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I'm a grown-ass woman whose truest pleasure is staying up too late reading under the covers, but all too often I find myself slogging through criticism and canonical books I never got around to finishing freshman year of college. (No joke, I've been reading Virginia Woolf's Orlando since 2009.) I tend to miss the days when I didn't have to "be a part of the conversation" by reading capital "I" Important books, the days when staying up too late reading was a saucy little treat.
Blowing through the Gossip Girl series and Sarah Dessen novels in a single summer night are among my best childhood memories. So in honor of that sacred, sleepy summer feeling, here are the best new YA books to zip through during a day at the lake or with a flashlight under the covers long after your parents have gone to bed.
As someone who spent her entire middle years clicking back and forth between Saddle Creek message boards and Harry Potter forums on The Leaky Cauldron, Rainbow Rowell's story about a diehard fangirl getting older spoke to me, even though I'm a comparatively old crone. In Fangirl, Cath and her twin sister Wren are obsessed with the Simon Snow books (a fictional Potter-cum-Twilight-cum-Divergent series).
When college begins and Wren drifts away from Simon Snow fandom and her sister Cath, our protagonist (who sometimes goes by her fanfic nom de plume "Magicath") fumbles through her post-high school life like a real teenager would, communicating in the believable, wry dialogue that's become Rainbow Rowell's signature. I fangirled over this book in a real way and the good news is I'll soon be able to fangirl over more–it's getting a sequel.
This is the first book I've ever encountered that accurately conveys life-ruining realization that your spill-your-guts text message or Tumblr post has been screenshotted and shared with the cruel teen masses. So even if Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda weren't a powerful little work of fiction about a boy being forced to come out and instead finding himself able to do it on his own terms, Albertalli's ability to use 2015's pop cultural references without taking on a try-hard "cool English teacher" vibe was enough to keep me binge-reading.
When I started reading YA fiction just about 15 years ago, I rarely encountered legitimately human and legitimately funny works for teenagers about LGBTQ issues: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda can truly help kids grappling with their sexualities and identities. Early-aughts counterparts didn't have such a resource.
Rejoice, all ye internet dwellers who know all your brains can process is numbered lists: this book is told entirely that way. In Me Being Me Is Exactly the Same as You Being You, Darren tells the story of his parents' divorce and his beguiling high school crushes in stream-of-consciousness lists.
Me Being Me's rapid pace and terse nature makes it the ideal volume for staccato reading sessions–ten minutes on the train, five minutes waiting in line at a lunch salad restaurants, 20 minutes before nodding off to sleep. This is the ultimate YA book for the easily distracted, as you'll get just as much out of the story in a marathon reading session as you will if you read it in 30 second spurts between Instagram refreshes.
This is wintery book that's good to pull out in the nastiest depths of summer when you've traded that "weeee! bare legs!" attitude for "ugh! chafing!" reality for the season. On Milo's Christmas break, a bunch of shady characters come to stay at the "smuggler's inn" he lives in with his parents. The spooky, specific world building in Greenglass House is on par with any adult fantasy novel I've read or any episode of Parks and Recreation I've watched.
Greenglass House, intended for fifth graders, is a scary caper novel, a ghost story, and a robust tale about adoption and assimilation in a rural town. I didn't solve the plot's main mystery until the book's conclusion–centering on an old map and a weird new friend–and I'm way older than a fifth grader.
The Patron Saint of YA Fiction hits many familiar notes with Saint Anything–notably, cute boys, familial trouble, and a trusty happy ending. In Saint Anything, Sydney finds herself ignored by her parents in the wake of her brother's imprisonment for a drunk driving accident. Hoping to shake up her routine, Sydney transfers from her fancy private school to a public school, where she encounters a brother-sister duo who have problems of their own.
This novel isn't How To Deal-level Dessen, but it hits all the right marks and made me think about the quality of suffering from others' actions, and the ripple effect pain creates in a community or household.
When I was reading this book, I kept referring to it as The Lovely Bones, Junior, but that's a major injustice to the straight-up haunting Bone Gap. This is a near-perfect work of Midwest Magical Realism that would rivet and terrify most adults I know.
Bone Gap centers on the abduction of Roza, a Polish girl who lived with the brothers Finn and Sean O'Sullivan. Finn is the only person who sees the crime go down, but he is unable to identify the kidnapper. From there on, the reader finds Finn wrestling with reality and fiction in Bone Gap, Illinois. This is best read during daylight hours, or you may not sleep.