Spring 2016’s Must-Read Young Adult Books: Kings, Virgins, and Fan-fiction
If you’re anything like us, you’ve had some of these titles on your TBR list for months. Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series is wrapping up this spring, as is Sally Green’s Half Lost trilogy. Plus we’re getting the second book in Sarah J. Maas’ fairy tale-inspired series. We imagine that you’ll be hankering for something new after you catch up on your current favorite series, which is why we’ve also rounded up a few debut authors who are off to an amazing start. There’s Tim Federle, who is entering the YA genre after making a name for himself in middle grade, and Jeff Zentner, whose first novel focuses on three misfits living in a town named after the founder of the KKK. This season has it all: drama, intrigue, romance, and teens trying to get rid of their v-card. So put together a picnic lunch, park it on your favorite bench and get to reading.
Who doesn’t love a coming-of-age story? Cliff Sparks is ready to star in his own. See, Cliff is on the verge of graduating from his New Jersey high school, and decides he has to “come of age” (read: lose his virginity) before he leaves. But he knows that this is a two person job, and is still struggling to get his crush Jillian to notice him. Losing his v-card isn’t the only thing Cliff is concerned with. He’s constantly trying to avoid bullies and figure out how to deal with his deadbeat dad, who dips repeatedly into Cliff’s dwindling college fund. Things aren’t easy for Cliff, but he takes it all in stride. Readers will be easily charmed by Cliff’s witty banter and oft-embellished stories, even as the girls at his school aren’t.
Forrestville, Tennessee (named after Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest) isn’t a good place for misfits. Dillard, Lydia, and Travis all stick out in their own ways: Dillard is teased for being the son of a rattlesnake-handling Pentecostal minister, Lydia runs a fashion blog and dreams of moving to New York City, and Travis carries around a homemade staff inspired by a fantasy book series. These three friends face their final year of high school and find support in each other as the world around them continues to push them down. Lydia encourages the other two to follow their dreams, while Travis just wishes she’d stay there with them. The end of the year means they might need to learn to survive without each other, and each is afraid they won’t have the courage to reach for what they really want. Jeff Zentner’s debut is a heartbreaking story about friendship, faith, and survival.
Cuban-American Nora López lives in a dangerous time. It’s 1977 and the serial killer Son of Sam is roaming the streets of New York City. But he isn’t the only monster she’s concerned about. Nora’s brother Hector is growing increasingly violent and lashes out against her and her mother. While Hector dives into drugs and spirals further out of control, Nora does what she can to maintain some semblance of a normal 17-year-old’s life. She goes out with her best friend to the discos, she flirts with a cute boy named Pablo (even though getting a boyfriend means becoming a target for Son of Sam, who kills couples), and she continues working towards her dream of moving out and getting her own place. She started the summer afraid and petrified, but Nora is determined to grow strong and survive.
If you’re in the mood for an exhilarating graphic novel adventure this spring, we’d recommend picking up Tony Cliff’s sequel to Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant. Sword-wielding Delilah is a Robin Hood-esque heroine: frequently doing good, infrequently going about it in a legal manner. In her first adventure, Delilah partnered with Mr. Selim, a man better suited for making tea than making quick getaways. In this second volume, their partnership is tested when they return to Delilah’s home in England and Selim must help her conceal her new identity from her family. This dynamic novel is filled with everything you could possibly want: political intrigue, fights, secret identities, and ball gowns. It’s top-notch fun, complete with stunning artwork.
Aside from having one of the most stunning covers of the season, E.K. Johnston’s novel is sure to be one of the most talked about. Hermione Winter (inspired by the character in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, not Rowling’s Granger) has high hopes for her senior year of high school. She’s the captain of her cheerleading team, and she arrives at their summer training camp with high ambitions for what her team can achieve. Hermione’s hopes for the year take a drastic turn, however, when she’s drugged and raped at a camp party. She has no memory of the event, meaning any of her six male teammates could be involved. When she discovers that the encounter left her pregnant, she’s faced with a life-changing decision. Johnston’s Hermione is a strong and inspiring heroine who does everything in her power to take back control of her life after facing an unimaginable attack.
