Though the weather hasn't caught up with the changing of seasons, the month of April is supposed to be the spring month of rain. And as any rabid book lover knows, rainy days are the best days for reading. As if on cue, these 16 best YA books of April 2017 are perfect for curling up inside on a rainy day. Through these stories you can disappear into an intergalactic war, a dream-like land of faeries, a summer house on Long Island (summer weather soon, please!), a futuristic Park Slope, a time back in history with Alexander Hamilton, a boy band concert in the '90s, and more.
This month, your library borrowing list or bookstore wishlist will have some huge names, too: Ann Brashares of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is back with another summery tale; Sara Zarr spins a story about sisters; Becky Albertalli follows up her critically adored Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda; and Melissa de la Cruz shows us that she loves that bastard, orphan, son of a whore, and Scotsman as much as we all do.
Use this list of the best YA of April to guide your TBR as we finally, fingers crossed, head into spring weather.
1'What Girls Are Made Of' by Elana K. Arnold (April 1; Carolrhoda)
When she was younger, Nina's mom told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. But what are the conditions of love, especially for a young woman? Told through Nina's first person experiences of a breakup with a guy she would have done anything for, as well as through Nina's own short stories, Elana Arnold explores the expectations and "requirements" teenage girls feel they must live up to, fully exposed, in order to love and be loved.
2'Speak of Me as I Am' by Sonia Belasco (April 4; Philomel Books)
The power of art helps two teenagers overcome tragic losses in Sonia Belasco's new novel. Melanie's mother passed away from cancer; Damon's best friend Carlos committed suicide. Melanie begins painting to feel close to her artist mother; Damon uses photography to try to understand Carlos' mindset. The two come together as they take part in a high school production of Othello and form a relationship, forged in their mutual grief. Speak of Me as I Am is heartbreaking and beautiful — a story you won't soon forget.
3'Defy the Stars' by Claudia Gray (April 4; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Planet Gemini is an Earth colony that's embroiled in a way for its independence. People like teen solider Noemi Vidal have been fighting against mechanical, "mech," soldiers from Earth. So when Noemi gets stuck in space with Abel, a high-tech mech, they should be enemies, but Abel is programmed to follow Noemi's orders. Soon, they become attached to each other, and not just in a programming way, despite their polar-opposite missions in the war. And maybe there's something more human inside Abel the machine. This science fiction epic explores philosophy, environmentalism, and more in a thoughtful way amid all the action and adventure.
4'But Then I Came Back' by Estelle Laure (April 4; HMH Books for Young Readers)
But Then I Came Back is a deeply personal story from Estelle Laure, and her deep understanding and care comes through the pages of the story. Eden Jones was a secondary character in Laure's This Raging Light, but she comes front and center in this story about Eden awakening from a month-long coma. However, after waking up, she has this strange feeling that she met a girl in her coma, a girl who had a message she couldn't hear. That girl turns out to be Jaz, another coma patient in the hospital, and Eden wants to try to reach out to her again.
5'Gem & Dixie' by Sara Zarr (April 4; Balzer + Bray)
Gem and Dixie are sisters, raised in neglect from their drug-addicted mother and absentee father, so much so that into their teen years the sisters grow apart. Still, the two girls only have each other. When their father unexpectedly returns, they find an opportunity to escape their home life together and spend days in Seattle, with Gem taking the mother role, as she always has, hoping to persuade Dixie to stretch for something more than what their parents gave them. Zarr is a YA force, and this is one of her most moving and poignant books yet.
6'Alex, Approximately' by Jenn Bennett (April 4; Simon Pulse)
Alex, Approximately puts a teen spin on the "falling for your opposite" rom-com of You've Got Mail. Bailey “Mink” Rydell has been chatting online with fellow movie buff Alex, but she doesn't tell him when she moves in with her father in Alex's hometown. When Bailey gets a job at a tourist-trap museum, she gains an arch nemesis in Porter, the security guard. As their relationship softens, Bailey thinks she has to choose between online Alex and real-life Porter, except... they're the same person. The romance is charming, but it has depth, too.
7'Alex and Eliza: A Love Story' by Melissa de la Cruz (April 11; G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)
Calling all Hamilton lovers! (OK, that's just all of us.) Melissa de la Cruz was also captivated by the hit musical, especially the love story between Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler. Alex and Eliza puts this romance in the spotlight, as de la Cruz melds researched history and a bit of fictional magic to bring the story to life. The book tends a bit toward younger teen readers, but come on, all lovers of the bastard, orphan, son of a whore, and Scotsman will eat it up.
