October has been a fantastic month for Young Adult books—and not for the sort you might expect. Despite this being the month of Halloween, many of these books are anything but scary.
From hilarious romance in Lauren Morrill’s My Unscripted Life to thrilling historical fantasy in Destiny Sora’s Iron Cast, there’s not much to be afraid of in Paste’s top picks for the best YA books of October.
Well, except for disappearing villagers, dead girls washing up on beaches, witches, missing girlfriends…Okay, maybe this month does offer a mix of sweet and scary reads.
Enjoy, and choose wisely.
1 of 10
1. Aerie by Maria Dahvana Headley
Release Date: October 4th from HarperCollins
Why You'll Love It: The sequel to Headley's bestselling Magonia, Aerie picks up where that stunner of a novel left off with Aza Ray, a teen who found herself living amongst the clouds in a world ready for war with those of us on the ground. She's back on Earth, however, and trying to get things back to the way they were.
It's a fantasy novel about being torn between two worlds: the one to which you're supposed to belong, and the one you desperately want to join. Music, magic, and ships in the sky… Headley's YA fantasy novels are books to be cherished and promptly inhaled.
Description: Aza Ray is back on earth. Her boyfriend Jason is overjoyed. Her family is healed. She's living a normal life, or as normal as it can be if you've spent the past year dying, waking up on a sky ship, and discovering that your song can change the world.
As in, not normal. Part of Aza still yearns for the clouds, no matter how much she loves the people on the ground.
When Jason's paranoia over Aza's safety causes him to make a terrible mistake, Aza finds herself a fugitive in Magonia, tasked with opposing her radical, bloodthirsty, recently-escaped mother, Zal Quel, and her singing partner Dai. She must travel to the edge of the world in search of a legendary weapon, The Flock, in a journey through fire and identity that will transform her forever.
2 of 10
2. Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
Release Date: October 4th from Feiwel & Friends
Why You'll Love It: Roehrig's debut novel, Last Seen Leaving, is one of the best books of the year. End of story. The narrative will haunt you long after you've finished the final page, as Roehrig crafts a thrilling mystery unlike anything I've read in a long, long time.
The story? Flynn's girlfriend disappears, and as people investigate him, he finds himself investigating what happened to her while attempting to hide his own secrets. Pick up this book and then anxiously wait for the inevitable movie, because it certainly reads like one.
Description: Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something.
But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.
3 of 10
3. The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia
Release Date: October 4th from Imprint
Why You'll Love It: There's something about YA novels with fast cars and insane risks that I just can't resist. From the sci-fi spin on The Fast and the Furious that was Jenny Martin's Tracked series to Anna Banks' romantic and quirky Joyride, give me a book with a bit of racing and I'm in.
In Garcia's latest, we're introduced to a teenager wrestling with the trauma of her boyfriend's death. She's shifting her worldview from that of a studious, privileged student to a reckless (hence the title) kid unconcerned with her own safety. But when a street racing boy comes into her life, things start to unravel. Lots of thrills and hints of mystery make The Lovely Reckless impossible to put down.
Description: Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend's death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that's what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don't faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.
Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?
4 of 10
4. Nemesis by Anna Banks
Release Date: October 4th from Feiwel & Friends
Why You'll Love It: Banks is one of those rare authors who can genre hop and make it seem totally effortless. Her debut trilogy, The Syrena Legacy, delivered a blend of contemporary and fantasy genres with mermaids and swoon-filled romance. Her first YA contemporary novel, Joyride, was one of Paste's favorite YA books of 2015. And now, Banks is diving into hard fantasy with the first book in her Nemesis series.
Nemesis is an epic YA fantasy set in a world of Serubel, where a teen princess creates energy for her kingdom… and has to go on the run when her family seeks to turn her gift into a weapon. It's your classic enemies-falling-for-one-another story, but with inventive magic.
Description: Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king's servitude.
Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention, but Mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.
Sepora's gift may be able to save Tarik's kingdom. But should she risk exposing herself and her growing feelings for her nemesis?
5 of 10
5. Replica by Lauren Oliver
Release Date: October 4th from HarperCollins
Why You'll Love It: You can consider this the most unique Young Adult novel of 2016 and call it a day. Oliver's Replica is wildly inventive, combining two stories of two girls into one novel. On one side of Replica, you get Lyra's story, and on the other side (and I'm talking physically flipping the book over and upside down to begin reading from the back cover), you get Gemma's story.
You can read both narratives separately, or you can alternate chapters and flip the book back and forth. It's an awesome reading experience, and the book is absolutely gorgeous. As for the story, it's a sci-fi novel about clones and dark secrets. So you won't just love the physical book; you'll love the story tucked away inside.
Description: Lyra's story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida. From a distance, it looks serene and even beautiful. But up close, the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape.
Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family's past and discovers her father's mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.