Sally Green’s thrilling Half Bad trilogy comes to an end this spring. Half Wild dramatically left readers wondering just what Nathan Byrn would do when he got his hands on Annalise, a former friend who killed his father. But the Alliance of Free Witches is crumbling and they need Nathan’s help as well if they are to have any hope of defeating the Council of White Witches. So Nathan puts his revenge plans on hold and instead embarks on a journey to America to meet with a powerful witch known as Ledger, and retrieve a powerful amulet that will protect him from his enemies. Green addresses the brutalities of war in this final volume, but also keeps it packed with adventure, romance, and magic.
Sixteen-year-old Quinn is a screenwriter, or at least he used to be. Six months earlier his sister, the director to his writer, died in a car accident. Together they had dreamed of taking Hollywood by storm, and Quinn can’t bear to go at it alone. Begrudgingly, he allows himself to be dragged to a college party with his best friend Geoff. That’s where he meets Amir and everything changes. For the first time in months, Quinn finds himself looking forward to the future and imagining the potential of love (and more) with Amir. Quinn’s voice is realistic: self-deprecating and earnest. Readers will especially love the snippets of screenplay throughout the book, some representing events as they happened, others as Quinn wishes they would happen. Tim Federle’s young adult debut doesn’t disappoint.
Faith Sunderly doesn’t want to leave Victorian England, but after her father’s reputation was marred by scandal, the family had no other choice. They settle into their new home on a remote island and try to move forward. When her father is found dead, most assume he couldn’t live with the shame, but Faith doesn’t believe that’s the truth. She starts digging for answers and instead uncovers a mysterious tree that dispenses truths through visions in exchange for being told lies. A budding scientist, Faith can’t resist experimenting with this wondrous plant, believing it could lead her to her father’s murderer. Frances Hardinge sets up a fascinating mystery, while also exploring the challenges of being a woman in this era and the impact Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species had on both faith and science. Readers interested in this title might also enjoy Cat Winters’ The Steep and Thorny Way, coming out March 8.
Like Rainbow Rowell’s Cath, Anna Breslaw’s Scarlett Epstein prefers to spend her time living out fantasies through fanfiction. Her drug of choice: supernatural teen drama Lycanthrope High(presumably starring a fictional version of the quirky and adorable Dylan O’Brien). But when the show is canceled, Scarlett is stuck without her favorite muses. She quickly thinks up a devious idea, and begins writing fanfiction based on the actual people at her high school. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t end well. Snarky, judgemental, and still completely loveable, Scarlett is a character readers will want more of long after they’ve closed the book.
Blue and the boys are back, but will all of them make it out alive in the thrilling and powerful conclusion to Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series? Blue has known for a long time that she’ll cause the death of her true love, meaning that Richard Gansey’s fate hangs in the balance more than any other character’s. Many readers are hoping for a loophole that saves him, though Stiefvater makes no promises. With a murderous demon infecting the magical forest of Cabeswater, no one is truly safe here. Get the tissues ready, readers, you’ll probably need them.
Bestselling author Sarah J. Maas is not one to disappoint. Fans were drawn to her new series after hearing that it was inspired by “Beauty and the Beast,” will be ecstatic to hear that the sequel is loosely based on the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone. A Court of Thorns and Roses ended with Feyre saving her beloved Tamlin, but at a cost. Rhys comes calling to collect what he’s owed, and Feyre has no choice but to follow him. Even though she’s now armed with the powers of a High Fae, the magical world Feyre finds herself in is treacherous and there are monsters lying in wait to rip her still-human heart from her chest. We’re beyond excited for this one, especially knowing that Feyre’s sister Nesta is playing a larger role. Will it be as dark, sexy, and brilliant as the first? With Maas at the helm, you know it.
Unlike other siblings in this preview, there is no love lost between Adrien and his sister Grace. To his credit, Adrien tried to keep the peace. But Grace wanted nothing to do with her adopted sibling, and when their scientist parents died after a fire broke out in their lab, the siblings quickly parted ways. Four years later, fate has thrown them back together. Though Adrien wants to stay away from Grace, he can’t help but think that she knows more about their parents’ mysterious deaths than she lets on. There’s a solid mystery and great thrills in this novel, but what really shines is Adrien’s relatable struggle to find a place where he truly fits in. Adrien explores his evolving sexual identity throughout the novel and is constantly pushing back against those who seek to reduce him to a label. In a prologue, author Zac Brewer shares with readers that he himself has transitioned from Heather to Zac and identifies as gay, and explains how his personal journey has influenced the book—making this a deeply personal novel and one sure to touch many readers.