The 16 Best YA Books Of October Include Horror, Rom-Coms, And Historical Adventures

by Caitlin White

Everyone knows fall is the perfect time for reading at your favorite coffee shop with your pumpkin spice latte setting the mood. These picks for the best YA books of October will be your perfect companions. Yes, there are some chilling stories to match with your Halloween anticipation, but there are also rom-coms, adventures, fantasies, fairy tales, and so much more.

Let's talk sequels: Laini Taylor is bringing readers back to the Weep for Muse of Nightmares, the sequel to her unique fantasy Strange the Dreamer. Mackenzi Lee focuses on a different member of the Montague family in The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. Now's the time to pick up the first book in both series so you can be in on the buzz.

October is also full of big YA names: Lauren Oliver, Megan Shepherd, Anna-Marie McLemore, Adam Silvera, and Becky Albertalli—and those last two are co-writing the highly-anticipated LGBTQ romance you're going to need, What If It's Us? (And it's not the only one this month, ahem, It's Kind of an Epic Love Story.)

So circle these dates on your day planner and grab your favorite hot beverage to settle in for some lazy days of fall reading.

'Grim Lovelies' by Megan Shepherd (Oct. 2; HMH Books for Young Readers)

Megan Shepherd's Grim Lovelies is a fairy tale like you've never read before, starring the characters often relegated to supporting roles in your favorite stories. In a magical modern-day Paris, Anouk is a "Beastie," an animal enchanted to a human servant. She lives with other Beasties trapped in the residence of the witch Mada Vittora. But when their master is murdered, the Beasties have only three days left in the spell before they are transformed back into animals. Shepherd, a self-proclaimed Disney obsessive, pulls in elements and characters reminiscent of sidekicks in The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty to tell a fairy tale about identity and humanity.

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'Sawkill Girls' by Claire Legrand (Oct. 2; Katherine Tegen Books)

Young women have been disappearing on picturesque Sawkill Rock for generations, leaving behind only whispers of a monster in a nursery rhyme-like song among townspeople: "Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep. He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep." Three girls, who take turns telling their side of the tale in Sawkill Girls, are embroiled in the mystery. Zoey is the black daughter of the white police chief, and whose best friend is the most recent victim; Marion is the new girl on the island with her mom and sisters; and Val is the beautiful queen bee who is hiding an ugly secret. Claire Legrand tells an eerie, feminist horror story that's perfect for reading close to Halloween.

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'Don't Call Me Crazy' edited by Kelly Jensen (Oct. 2; Algonquin Young Readers)

In Don't Call Me Crazy, editor Kelly Jensen opens up the conversation around all types of mental illness in an effort to build understanding. Thirty-three contributors — including celebs like Kristen Bell and major names in YA like Adam Silvera, Libba Bray, and Heidi Heilig — tell their own personal stories of living with a mental illness. This (crucially!) diverse essay collection spans race, gender, sexual orientation, career, and age to hopefully reduce the stigma around mental illness.

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'Dry' by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman (Oct. 2; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

The drought has had everyone in Southern California cutting down on their showering, lawn watering, and filling up their pools. But when the water runs completely dry, Alyssa's quiet suburban neighborhood descends into chaos. Neal Shusterman teams up with another of his sons, Jarrod Shusterman (his son Brendan inspired and created the artwork for National Book Award winner Challenger Deep), to tell this cusp-of-the-apocalypse story that explores the best and worst of people in crisis.

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'The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy' by Mackenzi Lee (Oct. 2; Katherine Tegen Books)

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue characters Henry "Monty" Montague and his boyfriend Percy step to the side in Mackenzi Lee's second installment, allowing Felicity Montague and two other women take center stage as they fight for respect and their place in the world. Felicity knows she's smart and driven enough to enroll in medical school, but she's a woman, so she can't attend. So, when she finds out Dr. Alexander Platt is looking for medical research assistants in Germany, she enlists the help of Sim, an Algerian Muslim woman. Sim will take Felicity to Germany if she pretends to be her maid. Dr. Platt, it turns out, is also marrying Felicity's estranged best friend Joanna, which opens up old wounds for the wannabe doctor. The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is fun while still being thoughtful, feminist, and an ode to female friendship.

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'Broken Things' by Lauren Oliver (Oct. 2; HarperCollins)

Estranged best friends Mia and Brynn are known across the country as The Monsters of Brickhouse Lane, as they're believed to have ritualistically killed their other best friend, Summer, when they were 13 as part of their obsession with a fantasy novel The Way Into Lovelorn. Now, five years later, Mia and Brynn reunite with new evidence of their innocence. But have to work together — alongside a group of friends — to find out what really happened to Summer. This mystery delves into fandom, toxic friendship, crime as entertainment, and much more in its twisted path toward answers.

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'Damsel' by Elana K. Arnold (Oct. 2; Balzer + Bray)

The tradition is one we all know well: When the prince comes of age, he ventures off to slay a dragon and save a damsel who will become his bride. Elana K. Arnold tells the same story... but from the woman's perspective. In Damsel, a woman cannot remember who she is; all she knows is the name Prince Emory has given her, Ama, and the story he tells her: That he rescued her from a horrific dragon's lair and that he will now be her husband. Now, she is trapped by an physically and emotionally abusive betrothed who feels entitled to her because he has "saved" her. Arnold tells a twisted, furiously feminist "fairy tale" that speaks to the violence women are expected to endure not just in fantasies, but in our real life.

