Whether you're travelling for the Fourth of July or sitting at home and watching the fireworks from the comfort of your couch with popcorn, this list of the best YA books of July is just in time for the long summer weekend.
From pitch perfect summer rom-coms and adventure stories, to poignant examinations of mental illness, grief, and friendship, books this month have a little bit for all kinds of summer readers. Would you rather sleep with a flashlight after a twisty thriller or fall in love with characters falling in love at their beachside getaway? Luckily, there's a little bit of both and a whole lot more.
Awesome writers like Aditi Khorana, Lisa Maxwell, Kara Thomas, and Kate Elliott have new stories (and yes, thankfully, more Court of Fives), and there are loads of debut voices with buzz-worthy books the internet can't stop talking about. Plus, huge names in YA — ahem: Renee Ahdieh, Adam Silvera, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, and I could keep listing these off — are collaborating on a villain-loving anthology that you need on your bookshelf.
So grab your sunscreen and your favorite floppy hat so you can take your favorite books on this list out for a little reading date in the July heat.
'The Disappearances' by Emily Bain Murphy (July 4; HMH Books for Young Readers)
Every seven years, something disappears in the town of Sterling — and we're not talking about car keys or your favorite lip gloss. First, the townspeople lose their sense of smell, then their reflections, colors, and dreams. Aila and her brother Miles are sent to their mother Juliet's hometown of Sterling when Juliet dies. Using her mother's scribbled-in copy of Shakespeare, Aila seeks to solve the mystery of the disappearances, the rural town, and her own family in this poetic and rich historically set tale.
'The Lake Effect' by Erin McCahan (July 11; Dial Books)
If the cover didn't already convince you, The Lake Effect is a vibrant and smart summer read, perfect to tote around on vacation. Recent high school graduate Briggs Henry already plans to be a millionaire. Propelled by expectations from his family, he has a strict career path to become a wealthy lawyer — he just has to make it through this summer working on the beaches of Lake Michigan as a caretaker for elderly Serbian widow Mrs. Bozic. But as he grows close to Mrs. B — chatting about life while they crash funerals — and tries to capture the attention of the mysterious neighbor Abigail, Briggs is forced to reexamine what he's always pictured a "successful" life to look like.
'Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy,' edited by Ameriie (July 11; Bloomsbury USA Children's)
Just look at the star-studded list of names in his anthology and try to stop yourself from buying or borrowing it: Nicola Yoon, Renee Ahdieh, Marissa Meyer, Adam Silvera, and so many more. Each author teamed up with a BookTuber to take a fairy tale, legend, or other story and turn it on its head, retelling it from the villain's POV. And with this stacked list of YA writers and the fun challenge each story presents, it's a perfect summer travel companion.
'The Art of Starving' by Sam J. Miller (July 11; HarperTeen)
Sam J. Miller based his debut novel The Art of Starving on his own personal experience with an eating disorder. Bullied, gay teen Matt comes to believe that when he starves himself he develops superpowers of far heightened senses. In this state, he thinks his bullies are involved in the disappearance of his sister Maya. In description, it may sound like this story romanticizes eating disorders, but Miller doesn't shy away from showing the brutality and relentlessness of Matt's illness. The result is a powerful, often beautiful, and believe it or not, sharply funny novel from Miller.
'All the Ways the World Can End' by Abby Sher (July 11; Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Ever since she was little, Lenny (short for Eleanor) has cataloged all the ways the world could end, from a man-made pathogen causing a plague to a tsunami to aliens invading Earth. It doesn't help that it feels like her world is falling down around her IRL, too: her best friend is graduating early and leaving for college and, the hardest for her, her father is dying of cancer. Lenny's mental health issues with panic/anxiety and OCD lead her to form an unhealthy but at times funny attachment to her father's new handsome doctor. Abby Sher's novel is an unique, darkly funny, and heart-wrenching exploration of grief.
'Who's That Girl' by Blair Thornburgh (July 11; HarperTeen)
Last summer Nattie almost kissed hot local musician Sebastian Delacroix, and since then, his band Young Lungs has hit the big time. So when he returns to town to play a show, she hears his massive hit song "Natalie" and suspects it is about her. This thrusts the otherwise socially awkward Nattie — who was far more content to just hang out with her friends in the school's LGBTQIA-straight alliance — into the spotlight. In a rom-com-style YA novel, Blair Thornburgh has created a super fun, quirky story that's perfect for summer.
