Let's get to the bottom line first: Everyone is ready for zombies to attack this April. Justina Ireland's insanely anticipated (for good reason), Civil War-era zombie story
. But those aren't the only zombies coming. Out in the dusty Western landscape, Emma Berquist also gives us a tough teenage girl fighting against the undead in another unique genre-bending horror story in Dread Nation is finally almost here Devils Unto Dust.
Zombies aren't your thing? I'll argue first that neither
Dread Nation or Devils Unto Dust are traditional, strict zombie lore and you should read even if you aren't a The Walking Dead person. But second, don't worry, because there's tons more coming for young adult lit lovers.
Can you believe we've gotten this far into talking about April YA and haven't mentioned that
Becky Albertalli is dropping a sequel to (a.k.a the book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Love Simon movie is based on) starring rockstar drummer Leah? Because she is. And you need it.
Plus, Summer reading is coming already (has it even stopped snowing yet?) and writers like Siobhan Vivian and Amy Spalding are bringing it with tales of feminist ice cream shops, searching for the best burger, and, of course, all kinds of love stories.
Also: Vikings! The author of
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl! Poetry! An anthology about personal mental illness stories! There's something for everyone in this list of the 13 best YA books for April 2018.
'Dread Nation' by Justina Ireland (April 3; Balzer + Bray)
Justina Ireland's alternative-history, post-Reconstruction, zombie story is one of the most anticipated YA novels of 2018 — and for good reason.
is on-point and heartbreaking on racism and oppression (that's still relevant today as in the story's era) while still maintaining a breakneck, riveting pace as a horror story. The dead rose for the first time at Gettysburg, and the Union and Confederate soldiers had to come back together to defeat them. As the dead started to rise everywhere else, the U.S. created legislation, the Native and Negro Education Act, that sent young men and women of color to train for battle against the dead. Biracial Jane is one of these young women, and she's about to graduate from her schooling and return home when she becomes embroiled in a corrupt scheme by the white elite. As it turns out, in this horror novel, the zombies aren't the only evil Jane has to fight. Dread Nation Click here to buy.
'The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)' by Amy Spalding (April 3; Sky Pony Press)
The Summer of Jordi Perez (And The Best Burger in Los Angeles) is a crazy sweet, funny romance by Amy Spalding that brings a queer, fat character out of the sidekick role and into the spotlight. Plus-size fashion blogger Abby Ives is psyched to earn a coveted internship at her favorite local boutique, and she even starts a relationship with fellow intern Jordi Perez. But now she's competing against Jordi for a paid job at the boutique, and outgoing Jordi may push Abby a little too far in the spotlight for her comfort. Click here to buy.
'MUNMUN' by Jesse Andrews (April 3; Amulet Books)
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl author Jesse Andrews takes the idea of the wealth gap and manifests it in actual physical presence in a world otherwise much like our own. Think: the 1 percent are literally the size of skyscrapers, where the most destitute are more like rats. Warner and his sister Prayer are the latter, and so while they have to worry about money, they simultaneously have to worry about the dangers of being small: predators, not having cars or hospitals or other services small enough to fit them. The siblings and their friend Usher go on an adventure to literally scale up, to see if the American dream of going from nothing to billionaire is really even possible in a world designed against them. This story is a trip, but it's not hard to see how shrewd and biting it is about the world we currently exist within. Click here to buy.
'Starry Eyes' by Jenn Bennett (April 3; Simon Pulse)
Zorie and Lennon's parents are to California what the Montagues and Capulets were to Verona. However, the two teens used to be best friends, before Lennon broke Zorie's heart at Homecoming. Now, they too, are moral enemies like their families. So when, Lennon joins a "glamping" trip Zorie is invited to by popular Reagan, things quickly go south. The group ends up leaving Lennon and Zorie alone in the wilderness, and the former BFFs have to survive the wilderness and each other. The two open up about hurt and feelings and family as they venture through the woods, but can their rekindled connection survive when they make it back to the real world? As with her
Alex, Approximately, Jenn Bennett's Starry Eyes tackles some difficult topics with grace. Click here to buy.
'Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles' edited by Jessica Burkhart (April 10; Simon Pulse)
Kami Garcia, Ellen Hopkins, Lauren Oliver, Cindy L. Rodriguez, Francisco X. Stork, and loads more YA authors teamed up for this anthology to talk about their own experiences with mental illness, whether their own or someone close to them's. This non-fiction collection is a must-have, it helps make anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADD, and other mental health issues feel like you're not alone. (Myself included!)
My Life Inside My Mind hopes to help end the shame and stigma around these illnesses by showing that even some of our YA author heroes have faced the same struggles. Click here to buy.
'Picture Us in the Light' by Kelly Loy Gilbert (April 10; Disney-Hyperion)
Second-generation Chinese immigrant Danny Cheng thinks his whole life is laid out exactly how he wants now that his artistic talent has earned him a full scholarship to RISD. But both Danny and his family are hiding things. Danny is closeted and is hiding his attraction to his best friend Harry Wong, who is dating a girl, another friend named Regina Chan. All three of them are still grieving their friend Sandra's death last year. And then Danny's father announces he's lost his job, and Danny uncovers mysterious paperwork might explain why and threaten his future. Kelly Loy Gilbert's story is heartbreaking and beautiful, touching on immigration, suicide, sexual orientation, money (and lack thereof) with poise and care.
