25 Of September 2015's Best YA Books
Good thing you don't have to go back to school or return from vacation in September, because there are almost too many incredible YA books you're going to want to speed read. (Oh, wait.) You're going to have to schedule in reading breaks from your work projects or homework because there's no way you'll want to miss out on everything young adult authors have waiting for you this month with September's best YA books.
Because it's such an embarrassment of literary riches, this list doesn't include any of the mind-blowing middle grade releases in its 25 books, but that doesn't mean I won't shout them out right here for those of you looking for a trip back into your childhood: Newbery Medal-winning Katherine Applegate has Crenshaw for us, a story of a boy's imaginary friend who comes back to him in his family's time of struggle. Wayside School author and childhood reading icon Louis Sachar is back with Fuzzy Mud. Marilyn Hilton's Full Cicada Moon follows half-black, half-Japanese Mimi as she dreams of being an astronaut in 1969 while watching Apollo 11. Brian Selznick is getting massive buzz for The Marvels, which tells intertwining illustrated historical adventures. Oh, and Neil Gaiman? He's also releasing an MG novel The Sleeper and The Spindle, which weaves together the fairy tales of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.
Whew. We already have our work cut out for us.
But with 25 of the best YA releases in September on the docket, there's no time for resting. And if you're like me, we'll be up late, bleary eyed reading these amazing stories all month and loving every second.
Don't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche (Sept. 1; Razorbill)
Una LaMarche gave us the swoons last year with Like No Other, and this time around she turns her attention from forbidden first love to a complicated family. But, don't worry, Don't Fail Me Now has the same poignant observations of racial and societal privilege weaved into a memorable story that you love her for. Michelle, who is black and impoverished, and Leah, who is white and middle class, are bound together by Buck Devereaux, their absentee biological father. When they both find out that Buck is dying Michelle, Leah, and their siblings team up and make the road trip to see him one last time, all for different, personal reasons.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (Sept. 1; Delacorte Books for Young Readers)
You'll be shocked to learn that Everything, Everything is Nicola Yoon's debut novel because Yoon deftly constructs her tale like an old pro. Maddie is born a "bubble baby," allergic to the outside world. She has spent her life essentially "locked up" inside with her doctor mother, under intense supervision from a nurse and carefully sterilized against her surroundings. This is all acceptable for Maddie — until she becomes enamored with the new, intriguing boy next door who makes her feel like there's so much more to the world she's desperate to see. Yoon tells her story through prose, but also in diary entries, text messages, medical charts and more. It's an invigorating story, not just for people who are stuck inside, but for those who want to reach out further than they've been expected to.
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez (Sept. 1; Carolrhoda LAB)
Ashley Hope Perez takes the devastating true story of the 1937 New London, Texas school explosion, widely considered the worst school disaster in the entirety of American history, and breathes life into it with fictional characters who fight against the real life East Texas segregation and racism. Mexican-American Naomi Smith and African-American Wash Fullerton both know that their oil mining hometown would violently disapprove of their budding relationship, but they find the pull to each other so strong that they risk everything to cross the town's firmly divided racial lines. It's as heartbreaking and powerful as you imagine it to be.
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (Sept. 1; Bloomsbury Children USA)
This is your final warning: If you aren't yet caught up on Sarah J. Maas' un-put-downable Throne of Glass series, then you better prepare those speed-reading eyes. No spoilers for you all, but really, what else do you need to know other than Celaena Sardothien is back in the fourth installment of the series, and she is hell bent on vengeance after essentially everyone she loves has been taken from her? This fantasy series is one that's going to be on book shelves for years to come, so don't fall behind.
Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman (Sept. 1; HMH Books for Young Readers)
If you loved the, well, grit of True Grit, you're going to trip because you're running so fast to the indie bookstore to get Vengeance Road. An honest-to-goodness YA Western, Erin Bowman's novel centers on Kate Thompson, whose father was murdered by the Rose Riders, who aimed to steal his journal with a map to a hidden gold mine. Rose, of course, isn't going to let this stand. She disguises herself as a boy and begins her venture for justice. But in the wild wild West, there isn't necessarily a clear line between right and wrong.