8'The Upside of Unrequited' by Becky Albertalli (April 11; Balzer & Bray)
Becky Albertalli rocked the YA world with her debut Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and now she's back with the wonderfully diverse The Upside of Unrequited. Molly Peskin-Suso feels like all of her crushes have been unrequited, but she launches herself back into the possibilities of the dating pool when her fraternal twin sister Cassie falls head over heels for a new girl with a boy BFF. However, despite Cassie's matchmaking, Molly has her eyes on a different Ren-Faire-loving boy. Family, body image, sexual orientation, first love, and more all become entwined in this romantic story.
9'Spindle Fire' by Lexa Hillyer (April 11; HarperCollins)
You haven't read a reimagining of Sleeping Beauty quite like this before. Half sisters Isabella and Aurora both got something stolen by fairies when Aurora was born: The former, her vision, and the latter, her sense of touch and her voice. Just like in the original story, Aurora does prick her finger on a spinning wheel, but in a new twist, this sends her to a fae dream realm. The only one who can save her is her blind half-sister Isabelle.
10'The Takedown' by Corrie Wang (April 11; Disney Hyperion)
The Takedown takes aim at the pervasiveness (and invasive-ness) of social media, internet fame, and "going viral" in a story set in near-future Park Slope Brooklyn high school. In a twisted sort of revenge porn, uber-popular Kyla Cheng becomes the target of an internet attack, as someone uploads a video of Kyla and her English teacher having sex. One of the many issues aside from rampant slut-shaming? It's not Kyla in the video. As the video goes viral, Kyla tries to track down who uploaded the video, but more importantly, how to take it down from the web. Because as we're so often told, once it's on the internet, it won't go away.
11'Given to the Sea' by Mindy McGinnis (April 11; Putnam Children's)
I'm always up for a feminist-leaning epic fantasy, and Mindy McGinnis doesn't disappoint with her latest story. There isn't a magical glossing over in this tale; it can be gory and difficult, but it's most often earned, tackling subjects of sexual assault, racism, and violence. Khosa is the "Given," born to sacrifice herself to the sea to save her home from a wave that would destroy it. The page-turning story is told via four intersecting points of view from the people that surround Khosa.
12'Bang' by Barry Lyga (April 18; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
When he was just four years old, Sebastian accidentally killed his infant sister with his father's handgun. Now, 10 years later, Sebastian is still dealing with the effects of that tragedy, even contemplating suicide due to the guilt. A new friend Anessa brightens up his life, but still he finds it hard to outrun his past, especially when he's considered a pariah in his community. Sadly, the story is an all-too common tragedy, so it feels vital to talk about the far-reaching aftermath and whether Sebastian, or anyone else, can find peace.
13'Fireworks' by Katie Cotugno (April 18; Balzer + Bray)
If you remember the hysteria surrounding *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys of your teen years (or now — you do you!), you'll definitely understand the drama of Fireworks. Set in '90s-era Orlando, two BFFs are auditioning, in competition, to be part of a new girl group. When both Dana and Olivia make it into the band, there's drama, romance, friendship struggles, and all that pop music craze we remember so well.
14'Lucky Girl' by Amanda Maciel (April 25; Balzer + Bray)
Amanda Maciel explores the facets of society that build into rape culture in this thoughtful, though difficult, story. The high school girls in this story are defined by (and find their self worth based on) their looks, the kind of attention they receive from male peers, and their sexual experience, whether positive or negative. So when Rosie's formerly "ordinary" BFF Maddie returns from a summer trip looking absolutely stunning, it throws Rosie for a loop. Then, when Rosie is sexually assaulted at a party, she blames her own actions and behavior, which is all too often the case. Reading Lucky Girl will make you want to hug and shake Rosie and tell her she's worth so much more than what's in the mirror, but that just adds to its tragically honest depiction of the building blocks of rape culture.
15'Between Two Skies' by Joanne O'Sullivan (April 25; Candlewick)
OK so Between Two Skies veers more middle grade than young adult, but it's so, so worth the read. Hurricane Katrina has displaced newly 16-year-old Evangeline Riley in more ways than one. Dedicated to the sea as a fishing rodeo champion, Evangline now has to leave her storm-devastated small Louisiana village and move into an apartment in Atlanta, so far from everything she knows, literally and in her soul. The story is both heartbreaking and hopeful, as Evangeline is defiant against the storm that tried to break her.
16'The Whole Thing Together' by Ann Brashares (April 25; Delacorte Press)
Ann Brashares hopped onto our list of YA faves after releasing her iconic The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, and now she's back with another summery read — this time focused on familial bonds. Sasha and Ray both spend their summers in the same house in Long Island, even sleep in the same bed, but they've never met. Before starting new families and having them, Sasha's dad and Ray's mom were married with their three half siblings. Since the bitter divorce, they split time in the house, never encountering each other. However, now that an event has brought both new families to Long Island, Sasha and Ray finally meet and feel a spark.