The school year is starting back up and we know you need the perfect reads to ease you back in. What better way to deal with real life than by living vicariously through someone else’s? For those who love contemporary realistic fiction, these are the books everyone’s gonna be talking about this season, so get out on top and treat yourself to a great read or seven!
Permanent Record, by Mary H.K. Choi
Choi debuted with a major splash via Emergency Contact, one of the best and most relatable contemporaries I’ve read in a good long while, and one of the small but growing group of YAs set in college. Her followup keeps the college-aged main character, though not the setting, as Pablo’s dropped out of NYU and is now working the graveyard shift at a Brooklyn deli and sweating his piles of debt. But there’s a major bright side to his job when it introduces him to Leanna, who shows up at his bodega at five in the morning in the middle of the winter. Leanna, who’s actually a pop star. Leanna, who’s about to change Pablo’s life and have hers changed right back.
Jackpot, by Nic Stone
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, which 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?
Frankly in Love, by David Yoon
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…
Full Disclosure, by Camryn Garrett
This debut about an adopted HIV-positive girl falling in love and wanting to learn about sex for the first time, while also questioning her bisexuality as she reflects on the girl who broke both her trust and her heart, feels like it was written by a (brilliant, insightful) teen in all the best ways: it’s sharp, authentic, funny, romantic, real, and bursting with personality. Simone Garcia-Hampton has walked on eggshells as much as anyone with her directorial talent and bold personality can, but now she’s at a new school and she’s tired of putting life on hold, even if she has to work harder than ever to keep being positive a secret. When sparks ignite between her and Miles, Simone is thrilled to finally get to experience romance again for the first time since she was betrayed by someone she trusted. Then it threatens to happen all over again as a blackmailer warns Simone that if she doesn’t tell Miles about her status soon, they will. Now Simone has to decide who she can trust, what relationships are worth saving, and when it’s time to let go and live on your own terms.
10 Blind Dates, by Ashley Elston
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 family, 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 should be exactly what Sophie wants, if only she hadn’t already gone and fallen for someone else. Honestly, this sounds like the most wildly fun holiday rom com of my dreams, and I can’t wait to see who steals Sophie’s heart.
Look Both Ways, by Jason Reynolds
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.
All-American Muslim Girl, by Nadine Jolie Courtney
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?