20. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
While many fantasy novels focus on magic, world building, and politics, Dennard’s Truthwitch does something surprisingly different. She weaves a story of friendship in which two witches, born with gifts that make them desired by the elite, depend on one another to survive.
Each witch in this world specializes in unique abilities, and the titular Truthwitch has the ability to detect truth amidst lies—a dangerous and valued skill. The kick-off to an epic series, this story of two best friends against the world will have you loving every single page.
19. This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
You can tell by its cover that Nijkamp’s debut will leave you gutted and emotional. This Is Where It Ends takes place over a mere 54 minutes during a school shooting, shifting perspectives between the people trapped inside and those trying to find help outside. With memorable characters and scenes of haunting bravery, this novel will leave you hungry for more of Nijkamp’s prose.
18. A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry
A magical realist tale inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter”? There’s so much to love about it. In A Fierce and Subtle Poison, we meet Lucas, a teen who spends his summers in Puerto Rico where he’s heard legends of a girl with poison in her veins. When Lucas’ girlfriend vanishes and he discovers the cursed girl, mysteries take over his summer and lives hang in the balance. Literary references diverse characters a story drenched in magical realism = one beautiful book.
17. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
In Chokshi’s bestselling debut, the stars have cursed a princess with the promise that she’ll rain down death and destruction on her kingdom. So she pursues books and research, only to have them ripped away as she’s forced into a surprise wedding and crowned queen of a new land. Brimming with magic, reincarnation and romance, The Star-Touched Queen will leave you anxiously awaiting 2017’s forthcoming sequel.
16. Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana
Many YA books deal with teens trying to find their place in the world, but Khorana explores this concept in her debut novel with a sci-fi spin that makes for one of the most powerful reads of the year. It’s one thing to question your place in the universe, but it’s another altogether when the people around you, who appear to have it all figured out, fall into existential crises of their own. Why? Because A MIRROR VERSION OF EARTH IS DISCOVERED ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.
A novel about family, race, and discovering who you are, Mirror in the Sky promises a unique read that blends YA contemporary struggles with imaginative science fiction.
15. Marked by Jenny Martin
One of Paste’s most anticipated YA releases of the year, Marked is the thrilling sequel to Martin’s Star Wars meets Mad Max: Fury Road debut, Tracked. Set in a future where mankind travels the solar system and corporations own the planets, the novel follows a street racer leading a rebellion against monstrous organizations. Without spoiling the first book, Marked ultimately explores the impact one person can have in the wake of seemingly insurmountable odds.
14. The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
Sure to catalyze the most intense cry you’ll have in 2016, The First Time She Drowned introduces readers to a teen with a monster of a mother. Obsessed with having a perfect family and reclaiming her lost youth, the girl’s mother proceeds to lock up our dear protagonist in a mental institution. Told in shifting time frames, from the period in the hospital to scenes with the family, it’s a heartbreaking read about a girl trying to figure out who she is in the wake of the lies she’s been told.
13. The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh
Ahdieh reimagined The Arabian Nights last year in her captivating novel The Wrath & the Dawn, and now she’s returned to the lush setting in The Rose & the Dagger. The sequel picks up where the first novel ended, with a curse hanging over Shahrzad and Khalid. Will Shahrzad’s magic be powerful enough to save the kingdom? You’ll just have to read this exciting conclusion to Ahdieh’s duology to find out.
12. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
What does it mean to be a monster? And who gets to define what is evil? These questions rest at the heart of Schwab’s latest smash. Set in a world where the evil people have done manifests into terrifying beasts, This Savage Song takes place in a city where humans and monsters occupy opposite sides, maintaining a barely-acceptable truce. As people and monsters are getting attacked, a tense friendship develops between the children of each side’s leader—and the secrets they unravel could change everything.
11. The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson
Full disclosure: there’s a blurb from me on the back of this book—and with good cause. Anderson’s debut novel is a geeky Shakespearean retelling that tosses Much Ado About Nothing into a comic book store. The result is a hilarious contemporary romance that pays tribute to everything in the geek canon from Firefly to Doctor Who.
In the novel, Trixie is a teen girl to beat her archenemy, Ben, in class rank. They’ve been battling since they were kids… and it continues long into their teens. Their shift from enemies to sort-of-friends to maybe enemies again makes for a hilariously heartfelt YA comedy full of pop culture and complicated relationships.