May is a wild month for Young Adult books. Dozens of massive sequels, new series, exciting debuts and more are hitting shelves this month, making it a challenge to narrow down Paste’s must-read titles. From National Book Award winner Elizabeth Acevedo’s sophomore novel to Shaun David Hutchinson’s anticipated YA memoir, the 10 books below all deliver enthralling reads.
Finale by Stephanie Garber
Release Date: May 7th from Flatiron Books
Why You’ll Love It: Stephanie Garber’s New York Times bestselling Caraval series is wrapping up this month with an appropriately titled third book. If you’ve never read this captivating series, I recommend treating yourself and picking up all three. (I also recommend not reading the description below to avoid spoilers for Caraval and Legendary!)
For Fans of: Authors like Susan Dennard or Anna Marie McLemore, and even though it’s not a YA novel, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Description: It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.
With lives, empires and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him. Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.
Nocturna by Maya Motayne
Release Date: May 7th from Balzer + Bray
Why You’ll Love It: Magical gifts that allow a character to shape-shift their face? A kingdom at risk from an ancient power? Goodness, there’s a lot to love in Maya Motayne’s debut. It’s the first book in a trilogy, and we’re ready for more!
For Fans of: Authors like Zoraida Córdova.
Description: To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks. As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.
After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.
But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power that could devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts
Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
Release Date: May 7th from Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: I love music YA, so I’m excited we’re seeing more contemporary novels digging into K-pop! In Somewhere Only We Know, readers meet a K-pop star who collides with a cute aspiring journalist… and the Roman Holiday-esque romance takes off from there.
For Fans of: Authors like Morgan Matson who write music-filled romances.
Description: 10:00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.
11:00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.
12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Release Date: May 7th from HarperTeen
Why You’ll Love It: Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut, The Poet X, took the publishing world by storm and won the National Book Award. Her second book is a stunning delight, delivering more of her fierce writing in short, easy-to-devour chapters. Featuring a teen mother with big dreams, it’s impossible to put down.
For Fans of: Authors like Brandy Colbert, Jason Reynolds and Laurie Halse Anderson
Description: Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.
Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.
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: One of Paste’s most anticipated YA novels of 2019, Hafsah Faizal’s debut features a stunning fantasy epic. Already netting starred reviews and acclaim from bestselling authors like Kirestin White and Robin LaFevers, it needs to be on your bookshelf yesterday.
For Fans of: Authors like Sabaa Tahir and Leigh Bardugo.
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.
Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson
Release Date: May 21st from Simon Pulse
Why You’ll Love It: I’ve loved all of Shaun David Hutchinson’s inclusive, heart-wrenching and wildly unique YA novels. So I’m thrilled to see his powerful voice diving into nonfiction with his first memoir, which explores “growing up, coming out and depression.”
For Fans of: Memoirs by authors like Laurie Halse Andersen.
Description: “I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.”
Shaun David Hutchinson was 19. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him.
A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality. Thankfully Shaun survived, and over time, came to embrace how grateful he is and how to find self-acceptance. In this courageous and deeply honest memoir, Shaun takes readers through the journey of what brought him to the edge,and what has helped him truly believe that it does get better.
Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi
Release Date: May 21st from Viking Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: Arvin Ahmadi’s debut, Down and Across, was one of my favorite books of 2018. Now Ahmadi’s doing a bit of genre jumping, leaping from warm, contemporary fiction to thrilling sci-fi. Girl Gone Viral follows a brilliant coder on a mission to find her father, but things get tricky when she’s unexpectantly thrust into the spotlight.
For Fans of: Authors like Julia Durang or Cory Doctorow.
Description: For 17-year-old Opal Hopper, code is magic. She builds entire worlds from scratch: Mars craters, shimmering lakes, any virtual experience her heart desires. But she can’t code her dad back into her life. When he disappeared after her tenth birthday, leaving only a cryptic note, Opal tried desperately to find him. And when he never turned up, she enrolled at a boarding school for technical prodigies and tried to forget.
