The Best Young Adult Novels of 2018 (So Far)

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A_CONSPIRACY_OF_STARS_COLE.jpg 10. A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole

Why You’ll Love It: After two adult sci-fi novels, Cole makes her YA debut with an absolute bang. A Conspiracy of Stars is a thrilling sci-fi/fantasy blend with gorgeous world building and lush landscapes. I can’t wait to read more from her!

For Fans of: Authors like C.J. Redwine and Marie Rutkoski.

Description: Octavia has only ever had one goal: to follow in the footsteps of her parents and become a prestigious whitecoat, one of the scientists who study the natural wonders of Faloiv. The secrets of the jungle’s exotic plants and animals are protected fiercely in the labs by the Council of N’Terra, so when the rules suddenly change, allowing students inside, Octavia should be overjoyed.

But something isn’t right. The newly elected leader of the Council has some extremist views about the way he believes N’Terra should be run, and he’s influencing others to follow him. When Octavia witnesses one of the Faloii—the indigenous people of Faloiv—attacked in front of her in the dark of night, she knows the Council is hiding something. They are living in separate worlds on a shared planet, and their fragile peace may soon turn into an all-out war.

With the help of Rondo, a quiet boy in class with a skill for hacking, and her inquisitive best friend, Alma, Octavia is set on a collision course to discover the secrets behind the history she’s been taught, the science she’s lived by, and the truth about her family.

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THE_HAZEL_WOOD_MELISSA.jpg 9. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Why You’ll Love It: This novel was an immediate New York Times bestseller, and you had better believe the hype. A beautiful, lyrical saga of fairy tales coming true and dark family secrets, The Hazel Wood is as stunning as its cover. Albert is poised to become your new favorite author; don’t say we didn’t warn you.

For Fans of: Lyrical fantasy novels by authors like Holly Black.

Description: Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away?by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began—and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

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AMERICAN_PANDA_GLORIA_CHAO-min.jpg 8. American Panda by Gloria Chao

Why You’ll Love It: A hilarious novel about a teen wrestling with her parents’ expectations and a crush on a classmate, American Panda is a heartwarming exploration of identity and love. And hey, it’s set in college! There aren’t many YA novels exploring that age, and it’s just delightful.

For Fans of: Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke and authors like Lauren Morrill.

Description: At 17, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth—that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

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THE_BELLES_CLAYTON.jpg 7. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Why You’ll Love It: One of the most hyped books of 2018, Clayton’s debut solo title (she coauthored the brilliant Tiny Pretty Things duology with Sona Charaipotra) introduces readers to a world in which magical Belles control the essence of beauty. Believe the hype; this book kicks off a new series you absolutely won’t want to miss.

For Fans of: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski and Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.

Description: Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life and change the ways of her world forever.

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THIS_TINY_PERFECT_WORLD_GIBALDI.jpg 6. This Tiny Perfect World by Lauren Gibaldi

Why You’ll Love It: Told in a narrative that parallels The Glass Menagerie, Gibaldi’s latest novel follows a theater geek who finds herself wrestling between small-town life and a future in the city—while being torn between two boys she adores. It’s another warm-hug-of-a-book from this Paste favorite.

For Fans of: YA contemporary novels by authors like Amy Spalding, Stephanie Perkins and Kasie West.

Description: Penny loves her small-town Florida life, and she has her future mapped out. She’s going to community college after graduation to stay close to home and her best friend, Faye. She’ll take over the family diner that her dad has been managing since her mother died. And one day, she’ll marry her high school sweetheart, Logan.

But when she unexpectedly lands a scholarship to a prestigious summer theater camp, she is thrust into a world of competition and self-doubt. And suddenly, her future gets a little hazy. As she meets new friends, including Chase, a talented young actor with big-city dreams, she begins to realize that maybe the life everyone (including her) expects her to lead is not the one she was meant to have.

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HEART_OF_IRON_ASHLEY_POSTON.jpg 5. Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Why You’ll Love It: This novel is an Anastasia retelling…in space…with robots! Poston’s space opera reimagining of a classic is completely original and utterly gorgeous. An adventure that will leave you wanting more, Heart of Iron is a shoe-in for one of my favorite reads this year.

For Fans of: Epic sci-fi and darling robot romances. Blend your love of Rhoda Belleza’s Empress of a Thousand Skies with the graphic novel series Alex + Ava.

Description: Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

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THE_SUMMER_OF_JORDI_AMY-min.jpg 4. The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

Why You’ll Love It: Spalding’s latest is easily the funniest YA contemporary novel I’ve read this year. She consistently writes stories that are brimming with humor and heart, and this charming LGBTQ+ novel is exactly that.

For Fans of: Authors like Morgan Matson, Corey Ann Haydu and Jessica Verdi.

Description: Seventeen, fashion-obsessed and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn’t expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Abby knows it’s a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.

Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She’s somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.’s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby’s finally in her own story?

But when Jordi’s photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?

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LEAH_ON_THE_OFFBEAT_BECKY-min.jpg 3. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Why You’ll Love It: A companion novel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (which we named one of the best YA novels of all time), Albertalli’s latest book focuses on Simon’s best friend, Leah Burke. Whether you adored the first novel or laughed and cried during the movie, Leah on the Offbeat is a must-read.

For Fans of: Authors like Amy Spalding, Lauren Morrill and Lily Anderson.

Description: When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

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WHITE_RABBIT_CALEB-min.jpg 2. White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig

Why You’ll Love It: The sophomore novel from the author of the best YA book of 2016, White Rabbit delivers another intense mystery. A master of writing stories that are as thrilling as they are inclusive, Roehrig has written another gripping title that you’ll be dying to add to your shelves.

For Fans of: YA thrillers by authors like Lamar Giles, Stephanie Kuehn and Lynn Weingarten.

Description: Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get much worse, right?

But then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. And then he and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife, beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox, but Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth. April has something he needs, though, and her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to prove his sister’s innocence…or die trying.

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DREAD_NATION_JUSTINA_IRELAND.jpg 1. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Why You’ll Love It: Blending alternate history, fantasy, zombies and horror, Ireland’s Dread Nation is a masterpiece of Young Adult fiction. This is, hands down, my favorite novel of the year. Go. Buy. This. Book.

For Fans of: Genre-blending romps through history, like Susan Dennard’s Something Strange and Deadly and Libba Bray’s The Diviners.

Description: Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

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