Click here to buy.
'Devils Unto Dust' by Emma Berquist (April 10; Greenwillow)
There must be something in the water, because Emma Berquist has created one of the two zombie stories of the month. (However, the similarities between
Dread Nation and the also wonderful Devils Unto Dust pretty much end there.) Ten years ago, shakes (a.k.a. a zombie stand-in) spread across the West Texas desert. Teenage Willie has been protecting her siblings from the infection, until the day her "good-for-nothing" father steals money from shake-hunters and takes off. Now, Willie is given an opportunity to find and return her father or the shake-hunters will transition the debt to her and her siblings. So Willie hires two shake-hunters and takes off across the treacherous landscape to find her dad. This horror-Western is an insanely fun, dark and gritty, feminist, page-turning genre-bender that makes for some seriously great summer reading. Click here to buy.
'For Every One' by Jason Reynolds (April 10; Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)
You need to get your hands on Jason Reynold's inspiring poem that's been dubbed a "rallying cry for the dreamers of the world." Reynolds first performed "For Every One" at the unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial at the Kennedy Center and then again as a tribute to fellow writer Walter Dean Myers. Now you can keep a copy on your bookshelf for when you need a pick-me-up. (Though, let's be honest, you should probably get a copy of the audio book, too, because there's something especially stirring about hearing Reynolds recite it himself.)
Click here to buy .
'Given to the Earth' by Mindy McGinnis (April 10; G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)
Mindy McGinnis completes her sprawling, epic Given Duet with
Given to the Earth. After Given to the Sea, Khosa saved herself by marrying King Vincent, though she still harbors feelings for Donil, the king's stepbrother. In the twisted love square, Dara struggles to see the man she loves, Vincent, married to Khosa. Even more importantly, Dara is on a quest for revenge against Pietra and its leader for slaughtering the Indiri race. McGinnis eschews traditional happily ever afters for a conclusion that feels more realistic for the characters and the world she has created. Click here to buy.
'Leah on the Offbeat' by Becky Albertalli (April 24; Balzer + Bray)
Fresh off the buzz around the movie adaptation, Becky Albertalli is causing buzz again with her sequel
Leah on the Offbeat. The novel stars Simon Spier's BFF Leah Burke as she navigates her senior year. Leah is always on the beat when it comes to her drumming skills, but her personal life is definitely off. While her mother knows she's bisexual, she hasn't told any of her friends — not even Simon, who recently came out himself. Things get even more off-kilter when her tight group of friends starts to fracture and prom sneaks up on the horizon. Obvi all fans of Albertalli's first novel and its movie adaptation need this one for their bookshelves. Click here to buy.
'Stay Sweet' by Siobhan Vivian (April 24; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
You're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but come on. Siobhan Vivian's latest is clearly a must-read for lazy summer days. Sand Lake's iconic ice cream shop Meade Creamery opened in 1944 by Molly Meade to cheer up all her girlfriends stuck at home while the men were away at war. Since then, the ice cream shop has been run by a string of local girls who all become bonded as friends. 17-year-old Amelia and her BFF have worked at the Creamery for years, but this summer Amelia is set to become the next "Head Girl." But when Molly passes away, the shop's future is uncertain. That's until Molly's grand-nephew Grady shows up, asks Amelia to stay, and has some plans to make big biz changes to local Meade Creamery.
Click here to buy.
'Sky in the Deep' by Adrienne Young (April 24; Wednesday Books)
If you're #TeamWildlings on
Game of Thrones, you're going to be hooked on Adrienne Young's fierce Sky in the Deep. Inspired by the Vikings, the story is centered on 17-year-old Eelyn who was raised to be a warrior in her Aska clan fighting against its generations-old rivals, the Riki clan. Five years ago, Eelyn's thought her brother Iri died on the battlefield against the Riki, but in battle now, somehow, Iri saves her life. In her distraction, Eelyn is captured by her enemy. Young's world is brutal and dark, but it's also stunningly beautiful, and Eelyn is a true badass you'll follow to battle. Click here to buy.
'Ash Princess' by Laura Sebastian (April 24; Delacorte)
Theodosia was six years old when her country was invaded and her mother, the queen, was executed. Now, 10 years later, she still lives as a political prisoner, dubbed the Ash Princess as a sign of shame. She pushes down all her emotions and pretends to be empty-headed to keep the Kaiser happy and herself alive — until the Kaiser crosses a line and Theo vows revenge. Theo may not be a traditional fighter, but her smarts will guide her now. She plans to seduce and kill the Kaiser's son, but she didn't expect to start to fall for him.
Laura Sebastian's page-turning is made for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sabaa Tahir with a twist that focuses on cunning and intelligence as maybe the biggest "magical" power of all. Ash Princess Click here to buy.