The “most anticipated of the year” lists are always the toughest. A quick search on Goodreads will tell you there are nearly 700 Young Adult novels hitting in 2019, and that doesn’t even include unannounced books. But the 10 books below—listed in order of release date—are the ones we’re the most excited about for the first half of the year. From searing debuts to jaw-dropping sequels, heartbreaking contemporary novels to fantasy epics, there’s something for everyone on this list.
1. Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig
Release Date: January 29th from Feiwel & Friends
Why You’ll Love It: A Paste favorite, Caleb Roehrig is treating us to yet another one of his exciting novels, pulling us into a story that’s a little less mystery and a lot more of a high-stakes heist. (You can read an exclusive excerpt from the novel with an introduction by Roehrig here!)
For Fans of: The inclusiveness of a Becky Albertalli book, the heists of a Leigh Bardugo novel and the thrilling nature of an Ally Carter novel story.
Description: Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.
But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them—for good?
2. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Release Date: February 5th from Balzer + Bray
Why You’ll Love It: If you loved Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, you’re going to adore every single page of her sophomore novel. A story of family, music, heartbreak and hope, it’s sure to be one of the blockbuster books of 2019.
For Fans of: Authors like Tiffany Jackson and Brandy Colbert.
Description: Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons.
Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.
3. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
Release Date: February 5th from Salaam Reads
Why You’ll Love It: Hanna Alkaf’s stunning novel tackles heavy issues like identity, family and mental illness against the backdrop of a race riot in Malaysia. It’s as thrilling as it is terrifying, and you won’t be able to put it down. Be prepared to love Alkaf’s bold, new voice.
For Fans of: Authors like Aisha Saeed; this novel reads like a YA version of Khalid Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.
Description: Melati Ahmad looks like your typical movie-going, Beatles-obsessed 16-year-old. Unlike most other 16-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.
But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.
With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.
4. Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner
Release Date: February 26th from Crown Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: Goodness, there’s so much to adore in this quirky novel about friendship, family and changing dreams. Jeff Zentner’s first two novels (The Serpent King and Goodbye Days) delivered delightful splashes of humor, and his latest cranks that up with joy and romance…as well as his trademark moments of heartbreak.
For Fans of: Authors like Amy Spalding and TV shows like Riverdale.
Description: Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six. But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face tough decisions about their futures.
Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show’s guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels and Josie, is making her tough decision even harder.
Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he’ll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too.
As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bonds of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous and momentous.
5. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
Release Date: March 5th from Katherine Tegen Books
Why You’ll Love It: A highly-anticipated debut, Opposite of Always is a time travel-esque novel that’s less about going back in time and more about the relationships being explored. Justin A. Reynold’s novel is devastating, hopeful and beautiful.
For Fans of: Character-centered time travel novels like Heidi Heilig’s The Girl from Everywhere.
Description: When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack.
But then Kate dies. And their story should end there.
Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind.
Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.
6. Ruse by Cindy Pon
Release Date: March 26th from Simon Pulse
Why You’ll Love It: The sequel to Want, which was Paste’s #1 YA novel of 2017, is almost here! Cindy Pon’s follow-up is everything readers are hoping for, and it’s just as gripping as Want. With an inclusive cast and a fast-paced plot, Ruse already is one of my favorite reads this year.
For Fans of: Near-future worlds found in books by authors like Erin Bowman.
Description: Jason Zhou, his friends and Daiyu are still recovering from the aftermath of bombing Jin Corp headquarters. But Jin, the ruthless billionaire and Daiyu’s father, is out for blood. When Lingyi goes to Shanghai to help Jany Tsai, a childhood acquaintance in trouble, she doesn’t expect Jin to be involved. And when Jin has Jany murdered and steals the tech she had refused to sell him, Lingyi is the only one who has access to the encrypted info, putting her own life in jeopardy.
