A teen novelist, set loose in New York City after her debut sells big. A girl mutated by fever, just discovering the extent of her new supernatural powers. The dregs of the human race, fighting to survive alien invasion. In the best teen books of the year, young protagonists navigate life in our world and at the end of it. They struggle to survive and thrive in imagined universes, dead-end towns, and deep under the sea. These are the year’s most moving, heart-pounding, and engrossing teen books.
Afterworlds (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Scott Westerfeld
Teenaged Darcy Patel writes a paranormal romance novel in a 30-day haze of inspired speed-writing, then rapidly finds an agent and a publisher. The story of her entrance into the New York publishing world—rewrites, overpriced apartments, first love, figuring out how to write the elusive sequel, hanging out with a thinly veiled fictional version of John Green—is told in alternating chapters with her novel, which opens with a crackerjack scene of terrorism and semi-death at an airport, and jumps between the real world and an eerie Afterworld from there. The novel bursts with cleverness and a love of writing (and reading) that will send you straight back to the languishing manuscript draft on your own laptop.
Atlantia, by Ally Condie
Sisters Bay and Rio have spent their lives in Atlantia, an underwater habitat humans fled to after the atmosphere on Earth became unlivable. After their mother’s death, Rio promised Bay she’d never leave her, despite her longstanding dream of working Above, where former Atlantians handle food supply for the colony Below. When Bay betrays Rio, going Above without her, Rio will do anything to find out why—but as she sets out to find answers, she must hide the fact that she’s a Siren, a secret that could change the course of her life. Condie’s well-wrought water world provides a compelling setting for this achingly romantic story of loss, rivalry, and first love.
The Bane Chronicles, by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson
Magnus Bane, the gorgeous, powerful High Warlock of Brooklyn, is perhaps the most beloved character to spring from Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters books, which include the Infernal Devices and Mortal Instruments series. The former takes place in Victorian London, the latter in present-day New York, and the half-demon, centuries-old Bane is part of both worlds. Bane has been everywhere and done everything, and his fascination extends beyond the series he was created for. In this story collection, written by Clare and fellow authors Johnson and Brennan, Bane takes center stage and becomes the kind of charistmatic, larger-than-life figure readers never forget. Bonus points for the irresistible story titles, including “The Course of True Love (And First Dates)” and “The Voicemail of Magnus Bane.”
Hardcover $22.49 | $24.99
City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments Series #6), by Cassandra Clare
The action-packed wrap-up to Clare’s Mortal Instruments series starts with a bang and never lets up, as Clary and her fellow Shadowhunters face off against her wildly powerful, long-estranged brother. Clare builds entire supernatural worlds from the ground up, displaying a seemingly endless talent for invention and for keeping the stakes high. Readers will thrill at the way she folds elements of her steampunk-tinged Infernal Devices series into heroine Clary Fray’s final chapter.
Eleanor & Park (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Rainbow Rowell
This is the story of two high school juniors who meet on the school bus and hate each other at first sight. Eleanor is an awkward, eccentrically dressed new girl, and Park’s a medium-popular boy who just wants to keep his head down and get through the day. But after he lets Eleanor take the seat beside him (a big social risk), things start to change, and slowly those bus rides together become the best part of their days. From this modest setup blooms one of the best love stories ever told in teen literature. It bristles with wit and heartbreak, pitch-perfect pop culture references, and a breathtakingly observed slow-growing romance. The B&N Exclusive edition includes a Q&A with author Rowell, as well as several works of art that beautifully capture fans’ interpretation of the title pair.
Endgame: The Calling (Endgame Series #1), by James Frey, Nils Johnson-Shelton
Across the globe, meteorites streak to earth, wreaking destruction and killing thousands. The world braces itself for what’s next, but only a select group knows the truth: the celestial attack marks the beginning of the Endgame, in which 12 teens, each the descendant of an ancient line, must enter into a race to find three keys hidden by a higher alien order that holds the future of the world in its hands. The winner will save not only herself but her people, while those represented by the 11 losing descendants will die. The teens come from all over the world, each the product of a very different upbringing, and readers will be fascinated to see the way they work together and apart. Shifting loyalties and unexpected twists deliver on the fresh premise, in the first book of a planned interactive trilogy.
Four: A Divergent Collection, by Veronica Roth
Roth’s Divergent series ended last year, but this collection of four stories plus exclusive new material revives one of its most beloved characters, giving him a story that stands on its own. Four follows its namesake character from his life-changing decision, at age 16, to join Dauntless and change his name, leaving behind his harsh family life and the child he was. But everything changes with the arrival of Tris, the girl who can help him reclaim his past and lay the groundwork for a brighter future. This collection has all the adventure, romance, and twists that carried fans through the bestselling trilogy, and lots more insight on its intriguingly opaque male lead.