A Whole New World by Liz Braswell (Sept. 1; Disney Press)
Let's all applaud Disney Press for coming up with this "of course!" idea sure to please Disney animation fans. Starting with A Whole New World and Aladdin, Disney Press will release YA re-tellings of its most famous animated movies. In this version, the evil Jafar finds Genie's lamp before Aladdin does, and his dark magic rules all of Agrabah. Aladdin instead pulls together his street rat pals and stages a revolution, while Jasmine finally branches out and becomes a freedom fighter leading her people to overthrow Jafar.
Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt (Sept. 1; St. Martin's Griffin)
Author Marie Marquardt draws on her experience working as an immigrant advocate on the Mexican border to tell the fictional story of an undocumented Mexican immigrant and her family struggling to find a future in America, where so many opportunities are closed off to them because of their lack of those nine digits, the social security number. Things are thrown into more turmoil when Alma realizes Evan, who she is developing feelings for, is the nephew of a conservative senator who has made a career in fighting for deporting undocumented immigrants. Marquardt has a lot to teach readers about Immigration and Customs Enforcement, what it's like for undocumented young people trying to make a life, and what happens once someone is "caught" and deported back to Mexico, where they have never spent any time since they were toddlers, but never does it feel didactic. Instead, Marquardt envelops you into the story of this one family and this one young couple trying to beat the odds.
Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian (Sept. 1; HarperCollins)
Carrie Mesrobian made a name for herself in 2013 with her William C. Morris YA Debut Award nominee Sex & Violence, and she brings that same raw, candid voice to this year's Cut Both Ways. This, her third novel, centers on high school senior Will Caynes who realizes he is attracted to both his girlfriend and his male best friend. His confusing sexual identity — he never upfront identifies himself as bisexual — and his worry about cheating plague his thoughts, at least the ones not already taken up by his complicated home life. Mesrobian never talks down to readers, particularly when it comes to sex, and the straight-forward prose is refreshing.
Hunter by Mercedes Lackey (Sept. 1; Disney Hyperion)
Mercedes Lackey is already an established force in fantasy, but her YA novel Hunter will thrust her even further into the limelight. A mix between straight fantasy and dystopia, Hunter is set in the future after centuries before fantastical creatures entered the world through a break in the Otherworld barrier and destroyed cities. Now, the people of the world live in safe, enclosed communities, except for a group of magical teenage hunters who risk their lives every day to fight against the creatures, and appear on a sort of reality TV show about their endeavors.
Drowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley (Sept. 8; Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Olivia lives in a small town that whispers that she will kill herself after her upcoming 18th birthday, just like her mother did. Shalanda Stanley's atmospheric debut novel puts teenage Olivia directly in the shadow of her late mother — wearing her clothes, sleeping in her unchanged bedroom, and even allowing her grandmother to refer to her by her mother's name. It seems predetermined that she will follow in her mother's footsteps. But Olivia finds strength in her group of friends, Jamie, Maggie, and Beau, particularly after the foursome run away from home after a violent encounter with Jamie's father. Ultimately, the story shows the powerful bonds of friendship over even the inevitability of family.
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (Sept. 15; Balzer & Bray)
Teenager Willowdean got her quasi-offending nickname "Dumplin'" from her beauty queen mother who is always pressuring her happily curvy daughter to diet. Willowdean, however, has a confidence that inspires, and she isn't easily pressured to conform to some societal expectation of beauty. That is, until a relationship with a popular guy at school starts to make her question herself. In an effort to bring back her shining self-confidence, Willowdean does something unexpected: She joins her mother's beauty pageant. But it's not her relenting, it's a liberating story of a young woman who won't let others' opinions get her down.
Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales (Sept. 15; Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Have you ever read a book, blog, or essay and thought, "I absolutely would be soul mates with this writer"? Then you'll completely understand Leila Sales' Tonight the Streets Are Ours. Arden was always best described as "recklessly loyal," but she hopes to shed a piece of that image and do what she wants for herself on a spontaneous road trip to New York City to meet the guy behind the blog Tonight the Streets Are Ours. But don't expect your standard love story. Sales' novel is far more about family, friendship, and finding yourself in the mess of life.
