Each year, Kirkus editors choose a sampling of books from the busy fall publishing season to draw special attention to. Here are 10 unmissable teen books that represent the strength of this year’s new releases. The range of reading experiences offered by this selection means there’s something likely to appeal to nearly anyone.
Genre fiction remains a top choice for pleasure reading—and it’s exciting to see the available titles expanding in both representation and subject matter.
Roses & Violets by Gry Kappel Jensen, translated by Sharon E. Rhodes (Arctis Books, Sept. 26): The first volume in a popular Danish author’s Rosenholm Trilogy is sure to be a hit, bringing well-realized Nordic folklore and mystery elements to a magical boarding school setting.
Thieves’ Gambit by Kayvion Lewis (Nancy Paulsen Books, Sept. 26): No wonder this book has already been optioned for film—what can match the allure of a thrilling heist? With her mother’s life on the line, a globe-trotting Bahamian teen faces steep challenges.
A Pretty Implausible Premise by Karen Rivers (Algonquin, Sept. 26): Readers will revel in the intense emotions of this romance about two sharply depicted teens, each on a journey of grief and healing, drawn together by uncanny parallels in their lives.
The Fall of Whit Rivera by Crystal Maldonado (Holiday House, Oct. 10): Those seeking a cozy, feel-good romance with substance featuring a broadly and realistically inclusive cast of characters—regular teens whose identities are not framed as problematic issues—will adore this book.
Graphic novels are booming, and with a rise in numbers, we’re also seeing more stories that fall outside the genres traditionally associated with this format.
Phoebe’s Diary by Phoebe Wahl (Little, Brown, Sept. 5): Wahl has an ardent following for her picture books and range of cottagecore products featuring her graphic designs. This fictional story inspired by her high school diaries thoughtfully explores early-2000s adolescence.
Mall Goth written and illustrated by Kate Leth, colors by Diana Sousa (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 26): Fashion and technology may have changed since 2003, but this quietly impactful story about a queer teen making new friends and dealing with harassment from a creepy teacher will resonate deeply.
YA literature holds the power to help adolescents navigate serious issues with greater insight and understanding.
All the Things We Never Said by Yasmin Rahman (Carolrhoda Lab, Oct. 3): Mental health is the focus of this sensitive and ultimately uplifting debut about British teens Mehreen, Cara, and Olivia, who meet through MementoMori.com, a website for those struggling with suicidal ideation.
The Blood Years by Elana K. Arnold (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, Oct. 10): Drawing upon her Jewish Romanian grandmother’s life, Arnold, known for her unflinching exploration of tough topics, presents a gripping story that adds new and important perspectives to Holocaust literature.
Although nonfiction makes up a disappointingly small slice of YA, the quality of the books coming out is better than ever.
More Than a Dream: The Radical March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom by Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Aug. 29): This gripping, highly relevant account by two expert researchers takes readers behind the scenes to understand the critical work of social justice organizing in the context of 1963’s March on Washington.
Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings by Joy Hakim (MITeen Press/Candlewick, Sept. 12): This series opener by a veteran nonfiction author is an accessibly written visual feast that will spark curiosity about life science. Readers come to understand discoveries in their social and historical contexts.
Laura Simeon is a young readers’ editor.