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'Muse of Nightmares' by Laini Taylor (Oct. 2; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Laini Taylor takes us back to the Weep, as Lazlo, Sarai, and the rest of her characters reel from the fallout of book one in this series, Strange the Dreamer. It's been 15 years since the "Liberation," or what the godspawn refer to as the "Carnage," and since then, new god Lazlo and ghost Sarai have only been able to meet up in their dreams. With new enemies and new obstacles, will Lazlo choose to save his love or everyone else? If you haven't picked up book one yet, get to it because it's possible Muse of Nightmares surpasses even the original.

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'The Boneless Mercies' by April Genevieve Tucholke (Oct. 2; Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Take the ancient "Beowulf" you read in college, substitute a band of female mercenaries for the titular hero, and you have the framework for The Boneless Mercies. Seventeen-year-old Frey is the leader of her all-female band of Mercies, who help the sick and old pass into death. But Frey wants more for her life and her crew. So when she hears tales of a monster ravaging entire villages, she signs up the Boneless Mercies to defeat it. This fierce, haunting epic would have been much more fun to read in your freshman lit class; it's wonderful.

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'What If It's Us?' by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (Oct. 9; HarperTeen)

YA match made in heaven, Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera have teamed up to tell the sweetest love story. Ben and Arthur have a meet-cute in the post office, but fail to trade any contact information. When coincidence — or fate! — brings them back together again and again, each of the two very different teenage boys want to believe that the universe is giving them a sign... but is it that they are totally wrong or absolutely fated to be together? Obviously, young adult lit lovers are going to need this one on their shelves.

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'Blanca & Roja' by Anna-Marie McLemore (Oct. 9; Feiwel & Friends)

Blanca & Roja is a Latinx Swan Lake retelling that mixes in elements of Snow White. Blanca and Roja del Cisne are sisters, best friends, and rivals. They are pitted against each other by fate, knowing that after a game, one of them will be cursed to shed their human skin and become a swan. Still, the sisters refuse to be enemies because of this curse; instead they form a powerful bond and aim to beat their fate. Things change when two boys enter the game, and the sisters connect with them. As we've come to expect from Anna-Marie McLemore, this story is magically beautiful like a modern fairy tale.

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'Beneath the Citadel' by Destiny Soria (Oct. 9; Amulet)

Destiny Soria's sprawling fantasy features three LGBTQIA+ main characters navigating the idea of prophecies and free will. For long before our story begins, the high council of Eldra has retained its power under the choke-hold of "infallible prophecies" of elder seers. At the start of Beneath the Citadel, the rebel group of Cassa, Alys, Evander, and Newt have already been arrested for crimes against the high council. The story goes back and forth in time to set up how they got there and where they go from their scheduled executions. There's adventure, politics, romance, and so much more in this exciting fantasy.

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'A Very Large Expanse of Sea' by Tahereh Mafi (Oct. 16; HarperTeen)

In the year after 9/11, 16-year-old has her guard up against the bigotry of her community, negatively stereotyping her for being Muslim and wearing a hijab. However, when she meets Ocean James in her biology class, she begins to open herself up and fall for him. Tahereh Mafi tells a love story in the face of racism and xenophobia, and the beautiful novel has already been longlisted for the National Book Award.

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'The Light Between Worlds' by Laura E. Weymouth (Oct. 23; HarperTeen)

Nearly six years ago, siblings Philippa, Evelyn, and Jamie were transported out of the Blitz, the German bombing of London during World War II, and into a Narnia-like fantasy land called the Woodlands. But after all those years, they were pushed back into the real world, right back into the bombings, as if no time had passed. Philippa wants to find her place back in this world, but Ev despairs at losing the Woodlands, what she believes to be her real home. Ev disappears into the woods, searching for a way back, until one day when Phillippa gets word that her sister has gone missing. This lyrical historical fantasy meditates on trauma and grief and finding your home in the world.

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'This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story' by Kheryn Callender (Oct. 30; Balzer + Bray)

It seems to be the middle of a rom-com revival (thankfully!), and This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story is a perfect new addition. Despite being a film buff and aspiring screenwriter, Nathan Bird doesn't believe in happy endings. However, that mindset is thrown into question when Oliver James Hernández, Nathan's childhood best friend, comes back to town. Kheryn Callendar so beautifully captures the angst and excitement and humor in crushes and new relationships, and it feels invigorating to read a gay romance that isn't weighed down by trauma.

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'Salt' by Hannah Moskowitz (Oct. 30; Chronicle Books)

Indi and his entire family spend their life roaming the Mediterranean on their sailboat and hunting down monsters. But ever since his parents died on a hunt months ago, Indi feels the ache to escape. He wants to protect his younger siblings, but he also feels compelled by his parents' journal, which seems to contain directions to a treasure. Hannah Moskowitz's YA novel spans genres seafaring adventure, contemporary family story, fantasy — resulting in an action-packed, moving story.

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