The Best New YA Books of May 2024

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The Best New YA Books of May 2024

May is here, which means summer is almost upon us. And while plenty of people are likely looking forward to Memorial Day and the official kickoff of the wonderful time of the year that involves picnics and barbeques, book lovers are rightly looking forward to the avalanche of new titles heading our way as the months heat up. But while you’re waiting for the big releases of summer, don’t sleep on May—especially if you’re a YA fan. 

This month offers an array of new titles for every kind of reader, from those who love romantic comedies and Shakespeare-inspired contemporary retellings to those looking for magical adventure or pointed social commentary. 

Here are our picks for the best YA books hitting shelves in May.

Blood at the Root Most Anticipated YA Books 2024

Blood at the Root by LaDarrion Williams

Release Date: May 7 from Labyrinth Road

Why You’ll Love It: Described as Harry Potter at an HBCU this delightfully entertaining YA fantasy boasts utterly unique worldbuilding, deliciously thoughtful plotting, and a laserlike dedication to telling a story that centers a variety of Black characters without grounding their stories in suffering and trauma. 

Publisher’s Description: Ten years ago, Malik’s life changed forever the night his mother mysteriously vanished and he discovered he had uncontrollable powers. Since then, he has kept his abilities hidden, looking out for himself and his younger foster brother, Taye. Now, at 17, Malik is finally ready to start a new life for both of them, far from the trauma of his past. However, a daring act to rescue Taye reveals an unexpected connection with his long-lost a legendary conjurer with ties to a hidden magical university that Malik’s mother attended.

At Caiman University, Malik’s eyes are opened to a future he never could have envisioned for himself— one that includes the reappearance of his first love, Alexis. His search for answers about his heritage, his powers, and what really happened to his mother exposes the cracks in their magical community as it faces a reawakened evil dating back to the Haitian Revolution. Together with Alexis, Malik discovers a lot beneath the surface at feuding covens and magical politics, forbidden knowledge and buried mysteries.

In a wholly unique saga of family, history and community, Malik must embrace his legacy to save what’s left of his old family as well as his new one. Exploring the roots and secrets that connect us in an unforgettable contemporary setting, this heart-pounding fantasy series opener is a rich tapestry of atmosphere, intrigue, and emotion.

The Ballad of Darcy and Russell May 2024 YA

The Ballad of Darcy and Russell by Morgan Matson 

Release Date: May 7 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Why You’ll Love It: A pitch-perfect romantic comedy that follows the story of a movie-style meet-cute after a music festival travel disaster, The Ballad of Darcy and Ruseell is funny, sweet, and cheesily charming by turns. 

Publisher’s Description: Darcy believes in love at first sight. Even though it’s never happened to her, she’s spent her whole life waiting for that magical moment, hoping that when she meets the right guy, everything will fall into place perfectly.

But right now, her life is anything but perfect. Heading home from a music festival, engine trouble means she’s stranded at a Nevada bus station until morning. Even worse, it’s the day before she leaves for college, her phone is dead, and she has no cash. Darcy’s convinced nothing good can come of this night…but then she meets Russell. Cute, nice, funny, and kind, this is the guy—and the moment—she’s been waiting for. As they walk and talk, the two connect, and Darcy is able to put aside all her fears and doubts about the future to focus on this perfect guy.

Over the course of one fateful night, Darcy and Russell discover things they never imagined about each other and themselves. But can you really know someone after only a handful of hours? Is it possible to fall in love in less than day? Before they part, both their lives will be changed, and Darcy and Russell will have to decide if it’s worth saying hello when you know you’re destined for a goodbye.

This Book Won't Burn May 2024 YA

This Book Won’t Burn by Samira Ahmed

Release Date: May 7 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Why You’ll Love It: Samira Ahmed’s unfortunately timely novel follows the story of a Muslim who starts a lunchtime reading club for banned books at her small-town high school and suffers the increasingly dangerous consequences. A story of activism and finding out how far you’re willing to go for the things you believe in, you’ll wish this wasn’t as necessary as it is. 

Publisher’s Description: After her dad abruptly abandons her family and her mom moves them a million miles from their Chicago home, Noor Khan is forced to start the last quarter of her senior year at a new school, away from everything and everyone she knows and loves. Reeling from being uprooted and deserted, Noor is certain the key to survival is to keep her head down and make it to graduation.  But things aren’t so simple. At school, Noor discovers hundreds of books have been labeled “obscene” or “pornographic” and are being removed from the library in accordance with a new school board policy. Even worse, virtually all the banned books are by queer and BIPOC authors.  Noor can’t sit back and do nothing, because that goes against everything she believes in, but challenging the status quo just might put a target on her back. Can she effect change by speaking up? Or will small-town politics—and small-town love—be her downfall? 

Sweet Nightmare May 2024 YA

Sweet Nightmare by Tracy Wolff

Release Date: May 7 from Entangled Teen

Why You’ll Love It: The first installment in Tracy Wolff’s Calder Academy series—a spinoff from her popular Crave universe—follows the story of a school for paranormal delinquents. These vampires, werewolves, dark fae, and witches are the worst of the worst, and Clementine, daughter of the school’s headmaster knows that firsthand. Colorful characters and setting, if a slightly less than inspired central romance.

