If Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff to summer, the rest of May is definitely the kickoff to summer reading. This month is full of great new young adult novels — so full that narrowing down to a hefty 19 picks for
best YA books of May has been excruciating.
Fantasy epics, rom-coms, thrillers, and timely contemporaries — this month has
everything. Plus, May is also loaded with sequels to some of your favorite long-running and new series. Think: Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses and Victoria Aveyard's The Red Queen series to Julie Murphy's Dumplin' followup and Stephanie Garber's return to the world of Caraval.
There are high school Mean Girl zombies; Americans marrying into a royal family, which is insanely perfect timing for
Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding date this month; and even a young adult thriller about a group of high school students befriending a YA author with devastating consequences. (Which I'm sure is not at all representative of the lovely YA authors on this list.)
On the nonfiction side, celebrities and writers banded together tell their stories, creating a handbook for resistance that is necessary for this time in our history.
So prepare your summer reading list (the weather will catch up!) and check out these picks for the best young adult books of May.
'A Court of Frost and Starlight' by Sarah J. Maas (May 1; Bloomsbury Children's)
Sarah J. Maas needs no introduction. The queen of YA fantasy is dropping a novella in the world of her
Beauty and the Beast-inspired A Court of Thorns and Roses series. The story takes place between A Court of Wings and Ruin and the upcoming fourth book, which is expected to publish in 2019. It takes place during the Winter Solstice and is narrated by Feyre and Rhysand, so it's the perfect thing to tide you over before more of the series hits shelves (and then immediately hits your bookshelf at home). Click here to buy. 'Royals' by Rachel Hawkins (May 1; Penguin Random House) 'Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now' by Dana L. Davis (May 1; Harlequin Teen)
After her mother dies of cancer, Tiffany Sly has to move cross-country to live with her biological father, his wife, and their four daughters — none of whom she has ever met. Her new setup in private-school L.A. is a far cry from her lifestyle in Chicago, but worse, her father Anthony is far beyond strict. He questions the way Tiffany wears her hair, her atheism, and pretty much everything about what makes Tiffany herself. To make matters more complicated, Tiffany is keeping a secret: There's a different man who wants a DNA test, because he claims he is her true father. The novel tackles a wide range of important issues — racism, mental health, religion, class, family — through the lens of a spirited and tough protagonist you'll fall in love with.
Click here to buy. 'Tradition' by Brendan Kiely (May 1; Margaret K. McElderry Books)
Brendan Kiely confronts the dangerous "old boys club" undertones and traditions within elite institutions. At the wealthy prep school Fullbrook Academy, the most sacred traditions include hockey players stacking pucks in their windows to show off their count of sexual partners and women being rated by appearance in the student handbook—traditions that play into perpetuating a rape culture. One of those privileged hockey players, Jamie Baxter, benefits from the male-dominated institution, but he also feels completely out of place. Jules Devereux also wants to leave the toxic Fullbrook behind, and together they fight against the systemic rape culture. It's a book that
shows men how to be better allies and feminists. Click here to buy. 'Puddin'' by Julie Murphy (May 8; Balzer + Bray)
A companion novel to
Dumplin' (which, BTW is going to be made into a movie with Jennifer Aniston), Puddin' centers on supporting character Millie Michalchuk. Millie has been to fat camp every summer of her life since she was a kid. Not this year. This year she's going behind her parents' backs and applying to a journalism internship — and hoping she gets to spend some time with a boy she's crushing on. An act of vandalism unites Millie with an unexpected friend, pretty and popular Callie Reyes, and they soon learn they may not be all that different after all. Click here to buy. 'Undead Girl Gang' by Lily Anderson (May 8; Razorbill) ... so what are you even waiting for? Mila Flores and her best friend Riley make their own fun in their small town by dabbling in some amateur witchcraft. But when Riley is found dead along with two local "mean girls," Mila doesn't believe her best friend was part of a suicide pact. So, Mila performs a spell to bring the girls back to life and figure out what happened—except, none of the girls remember their deaths. With only seven days until the undead become just dead again, they all have to work together to figure out who killed them in time. Undead Girl Gang is a mashup of The Craft and Veronica Mars with a Latina protagonist Click here to buy. 'The Handsome Girl and Her Beautiful Boy' B.T. Gottfred (May 8; Henry Holt and Co.)
Everyone just assumes that Zee is a lesbian and that Art is gay because of the way the choose to present themselves to the world. However Zee is pretty sure she's interested in men and Art in women, and more importantly, they're interested in each other. This love story explores the fluidity of gender and sexuality as each Zee and Art get to narrate their feelings in alternating first-person chapters.
Click here to buy. 'The Way You Make Me Feel' by Maurene Goo (May 8; Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
After a prank gone awry, Clara Shin is forced to spend her summer working on her dad's food truck, the KoBra. The only thing making it worse? She has to work alongside her overachieving classmate Rose. However, the summer isn't nearly as boring as the rebellious teenager anticipates. She starts to fall for Hamlet Wong, who works at a nearby food truck, and against all odds, friendship blossoms between Clara and Rose. The warm and funny story is absolutely perfect for kicking off your summer reading.