Hardcover $17.16 | $18.99
Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
When last we saw Miss Peregine’s intrepid, eternally youthful crew, they were on the move, leaving the school that had lent them supernatural shelter for so many years. Riggs’ blend of fast-paced, supernatural mystery and mind-bending vintage photographs made his debut novel a runaway success, and now his peculiar children are heading to London, led by Jacob, an outsider with an unexpected link to Miss Peregrine’s charges. By transposing his eccentric magical milieu into London’s clashing old-and-new landscape, complete with a new series of eerie photographs, Riggs has created a follow-up that more than matches the standard set by his daringly original fiction debut.
The Infinite Sea (Fifth Wave Series #2), by Rick Yancey
Alien invasion tale The Fifth Wave won readers over with its insistent, action-packed pace, scary plot twists, and all-too-believable world building. Now, follow-up The Infinite Sea has dialed up the tension even higher, as the remaining five percent of the human race struggles to survive in the face of merciless aliens intent on eliminating it. Much of the story is told from the point of view of Ringer, an equally merciless marksman and supporting character in the first book who joins survivors Ben and Cassie in their mission to both stay alive and fight back. Get ready for endless double crosses and a finale that will shock you.
Panic, by Lauren Oliver
In Oliver’s first standalone teen title since 2010’s Before I Fall, the dead-end town of Carp, NY, is taken over by Panic, a high-stakes game played yearly by graduating seniors that takes place both in secret and in plain sight. Heather and Dodge each have their own reason for needing to win Panic, but their resolve will be brutally tested over the course of one increasingly dangerous summer. Oliver’s is one of the most indelible voices in teen lit, and her deeply specific, precisely observed prose will transport you to her heat-blasted fictional town.
Hardcover $13.29 | $18.99
Redeemed (B&N Exclusive Edition) (House of Night Series #12), by P. C. Cast
Redeemed ends Cast’s House of Night books with a bang. Protagonist Zoey Redbird has gone from green inductee into a world of vampires and other things that go bump in the night, to the proud inheritor of not one but two magical legacies: she’s a Nyx-touched vampyre with the ability to summon the elements, and she’s able to access Old Magick. This rare combination makes her key in a world-shaking battle between good and evil, after a vengeful goddess is unleashed on the human world. Cast creates a world in which ancient terrors exist side by side with pop-culture-savvy teens, making this book an irresistible mashup of magic and wit.
Hardcover $17.09 | $18.99
The Rule of Thoughts (Mortality Doctrine Series #2), by James Dashner
Three teen gamers enter a virtual world to battle a very real threat in Dashner’s new Mortality Doctrine series. In book one, protagonist Michael discovers a terrifying truth about his existence, and follow-up The Rule of Thoughts finds him attempting to save the minds of humanity from being taken over by sentient bits of code. Dashner ably handles his bravura setup, where anything can happen and nothing can be taken for granted.
Skink—No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen
This rollicking novel takes place in Hiaasen’s Florida, a lawless place of unpredictable wildlife, bad weather, and characters as colorful as a crayon box. When 14-year-old Malley runs off with a stranger she met online to escape being sent to boarding school, Wild Skink—a charismatic and slightly crazy ex-governor of Florida turned eco-warrior, and beloved veteran of six previous Hiaasen novels—sets off on her trail, with Malley’s teenaged cousin in tow. The two get in and out of trouble across their swampy state in this first installment in a new series. Hilarious setpieces, a larger-than-life hero, and of course Hiaasen’s inimitable voice make Skink the kind of book you want to read twice.
Unbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive (The Young Adult Adaptation), by Laura Hillenbrand
Olympic athlete turned World War II pilot Louis Zamperini survived more than a month spent boiling and starving on a life raft after he crashed into the Pacific ocean, only to be taken as a prisoner of war when he finally reached land. Hillenbrand’s breathtaking book of survival and perseverance sold in the millions and is coming to movie theaters Christmas Day—and now it’s available to teen readers in an adaptation that loses none of the original’s punch.
We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
The year’s most talked-about teen book breaks your heart twice, first with the knife-edged beauty of its prose, then with a disorienting ending that will send you racing back to page one to read it all over again. Cadence is the granddaughter of a wealthy man with three beautiful, dysfunctional daughters, and something terribly wrong happened to her on the family island last summer. When she and her mother return to the island, she’s reunited with her fellow “liars,” two cousins and the family friend she’s always loved. As the weeks pass, punctuated by debilitating migraines and elliptical conversations with her family and the liars, Cadence fights to fill in the blank spaces in her memory, left over from a night when everything changed.
The Young Elites, by Marie Lu
Acclaimed Legend author Lu is back with a new supernatural series set in a dangerous monarchy, in the years after a blood fever sweeps the land. Adelina Amouteru survived the fever, but it left her with an eerily altered appearance and abilities beyond her understanding. These make her a member of the Young Elites, all of them similarly gifted survivors, and 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 this nail-biting, empowering tale, Adelina can’t truly trust either side—all she knows for sure is that she’s never going to be a victim again. In writing Adelina, Lu dodges easy outs and fantasy stereotypes, allowing her heroine to emerge as the agent of her own destiny.