Publisher’s Description: Most schools are about being the best. This school? It’s about being the worst. Calder Academy is where the rogue paranormals go. The ones who break the rules or lose control. And when that happens for vamps, werewolves, witches, and dark fae? It gets pretty freaking scary.

I should know. Because I’m trapped here.

Look, every seventeen-year-old girl thinks their mom is a tyrant. But mine just happens to run Calder Academy, which paints a giant target on my back. The way I make it through these dark halls is by steering clear of the things―and kids―who go bump in the night.

Especially Jude Abernathy-Lee.

But when a freak storm hits our isolated island, I’m stuck without a backup plan. The power is gone. The lights are out. And our worst nightmares are suddenly real―and out for blood.

Now the only way to survive is to align myself with one evil to avoid the other.


And the only thing worse than the idea of getting close to Jude? Secretly loving every minute of it.

The Dare May 2024 YA

The Dare by Natasha Preston

Release Date: May 7 from Delacorte Press

Why You’ll Love It: Just in time for summer,  this new release from one of the most consistent writers in the YA thriller space follows the story of a senior prank gone wrong and the damage the attempt to cover it up leaves in its wake. Twisty with lots of tension.

Publisher’s Description: I triple dog dare you . . .

As senior year comes to an end, senior pranks are just beginning. It all starts innocently enough. Marley and her friends—Atlas, Lucia, and Jesse—egg houses, set chickens free on the quad, and fill the principal’s office with glitter-filled balloons.

But when Jesse accepts a dare to drive danger alley, a ten-mile stretch of winding road that’s notorious for car wrecks, with no headlights, things take a turn for the worst.

Now, the four friends are bound by a tragic accident—and a dark secret that threatens their bright futures.

The Brightwood Code May 2024 YA

The Brightwood Code by Monica Hesse

Release Date: May 14 from Little, Brown Books for Young Reader

Why You’ll Love It: A rare YA historical novel that explores a little-known era of World War I history, The Brightwood Code is a psychological thriller based on the true story of the Hello Girls, women employed by the U.S. Army to operate phone lines in France. We don’t get enough historical fiction in the YA space and this one is both surprising in both period and subject matter. 

Publisher’s Description: Seven months ago Edda was on the World War I front lines as one of two hundred “Hello Girls,” female switchboard operators employed by the US Army. She spent her nights memorizing secret connection codes to stay ahead of spying enemies and her days connecting calls between platoons and bases and generals, all trying to survive—and win—a brutal war. Their lives were in Edda’s hands, and one day, in fateful seconds, everything went wrong.

Now Edda is back in Washington, D.C., working as an American Bell Telephone operator, the picture of respectability. But when her shift ends, she is barely hanging on, desperate to forget the circumstances that cut her time overseas short. When Edda receives a panicked phone call from someone who utters the fateful code word “Brightwood,” she has no choice but to confront her past.

Thirsty May YA 2024

Thirsty: A Novel by Jas Hammonds

Release Date: May 14 from Roaring Brook Press

Why You’ll Love It: The sophomore novel from the author of We Deserve Monuments, Thirsty tackles the frequently taboo topic of binge drinking culture and the rise of alcoholism among young people. An important if sometimes difficult read. 

Publisher’s Description: It’s the summer before college and eighteen-year-old Blake Brenner and her girlfriend, Ella, have one goal: join the mysterious and exclusive Serena Society. The sorority promises status and lifelong connections to a network of powerful, trailblazing women of color. Ella’s acceptance is a sure thing—she’s the daughter of a Serena alum. Blake, however, has a lot more to prove.

As a former loner from a working-class background, Blake lacks Ella’s pedigree and confidence. Luckily, she finds courage at the bottom of a liquor bottle. When she drinks, she’s bold, funny, and unstoppable—and the Serenas love it. But as pledging intensifies, so does Blake’s drinking, until it’s seeping into every corner of her life. Ella assures Blake that she’s fine; partying hard is what it takes to make the cut.

But success has never felt so much like drowning. With her future hanging in the balance and her past dragging her down, Blake must decide how far she’s willing to go to achieve her glittering dreams of success—and how much of herself she’s willing to lose in the process.

The Dangerous Ones May YA 2024

The Dangerous Ones by Lauren Blackwood

Release Date: May 14 from Wednesday Books

Why You’ll Love It: A romantic historical fantasy retelling of the American Civil War, The Dangerous Ones boasts what is likely the most surprising premise you’ll encounter this month. Set in a world full of vampires and demi-gods, Blackwood’s world-building remains top-notch, as readers of Wildwood and Within These Wicked Walls already know. 

Publisher’s Description: War doesn’t scare Jerusalem—she’s a Saint. Thanks to powerful demigod-style reflexes, endurance, and strength, she’s fearless. And ever since the Confederates declared civil war, partnering with the vampires who benefitted off slavery, she and her battalion of Saints are essential to the Union army.

