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Teen

The Best YA Books Being Published
in 2021

by Laura Lambert

2021-young-adult-books-preview

As we dive headlong into a full pandemic winter, there is one bright, shining spot on the horizon: a new crop of YA books! The year 2021 promises so much, and will bring us not just new voices and fantastical worlds into which we can escape, but plenty of new stories from voices we already know and love.

  • Influence

    by Sara Shepard and Lilia Buckingham

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    Influencers. Alliances. Romance. BETRAYAL. MURDER. (And crazy stage moms.) That’s what beloved YA author Sara Shepard, of Pretty Little Liars fame, tweeted back in 2019, in advance of Influence. And now, after a six-month delay because of COVID-19, Influence finally hits the shelves in January. This is 17-year-old co-author Lilia Buckingham’s debut, about a group of four Hollywood influencers and where their Internet fame takes them — territory that Buckingham, an Internet personality, knows well.
    (On Sale: 01/05/2021)

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  • 11 Paper Hearts

    by Kelsey Hartwell

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    Eleven mysterious paper hearts from a secret admirer — that’s what it takes to help Ella remember life before the Valentine’s Day car accident that wiped her memory. One reviewer calls this contemporary YA rom-com “a joy to read … a mystery without being scary.”
    (On Sale: 01/05/2021)

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  • Chlorine Sky

    by Mahogany L. Browne

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    Chlorine Sky is a coming-of-age novel, delivered in verse, about Skyy, a girl who is finding herself after living in the shadows of self-doubt, troubled friendship, and first love. Kirkus calls it, “A coming-of-age novel for Black girls who have been told they’re too much and yet never enough.”
    (On Sale: 01/12/2021)

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  • Winterkeep

    by Kristin Cashore

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    Winterkeep is coming. After eight years, the much-anticipated fourth novel in the Graceling Realm series arrives this January. Winterkeep is a new nation, with a familiar reality. Cashore told Publishers Weekly, “In the book, there’s a fuel in Winterkeep that politicians are really divided about; it can do a lot of wonderful things but is also a polluter. My awareness of global warming and the way that we’re treating Earth and using up our resources was on my mind, as well as how our human behavior affects animals and the ocean.”
    (On Sale: 1/19/2021)

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  • The Girls I’ve Been

    by Tess Sharpe

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    The daughter of a con artist, and a con artist herself, Nora O’Malley has been a lot of different people. In this psychological YA thriller, she ends up in a new role — as hostage in a bank heist. The Girls I’ve Been is out in January and soon to be a Netflix film produced by and starring Millie Bobby Brown, of Stranger Things.
    (On Sale: 1/26/2021)

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  • The Wild

    by Owen Laukkanen

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    Out of the Wild is a wilderness boot camp for wayward youth, but the life lessons these kids — including Dawn, the protagonist of The Wild — are supposed to learn aren’t the ones anyone would expect. The suspense thriller is being adapted for the screen by director Patrick Brice, of the Creep franchise and HBO’s Room 104.
    (On Sale: 1/26/2021)

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  • This Is Not the Jess Show

    by Anna Carey

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    In this YA thriller — the first in a new series — we find ourselves in March, 1998. High school junior Jess Flynn is noticing that things in her small town aren’t as they seem — including a mysterious black device with an apple logo on it. (Which, as we know, doesn’t debut until 2007). “Pop-culture references from the ’90s are paramount to the story’s façade, and the final plot twist packs a punch,” says Kirkus.
    (On Sale: 02/02/2021)

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  • The Electric Kingdom

    by David Arnold

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    A deadly pandemic sweeps the globe. Sound familiar? But this pandemic — the Fly Flu — leaves very few survivors. They seek each other out in post-apocalyptic New England, and what they find is life’s most enduring truths — hope, love, beauty, and resilience. This is New York Times-bestselling author David Arnold’s fourth, and most ambitious, novel.
    (On Sale: 02/09/2021)

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  • The Gilded Ones

    by Namina Forna

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    There’s gold running through 16-year-old Deka’s veins. She fears it will make her an outcast from her village when she is discovered, but what it does is make her a warrior — an alaki, to be specific. Namina Forna’s debut book, the first in a trilogy of YA fantasy, stems from her experience as a young girl in West Africa and in America. As she told Refinery29, “[F]antasy allows us to ask questions that I as a teenage girl was asking. There were all these questions that I wanted to understand about life: about what it means to be a woman, about religion, about all of these things. And I think with The Gilded Ones, there’s that safety of examining things through the lens of fantasy.”
    (On Sale: 02/09/2021)

