Young adult fiction, as a genre, truly runs the gamut of virtually every kind of story. Whether you’re looking for a contemporary coming of age tale, a heartfelt story of reckoning with one’s own identity, an exploration of modern-day social issues, a complicated fantasy with intricate worldbuilding, or creative reimaginings of classic literature, you can find them in this section of your local bookshop. (In fact, you can find them all on this very list!)
The breadth and talent of the authors who write in this space are truly unmatched, and a welcome gift in a world that seems to be more determined than ever to censor not just what people read, but the ideas and relationships they’re exposed to. Fiction is how we expand our understanding of the world and get to know people who are different from us. And July’s releases are remarkably diverse and eclectic on that score.
Here are the young adult titles you should make time to check out this month.
Release Date:: July 5 from Clarion Books
Why You’ll Love It: The bones of this story—a prince and a rebel’s daughter must join forces to save their doomed city—will probably feel familiar to those who read a lot of YA fantasy, but Sunya Mara’s thoroughly original worldbuidling makes this tale stand out from the pack. Set in a city trapped within an eternal storm and ruled by a dark deity who wears a human face, the characters’ desperation to save themselves and their loved ones feels earned, and the specifics of the story’s world and magic (known as Ikonomancy) are fascinating.
Publisher’s Description: Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries. Failed revolutionaries. When her mother was caught by the queen’s soldiers, they gave her a choice: death by the hangman’s axe, or death by the Storm that surrounds the city and curses anyone it touches. She chose the Storm. And when the queen’s soldiers—led by a paranoid prince—catch up to Vesper’s father after twelve years on the run, Vesper will do whatever it takes to save him from sharing that fate.
Even arm herself with her father’s book of dangerous experimental magic.
Even infiltrate the prince’s elite squad of soldier-sorcerers.
Even cheat her way into his cold heart.
But when Vesper learns that there’s more to the story of her mother’s death, she’ll have to make a choice if she wants to save her city: trust the devious prince with her family’s secrets, or follow her mother’s footsteps into the Storm.
?Release Date: July 5 from Wednesday Books
Why You’ll Love It: A light-hearted contemporary romance with a dash of magic on top, The Charmed List follows the story of Japanese American Ellie Kobata, who, tired of feeling invisible in her own life comes up with an Anti-Wallflower list of goals she plans to complete before her senior year beings, one of which includes getting revenge on her former BFF who stopped speaking to her for no reason back in seventh grade. Naturally, this plan goes terribly wrong, and the two ex-best friends are forced to road trip across California to a magic retailers convention on a mission to save their families’ respective businesses. (And maybe figure out what went so wrong between them along the way.) In short: It’s dripping with charm.
Publisher’s Description: After spending most of high school as the quiet girl, Ellie Kobata is ready to take some risks and have a life-changing summer, starting with her Anti-Wallflower List—thirteen items she’s going to check off one by one. She’s looking forward to riding rollercoasters, making her art Instagram public (maybe), and going on an epic road trip with her best friend Lia.
But when number four on Ellie’s list goes horribly wrong—revenge on Jack Yasuda—she’s certain her summer has gone from charmed to cursed. Instead of a road trip with Lia, Ellie finds herself stuck in a car with Jack driving to a magical convention. But as Ellie and Jack travel down the coast of California, number thirteen on her list—fall in love—may be happening without her realizing it.
Release Date: July 5 from Feiwel & Friends
Why You’ll Love It: One of the most frequent criticisms of what’s generally accepted as the canon of classic literature is that it’s very straight, white, and male. Macmillan’s series of Remixed Classics novels aims to change that, giving authors from diverse backgrounds the chance to take literary classics from the past and reinterpret them through their own unique cultural lens.
Tasha Suri (author of diverse, female-led fantasies like The Jasmine Throne and Empire of Sand) tackles Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and uses the framework of the original to explore issues of colonialism and isolation. Her decision to use both Catherine and Heathcliff as POV characters afford both the agency and depth that their Bronte counterparts sometimes lack and its ending—which is quite different from the orignal novel—feels both earned and revelatory.
Publisher’s Description: As the abandoned son of a Lascar—a sailor from India—Heathcliff has spent most of his young life maligned as an “outsider.” Now he’s been flung into an alien life in the Yorkshire moors, where he clings to his birth father’s language even though it makes the children of the house call him an animal, and the maids claim he speaks gibberish.
Catherine is the younger child of the estate’s owner, a daughter with light skin and brown curls and a mother that nobody talks about. Her father is grooming her for a place in proper society, and that’s all that matters. Catherine knows she must mold herself into someone pretty and good and marriageable, even though it might destroy her spirit.
