Our favorite new young adult novels
With so many fantastic new books coming out, it was a hard to narrow down our May editors’ picks for the Best Young Adult Books of the Month, but I think our list hits the high notes. Here are five of these new favorites.
We Were Liars has long been a favorite of mine, so I’ve been thrilled to see millions of TikTok viewers discover its greatness in time for the prequel, Family of Liars. This is a book that was worth the long wait, and we loved it so much it’s not only a Best Young Adult Book of May, it’s also one of our overall Top 10 Best Books of the Month. In this novel, we return to Beechwood Island, but backwards in time to 1987. Our narrator is Carrie Sinclair, one of Cady’s aunts whom we met in We Were Liars. Now we get to see what happened during the summer that changed the family forever. There is tragedy, love, and betrayal. Old family secrets come to light, and new ones are buried. Buckle up, friends, Family of Liars will sweep you off your feet.
Hollow Fires had me hooked from the very first pages. It’s a mystery about who took Jawad, a 14-year-old Iraqi boy wrongly accused of terrorism, and the high school senior, Safiya, who is trying to find answers even as she starts receiving threats herself. More than just a mystery, Hollow Fires is a powerful story about race, class, and the abuse of power, as well as the advent of ghost skins—white supremacists who are hiding in plain sight in order to further their frightening agenda. With a narrative that alternates between Safiya and Jawad, this is a one-sitting read that you’ll immediately want to share with someone else.
This is McQuiston’s first young adult novel and it’s a knockout. Shara Wheeler is the “it” girl in a conservative Christian high school in small town Alabama, who one night kisses Rory (her neighbor), Chloe (her academic rival), and Smith (her football star boyfriend). Then she disappears. The trio form an uneasy alliance to find Shara, who has put them on this path with codes and clues meant for each of them. I Kissed Shara Wheeler is a smart, funny, thoughtful rom-com that will appeal to readers of McQuiston’s adult novels and make new fans among readers who, like me, will be eager for more.
The first book of an exciting new fantasy duology, Ballad & Dagger has it all: politics, mystery, romance, pirates, and the supernatural. Mateo Matisse is a son of San Madrigal, a small island that kept its own council until it sank into the sea. Now its populace has formed a community in Brooklyn that is a triumvirate of Sefaradim, Santeros, and pirates. Mateo is thrust into the spotlight after his destiny is revealed—the first surprise of many, as it turns out. Older’s immersive tale is rich with culture and secret history, Spanish language, and spirits, as Mateo untangles lies and finds himself drawn to a formidable young woman while political turmoil brings the community to the brink. Don’t miss this one.
I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan, and so is Alice, one of the protagonists of this engrossing mystery. After pulling a runner and disappearing for five days, Alice is back home but is keeping mum. As a result, her anointed status on the high school social scene is toast and she’s now persona non grata. This disappearance is a nod to Christie’s mysterious disappearance in 1926, one of many such tips of the hat in this novel. When another popular teen disappears, people wonder if she’s pulling the same stunt, that is, until she turns up dead. Alice and her new tutor/uneasy ally, Iris, are determined to find the killer, and it turns out there are a multitude of secrets buried in this small town. A mystery that keeps you guessing, this novel also digs into friendships, cliques, and class hierarchy—don’t be surprised if you find yourself racing through the pages.