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  • The Wide Starlight

    by Nicole Lesperance

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    In what Kirkus calls “a modern fairytale,” six-year-old Eline Davis loses her mother on a frozen fjord in Svalbard, Norway, to a legend — that if you whistle at the Northern Lights, you’ll vanish. Then, 10 years later, and across the Atlantic in Cape Cod, she finds a way back to her, and even stranger things begin to happen.
    (On Sale: 02/16/2021)

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  • The Shadow War

    by Lindsay Smith

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    This is not your typical piece of historical fiction. Set in 1942, 18-year-old Liam thinks he knows a way to defeat the Nazis, and it involves a parallel universe. Joined by four other teens, each of them part of the novel's refreshingly diverse world, they partake in a fantastical fight for justice. School Library Journal calls The Shadow War an “action-packed historical novel with a science fiction twist.”
    (On Sale: 02/23/2021)

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  • The Queen’s Secret

    by Melissa de la Cruz

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    In this much-anticipated sequel to The Queen's Assassin, fans of Melissa de la Cruz, are reunited with the assassin himself, Caledon Holt, and Lilac, the queen, whose sovereignty is under threat.
    (On Sale: 03/02/2021)

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  • Red Tigress

    by Amélie Wen Zhao

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    In this sequel to Blood Heir, author Amélie Wen Zhao says, “the stakes are higher, the conspiracies run deeper, and we take an unexpected journey to a new kingdom.” Ana Mikhailov, the only surviving member of the royal family of Cyrilia, must take back the throne, and relies on conman Ramson Quicktongue once again.
    (On Sale: 03/02/2021)

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  • Home Is Not a Country

    by Safia Elhillo

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    In this novel, by Sudanese-American poet Safia Elhillo, we’re told the story of Nima, a child of immigrants, who comes of age in an American suburb. As Elhillo told Folklore in an interview, "For so long, I wasn’t seeing my particular intersections of experience represented in the literature I was reading, and this sometimes made me feel like I didn’t exist. The more we write our stories down and get someone to read them, the more we have a record that we existed.”
    (On Sale: 03/02/2021)

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  • Good Girl, Bad Blood

    by Holly Jackson

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    Holly Jackson calls Good Girl, Bad Blood and its predecessor, A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, her little murder duology. The second installation kicks off just a few weeks after the end of the first. Pip Fitz-Amobi’s detective days are over, until someone else she knows in Little Kilton goes missing — and she and Ravi Singh pair up again.
    (On Sale: 03/02/2021)

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  • Our Last Echoes

    by Kate Alice Marshall

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    In this, the third mystery-suspense YA novel by Kate Alice Marshall, young Sofia is on a quest to find her dead mother, and it brings her to the island of Bitter Rock, where ghostly echoes are everywhere.
    (On Sale: 03/16/2021)

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  • A Queen of Gilded Horns

    by Amanda Joy

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    When asked by Penguin Teen to describe her fantasy duology in just five words, author Amanda Joy says, “Black Girl Magick, family, deadly combat, and Baccha.” In this sequel to A River of Royal Blood, Eva and Issa are two princesses on the run, and the fate of the Queendom of Myre hangs in the balance.
    (On Sale: 03/16/2021)

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  • House of Hollow

    by Krystal Sutherland

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    Iris, Grey, and Vivi Hollow are no ordinary sisters. As children, they disappeared from a street in Scotland, only to reappear a month later with no memory of where they’d gone. But the real mystery comes a decade later, when one of the sisters goes missing — again.
    (On Sale: 04/06/2021)

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  • Kisses and Croissants

    by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

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    A 16-year-old American ballerina in Paris falls in love with a French boy named Louis. What more do you need to know?
    (04/06/2021)

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  • What’s Not to Love

    by Austin Siegemund-Broka and Emily Wibberley

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    In What’s Not to Love, acclaimed YA authors Austin Siegemund-Broka and Emily Wibberley, husband and wife in real life, bring us Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy, high-achieving academic rivals in high school who would each do anything to get into Harvard — including work together to plan a school reunion. (Side note: The couple met in high school, and Austin Siegemund-Broka did attend Harvard.) This is the couple’s fourth book together.
    (On Sale: 04/20/2021)

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