Click here to buy. 'War Storm' by Victoria Aveyard (May 15; HarperTeen)
As if you haven't already had this day starred on your calendar, Victoria Aveyard is releasing the fourth and final installment of her smash hit Red Queen series,
War Storm. Our beloved Mare Barrow knows she has to overthrow Maven and the kingdom of Norta once and for all, and she may have to align with the man who broke her heart to do it. After all, with Cal's Silver allies alongside them, the Scarlet Guard will be incredibly strong. But will it be enough to triumph over Maven? Click here to buy. 'How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation' edited by Maureen Johnson (May 15; Wednesday Books)
The world is a bit of a mess, but it's not always easy to figure out ways to help. Just in time for the midterm elections,
How I Resist is a perfect activism guidebook, featuring essays, stories, songs, and more from celebrities and some of the biggest names in YA. Even in dark times, this anthology promotes hope, showing how individual voices and efforts can truly make a difference. Click here to buy. 'The Accidental Bad Girl' by Maxine Kaplan (May 15; Amulet Books)
Rape culture, double standards for women, and online bullying are all highlighted in Maxine Kaplan's debut novel,
The Accidental Bad Girl. After getting caught hooking up with her BFF's ex-boyfriend on the last day of junior year, Kendall starts her senior year dubbed a "slut" by her former friend group. That ex-boyfriend, though? No one blames him. The bullying escalates when someone hacks her Facebook account and makes it look like Kendall has stolen from a drug dealer. In an effort to call out the "good girl/bad girl" dichotomy she's fallen victim to, Kendall sets out to confront sexist double standards and toxic male entitlement. Click here to buy. 'My So Called Bollywood Life' by Nisha Sharma (May 15; Crown Books For Young Readers)
Winnie Mehta's romance with Raj was written in the stars. A pandit said her janampatri predicted Winnie would meet the love of her life before her 18th birthday, and though Winnie's gut doesn't feel like it's Raj, she knows he meets all the qualifications on paper. So Winnie is shocked when she catches Raj cheating on her. Then there's Dev, a charming, fellow film nerd that Winnie is into... but is she willing to give up on her prophecy? This rom-com is pitch perfect for sweet, funny summer reading with heart.
Click here to buy. 'Girl Made of Stars' by Ashley Herring Blake (May 15; HMH Books for Young Readers)
Twins Mara and Owen are very close, but their relationship is strained when Mara's friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape. Mara is torn between believing that her twin would never do that and believing that Hannah would never lie about sexual assault. Making things harder, the accusation triggers Mara's own PTSD over an event in her past. Plus, Mara no longer has her BFF and ex Charlie by her side to help sort through her feelings.
Girl Made of Stars is a compassionate story that's necessary, particularly in the time of #MeToo. Click here to buy. 'All Of This Is True' by Lygia Day Peñaflor (May 15; HarperTeen)
Four teens befriend a hot, young YA author with devastating consequences in this genre-bending young adult novel by Lygia Day Peñaflor. Miri, Soleil, Penny, and Jonah are all hooked on
Undertow and its author Fatima Ro — so much so that they concoct a plan to get close to her. However, when the high schoolers' real life stories end up written into Fatima's new book, it has real-world implications — including Jonah being beat into a coma because of something the book says. Using interview transcripts, magazine articles, diary entries, and excerpts from the book-within-the-book, Peñaflor spins a thrilling, twisty story that will have you flipping the pages at warp-speed. Click here to buy. 'Furyborn' by Claire Legrand (May 22; Sourcebooks Fire)
Claire Legrand's sweeping fantasy centers on two badass women separated by thousands of years. Rielle Dardenne's secret has just been uncovered: She can control all of the elements, just like the prophesy says their savior Sun Queen or their destroyer Blood Queen will be able to do. Now, the kingdom wants to test her to see which she is. A thousand years later, bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora protects her family by targeting rebels against the Empire. However, when her own mother goes missing, Eliana teams up with a famous rebel to find her and uncover the true evils of the empire. Eliana also is hiding secret powers. The two timelines crash into each other in unexpected ways as Legrand builds her visionary world and dense mythology in this first book of a trilogy.
Click here to buy. 'From Twinkle With Love' by Sandhya Menon (May 22; Simon Pulse)
Alert to all fans of
When Dimple Met Rishi: Sandhya Menon is back with another dazzling rom-com! From Twinkle With Love is told via letters aspiring filmmaker Twinkle Mehra writes to her favorite female filmmakers, including Ava DuVernay and Nora Ephron. Twinkle is thrilled that fellow film geek Sahil Roy wants her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, and it's only a bonus that her longtime crush happens to be Sahil's twin brother, Neil. When Twinkle starts receiving love emails from a mysterious "N," she begins to hope that her crush on Neil is requited. Click here to buy. 'Driving by Starlight' by Anat Deracine (May 22; Henry Holt. and Co.)
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, two best friends indulge in everyday rebellions against their patriarchal society and
muttaween: flirting with boys, wearing lingerie and Western clothing, and listening to forbidden music. The main character Leena lives with her mother after her lawyer father was disgraced for protests against the government... so she understands the dire consequences of rebellion. Her best friend Mishail, however, is the daughter of a government official and plays more fast and loose with her rule-breaking. Anat Dercine lets us into the community and culture of the city she was born, but also tells a beautiful, universal story of female friendship. Click here to buy. 'Monday's Not Coming' by Tiffany D. Jackson (May 22; Katherine Tegan Books) Allegedly author Tiffany D. Jackson illuminates racial bias in missing children cases in Monday's Not Coming, which is based on a true story. Claudia's best friend Monday Charles never showed up for the first day of school in Washington D.C. By the second week of school, Monday is still missing, but the only one who seems to care is Claudia. She can't get the attention of the adults and authority figures around her, and so she goes looking for her friend on her own. Click here to buy. 'Legendary' by Stephanie Garber (May 29; Flatiron Books) Stephanie Garber's Caraval was one of the most talked about, anticipated books of last year, and now she's back with the sequel we've all been dying for. This time, focuses on Scarlett's younger, wilder sister, Donatella "Tella" Dragna. Tella and Scarlett may have survived Caraval, not to mention their abusive father, but now Tella owes a debt, and she has to learn Caraval Master Legend’s true name. For that information, she knows she has to enter Caraval and win. Legendary Click here to buy.