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.