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore (Sept. 15; Thomas Dunne)
You've never read a love story quite like this one. There's a travelling circus. There are feuding families, the Palomas and the Corbeaus. There's black magic. There's interwoven Spanish and French language in the English text. And, most importantly, there's Lace Paloma and Chuck Corbeau whose love could threaten both of their families. The Palomas swim in the mermaid exhibition and the Corbeaus walk the tightrope high in the trees, and their feud has escalated over the past 20 years, as the Palomas believe the Corbeaus dabble in dangerous black magic. Anna-Marie McLemore has created in entirely imaginative world and rich characters that will pull you in as if she's spinning magic herself.
The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen by Katherine Howe (Sept. 15; G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)
After Conversion and The Physick Deliverance Dane, you know that Katherine Howe knows her witchcraft and dark arts. But The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen opens a (literally) haunting new world of mediums, who communicate with the dead. During a seance in New York's East Village, filmmaker Wes meets a girl named Annie. But after time, her strange behavior — using outdated slang, always seeming distant, never seeming to leave a one-block radius in the Bowery — makes Wes think that maybe the girl he's falling for has some seriously mystical secrets.
Nightfall by Jake Halpern, Peter Kujawinski (Sept. 22; G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)
If the thought of Alaska, where you sometimes can't see the sun for more than two months, scares the bejeezus out of you, you might want to avoid Nightfall. Authors Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinkski team up again to tell the scary story of teenage friends who are trapped on Marin’s Island, where night is about to fall. That may not seem so scary to some of us, but then there's this: Everyone in their town follows strict rituals to pack up and clean to depart their home because the sun only comes up once every 28 years. And when night falls, to quote everyone in Game of Thrones, that means "Winter is coming." The tides roll away from the island, making water travel impossible. So now, the teenagers will be trapped without their families and with the monsters we all know come out when it's dark.
What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler (Sept. 22; HarperTeen)
What We Saw isn't going to be an easy read, but in today's societal climate and rape culture, it is going to be a necessary one. Aaron Hartzler draws from the real life tragedy and crime in Steubenville — the gang rape of a teenage girl at a party and subsequent social media sharing of pictures of the crime — to tell a fictional story that feels very, very real and present. Through the lens of a girl at the party, Hartzler implores his readers to ask themselves if sitting back and allowing a violent crime to happen, or remaining silent, makes you just as complicit.
I Crawl Through It by A.S. King (Sept. 22; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
A.S. King remains one of the most innovative YA writers publishing right now. And I Crawl Through It only adds to her impressive history. Four high school friends have all been part of tragedies, of crimes, whether they are immediately clear to the readers or not. And each finds his or her own way to cope and escape their experiences — whether it's crawling inside yourself so far that you feel inside-out, lying at every opportunity, visiting the man who lives in the bush, or building an invisible helicopter so you can fly away. Meanwhile, they are all being bombarded with standardized tests that seem so unnecessary as to be ridiculous. King's boldly surreal story is difficult and heartbreaking but raw and real, as all of the various pieces start finding their way back together.
Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (Sept. 22; Greenwillow Books)
We know from her previous work on the Fire and Thorns series and pretty much everything else she has written that Rae Carson can create an amazingly smart, brave heroine. And Walk on Earth a Stranger is no exception. Carson plunges us back into the Gold Rush-era American and imagines what would happen if a young girl was able to sense gold around her, just by feeling. In this new Gold Seer trilogy, Lee Westfall can do just that, and so she disguises herself as a man and hits the road to California where she has control over her powers and her own future.
Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs (Sept. 22; Quirk Books)
It's time to bid farewell to Ransom Riggs haunting Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series with the final installment, Library of Souls. The final novel is just as action-packed as you hoped it would be, as the children make the daring and risky trip across war-torn landscapes to rescue Miss Peregrine. Don't worry, of course you'll still have the real black-and-white photographs that inspired the oddball series, and if you're feeling like it's far too hard to say goodbye, don't forget the Tim Burton-helmed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children movie version is coming next March.