As they occasionally flee into the moors to escape judgment and share the half-remembered language of their unknown kin, Catherine and Heathcliff come to find solace in each other. Deep down in their souls, they can feel they are the same.
But when Catherine’s father dies and the household’s treatment of Heathcliff only grows more cruel, their relationship becomes strained and threatens to unravel. For how can they ever be together, when loving each other—and indeed, loving themselves—is as good as throwing themselves into poverty and death?
Release Date: July 12 from Wednesday Books
Why You’ll Love It: An eerie Southen Gothic tale full of dark magic and haunting imagery, this novel is one part horror and one part coming-of-age saga, with a little bit of fantasy thrown on top. Laurel Early’s mother Anna always had strange gifts, but her own has always felt less useful: She can touch the bones of dead things and see the stories of their deaths. But when she returns home to help run the family farm after dropping out of college, she and her best friends Isaac, Ricky, and Garrett begin to make disturbing and increasingly horrifying discoveries—dead animal carcasses, bone sculptures, ghosts—she’ll have to learn how to control her power in a new (and dangerous) way.
Publisher’s Description: The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.
After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.
Release Date: July 19 from Bloomsbury YA
Why You’ll Love It: Come for the unique framing device—a YA novel told in narrative verse—stay for the scrappy, heartfelt climate activist heroine doing her best to save her beloved Long Beach Island from developers. The book could stand to be a bit more nuanced from a big-picture perspective (it doesn’t really wrestle with the fact that both Eiza’s parents depend on construction and the tourism industry for their jobs, for example), its interpersonal dynamics are deftly handled, particularly between those with opposing viewpoints.
Publisher’s Description: It’s been five years since a hurricane ravaged Eliza Marino’s life and home in her quiet town on the Jersey shore. Now a senior in high school, Eliza is passionate about fighting climate change-starting with saving Clam Cove Reserve, an area of marshland that is scheduled to be turned into buildable lots. Protecting the island helps Eliza deal with her lingering trauma from the storm, but she still can’t shake the fear that something will come along and wash out her life once again.
When Eliza meets Milo Harris at a party, she tries to hate him. Milo is one of the rich tourists who flock to the island every summer. But after Eliza reluctantly agrees to give Milo surfing lessons, she can’t help falling for him. Still, Eliza’s not sure if she’s ready to risk letting an outsider into the life she’s rebuilt. Especially once she discovers that Milo is keeping a devastating secret.
Release Date: July 26 from Wednesday Books
Why You’ll Love It: A contemporary Pride & Prejudice retelling focused on Darcy’s sister Georgiana that has a marching band romance and frat boy Bingley? Sign me up. A student at Pemberley Academy, she may have escaped expulsion after her boyfriend Wickham was caught dealing Adderall out of her dorm room because she’s a Darcy, but her life has been in shambles ever since. On a mission to remake her image, Georgie decides to become the “perfect” Darcy her brother Fitz has always wanted her to be—but in order to be happy, she’ll have to learn to be true to herself.
Publisher’s Description: t is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year – at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.
But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone—Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself—that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:
- Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)
- Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and
- Distract Fitz Darcy—helicopter-sibling extraordinaire—by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)
Sure, it’s a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.
Release Date: July 26 from Peachtree Teen
Why You’ll Love It: A fairly traditional coming of age story that feels anything but traditional, Boys I Know follows the story of June Chu, a Taiwanese American girl in the Midwest who feels like nothing she does is ever good enough. Her mother wants her to follow in her perfect sister Wendy’s footsteps but June knows she’ll never live up to her standards and therefore doesn’t see the point in trying. The story delicately explores everything from June’s experiences growing up Asian American in a predominantly white area to her misconceptions about her relationships with her mother and her sister.
Publisher’s Description: June Chu is the “just good enough” girl. Good enough to line the shelves with a slew of third-place trophies and steal secret kisses from her AP Bio partner, Rhys. But not good enough to meet literally any of her Taiwanese mother’s unrelenting expectations or to get Rhys to commit to anything beyond a well-timed joke.
While June’s mother insists she follow in her (perfect) sister’s footsteps and get a (full-ride) violin scholarship to Northwestern (to study pre-med), June doesn’t see the point in trying too hard if she’s destined to fall short anyway. Instead, she focuses her efforts on making her relationship with Rhys “official.” But after her methodically-planned, tipsily-executed scheme explodes on the level of a nuclear disaster, she flings herself into a new relationship with a guy who’s not allergic to the word “girlfriend.”
But as the line between sex and love blurs, and pressure to map out her entire future threatens to burst, June will have to decide on whose terms she’s going to live her life—even if it means fraying her relationship with her mother beyond repair.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.