Zhou doesn’t hesitate to fly to China to help Iris find Lingyi, even though he’s been estranged from his friends for months. But when Iris tells him he can’t tell Daiyu or trust her, he balks. The reunited group play a treacherous cat and mouse game in the labyrinthine streets of Shanghai, determined on taking back what Jin had stolen.
When Daiyu appears in Shanghai, Zhou is uncertain if it’s to confront him or in support of her father. Jin has proudly announced Daiyu will be by his side for the opening ceremony of Jin Tower, his first “vertical city.” And as hard as Zhou and his friends fight, Jin always gains the upper hand. Is this a game they can survive, much less win?
7. An Anatomy of Beasts by Olivia A. Cole
Release Date: April 16th from Katherine Tegen Books
Why You’ll Love It:
Paste named Olivia A. Cole’s A Conspiracy of Stars YA’s best new series of 2018, and now the sequel is on its way! A space opera that tackles colonization and the way we treat the Native community, this stunning series is brimming with beautiful world building and gorgeous language.
For Fans of: Authors like Beth Revis and Daniel José Older.
Description: In the 40 years since the Vagantur landed on Faloiv, the planet has existed in a tenuous peace between the humans who live in the enclosed community of N’Terra and the Faloii, the indigenous population. But after uncovering the shadowy secrets of the Council’s newly elected leader and helping a kidnapped Faloii man escape, 16-year-old Octavia knows that conflict is looming. Her discovery of a separate population of humans—including her grandparents—only serves to show her how out of touch humans are with reality on Faloiv.
Then the Faloii discover the N’Terran’s latest experiment: an artificially weaponized creature, and Octavia realizes that it’s up to her to prevent her people from causing any further destruction. More determined than ever, Octavia and her friends set out to understand the scope of humanity’s history. However, nothing can prepare them for the full weight of what they discover about both their home on Faloiv and the Origin planet.
8. Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
Release Date: April 30th from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: As hilarious as the title suggests, Jennifer Dugan’s Hot Dog Girl is a novel full of nostalgia, warmth and heart. Pick this one up for a charming, entertaining read.
For Fans of: Authors like Stephanie Perkins and Becky Albertalli, and movies like The Way, Way Back and Adventureland.
Description: Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:
1. She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland…as a giant dancing hot dog.
2. Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
3. Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
4. It turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland—ever—unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.
9. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Release Date: May 14th from Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: An epic fantasy novel inspired by ancient Arabia, this debut is poised to make a splash in 2019. Magic, lost artifacts, ancient evil…yes, please. And Hafsah Faizal’s novel is already gathering accolades from authors like Kiersten White and Roshani Chokshi, so you won’t want to miss it.
For Fans of: Authors like Renée Ahdieh and Sabaa Tahir.
Description: Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.
Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya, but neither wants to be.
War is brewing in Arawiya, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.
10. Better Than the Best Plan by Lauren Morrill
Release Date: June 25th from Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: Lauren Morrill has a gift for writing delightful rom-coms, but her latest novel takes a bit of a different direction by exploring the foster care system. With the amount of warmth Morrill infuses into every single one of her stories, you should look forward to this book with all of your heart.
For Fans of: Authors like Lauren Gibaldi and Shannon Gibney.
Description: It’s the last day of junior year, and 17-year-old Ritzy—short for Maritza—is pretty sure she has a great plan. Summer job—check. Hang with friends at the beach—check. Keep looking after herself as she’s been doing since her mom bailed to follow her bliss—check. Or no check?
After someone reports that Ritzy is living alone, a social worker shows up and puts her into foster care. That’s surprise enough. Even more surprising? Ritzy has been in foster care before, as an infant, and the woman who cared for her then takes her in again. But maybe the greatest surprise of all for Ritzy is that living with her foster mother, Kristin, in Kristin’s gorgeous house, isn’t all that bad. And neither is the cute, friendly boy next door. If Ritzy’s mom hadn’t gotten her back all those years ago, this is the life she could have had. But is it the life she should have had?
When Ritzy’s old life catches up with her new one, she has some decisions to make. Can she plan for the worst, but still hope for the best?