel is the perfect guide to getting out there, but when he drags them into a mystery, has he gone too far out there? And have her feelings joined him?

The Meaning of Birds, by Jaye Robin Brown (April 16)
Wanna get punched in the gut real fast? Try to keep your heart from breaking after approximately one chapter of Brown’s third novel, about a girl named Jess whose anger issues flare when the one person who calmed them is taken from her. Alternating between the now, when Jess’s girlfriend Vivi has just passed away after a sudden illness, and the before, when Vivi first waltzed into Jess’s life with her love for birds and her support for Jess’s artistic talent, this is a book that tugs readers in all directions. Jess is trying to get a grip on her temper, but it’ll take getting sent to disciplinary school to find a surprising way back to herself.

Starworld, by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner (April 16)
Take one author who’s already big in queer YA fantasy but has never published contemporary, and one who specializes in wrenching, brilliant contemps about friends and family but has never published one with a queer lead, and what do you get? Frankly, the best of all worlds. This is a beautiful collaboration about two girls who find the most unlikely escape in each other and the virtual world they create through their texts. But Sam is still figuring out her sexuality (and leaning toward lesbian), while Zoe is straight and has no idea Sam isn’t. Coming from such different worlds, they never seemed to make sense as friends, and when Sam develops romantic feelings Zoe can’t reciprocate, it might spell the end of everything they’ve had.

If I’m Being Honest, by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (April 23)
Once again heavily inspired both implicitly and explicitly by Shakespeare (in this case, The Taming of the Shrew), this duo’s sophomore novel focuses on Cameron, a girl whose beauty makes her popular and whose bluntness makes her…occasionally a little less so. When the guy she wants decides the ugly side of her might be a little too ugly for him to tolerate, Cameron decides to take on a project to prove to him that underneath her prickly shell beats a heart of gold. But when she starts off her apology whirlwind tour with Brendan, whose life she kinda ruined with a terrible nickname, she’s stunned to find there may be someone who’s capable of liking her for exactly who she is.

The Tiger at Midnight, by Swati Teerdhala (April 23)
In this trilogy starter inspired by Hindu mythology and Indian history, the fates of a soldier and a rebel collide, changing the course of their world. Kunal is a duty-bound soldier and nephew to the dangerous General Hotha, who ruthlessly enforces Kunal’s obedience. Esha is the infamous Viper, committing acts of revenge on the wicked and the powerful—and her next target is the general.

How Not to Ask a Boy to Prom, by S.J. Goslee (April 23)
It’s only junior year, but Nolan’s already given up on finding romantic happiness in high school; Pine Valley is just not the place where gay boys find their happily ever after. But his sister refuses to let Nolan’s cynicism reign, and when she nabs him a junior-senior prom ticket, he has no choice but to play along. Is love in the cards for him after all?

King of Fools, by Amanda Foody (April 30)
In Ace of Shades, Enne Salta followed her missing mother to the sinful city of New Reynes, where she joined forces with conman Levi Glaisyer and set off on a hunt through the city’s seedy, glittering underbelly. In this sequel, the two are more entangled than ever, with a shared bounty on their heads. Levi tries his hand at empire-building, while Enne balances her twin identities as fine lady and lord of the streets. The stakes climb, dangerous new figures enter from the wings, and the two find themselves balanced between utter ruin and unimaginable greatness.

Hot Dog Girl, by Jennifer Dugan (April 30)
God, that cover. Every time we look at it we want to die of laughter, and yes, the book is every bit as charming and funny. It stars Elouise Parker, aka Lou, as the titular hot dog girl—the girl with the delightful position of dressing up as a dancing hot dog at Magic Castle Playland. The park also employs Nick, the pirate on whom Lou is hopelessly (seeing as he already has a girlfriend) crushing, and Seeley, Lou’s best friend, who’s decidedly uninterested in Lou’s efforts to find a replacement for the girl who broke her heart just a few months earlier. It’s the most special place in the world to Lou, so the announcement that it’s the park’s last season sends her into a tailspin. Can she save the park and get the guy? Or will her terrible methods of creating the perfect summer blow up in her face, while also proving she still has a lot to learn about what people (including her) really want?

Belly Up, by Eva Darrows (April 30)
It’s quite a time for Serendipity “Sara” Rodriguez. She’s being moved to a new school, away from her best friend. She’s questioning her sexuality. She’s constantly struggling with her biracial identity. Oh, and she got pregnant at a party by a guy whose last name and number she didn’t get, and must decide on her own what she’s gonna do about it. Luckily, she finds the perfect new group of friends at school, friends who also ID as queer and help her feel comfortable in her own skin—including extremely cute demisexual Romani boy Leaf, who feeds her and falls for her and confuses the path she’s chosen for herself. Complicated? A little bit. Warmhearted and affirming? Definitely. This book is billed as Juno meets Gilmore Girls and it definitely fits, if those books were set in a world where everyone was familiar with or at least open to Tumblr discourse on gender and sexuality, and if they actually had transgender and asexual secondary characters.

Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak, by Adi Alsaid (April 30)
Lu’s supposed to be writing a column about love and relationships, but it’s hard to write about matters of the heart when yours has just been shattered, even if your job and scholarship are on the line. Her best friend, Pete, thinks he has the perfect solution: write through it, baring her soul on the page for her readers. But Lu’s got a better idea: write about another couple doing the pre-college breakup thing. Cal and Iris have a different approach, having pushed their breakup to the end of summer rather than the beginning, and it’s making Lu crave more information. Have Cal and Iris made a mistake, or has Lu? Are they prolonging heartbreak, or love? Lu only has the summer to figure it out and save her future…and maybe her heart, too.

Hearts Made for Breaking, by Jen Klein (April 30)
Contemp YA romance favorite Klein is back with a How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days–esque story about a girl named Lark who’s the queen of smooth breakups. But what some see as a skill, her best friends, Cooper and Katie, see as a depressing missed opportunity. With no risk comes no reward, and doesn’t Lark want to experience real love, and even the real heartbreak that accompanies it? To get them off her back, Lark agrees to date Andy, a challenging guy she would never go for under normal circumstances. Like, sure, whatever. But what happens when Andy’s an outlier in more ways than one?

Love From A to Z, by S.K. Ali (April 30)
You (should) already know Ali from her excellent Saints and Misfits, a brave and nuanced take on assault within religious communities, and her second novel sounds way too good to ignore. When Zayneb gets suspended for responding to her teacher’s Islamophobia, she takes off early for spring break at her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar. The fact that no one there knows her makes it the perfect place to try out being a newer, nicer version of herself, someone who wouldn’t have gotten her friends in trouble the way she did. Then she meets Aiden, who has his own secret life, hiding his recent multiple sclerosis diagnosis from his grieving father and doing everything in his power to simply make life lovely for his little sister. They’re both hiding things. They’re both doing the best they can for the others in their lives. And they might be the best thing that could happen to each other.

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