6 of 10
6. When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Release Date: October 4th from St. Martin's Griffin
Why You'll Love It: Longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, McLemore's latest novel is a treasure of magical realism. When the Moon was Ours weaves a story of love and friendship, exploring the lengths you'll go to protect the people you care about.
I highly recommend picking up McLemore's debut, The Weight of Feathers, and keeping an eye out for one of our most-anticipated books of 2017, Wild Beauty.
Description: To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel's wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.
But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel's skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they're willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
7 of 10
7. Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Release Date: October 11th from Sky Pony Press
Why You'll Love It: This YA novel blends fantasy with elements of horror in a story about witches, creatures of the sea, and terrifying magic. An exciting debut from a rising voice (Marsh has a duology coming soon from Penguin and a number of picture books scheduled in the coming years), Fear the Drowning Deep is a must read for lovers of history and dark family secrets.
Description: Witch's apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.
Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey's suspicions about the sea. No one but the island's witch, who isn't as frightening as she first appears, and Flynn, the dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn's stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well guarded by the sea.
Now, Bridey must work with the Isle's eccentric witch and the boy she isn't sure she can trust. If she can't uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.
8 of 10
8. Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
Release Date: October 11th from Harry N. Abrams
Why You'll Love It:Iron Cast is a diverse YA alternate-history-fantasy set in 1920s Boston—perfect for fans of Libba Bray, Lindsay Smith, and Anne Blankman, who all play with history and explore the magical. Pair this debut novel with Sarah Glenn Marsh's Fear the Drowning Deep, and you've got a perfect week of memorable characters and vividly imagined worlds.
Description: Corinne and Ada, hemopaths whose "afflicted blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, have been best friends ever since gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny's crowds at the Cast Iron Club, and by day they con Boston's elite. But when a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is.
After Ada escapes, two of the Cast Iron's hires are shot and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.
9 of 10
9. My Unscripted Life by Lauren Morrill
Release Date: October 11th from Delacorte Press
Why You'll Love It: Morrill is one of those YA contemporary authors who seems to have a new book out every year, each more charming than the last. Her latest, My Unscripted Life, is a story about a girl who meets an international pop star and the resulting love story that spins out of their chance meeting. It's packed full of the swoons and laughter readers expect from a Morrill book.
If you've never read one of her delicious rom-coms, pick this one up and then immediately grab The Trouble with Destiny, which came out just last year. Romance and band geeks on a cruise ship? Yes, please.
Description: Dee Wilkie is still licking her wounds after getting rejected by the precollege fine arts program of her dreams. But if she'd gone away, she wouldn't have been around to say yes to an unbelievable opportunity: working on the set of a movie filming in her small Southern town that just happens to be starring Milo Ritter, the famous pop star Dee (along with the rest of the world) has had a crush since eighth grade.
It's not like Dee will be sharing any screen time with Milo—she's just a lowly PA. And Milo is so disappointingly rude that Dee is eager to stay far away from him. Except after a few chance meetings, she begins to wonder if just maybe there's a reason for his offensive attitude, and if there's more to Milo than his good looks and above-it-all Hollywood pedigree. Can a relationship with a guy like Milo ever work out for a girl like Dee? Never say never. . .
10 of 10
10. I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Gretchen McNeil
Release Date: October 18th from Balzer + Bray
Why You'll Love It: McNeil's thrillers and fantasy novels are just fantastic, from Ten to the Don't Get Mad series. With her latest novel, she finally enters the world of contemporary romance, and the resulting read is a fantastic one.
The story? A teen reinvents herself using a mathematical formula to have a perfect life in high school, transforming herself into a manic pixie dream girl. But maybe that's not what she wants, and maybe changing herself isn't the key to happiness.
From the title alone, you know you'll want to read I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl. It's also perfect for fans of Lauren Morrill, Kody Keplinger, Lauren Gibaldi, and Morgan Matson.
Description: Beatrice Maria Estrella Giovannini has life all figured out. She's starting senior year at the top of her class, she's a shoo-in for a scholarship to M.I.T., and she's got a new boyfriend she's crazy about. The only problem: All through high school Bea and her best friends Spencer and Gabe have been the targets of horrific bullying.
So Bea uses her math skills to come up with The Formula, a 100% mathematically guaranteed path to social happiness in high school. Now Gabe is on his way to becoming Student Body President, and Spencer is finally getting his art noticed. But when her boyfriend Jesse dumps her for Toile, the quirky new girl at school, Bea realizes it's time to use The Formula for herself. She'll be reinvented as the eccentric and lovable Trixie—a quintessential manic pixie dream girl—in order to win Jesse back and beat new-girl Toile at her own game.
Unfortunately, being a manic pixie dream girl isn't all it's cracked up to be, and "Trixie" is causing unexpected consequences for her friends. As The Formula begins to break down, can Bea find a way to reclaim her true identity and fix everything she's messed up? Or will the casualties of her manic pixie experiment go far deeper than she could possibly imagine?