Trading in those long, free, sunshine-fueled summer days for fall's chill (and probably classes) can be tough. But who could dread autumn when your bookshelves could be stacked with these 18 best YA books of September?
We're walking into a bounty of stellar young adult novels written by some of the biggest names in the game — ahem, Ransom Riggs, Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardgo, and Danielle Paige, just to name a handful. And when these books are in your tote, walking to work or class just doesn't feel as tough, even if you have to trade in your sandals for close-toed shoes.
Septembers best books will take you back into the oddball world of the peculiars, to a world where there's no such thing as reading or books (the horror!), back to Ketterdam, to California during the Gold Rush, and into the pages of fairy tales and even William Shakespeare, not once but twice. And for you contemporary realism lovers (I'm raising my hand), there are plenty of unique, insightful, and heartbreaking stories that will hit you right at home.
So when you're ordering your first pumpkin spice latte of the season and throwing on a cute sweater over that tank top, bring one (or all!) of these top-notch YA novels for company on your travels.
1. Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs (Sept. 3; Dutton Books for Young Readers)
Miss Peregrine fans need this stunning hardcover in their collection, STAT. Ransom Riggs has created a meta storybook you'll recognize from the pages of his Peculiar Children series, and it'll be available (perfectly) on Loop Day. Much like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Riggs takes on the persona of fictional peculiar scholar Millard Nullings to write the introduction and commentary throughout the book. Prepare for oddball wonder, as you probably already expect.
2. Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (Sept. 6; Bloomsbury USA Children's)
There's highly anticipated, and then there's Empire of Storms-level highly anticipated. Every new Sarah J. Maas book is an event, and Empire of Storms lives up to the hype. The lost queen of Terrasen, Aelin Galathynius, has a long journey to reclaim the throne, but it all will be for naught if she allows the Erilea world to shatter around her due to brewing feuds and dark forces. Come on though, we know the former assassin is up to it right? You don't need me to tell you to get your greedy hands on this one.
3. Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard (Sept. 6; HarperTeen)
Pen is comfortable with herself, it's other people that are the problem. Everyone seems to want to shove her into labeled boxes, just because she is happy wearing her brother's oversized clothing and is interested in her female classmates. She's not trying to be a boy, she's just trying to be herself, as much as it frustrates her parents and some of her peers. M-E Girard's story isn't preachy or trite, it's a complex, fierce story about gender identity, friendship, women's rights, coming of age, and family and generational disagreements.
4. As I Descended by Robin Talley (Sept. 6; HarperTeen)
Robin Talley takes Shakespeare's Macbeth into high school and the 21st century in As I Descended. Delilah Dufrey is Queen Bee, but Maria Lyon is determined to beat her and win a prestigious award that will make acceptance into Stanford a lock. By Maria's side is her closeted girlfriend Lily, who holds a ruthless desire to take down Delilah, and if you studied your Shakespeare, you probably have an idea where this is going. Still, Talley is completely compelling and unique, probably because, frankly, Macbeth's cruelty was totally meant for a high school setting.
5. The Graces by Laure Eve (Sept. 6; Amulet Books)
I'm obsessed with modern day covens, so of course Laure Eve's The Graces is on my (and should be on everyone's) radar. Part-The Craft and part-Practical Magic with a wild twist, The Graces will put some powerful magic on the reader. River (who doesn't reveal her real name) is the new girl in town, and she, along with everyone else, becomes captivated by the Graces, a wealthy, glamorous family with secrets. She tries to embed herself into the family to become part of them, but um, there's more to River than she's willing to let on at first.
6. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova (Sept. 6; Sourcebooks Fire)
Alex is the most powerful witch of her generation, a bruja, except she hates magic. So, on her Deathday, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her magic, but instead her entire family disappears. To remedy her mistake, Alex, alongside another brujo boy she's not sure she can trust, has to travel to Los Lagos and find them. But Los Lagos isn't just any normal place, it's the in-between, the underworld, where nothing is as it seems and dark marvels are around every corner. Zoraida Córdova's stunning storytelling and wondrous world-building make this one to remember, and bonus: there's a multicultural, bisexual love triangle to give you the swoons.
7. The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely (Sept. 13; Margaret K. McElderry Books)
This is summertime cross-country journey that characters (or readers) won't soon forget. Teenagers Corrina and Hendrix both have reasons to escape: Corrina is a rock-and-roll girl trying to live in a suffocating ordinary world, and Hendrix's father is dead and mother is absent, always working. So one night, they spontaneously bust Hendrix's beloved Gpa out of his assisted living facility and road trip from Los Angeles to New York, so Gpa can visit the hill where he first kissed his late wife before his Alzheimer’s takes over his brain. I'm tearing up as a I write this, so you know the story is full of heart and soul and love, love, love.
8. The Reader by Traci Chee (Sept. 13; G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)
Try to imagine a world without books or reading. I know, it's horrible. That's where Sefia and her family live. Sefia has lived in the woods with her aunt Nin, learning to survive off the land ever since her father was murdered. But now, Nin has been kidnapped, and the only clue to figure out what happened to both Nin and her father is this never-before-seen item, a book. Traci Chee spins a heart-pounding adventure story, weaving in the yarn from the book-within-the-book beautifully and innovatively.
9. Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner (Sept. 13; Candlewick)
This poignant meditation on grief follows three teenagers who have all experienced brutal losses in their short lives. Otis and Meg were inseparable BFFs until the time Otis's younger brother died and Meg's family split from town. Three years later, Otis is spending his summer swimming, training under tough Dara who was destined for swimming stardom before she lost her arm to a shark attack. However, he gets a message from Meg out of the blue that she's coming back to town, and soon Otis' attention is divided. All three characters are coping with grief, and Paula Garner imbues them with confusion, sadness, heart, and even moments of levity, showing just how difficult loss can be.
10. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis (Sept. 20; Katherine Tegen Books)
Guys, I'm not going to sugarcoat this: The Female of the Species is a brutal read at times. There's descriptions of violence against both humans and animals that will punch you in the gut. But holy crap is it good. Alex Craft is known by one thing in her high school: She's the girl who's older sister Anna was raped and murdered by a man who was never convicted. But both Jack and Peekay, aka Claire, see her differently. Jack sees a stunning, compelling woman he wants desperately to get to know better. Peekay sees a gentle, animal-loving soul who protects every living being who enters the animal shelter where they work together. But Alex sees herself differently than everyone: She's dangerous and struggles every day to hold in her desires. Along the way we find out, often what we already know, what it's like being a female of the species in this world.
11. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (Sept. 20; HarperTeen)
Being named queen isn't always a good thing in Fennbirn. In every generation, a set of female triplets are born, and when they all turn 16, the young queens have to battle to the death to survive as the single queen. Yes, they have to kill their two other sisters. Each girl uses their special magical gifts, which represent different groups and parts of Fennbirn: the gift of poison, naturalism, or elemental, or the rarer gifts of sight and war. Each sister gets her due in Kendare Blake's innovative fantasy tale, and it's romantic at the truest sense of the word: dark, bloody, and absolutely beautiful.
12. Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu (Sept. 20; Roaring Brook Press)
I've been a huge fan of Jennifer Mathieu's since The Truth About Alice, and she brings the same care and love to her characters in her new YA novel Afterward. Caroline's younger autistic brother Dylan is kidnapped and held for four days. When authorities find Dylan, they also find Ethan, a teenager who was abducted by the same person four years ago. Dylan is having a difficult time readjusting to life after his traumatic ordeal, and his family can't afford therapy. So Caroline seeks out the help of Ethan to see if he can help her understand what happened to Dylan, and the two form a unique friendship.
13. Kids of Appetite by David Arnold (Sept. 20; Viking Books for Young Readers)
David Arnold burst onto the YA scene with his beloved debut Mosquitoland, but don't be worried about a sophomore slump. Kids of Appetite is raw, honest, and incredibly affecting. Teenager Vic Benucci is still coping with his father's death two years prior when his mother's new boyfriend proposes. It propels Vic out of his house and onto a journey across New Jersey to spread his father's ashes according to a decoded final note he left him. His main cohort on this journey is Madeline “Mad” Falco, whose abusive uncle is killed. The story is interspersed with police interrogations into that crime.
14. Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige (Sept. 20; Bloomsbury USA Children's)
Danielle Paige has moved from The Wizard of Oz to The Snow Queen fairy tale for her latest unique adaptation, which will become a series. Snow has spent nearly the first 17 years of her life in a high-security mental institution. But Snow knows she's not crazy, so when she has an insightful dream and her favorite orderly Bale disappears, she escapes. Now she's not sure what's real and what's imagined in upstate New York, but as secrets are revealed, she believes she's been on the run from inheriting her royal line. This magical adventure ride is just as fun as we've come to expect from Paige.
15. Metaltown by Kristin Simmons (Sept. 20; Tor Teen)
Kristen Simmons is behind the super feminist, The Handmaid's Tale-esque The Glass Arrow, so obv we're going to pick up whatever she wrote next. This time, Simmons an equally grim dystopian future in Metaltown, but this time she lasers in on child labor and horrific working conditions. To survive, poor teens Colin and Ty work at a factory creating weapons for war. Lena's family runs the factory and she's determined to be as ruthless as the earlier generations, until she meets Colin and sees the other side of the story.
16. Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson (Sept. 27; Greenwillow)
In Rae Carson's follow-up to her National Book Award-nominated Walk on Earth a Stranger, Leah Westfall is finally in California to hopefully strike it rich in the Gold Rush, using her special gift of being able to smell gold. However, standing in her way is her murderous uncle Hiram who is willing to do anything to control her power. This sequel ups the ante of romance, adventure, and danger.
17. Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge (Sept. 27; Balzer + Bray)
Rosamund Hodge last put her unique spin on Beauty and the Beast, and now she's turning to an even more deadly adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. In this dystopian tale, the Ruining caused most humans to die and the dead to rise. The only pocket of humanity left is within the walls of Viyara. Inside, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou are the heirs to their warring families. Meanwhile Mahyanai Runajo is desperate to fix the failing wall around them and save her city. If this doesn't sound like the Shakespeare you were taught in high school, you'd be right; it's far more bloody, more magical, and with countless more zombies that you remember.
18. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Sept. 27; Henry Holt and Co.)
Six of Crows was a stand-out hit of 2015, largely due to Leigh Bardugo's incredible ability to create worlds we never want to leave and characters we can't forget. Luckily, we get to go back to that world and those characters in her sequel Crooked Kingdom. Kaz Brekker and his motley crew pulled off their impossible heist, but that doesn't mean they're safe. A war is coming to Ketterdam, and no one is fully prepared for what it will bring.