You’d think the best Young Adult books of October would be scary reads, what with Halloween and all. And sure, there are frights (we’re looking at you, space-gargoyles in Tristina Wright’s 27 Hours). But the true monsters in this month’s most gripping reads are ordinary people. Many of these novels feature characters at their worst and life situations at their most horrifying, so prepare to be unnerved and engaged by these tales.
1. 27 Hours by Tristina Wright
Release Date: October 3rd from Entangled Teen
Why You’ll Love It: One of Paste’s most anticipated YA books of the year is finally here! A thrilling sci-fi mash-up with a diverse cast, Tristina Wright’s debut novel boasts an action-packed plot with the high-octane pressure of a kickass video game.
For Fans of: Thrilling YA sci-fi with rich world building, like Red Rising by Pierce Brown or Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza.
Description: Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish. But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.
Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret. To save everyone they love, they’ll both have to commit treason.
During one 27-hour night, these four runaways must stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, or the things they fear most will be all that’s left.
2. Top Ten by Katie Cotugno
Release Date: October 3rd from Balzer + Bray
Why You’ll Love It: Katie Cotugno’s latest book is the novel I wished I’d had as a teen (I was busy reading High Fidelity and trying to relate to an adult with grown-up relationship problems). In Top Ten, Cotugno utilizes the list structure that makes High Fidelity so great, but she weaves it into a teen story of love and friendship that you’re absolutely going to cherish.
For Fans of: Books by Morgan Matson, Lauren Morrill and Jenny Han.
Description: Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of best friends. Prickly, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ultra-popular Ryan is a hockey star who can get any girl he wants—and frequently does. But somehow their relationship just works; from dorky Monopoly nights to rowdy house parties to the top ten lists they make about everything under the sun.
Now, on the night of high school graduation, everything is suddenly changing—in their lives, and in their relationship. As they try to figure out what they mean to each other and where to go from here, they make a final top 10 list: this time, counting down the top 10 moments of their friendship.
3. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
Release Date: October 10th from Philomel Books
Why You’ll Love It: Julie C. Dao’s debut novel, which has been racking up starred reviews, is one of 2017’s big books that you don’t want to miss. A reimagining of “The Evil Queen” legend with an East Asian fantasy spin, it’s a lush fantasy novel that kicks off a thrilling new series.
For Fans of: YA retellings like Cinder by Marisa Meyer or The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine.
Description: Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her.
Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high? Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins—sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.
4. This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis
Release Date: October 10th from Katherine Tegen Books
Why You’ll Love It: My favorite thing about Mindy McGinnis’ books is that reading them is a study in being wounded by an author you love. She pens devastating stories, and her latest is another gripping, dark thriller.
For Fans of: YA psychological thrillers by authors like Stephanie Kuehn and Courtney Summers.
Description: Sasha Stone knows her place—first-chair clarinet, top of her class, and at the side of her oxford-wearing boyfriend. She’s worked her entire life to ensure that her path to Oberlin Conservatory as a star musician is perfectly paved.
But suddenly there’s a fork in the road, in the shape of Isaac Harver. Her body shifts toward him when he walks by, her skin misses his touch even though she’s never known it, and she relishes the smell of him—smoke, beer, and trouble—all the things she’s avoided to get where she is. Even worse, every time he’s near Sasha, her heart stops, literally. Why does he know her so well—too well—and she doesn’t know him at all?
Sasha discovers that her by-the-book life began by ending another’s: the twin sister she absorbed in the womb. But that doesn’t explain the gaps of missing time in her practice schedule or the memories she has of things she certainly never did with Isaac. As Sasha loses her much-cherished control, her life—and heart—become more entangled with Isaac. Armed with the knowledge that her heart might not be hers alone, Sasha must decide what she’s willing to do—and who she’s willing to hurt—to take it back.
5. Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi
Release Date: October 10th from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: We listed Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, a Printz winner and a National Book Award finalist, as one of the best YA novels of all time. It’s an epic dystopian tale set in a bleak future of poverty and extreme, careless wealth. The Drowned Cities came next, and now it’s followed by the third book in Bacigalupi’s fascinating series.
For Fans of:
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson and futuristic dystopias like Want by Cindy Pon.
Description: Tool, a half-man/half-beast designed for combat, is capable of so much more than his creators had ever dreamed. He has gone rogue from his pack of bioengineered “augments” and emerged a victorious leader of a pack of human soldier boys.
