Hope you're ready to be swept away into magical lands, because the list of
best YA books of November 2018 is teeming with non-Western fantasies that you'll get lost in. Both Traci Chee and Julie C. Dao are finishing their trilogies, Natasha Ngan is drawing from her home country of Malaysia to start a new series, and Emiko Jean is telling a standalone fantasy that's already getting huge buzz. (Sequel maybe, please?)
But it's not all fantastical; historical fiction is also getting its due this month with books set during the Cold War of the 1980s (in a town full of nuclear missile silos no less) and the McCarthy-era of the 1950s where two women start a forbidden romance. Contemporary mysteries set on pecan farms and debutante balls will have you cozying up to flip through the pages at record speed. And one modern friendship story is hitting all the right notes (not just because it's about a band).
Plus, Marissa Meyer lovers (both hands raised!) probably already have this date marked on their calendars, but the Lunar Chronicles author is back with the second installment of her Renegades series, that trades in fairy tale characters for teenage superheroes.
Check out the picks for the best YA novels of November 2018, and if you can wait, they make great additions to your early Christmas wishlist.
'Girls of Paper and Fire' by Natasha Ngan (Nov. 6; Jimmy Patterson Books)
is an action-packed, feminist, LGBTQ fantasy that is inspired by Asian mythology and the author's own experiences growing up in Malaysia. Every year, the eight girls from the oppressed Paper caste are called on to serve the king as, essentially, concubines. This year, 17-year-old Lei is chosen because her golden eyes remind the king of her mother, who was taken years ago. Lei relents, in hope that she can find her mother, and ends up falling in love — not with the abusive king, but with another Paper Girl named Wren. Girls of Paper and Fire Click here to buy.
'Little White Lies' by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Nov. 6; Freeform)
Part-mystery/thriller, part-comedy, and chock full of social commentary,
Little White Lies brings readers into the world of Southern debutante season. Teenage mechanic Sawyer Taft doesn't know who her father is, and her maternal grandmother threw her mother out of the house when she was 17 and pregnant with Sawyer. Now, her grandmother is back with a wild deal: $500,000 and the identity of her father, if Sawyer participates in all debutante events this season. But Sawyer has no idea what she's in for. Click here to buy.
'Empress of All Seasons' by Emiko Jean (Nov. 6; HMH Books for Young Readers)
Every generation, women compete to become the empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. First, you must survive each of the palace's enchanted rooms: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Second, you cannot be a yōkai, a supernatural demon. Mari has been training her whole life and she knows she can complete part one, but it's the second rule that's the problem. Mari is a yōkai who can masquerade as a human. But if the (human) emperor finds out her secret, he will destroy her, like he does all of the supernatural beings.
Click here to buy.
'This Is What It Feels Like' by Rebecca Barrow (Nov. 6; HarperTeen)
Dia, Jules, and Hanna used to be best friends and bandmates. That was before Hanna's life became overcome by her drinking, before her friends and family lost trust in her, before a baby made messing around playing music every day much more difficult. But now, the Sun City talent competition is offering a band the chance of a lifetime, and Dia and Jules know they can't enter without their estranged friend, Hanna. The former friends have to find their old rhythm again in this bighearted novel by Rebecca Barrow.
Click here to buy.
'Archenemies' by Marissa Meyer (Nov. 6; Feiwel & Friends)
The second installment of Marissa Meyer's Renegades Trilogy takes the kickass, alternative superhero story even further. Nova began hating the Renegades, a group of humans with extraordinary abilities, because they let her down when she needed them. But since she met Renegade Adrian and became close, she's been trapped living a double life: aligned with the Renegades while working for their enemy, the Anarchists. What she doesn't know is Adrian has secrets of his own. Meyer's story is a true page-turner, and you'll probably be dying for the final book as soon as you finish. Click here to buy.
'Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix' by Julie C. Dao (Nov. 6; Philomel)
This sequel to
Julie C. Dao's Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a major twist: Instead of fully following the antihero of book one, Empress Xifeng, this book follows Princess Jade, her stepdaughter who was sent to live in a monastery. In telling the story of Jade, Dao subverts her series in a fun and thoughtful way, and allows Jade to tell the story of her exile and battle to reclaim her throne from her evil stepmother. Click here to buy.
'The Lying Woods' by Ashley Elston (Nov. 13; Disney-Hyperion)
Owen Foster has lived a life of privilege — thanks to his father's business, the largest employer in his small Louisiana town. But his entire life changes when his mother takes him out of boarding school to break the news: His father's fortune was the result of embezzling and cheating the townspeople out of their retirement funds. His dad has now gone missing, and Owen has to finish his senior year in his small town, where he's public enemy #1. His only refuge is a pecan orchard, where he works with Gus, who seems to be full of secrets. But Owen has his own secret: His father left him a note before disappearing, telling him to meet him at Thanksgiving.
Click here to buy.
'The Storyteller' by Traci Chee (Nov. 13; G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)
Traci Chee is back with the final book of her Sea of Ink and Gold series, and it may be the best one yet. The Storyteller is in a fight against fate — can Archer escape the story that's already written for him in the Book that tells the past, present, and future? Sefia is determined to ensure that he can. But she has enormous obstacles to overcome, because she must keep Archer from his torment at the hands of the Guard and keep all of Kelanna out of a prophesied bloody war.
Click here to buy.
'The Incredible True Story of the Making of the Eve of Destruction' by Amy Brashear (Nov. 13; Soho Teen)
It's the Cold War era of 1984 and Griffin Flat, Arkansas, is on the map for one reason: It's the home of nuclear missile silos, and its residents live under the threat of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. The town is about to get much more famous, though, because it's going to be the setting of a new Hollywood blockbuster,
The Eve of Destruction. Laura Ratliff just won a radio call-in contest for a walk-on role in the movie, and it's perfect timing for her.... because her family just blew up, figuratively. Her mother had an affair with, and married, the only black man in Griffin Flat, creating a scandal like the town of 8,000 has never seen. Moreover, her absent Strategic Air Command officer father has been warning them all of the town's impending doom. Though the story takes place in the '80s, it feels eerily timely. Click here to buy.
'Pulp' by Robin Talley (Nov. 13; Harlequin Teen)
Pulp tells two interconnected stories in McCarthy era 1955 and 2017, as well as two books-within-a-book, all centered on lesbian bisexual love stories. In 1955 Washington D.C., teenage Janet Jones has to keep her budding love with her best friend Marie a secret. Part of her awakens, however, when Janet discovers a book series about women who love other women, and she is inspired to write to tell her own story. In 2017, Abby is writing her senior project on classic 1950s gay and lesbian pulp novels. Abby herself was greeted with acceptance and understanding when she came out from her family, but she's still struggling with a broken heart after breaking up with Linh, who is bisexual. Janet and Abby's stories tie together in extraordinary ways in Robin Talley's story of love grounded in real history. Click here to buy.