May is a fantastic month for Young Adult books, boasting highly anticipated debut novels, thrilling new series and more. From a historic fantasy novel that reads like The Time Traveler’s Wife written by Ruta Sepetys to the most spectacularly geeky novel I’ve read all year, this month’s best YA books offer amazing reads.
Let’s do this.
1. Cold Summer by Gwen Cole
Release Date: May 2nd From Sky Pony Press
Why You’ll Love It: Have you ever read The Time Traveler’s Wife? You’ll discover the same level of emotion woven throughout Cold Summer. The novel delivers a gorgeous journey through a meticulously researched world, as Gwen Cole drops her main character into the trenches of World War II—and then returns him to the present. It’s a story of friendships and mental health, and it’s spectacular.
For Fans of:
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger; Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein
Description: Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future. Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.
Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.
When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.
But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him
2. Dreamfall by Amy Plum
Release Date: May 2nd from HarperTeen
Why You’ll Love It: The international bestselling author Amy Plum is back with a new series that’s sure to thrill readers who loved her After the End and Revenants books. If you’ve read any of her other novels, you’ll know that Plum is amazing at genre blending. And in Dreamfall, she combines elements of sci-fi and fantasy to tell a story of mysterious dreams and darkest fears.
For Fans of:
Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith; Dreamology by Lucy Keating (though neither of these books are as chilling as Dreamfall)
Description: Cata Cordova suffers from such debilitating insomnia that she agreed to take part in an experimental new procedure. She thought things couldn’t get any worse…but she was terribly wrong.
Soon after the experiment begins, there’s a malfunction with the lab equipment, and Cata and six other teen patients are plunged into a shared dreamworld with no memory of how they got there. Even worse, they come to the chilling realization that they are trapped in a place where their worst nightmares have come to life. Hunted by creatures from their darkest imaginations and tormented by secrets they’d rather keep buried, Cata and the others will be forced to band together to face their biggest fears. And if they can’t find a way to defeat their dreams, they will never wake up
3. Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
Release Date: May 2nd from Sourcebooks Fire
Why You’ll Love It: A novel that reads like a warm summer afternoon, Laura Silverman’s debut is a charming novel full of diverse characters. It’s the sort of story that feels so very real, with teens wrestling with complicated families and distance from loved ones.
For Fans of:
Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner; Going Geek by Charlotte Huang; any novel by Miranda Kenneally
Description: Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer.
Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.
Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home—leading her to one terrifying question: Will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?
4. How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake
Release Date: May 2nd from HMH Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: Before you give someone an Ashley Herring Blake novel, you should immediately say, “I’m going to need you to sit down.” That’s how emotionally intense her books are. Suffer Love promises yet another story of complex families and explores the strength that comes from truly connecting with someone. Blake makes the pain on the page feels so real, and that—coupled with a diverse cast and inclusive story—means there’s so much to fall in love with here.
For Fans of:
The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter; Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
Description: All 17-year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn’t have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.
Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace’s mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.
5. It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura
Release Date: May 9th from HarperTeen
Why You’ll Love It: From the diverse cast of lovable characters to the inclusive love story, there’s so much in this wonderful debut that makes it one of my favorite books of this year. It’s Not Like It’s a Secret isn’t just about the secrets that Misa Sugiura’s main character, Sana, hides. It’s about feeling out of place, even when you are surrounded by people. The fact that it’s peppered with poetry makes it all the more delightful.
For Fans of: Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series; Going Geek by Charlotte Huang; Geekerella by Ashley Poston; This Is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang
Description: Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.
When Sana and her family move to California, she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore anymore.
Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy… what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.
6. Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Release Date: May 9th from Balzer + Bray
Why You’ll Love It: Because it’s another book by Julie Murphy. Her books are fantastic, with teen girls you can’t help but cheer for paired with legit laugh-out-loud moments and heartbreak. Ramona Blue’s titular character is a teen who’s almost ready to pack it in and live the life she feels like she’s been forced into—taking care of her father and sister. But when she starts to have feelings for a boy, after identifying her whole life as a lesbian, she wrestles with what feels like a challenge to her identity. It’s a powerful book about self-discovery and the fluid nature of sexuality.
For Fans of:
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli; Adam by Ariel Schrag; anything by Robin Talley
Description: Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.
The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.
7. Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Release Date: May 16th from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: Renée Ahdieh writes fantastic, captivating novels full of diverse characters, so it’s simply impossible not to devour her books. And with Flame in the Mist, Ahdieh has gifted us a new series to obsess over. If you live for books that have lush worlds, swoony romance and non-stop action, you’ll want to read this.
For Fans of:
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir; The Winners Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
Description: The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just 17 years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose and her deepest desires.
8. A Million Junes by Emily Henry
Release Date: May 16th from Razorbill
Why You’ll Love It: I adored Emily Henry’s first novel, The Love That Split the World. She pens prose that is full of magic and heartbreak, and her latest novel definitely delivers that. It’s a Romeo and Juliet-esque story, with two families waging war against one another as curses and magic run rampant.
For Fans of: The magical realism in Samantha Mabry’s novels; the complex families and politics in The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Description: In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.
Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period. But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.
Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.
9. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Release Date: May 30th from Greenwillow Books
Why You’ll Love It: Francesca Zappia’s Eliza and Her Monsters is the equivalent of that feeling you get when you discover something precious in the geek universe: a new comic, a movie franchise, a Netflix series worth binge-watching. Zappia’s novel pulls at you with that same level of joy. From the drawings peppered throughout to the fun way the book is structured (showing message boards and the like), you’re going to love this one. Promise.
For Fans of:
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell; Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Description: In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community, and she has no desire to try.
Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.
10. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Release Date: May 30th from Simon Pulse
Why You’ll Love It: If you adore Young Adult rom-coms, Sandhya Menon’s debut novel is for you. When Dimple Met Rishi is a diverse read that’s absolutely full of heart and deep belly laughs, and it’s from an author you should definitely keep an eye on.
For Fans of: Rom-com reads by Lauren Morrill and Stephanie Perkins; authors who write about the Indian-American experience like Tanuja Desai Hidier and Jhumpa Lahiri
Description: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.