From a novel about human/animal DNA splicing to a Shakespearian retelling set in the Prohibition era, the best Young Adult books of September are certainly unique. And while you may be mourning the oncoming loss of summer, you should be celebrating this new season of publishing.
September boasts books from some of our favorite YA writers of all time, like Patrick Ness and Adam Silvera (their books The Rest of Us Just Live Here and More Happy Than Not were two of our picks for the Best YA Books of All Time). And the month also heralds exciting YA debuts from authors you should be watching, like Katherine Locke and Akemi Bowman.
So relax. Take a breath. Summer is over, but an autumn of amazing reads is just beginning.
1. The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
Release Date: September 1st from Albert Whitman & Company
Why You’ll Love It: Time travel! Magic balloons! Alternate history! There’s so much happening in Katherine Locke’s Young Adult debut, and it blends together in a way that feels effortless. Combine that with a story that shifts point of view and a world that’s spectacularly researched, and you’ve got one of the most memorable reads of 2017.
For Fans of: YA novels that blend history and magic, like The Diviners by Libba Bray, or alternate history YA that talks about identity, like Anne Blankman’s beautiful novels.
Description: When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via a magical red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.
2. Feral Youth edited by Shaun David Hutchinson
Release Date: September 5th from Simon Pulse
Why You’ll Love It: Like Hutchinson’s first YA anthology, Violent Ends, this is another must-read. From the rock star lineup of contributors like Brandy Colbert, Justina Ireland, and Stephanie Kuehn to the amazing premise (inspired by The Canterbury Tales), Feral Youth is a powerhouse title.
For Fans of: This is a unique book, but if you like the books by authors in the collection, you’ll like this one.
Description: At Zeppelin Bend, an outdoor education program designed to teach troubled youth the value of hard work, cooperation, and compassion, 10 teens are left alone in the wild. The teens are a diverse group who come from all walks of life, and they were all sent to Zeppelin Bend as a last chance to get them to turn their lives around. They’ve just spent nearly two weeks learning to survive in the wilderness, and now their instructors have dropped them off eighteen miles from camp with no food, no water, and only their packs, and they’ll have to struggle to overcome their vast differences if they hope to survive.
3. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Release Date: September 5th from HarperTeen
Why You’ll Love It: When Silvera’s More Happy Than Not came out in 2015, Paste named it the best Young Adult novel of the year. And now, not only did we get his second novel, History is All You Left Me, just a few months ago… we get his THIRD book this month. Once again, Silvera blends a bit of sci-fi into this heartbreaking-yet-hopeful YA contemporary novel, creating a stirring story of love and sadness that’s impossible to put down.
For Fans of: Novels by Robin Talley (What We Left Behind) and Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda), mashed up with Denton Little’s Death Date by Lance Rubin.
Description: When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalized father, his best friend, and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.
Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.
Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that their final day on earth would involve falling in love…
4. Warcross by Marie Lu
Release Date: September 12th from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: Because it’s a new Marie Lu book. Okay, okay, it’s a book that delivers some serious Ready Player One vibes, mashed up with YA reads in virtual worlds, like Epic by Conor Kostick. It’s a sci-fi thriller that you won’t be able to put down.
For Fans of:
The Leveler series by Julia Durango or The Eye of Minds by James Dashner.
Description: For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started 10 years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
5. One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
Release Date: September 19th from HarperTeen
Why You’ll Love It: The second book in Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series is here! It’s set in a fantasy realm where triplets are born every generation. Each sister has a magical gift… and the last one to survive gets to be the queen. It’s a dark, violent world that proves to be a treat for fans of intrigue.
For Fans of: Epic YA fantasy, books by authors like Susan Dennard, Laini Taylor, and Victoria Schwab.
Description (spoilers ahead for Book One): With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off.
Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.
6. Release by Patrick Ness
Release Date: September 19th from HarperTeen
Why You’ll Love It: Inspired by authors like Judy Blume and Virginia Woolf, Ness’ new novel dabbles in multiple genres. It follows the stories of a teen boy struggling to keep his life together and a teen girl who has already lost hers, blending their tales into a book that’s all at once really dark and really funny. (This was released in the UK in May, but it hits the U.S. this month.)
For Fans of: Genre-mashing authors like Adam Silvera, Paolo Bacigalupi, Daniel José Older, and A.S. King.
Description: Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.
Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart. At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.
But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.
7. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George
Release Date: September 19th from Greenwillow Books
Why You’ll Love It: It’s fascinating when YA contemporary blends with Shakespearian retellings, and not only does McKelle George’s novel do that… it also throws in a historical setting. The result is an entertaining book that’s an absolute delight from start to finish.
For Fans of: Lauren Morrill’s Meant to Be mashed up with Libba Bray’s The Diviners, and sprinkled with a bit of Stephanie Perkins.
Description: After she gets kicked out of boarding school, 17-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer.
Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.
8. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Release Date: September 26th from Simon Pulse
Why You’ll Love It: Bowman’s debut is not an easy book to read, and that’s what makes it so good. It’s a heart-wrenching story that tackles abuse, racism, and identity, making it one of the most compelling reads of the year.
For Fans of: Books that address identity, like Aditi Khorana’s Mirror in the Sky or Charlotte Huang’s Going Geek… blended with the emotional punch of novels by Courtney Stevens.
Description: Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.
But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity despite the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.
9. There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
Release Date: September 26th from Dutton Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: Perkins writes gorgeous, YA contemporary novels (Anna and the French Kiss) and the swoon-filled anthologies (My True Love Gave to Me and Summer Days and Summer Nights). But now she’s jumping genres to release a YA horror slasher story, and it’s absolutely thrilling.
For Fans of: Books by YA horror masters Gretchen McNeil (Ten) and Kim Liggett (Blood & Salt).
Description: It’s been almost a year since Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she’s still adjusting to her new life. And still haunted by her past in Hawaii.
Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.
10. Spliced by Jon McGoran
Release Date: September 29th from Holiday House
Why You’ll Love It: We’re McGoran fans here at Paste. We were lucky enough to do a cover reveal for his latest adult thriller, Dust Up, and we’re excited to see him diving into writing YA. Spliced explores what it means to be human, painting a sci-fi picture that feels all too real, all too terrifying, and all too timely.
For Fans of: Amped by Daniel H. Wilson and anything by Michael Crichton.
Description: Sixteen-year-old Jimi knows people change, but nothing could prepare her for what’s about to happen to her best friend, Del. Del is obsessed with becoming a chimera, or a person who pays back-alley geneticists, known as “genies,” to illegally splice animal genes into their own. The resulting physical changes have scared lawmakers into drafting legislation declaring chimeras officially nonpersons—so when Del goes missing, Jimi is desperate to find him before he alters himself forever.
As she tries to save him, Jimi must face down unscrupulous people and risk her own life—all while knowing that if getting spliced is the choice Del has made, it means he’s leaving her behind forever.