Until now. Because WAVE, the world’s biggest virtual reality platform, has announced a contest where the winner gets to meet its billionaire founder. The same billionaire who worked closely with Opal’s dad. The one she always believed might know where he went. The one who maybe even murdered him.
What begins as a small data hack to win the contest spirals out of control when Opal goes viral, digging her deeper into a hole of lies, hacks and manipulation. How far will Opal go for the answers—or is it the attention—she’s wanted for years?
Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
Release Date: May 21st from Katherine Tegen Books
Why You’ll Love It: When a murdered teen’s friends release his music, they watch as his songs thrust him into the spotlight. Only he’s not around to celebrate it. A novel of music, loss and friendship, Let Me Hear a Ryhme is worth digging into.
For Fans of: Authors like Nic Stone, Angie Thomas and Jay Coles.
Description: Brooklyn, 1998. Biggie Smalls was right: Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are cool letting their best friend Steph’s music lie forgotten under his bed after he’s murdered—not when his rhymes could turn any Bed Stuy corner into a party.
With the help of Steph’s younger sister Jasmine, they come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: the Architect. Soon, everyone wants a piece of him. When his demo catches the attention of a hotheaded music label rep, the trio must prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.
As the pressure of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only, each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, they need to decide what they stand for or lose all that they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.
The Missing Season by Gillian French
Release Date: May 21st from HarperTeen
Why You’ll Love It: Gillian French writes some of the best YA thrillers and mysteries in print, including her Edgar Award-nominated Grit. Another novel of secrets, complicated friendships and fears, The Missing Season transports readers into the frightening marshes of a small town where a monster may or may not be lurking.
For Fans of: Authors like E. Lockhart and Marieke Nijkamp
Description: Whenever another kid goes missing in October, the kids in the old factory town of Pender know what is really behind it: a monster out in the marshes that they call the Mumbler. That’s what Clara’s new crew tells her when she moves to town. Bree and Sage, who take her under their wing. Spirited Trace, who has taken the lead on this year’s Halloween prank war. And magnetic Kincaid, whose devil-may-care attitude and air of mystery are impossible for Clara to resist.
Clara doesn’t actually believe in the Mumbler—not like Kinkaid does. But as Halloween gets closer and tensions build in the town, it’s hard to shake the feeling that there really is something dark and dangerous in Pender. Lurking in the shadows. Waiting to bring the stories to life.
The Voice in My Head by Dana L. Davis
Release Date: May 28th from Inkyard Press
Why You’ll Love It: Actress and author Dana L. Davis’ sophomore novel is almost here! Her debut, Tiffany Sly Lives Here, is a gorgeous novel about complicated families and secrets, and her latest delivers even more complex relationships. A road trip novel about the love between two sisters, it’s another book not to be missed from this multi-talented author.
For Fans of: Authors like Tiffany D. Jackson and Ashley Woodford.
Description: For Indigo Phillips, life has always been her and her identical twin, Violet. The perfectly dressed, gentle, popular sister. But now Violet is terminally ill and, in a few hours, plans to die on her own terms via medically assisted suicide. Even though she and Violet have drifted apart lately, Indigo doesn’t know how to face life without the only person who really understands her. Until suddenly she hears a mysterious voice claiming to be God, insisting that if she takes Violet to a remote rock formation in the Arizona desert, her sister will live.
Indigo is sure she’s losing it. But Violet agrees to go—if their incredibly dysfunctional family accompanies them on their trek from Seattle to Arizona. Indigo can barely be in the same zip code as her distant mother and controlling big sister, much less keep the peace on a road trip. Speaking her mind is the only way she can deal. But between facing senseless mishaps and strange lodgings and meeting even stranger folks along the way, Indigo will learn shocking things about those she thought she knew too well. When a sequence of wrenching secrets detonates, Indigo must figure out how to come to terms with her sister, her family…and the voice in her head.