Us Kids Know by J.J. Strong
A risky, heartbreaking debut in the vein of The Outsiders, following a group of unmoored teens in suburban New Jersey as they blaze destructive paths and wrestle with burgeoning adolescence, ultimately committing one disastrous error that changes their lives forever.
We all knew about Cullen Hickson.
Siblings Brielle and Ray O’Dell are lost. Anxious. Restless. Bullied at his Catholic school for being small and timid, Ray wants to be someone people respect or, even better, someone people fear. Meanwhile, Brielle—whose “popular” status feels tenuous at best—knows that something is off about her friendship with the shiny, happy, sophisticated blond girls on her field hockey team. They don’t really understand Bri, and if Bri is being totally honest, she doesn’t really understand them either.
When storied delinquent Cullen Hickson enters the orbit of the O’Dell siblings, though, everything changes. Brielle and Ray find an alluring, addictive outlet in Cullen, who opens their eyes to a world they didn’t know existed. For Ray, that means experiencing the singular thrill of small-time crime—from breaking and entering to grand theft auto—while Brielle quickly dives into an all-consuming romance with the enigmatic upperclassman.
But as Brielle and Ray find themselves more and more entwined with Cullen’s antics, the once-thrilling experiences begin to feel increasingly dangerous, culminating in a life-changing event that shakes the teens to their core.
Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan
Five boys attacked her.
Now they must repay her with their blood and flesh.
Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.
One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.
She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.
Right Where You Left Me by Calla Devlin
In search of the perfect story to put a human face on a tragedy for his newspaper, my dad will fly into the eye of the storm. And now he’s heading to Ukraine, straight into the aftermath of a deadly earthquake. I don’t want him to leave. I don’t want to spend the week alone in a silent house with my mother, whose classically Russian reserve has built a wall between us that neither of us knows how to tear down. But I don’t tell him this. I don’t say stay.
I think I’m holding it together okay—until the FBI comes knocking on our door. Now it’s all I can do to fight off the horrifying images in my head. The quake has left so many orphans and widows, but Mom and I refuse to be counted among them. Whatever it takes to get Dad back, I’ll do it. Even if it means breaking a promise…or the law.
Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson
When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth — but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem classic Earth culture (doo-wop music, still life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go — and what he’s willing to sacrifice — to give the vuvv what they want.
Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl
Martin is an American teen on the autism spectrum living in France with his mom and sister for the summer. He falls for a French girl who he thinks is a real-life incarnation of a character in his favorite book. Over time Martin comes to realize she is a real person and not a character in a novel while at the same time learning that love is not out of his reach just because he is autistic.
A Very, Very Bad Thing by Jeffery Self
From the author of Drag Teen, a startling novel about the complexities of identity -- and of truth.
Marley doesn't just want to be labeled The Gay Kid, but he doesn't have much else going on. He doesn't have any hobbies. Or interests. He's the only kid he knows without a passion . . . until Christopher comes to town. He's smart, cute, gay, and . . . the son of the country's most famous, most bigoted television evangelist.
Marley and Christopher immediately spark -- and become inseparable. For a month, it's heaven. Then Christopher's parents send him to a Pray Away the Gay program, which leads to even worse things. Hurt and outraged, Marley tells a very big lie -- and then has to navigate its repercussions.
This is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell
One week. That's all Jessie said. A one-week break to get some perspective before graduation, before she and her boyfriend, Chris, would have to make all the big, scary decisions about their future--decisions they had been fighting about for weeks.
Then, Chris vanishes. The police think he's run away, but Jessie doesn't believe it. Chris is popular and good-looking, about to head off to college on a full-ride baseball scholarship. And he disappeared while going for a run along the river--the same place where some boys from the rival high school beat him up just three weeks ago. Chris is one of the only black kids in a depressed paper mill town, and Jessie is terrified of what might have happened.
As the police are spurred to reluctant action, Jessie speaks up about the harassment Chris kept quiet about and the danger he could be in. But there are people in Jessie's town who don't like the story she tells, who are infuriated by the idea that a boy like Chris would be a target of violence. They smear Chris’s character and Jessie begins receiving frightening threats.
Every Friday since they started dating, Chris has written Jessie a love letter. Now Jessie is writing Chris a letter of her own to tell him everything that’s happening while he’s gone. As Jessie searches for answers, she must face her fears, her guilt, and a past more complicated than she would like to admit.
Like Water by Rebecca Podos
A gorgeously written and deeply felt literary young adult novel of identity, millennial anxiety, and first love, from the widely acclaimed author of The Mystery of Hollow Places
In Savannah Espinoza’s small New Mexico hometown, kids either flee after graduation or they’re trapped there forever. Vanni never planned to get stuck—but that was before her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, leaving her and her mother to care for him. Now, she doesn’t have much of a plan at all: living at home, working as a performing mermaid at a second-rate water park, distracting herself with one boy after another.