But he is hunted relentlessly by someone determined to destroy him, who knows an alarming secret: Tool has found the way to resist his genetically ingrained impulses of submission and loyalty toward his masters. The time is coming when Tool will embark on an all-out war against those who have enslaved him.
6. Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Release Date: October 17th from Crown Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: Nic Stone’s powerful debut novel features a teen writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and it’s a stunner. From the unique prose that shifts from narrative to letters to a play-like-structure to the timely content, Dear Martin makes for one of the most awe-inspiring reads of the year.
For Fans of:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Description: Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.
Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.
Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know.
7. Like Water by Rebecca Podos
Release Date: October 17th from Balzer + Bray
Why You’ll Love It: Did you miss out on The Mystery of Hollow Places? Then treat yourself to the gripping, poetic prose in Rebecca Podo’s debut novel, and then dive into her sophomore book. Just as beautiful as her first book, Like Water explores first love, and every word is worth savoring.
For Fans of: Novels by authors like Mindy McGinnis, Kerry Kletter and Ashley Herring Blake.
Description: In Savannah Espinoza’s small New Mexico hometown, kids either flee after graduation or they’re trapped there forever. Vanni never planned to get stuck—but that was before her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, leaving her and her mother to care for him. Now, she doesn’t have much of a plan at all: living at home, working as a performing mermaid at a second-rate water park, distracting herself with one boy after another.
That changes the day she meets Leigh. Disillusioned with small-town life and looking for something greater, Leigh is not a “nice girl.” She is unlike anyone Vanni has met, and a friend when Vanni desperately needs one. Soon enough, Leigh is much more than a friend. But caring about another person stirs up the moat Vanni has carefully constructed around herself, and threatens to bring to the surface the questions she’s held under for so long.
8. A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
Release Date: October 17th from Dutton Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: Don’t be fooled by the awesome cover or the subjects of Malinda Lo’s past books; this isn’t a dark fantasy novel. A Line in the Dark marks Lo’s foray into the contemporary genre, promising an intense read that should be at the top of your list.
For Fans of: Dark YA thrillers like Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehig (Paste’s #1 YA book of 2016) or any of Stephanie Kuehn’s books.
Description: Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.
As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences. When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.
9. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Release Date: October 17th from Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Why You’ll Love It: Jason Reynolds’ latest, beautiful book is written in verse. You can inhale it in a day, which I did, and re-read it right after you’ve finished… which I did. Get. This. Book.
For Fans of: Ellen Hopkins and Cordelia Jensen.
Description: A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what 15-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.
And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.
10. Calling My Name by Liara Tamani
Release Date: October 24th from Greenwillow Books
Why You’ll Love It: A lyrical, literary YA read about family, relationships and first love? Yes, please. Liara Tamani’s debut novel is one you’ll want to own as soon as it hits shelves.
For Fans of: Jacqueline Woodson.
Description: Taja Brown lives with her parents and older brother and younger sister, in Houston, Texas. Taja has always known what the expectations of her conservative and tightly-knit African American family are—do well in school, go to church every Sunday, no intimacy before marriage. But Taja is trying to keep up with friends as they get their first kisses, first boyfriends, first everythings. And she’s tired of cheering for her athletic younger sister and an older brother who has more freedom just because he’s a boy. Taja dreams of going to college and forging her own relationship with the world and with God, but when she falls in love for the first time, those dreams are suddenly in danger of evaporating.
Bonus: Brooding YA Hero by Carrie DiRisio
Release Date: October 17th from Sky Pony Press
Why You’ll Love It: We generally include YA novels in these monthly lists, but this delightful nonfiction book based on the massively popular Twitter account @broodingYAhero deserves a shout-out. If you read YA, you’ll want this book brimming with hilarious jokes that only lovers of kid-lit will appreciate.
For Fans of: Anyone who reads YA.
Description: Have you ever wished you could receive a little guidance from your favorite book boyfriend? Ever dreamed of being the Chosen One in a YA novel? Want to know all the secrets of surviving the dreaded plot twist? Or maybe you’re just really confused about what “opal-tinted, luminous cerulean orbs” actually are?
Well, popular Twitter personality @broodingYAhero is here to help as he tackles the final frontier in his media dominance: writing a book. Join Broody McHottiepants as he attempts to pen Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, a “self-help” guide (with activities—you always need activities) that lovingly pokes fun at the YA tropes that we roll our eyes at, but secretly love.