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (Sept. 22; Margaret K. McElderry Books)
Prepare yourself for the next dystopian series that is going to capture your attention for years to come. The Scorpion Rules, the first book of the new Prisoners of Peace series, will remind you what you loved about dystopias to begin with. After climate change and war ravaged the world, the artificial intelligence named Talis took control. Erin Bow's book begins 400 years after Talis comes to power, and the world has found peace at a high cost. World leaders' children are held hostage by the U.N., and, to ensure violence is only used as a last resort, if one nation wishes to declare war, the child of its ruler is killed. These children are dubbed The Children of Peace, and Princess Greta Gustafsen Stuart is proud of her role. However, the newest Child Elian has no time for this tradition, and it makes both Greta and the readers question what price we would accept for the peace — and not through a love story. It's far more unpredictable than that.
Juniors by Kaui Hart Hemmings (Sept. 22; G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)
Kaui Hart Hemmings gave us the incredible The Descendants — which was made into an Oscar-winning movie starring George Clooney — and she returns to her stunning homeland of Hawaii to tell her debut YA novel Juniors. Lea Lane is part mainlander and part Hawaiian, and she's used to being an outsider and living in a bit of limbo. That is, until this summer. She becomes friends with the wealthy Will and Whitney West and their bonds are forged over surfing, summer sun, and sharing their own life stories. It's funny, bright, and is full of heart, and as usual, Hart Hemmings puts love into the setting so much so that we're desperate to be there with her characters.
Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti (Sept. 29; Simon Pulse)
YA powerhouse Scott Westerfeld joins forces with acclaimed writers Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti to tell the story of six uniquely superhero teenagers, the self-named Zeroes. Ethan, or "Scam," has a secret voice that tells people what they want to hear. Crash can, well, crash any computer system. Flicker is medically "blind," but can see. Bellwether is the leader and can bring all of their energies together for a common purpose. Then there's the mysterious Anonymous, and you can imagine that superpower, and the new sixth member. The Zeroes ended their relationship, but now they find they need each other again when Ethan finds himself in trouble, and the powerful teens set off on a new thrilling adventure.
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (Sept. 29; Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)
Sometimes books come out at the precise time we need them. Such is the case with All American Boys, a powerful novel that seems torn from recent headlines. Two teenage boys, one black and one white, become entangled in one violent act that reverberates through their neighborhood and the entire country. Rashad, who is black, is accused of trying to steal a bag of chips and brutally beaten by a cop. Quinn, who is white, knows the cop as a father figure, and he witnesses the attack. When Rashad's story begins trending on Twitter, both boys contemplate their role in the incident, how it has changed them, and how to move forward.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Sept. 29; Henry Holt and Co.)
After the spectacular Grisha trilogy, we'd read pretty much anything Leigh Bardugo put on the bookshelves, but her new series kicking off with Six of Crows lives up to the expectations. Six outcasts in the dangerous international trading hub of Ketterdam bond together to perform one impossible Ocean's 11 style heist. They all have different motivations and goals, from the obvious riches to vengeance to the thrill of it all, and comes from diverse backgrounds. And, as we've come to expect from Bardugo, they are aided by a touch of magic.
A Big Dose of Lucky by Marthe Jocelyn (Sept. 29; Orca)
A Big Dose of Lucky is part of the totally innovative seven-book Secrets series, all released on the same day and written by different YA authors. The books are tied together by one overarching framing device: It's June 1964, and the Benevolent Home for Necessitous Girls has burned down, sending the seven oldest girls out on their own to find their places in the world. Each of the seven books tells the story of one of those girls. A Big Dose of Lucky centers on Malou, the only non-white girl in the orphanage, who tells her story of the infamous bombing of the16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and the Montgomery Bus Boycott via her journal entries. Meanwhile, Malou also struggles to figure out where she comes from and just how she ended up in the orphanage.