That changes the day she meets Leigh. Disillusioned with small-town life and looking for something greater, Leigh is not a “nice girl.” She is unlike anyone Vanni has met, and a friend when Vanni desperately needs one. Soon enough, Leigh is much more than a friend. But caring about another person stirs up the moat Vanni has carefully constructed around herself, and threatens to bring to the surface the questions she’s held under for so long.
With her signature stunning writing, Rebecca Podos, author of The Mystery of Hollow Places, has crafted a story of first love and of the complex ways in which the deepest parts of us are hidden, even from ourselves.
Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley
When Max Friedman's mother dies of cancer, instead of facing his loss, Max imagines that her tumor has taken up residence in his head. It's a terrible tenant--isolating him from family, distracting him in school, and taunting him mercilessly about his manhood. With the tumor in charge, Max implodes, slipping farther and farther away from reality. Max is sent to the artsy, off-beat Baldwin School to regain his footing. He joins a group of theater misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet and slowly becomes friends with Fish, a girl with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, an edgy upperclassman who refuses to let go of the things he loves. For a while, Max almost feels happy. But his tumor is always lurking in the wings--until one night it knocks him down and Max is forced to face the truth, not just about the tumor, but about how important it is to let go of the past.
Freefall by Joshua David Bellin
In the Upperworld, the privileged 1% are getting ready to abandon a devastated planet Earth. And Cam can’t wait to leave. After sleeping through a 1,000-year journey, he and his friends will have a pristine new planet to colonize. And no more worries about the Lowerworld and its 99% of rejects.
Then Cam sees a banned video feed of protesters in the Lowerworld who also want a chance at a new life. And he sees a girl with golden eyes who seems to be gazing straight though the feed directly at him. A girl he has to find. Sofie.
When Cam finds Sofie, she opens his eyes to the unfairness of what’s happening in their world, and Cam joins her cause for Lowerworld rights. He also falls hard for Sofie. But Sofie has her own battles to fight, and when it’s time to board the spaceships, Cam is alone.
Waking up 1,000 years in the future, Cam discovers that he and his shipmates are far off-course, trapped on an unknown and hostile planet. Who has sabotaged their ship? And does it have anything to do with Sofie, and the choices—and the enemies—he made in the past?
Strange Lies by Maggie Thrash
Only at Winship Academy would an evening science expo turn into a criminal fiasco. First, there’s the anonymous boy in the girls’ bathroom handing out drugs to anyone with the secret password. Then the student body president is maimed in a horrifying and tragic accident—but was it an accident or an attack?
Benny Flax and Virginia Leeds are right at the center of it all. And so is the headmaster’s son, Calvin Harker, an oddball poet whose interest in Virginia sets off alarm bells for Benny. As the case bleeds from Winship Academy to the surrounding city, the deep fault lines of racial tension in Atlanta’s history reveal explosive hatred still simmering under the city’s surface.
R.I.P. Eliza Hart by Alyssa Sheinmel
Ellie believes that going to boarding school in California, surrounded by ocean and open spaces, will cure her claustrophobia. Once there, she discovers that Eliza Hart, her childhood best friend, is also a student there -- and Ellie is eager to rekindle their friendship.
But Eliza spreads rumors about Ellie, saying she's a liar, a stalker. Add to that Ellie's fear of having people find out about her phobia, and she becomes an outcast.
Then Eliza Hart is found dead.
Ellie is determined to find out what happened to her one-time BFF. Only her suitemate Sam will help her . . . because to everyone else, Ellie looks like a suspect.
As the walls close in around her, can Ellie clear her name and find out the truth about Eliza Hart? Her hunt for the truth will push her out into the open -- and also deep into her own memories of her childhood with Eliza Hart.
This book is both a gripping mystery, and a sensitive and moving portrayal of depression and mental health issues.
This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes
Somehow I’ve become a liar. A coward. Here’s how it happened.
When Genevieve Grace wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember the car crash that injured her and killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTube star who had just released his first album. Genevieve knows she was there, and that there was another driver, a man named Brad Freeman, who everyone assumes is guilty. But as she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve is hit with a sickening sense of dread—that maybe she had something to do with what happened.
As the internet rages against Brad Freeman, condemning him in a brutal trial by social media, Genevieve escapes to her father’s house, where she can hide from reporters and spend the summer volunteering in beautiful Zion National Park. But she quickly realizes that she can’t run away from the accident, or the terrible aftermath of it all.
Incredibly thought-provoking and beautifully told, Paula Stokes’s story will compel readers to examine the consequences of making mistakes in a world where the internet is always watching…and judging.
On a wild Scottish island, a tragedy washes up on the storm-beaten shore: the bodies of a whale and a man. Fraser, desperate for adventure, and Hayley, visiting from Texas, become tangled in the mystery.
But Fraser's younger brother Dunny is distraught by the discovery. He hasn't spoken in years, and lately he's been acting more strangely than ever.
Together, the three meet a man living in the abandoned caves nearby. They start to wonder if he might lie at the center of something darker than they had previously thought. For the whispering sea conceals a terrible secret, and to discover the truth, one of them must learn to listen...
Do you have a favorite recent new cover? Or a favorite from this list? Let me know in the comments!