1. How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi
This book is a coming-of-age story, where the main character is a gay Muslim teen boy and struggles to come out to his family. He travels to Italy alone after an incident with a classmate without telling his parents, and, on the trip, learns who he is and who he’s meant to be. Some may find a few scenes inappropriate. Overall, it’s a heart-warming and fun read.
2. All Girls by Emily Layden
All Girls is a YA coming-of-age novel that focuses on girls in a New England all-girls boarding school. They learn how to support each other during a difficult time at their school when a teacher is accused of sexual assault by one of the alumni. It’s a great read, especially for teen girls, but does have a few scenes and some language that some readers may find inappropriate.
3. The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
This novel is similar to The Hate U Give. It follows an African American teenage girl through the protests in Los Angeles after the police officers responsible for beating and killing an African American man are acquitted—in 1992. The story is interesting and the characters are well-written. Some scenes may be found inappropriate.
4. The Disasters by M. K. England
This sci-fi young adult novel takes place in a futuristic Earth, where humans have created a school up in space. The main character, a teen wanna-be pilot, fails his entry exam and is sent back home on a spaceship with the other school rejects. They’re the only ones to survive when the school space station blows up unexpectedly, leaving them as the prime suspects. They travel to a different solar system and try to find ways to exploit the true criminals. This book is an exciting read with likable characters and beautiful new planets. Profane language is used in the novel, as well as suggestive content.
5. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Girl Who Drank the Moon is set in an alternate fantasy world, where, every year, an unlucky newborn child in a town is chosen to be sacrificed to a witch in the forest. But, as it turns out, the witch isn’t evil—in fact, she’s incredibly kind and caring. She takes the sacrificed baby, Luna, and feeds her with starlight. But one night, she accidentally feeds the child moonlight, giving her incredibly strong powers that she has to learn to control. This book is heart-warming and will delight fantasy readers all over.
6. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Like The Disasters, the Lunar Chronicles is YA sci-fi—but it’s a series. These books are incredible fairy-tale retellings that take place both in space and on a futuristic Earth. Over the course of four books, the story follows Cinder (Cinderella), Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel), and Winter (Snow White) until they meet, with other allies they’ve met along the way, to defeat the queen on the moon, Levana Blackburn, before she takes over Earth.
7. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
This is a mystery/historical fiction novel written for younger audiences, but is definitely still a great read. The main character is sent to the town her father grew up in, and discovers a box of little trinkets. With the help of a diviner in town, she unravels the mystery of the town’s past, and learns who her father used to be. The plot is interesting, well-written, and engaging, with the characters even more so.
8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief is set in World War Two Germany, with Death as the narrator. It follows a young girl as she grows up in the fictional town of Molching during the war. The author’s writing is compelling and almost poetic, with detailed descriptions and intriguing characters. It’s both heart-lifting and saddening, and is definitely worth a read.
9. Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee
This novel, like All Girls, tells of girls struggling to find their voice and power during times of unwanted—and unwarranted—attention. The book follows a middle-school girl who has caught the unwelcome attention of some boys in her grade. She and her friends begin to grow apart, making her even more uncomfortable with the situation. Eventually, she decides to find ways to stand up for herself and others around her. While it’s written for younger audiences, it has an important message and is engaging.
10. How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow
This novel tells of a high school girl who suffers from the sudden death of her single mother. She doesn’t have any siblings or relatives that she knows well, so she’s moved into the foster system. She journeys from home to home and tries to navigate the grief—and guilt—she feels from her mother’s death. Her life begins to look bleak until she discovers that she has a sister. It mentions the use of drugs and alcohol, and curse words are used.