'Waste of Space' by Gina Damico (July 11; HMH Books for Young Readers)
Having run out of fresh ideas for reality shows down here on Earth, the next big show will take place in space — or at least that's what producers are telling the audience and the contestants. In actuality, the 10 teens who are cast are actually in a desert-based "space ship" laden with special effects, and they're starting to sense that everything isn't as it seems. If you know Gina Damico, this satirical novel is full of her unique brand of borderline ridiculous plotting and concept all pulled together with a deft hand and killer offbeat humor.
'The Library of Fates' by Aditi Khorana (July 18; Razorbill)
Princess Amrita is the only child of the kind, but protective ruler Chandradev. But everything changes in her peaceful kingdom when dictator Emperor Sikander visits, and Amrita offers to marry him and become part of his harem to keep the peace, even though she loathes the idea. Still, the offer isn't enough, and Sikander stages and overthrow, sending Amrita on the run with her oracle Thala. They know there's only one place they can go: The Library of All Things, where they can change their fates. Aditi Khorana beautifully weaves fables and folklore into this magical story, crafting a fully realized and unforgettable world.
'Fragile Like Us' by Sara Barnard (July 18; Simon Pulse)
The real romance in U.K.-import Fragile Like Us is the bonds of female friendship. Sixteen-year-old Caddy is looking for a love story. She wants to shake up her quiet world with a romance, but instead her life is changed by her new friend Suzanne, who is vibrant and fun, and who eventually shares that she moved to town to escape abuse from her step-father. Caddy and Suzanne's close friendship shifts the dynamic between Caddy and her long-time BFF Rosie, and moreover, Caddy may not have the skills to be able to help the increasingly self-destructive Suzanne. Sara Barnard forgoes a traditional love story and instead centers on the often more complicated and more powerful bonds of friendship in this powerful story.
'The Last Magician' by Lisa Maxwell (July 18; Simon Pulse)
In an alternative-reality modern day New York, anyone with magical abilities that enters Manhattan is confined by the barrier that will steal their powers (and often their lives) called the Brink. Esta is one of these Mageus, blessed with the ability to manipulate time — which she often uses to steal from the Order, who created the Brink. Her biggest job yet? To go back to 1902 and steal a book that contains all of the Order's secrets so she can save the future of the Mageus. Lisa Maxwell's The Last Magician is only the first of a new series, thank goodness, because the world is spellbinding and the prejudices against the Mageus feel very relevant to the present day.
'Everything All At Once' by Katrina Leno (July 25; HarperTeen)
Lottie's Aunt Helen died and left her a series of letter containing dares aimed at pushing Lottie out of her comfort zone and face her growing anxiety about her own death. Soon, she's crushing on boy, attempting daredevil stunts, and writing stories like her aunt. During her life, Aunt Helen was a Rowling-esque fantasy author who wrote a beloved series about two kids who find an elixir of immortality, and Katrina Leno's story weaves in excerpts from the book to come to a magical realism twist that only makes this novel more beautiful.
'First We Were IV' by Alexandra Sirowy (July 25; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
The story begins at the end, with the police arriving and the titular statement "First we were four, now we are three." Then in this page-turning thriller we are thrust back in time to when four super intense BFFs form a secret society that, as we soon learn, gets out of hand. Their friendship is formed when together they discover a dead body, and since then, they've believed nothing could break them apart. As part of the secret society, they gain revenge on bullies, teachers, and others in a series of escalating pranks. The story is definitely disturbing, but Alexandra Sirowy plays with the question of "good vs. bad" and moral complexities to build a truly compelling story.
'Buried Heart' by Kate Elliott (July 25; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
World Fantasy World finalist Kate Elliott is back with the finale to her beloved Court of Fives series, Buried Heart. Now, Jes's Commoner revolution against the Patrons faces a foreign invasion, and Jes has to unite the divided classes to fight together against a common enemy. With all the action, romance, and magic you'll expect, fans will have to see how their series ends in this jam-packed, exciting finale.
'Little Monsters' by Kara Thomas (July 25; Delacorte Press)
The Darkest Corners author Kara Thomas is back with a new twisted psychological thriller that's full of scares and plot-twists you don't see coming. Kacey Young escaped a difficult living situation with her mother and has moved to Broken Falls with her father she barely knows. In Broken Falls, she meets Bailey and Jade and is quickly welcomed into their friend circle. But after a late-night seance for fun that goes awry (which Kacey's little sister Lauren also attends), her friends start to distance themselves from Kacey before Bailey ultimately disappears leaving loads of questions in her wake. From there, prepare for an intense ride through twists and turns as the mystery unravels.