Jerusalem herself had been enslaved by a vampire, escaping North only after her family was murdered. She knows the enemy better, hates the enemy more than anyone in her battalion, and has been using it to her advantage since she joined the war a year ago. More than anything she wants revenge, but if she can help Black people gain freedom and equality without having to steal it for themselves like she had to, then all the better

But she never expects to have to team up with a vampire to do it. Alexei is one of those handsome, arrogant Ancient Vampires. But he’s on the Union’s side, and in the year they’ve known each other, has never done anything but prove he’s on hers.

Together, they set out to change the course of the war and take down the vampire who destroyed everyone Jerusalem loved. But for her, it’s about more than justice.

It’s about killing a god.

A Crane Among Wolves May YA 2024

A Crane Among Wolves by June Hur

Release Date: May 14 from Fiewel & Friends

Why You’ll Love It: A richly detailed historical thriller about a young woman who sets out to find a dangerous killer in order to free her sister from the clutches of a tyrant, A Crane Among Wolves is unflinching in both its honesty and period-accurate realism. Set in 16th-century Korea and based on true events, Hur’s writing is both meticulously researched and emotionally compelling.

Publisher’s Description: 1506, Joseon. The people suffer under the cruel reign of the tyrant King Yeonsan, powerless to stop him from commandeering their land for his recreational use, banning and burning books, and kidnapping and horrifically abusing women and girls as his personal playthings.

Seventeen-year-old Iseul has lived a sheltered, privileged life despite the kingdom’s turmoil. When her older sister, Suyeon, becomes the king’s latest prey, Iseul leaves the relative safety of her village, traveling through forbidden territory to reach the capital in hopes of stealing her sister back. But she soon discovers the king’s power is absolute, and to challenge his rule is to court certain death.

Prince Daehyun has lived his whole life in the terrifying shadow of his despicable half-brother, the king. Forced to watch King Yeonsan flaunt his predation through executions and rampant abuse of the common folk, Daehyun aches to find a way to dethrone his half-brother once and for all. When staging a coup, failure is fatal, and he’ll need help to pull it off—but there’s no way to know who he can trust.

When Iseul’s and Daehyun’s fates collide, their contempt for each other is transcended only by their mutual hate for the king. Armed with Iseul’s family connections and Daehyun’s royal access, they reluctantly join forces to launch the riskiest gamble the kingdom has ever

Save her sister. Free the people. Destroy a tyrant.

Twelfth Knight May YA 2024

Twelfth Knight By Alexene Farol Follmuth

Release Date: May 28 from Tor Teen

Why You’ll Love It: This utterly charming retelling of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night has it all: A genderbending plot that centers diverse characters, an enemies-to-lovers romance, and a timely exploration of misogyny faced by anyone who is female presenting in fandom spaces. That it’s written by The Atlas Six author Olivie Blake (under the penname Alexene Farol Follmuth) is just the icing on the cake.

Publisher’s Description: Viola Reyes is annoyed.

Her painstakingly crafted tabletop game campaign was shot down, her best friend is suggesting she try being more “likable,” and school running back Jack Orsino is the most lackadaisical Student Body President she’s ever seen, which makes her job as VP that much harder. Vi’s favorite escape from the world is the MMORPG Twelfth Knight, but online spaces aren’t exactly kind to girls like her―girls who are extremely competent and have the swagger to prove it. So Vi creates a masculine alter ego, choosing to play as a knight named Cesario to create a safe haven for herself.

But when a football injury leads Jack Orsino to the world of Twelfth Knight, Vi is alarmed to discover their online alter egos―Cesario and Duke Orsino―are surprisingly well-matched.

As the long nights of game-play turn into discussions about life and love, Vi and Jack soon realise they’ve become more than just weapon-wielding characters in an online game. But Vi has been concealing her true identity from Jack, and Jack might just be falling for her offline…

Everything We Never Said May YA 2024

Everything We Never Said by Sloan Harlow

Release Date: May 28 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Why You’ll Love It: A fast-paced thriller that explores complicated feelings of grief and loss, Everything We Never Said asks poignant, necessary questions about how much we can ever really know anyone, even the people we care about the most. 

Publisher’s Description: It’s been months since the accident that killed Ella’s best friend, Hayley, and Ella can’t stop blaming herself. Now Ella is back at school, and everywhere she looks are reminders of her best friend—including Sawyer, Hayley’s boyfriend. Little by little, they grow closer, until Ella realizes something horrifying . . .

She’s in love with her dead best friend’s boyfriend.

Racked with guilt, Ella turns to Hayley’s journal, hoping she’ll find something in the pages that will make her feel better about what’s happening. Instead, she discovers that Sawyer has secrets of his own and that his relationship with Hayley wasn’t as picture-perfect as it seemed.

Ella knows she should stay away but finds herself inextricably drawn to him—and scared of everything she never knew about him. Perhaps it’s his grief. Or maybe his desires, cut short by tragedy. Or could it be something twisted only Hayley knew about?

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

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