If you were too busy to keep up with Young Adult Literature in 2021, don’t worry! And before you read any further, hear me out — while YA is meant and written for the young adult, some YA literature does qualify as great (and we’d recommend it!) for mature adults as well. In fact, some of these books present such progressive perspectives, that the previous generation can certainly borrow and learn from. I mean, we can hate on each other, or we can learn from and grow with each other — why not choose the latter?
Here’s a roundup of some of the best YA releases of 2021, that make for great reads even today:
1. One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite (Jan 5, 2021)
One of the Good Ones is a contemporary fiction book whose story revolves around police brutality, death, grief, and more. The story starts with the mysterious death of teen social activist Kezi Smith and deals with the aftermath of the devastated family grieving her death. This book has a twist to it, too so it’ll keep you hooked until the end!
2. The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (Jan 26, 2021)
This book has been described as ‘A slick, twisty YA page-turner about the daughter of a con artist who is taken hostage in a bank heist.’ And that’s exactly what it is. Nora O’Malley is taken hostage at a bank robbery with her ex-boyfriend and her current girlfriend. As the daughter of a con artist, she needs to use the skills she’s learned to save herself and everyone else. Tess Sharpe’s taken us hostage, and we certainly don’t mind.
3. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (Feb 9, 2021)
This young adult fantasy book is about sixteen-year-old Deka, whose ‘impure’ blood means that she will suffer a fate worse than death. She is freed by a mysterious woman who takes her to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki – near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat. The Gilded Ones takes you on a journey of oppression, revolution, and the power of women, and it’s a journey that you’ll learn a lot from.
4. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (Mar 16, 2021)
The Firekeeper’s Daughter is a thriller revolving around biracial eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine. She never truly fit in anywhere, and despite that, she has a lot of dreams. But tragedy strikes in her family, and then she witnesses a murder that pushes her to the center of the criminal investigation. Boulley has delivered a masterpiece of Indigenous (Native American) literature with this book, and we’re all so here for it!
5. Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell (July 6, 2019)
Rainbow Rowell is back with the third and final installment in her young adult fantasy series, Simon Snow. Set in the same world described in Fangirl, this series mixes a complex blend of paranormal romance with action and adventure. This book is the finale that tells secrets, answers questions, and lays ghosts to rest. As the blurb reads, Any Way the Wind Blows takes the gang back to England, back to Watford, and back to their families for their longest and most emotionally wrenching adventure yet.’
6. Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray (Sept 28, 2021)
Being the first book in a series to come, Beasts of Prey sets the stories of Koffi and Ekon as they set out to hunt down and capture a vicious monster named Shetani, who has been plaguing their city for nearly a century. They both have different motives, but their common goal makes them strike an alliance to defeat Shetani. Also, Ekon has OCD – brownie points for representation. Gray seems to have set a strong base for the rest of the series with the debut book, and we can’t wait for more!
7. Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong (Nov 16, 2021)
Our Violent Ends is the sequel to These Violent Delights, which is a Romeo and Juliet-inspired duology set in 1920 Shanghai, featuring a monster and starcrossed lovers. This book is set in 1927 Shanghai that is on the edge of a revolution, with our lovers Roma and Juliette caught in the crossfire. All they want to do is love each other, but it’s never really that simple, is it? Gong has crafted these characters with a lot of care and detail – this is the kind of book where you’ll enjoy the bittersweet feeling of all the angst.
Like Young Adult? We think you’ll enjoy more recommendations, here.