The YA Books Your Favorite YA Authors Can't Stop Raving About

Behold, the three stages of a book obsession. Innocently pick up a book, not yet realizing it will provide a magical experience. Dive into a world composed of words that is somehow, miraculously more interesting than the physical world. Then, try to get everyone you know to read said book. "It will change your life," you whisper, with slightly crazed intensity.

These kind of word-of-mouth recommendations are often the best kind. If you're in search of book recommendations, ask people about the books they can't stop pushing into their friends' hands. The books they encountered months ago, but keep thinking about (defying that frustrating tendency to immediately forget every book we read).


So, to navigate the ever-booming world of YA fiction, we turned to the experts: authors themselves. We asked some of our favorite YA authors working today, like Tomi Adeyemi, Sarah Dessen, Ellen Hopkins, and Maurene Goo, to tell us the book they can't stop raving about. We'll be updating this story throughout the course of Refinery29's YA Month in April, so be sure to check back in.

Refinery29 is proud to partner with Penguin Teen on YA Month.

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Renée Watson
Co-author of Watch Us Rise

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani. In Calling My Name, Taja Brown is redefining who she is and what she believes. Growing up in a loving, but strict, religious family, she battles expectations and struggles to find her purpose. Tamani’s lyrical, episodic writing is moving and makes this novel an unforgettable read."
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Ellen Hagan
Co-author of Watch Us Rise

"Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I loved Brown Girl Dreaming for its lyrical, stunning, and brilliant images. It hooked me from the start, and I found myself marking each poem to teach my students. I loved following her journey and family history through poems. It was a supreme joy to read and will stay forever on my bookshelf."
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Kathi Appelt
Author of Angel Thieves

"I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. This book takes no prisoners. It reaches into darkness, using dual time-lines that ask the reader to stretch, and ultimately brings everyone--characters, readers, all of us--into the light. Each time I read it, I find something else about it that I didn't see before--like it takes a new reading to find the layer that needs to be pulled away. Importantly, it's centered around the soul-rescuing and life-affirming power of art, in all of its varied manifestations, giving us so many ways to deal with grief and ultimately love. The book is a masterpiece, and the prose is beautiful enough to break the heart."
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Nicki Pau Preto
Author of Crown of Feathers (2019)

"Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is the dark, moody, matriarchal book series of my heart. The mysterious world building is without a doubt my favorite part: The hidden island of Fennbirn is in thrall to the cult of the goddess and the tradition of triplet queens who murder one another generation after generation for the throne. The plot is slow building and exquisitely tense, filled with women in positions of power plotting and scheming and outmaneuvering one another."
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Claire Kann
Author of If It Makes You Happy

"Contagion by Erin Bowman. This book was like all of my favorite deep space sci-fi films rolled into one compelling YA package. If you loved Pandorum, Event Horizon, and Alien, you won't be disappointed with one. The audiobook is also wonderful!"
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Peternelle van Arsdale
Author of The Cold Is In Her Bones

"I loved Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin. It's both realistic in subject matter and imaginative in format and at once clever and profound."
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Sandhya Menon
Author of There's Something About Sweetie

"Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Kidney transplant between best friends! Unrequited love! Bisexual main character! Solomon's trademark ability to make you ugly-cry like you're an infant and your bottle's late!"
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Renee Ahdieh
Author of The Beautiful

"An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir because it will break your heart in all the right places."
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Kat Cho
Author of Wicked Fox

"Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh, which has gorgeous prose and imagery that you can see in your mind as you read. Rebel Seoul an exploration of nationhood (something so important to Korean people today) in a futuristic setting where much of Eastern Asia has combined into a super power. While I have a soft spot for the male characters in this debut, it is the female characters that give the book its spirit. I love that the girls are both the most accomplished soldiers in the nation, but aren't so hardened that they don't feel relatable teen girl feelings. This is a YA debut that is fresh and imaginative, and I am so excited because it has a companion novel, Rogue Heart coming out soon!"
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Caleb Roehrig
Author of Death Prefers Blondes

"I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. It's a moving story that explores grief and love and sibling relationships with absolutely exquisite prose. I've never encountered another book that so accurately captured what the world looks like to a sensitive, artistic soul who doesn't really fit in anywhere else. I wish I'd had this book when I was a teenager, and I share it whenever I get the chance."
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Jen Doll
Author of Unclaimed Baggage

"A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti. This book depicts — heartbreakingly, achingly, and beautifully — what it's like to be a girl (and, for that matter, a woman) today, in a world of incomprehensible violence and in a society when, even as a victim, you can be made to feel you did something wrong. Oh, it's just so good. Everyone should read it. And we should all use it to become better."
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Tomi Adeyemi
Author of Children of Blood and Bone

"The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo has won all the awards and then some, and it deserves even more. It's a sensational story with some of the most beautiful language I have ever read in my life!"
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Ally Condie
Author of The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe and the Matched Trilogy

"Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, and its sequel, The Vanishing Stair (which just released in January!). I am a sucker for a murder mystery, and this book/series has everything a reader could ever want. A great main character, Stevie, who is interesting, original, funny, and smart. A fantastic setting (a glamorous old home/school in Vermont). It also boasts a wonderful cast of supporting characters, stunning twists and turns, and a haunting, clever mystery-within-a-mystery in the form of an unsolved kidnapping from decades ago. The whole thing is heart-poundingly good, and just plain fun to read."
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Sarah Dessen
Author of This Lullaby

"Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka rocked my world. It's an award-winning graphic novel about a teen with a parent who has an addiction issue. It's incredible."
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justin a. reynolds
Author of The Opposite of Always

"The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk. This book is a haunting exploration of tragedy and its aftermath; a brilliant examination of what happens when grief and heartache settle into the space once occupied by love and seeming invincibility. And much like the music driving its characters, it is deeply lyrical, supremely thoughtful, and ultimately hopeful."
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Maureen Johnson
Author of Truly Devious and The Vanishing Stair

"The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (and the sequel, The Wicked King). Holly is the mistress of faerie. Her knowledge and mastery of fantasy is so deep — even if you aren't a fantasy reader, you'll be swept into this book. It's a court romance. It's an adventure. It's amazing."
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L.L. McKinney
Author of A Blade So Black

"Besides mine? I kid! The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. The sequel, The Everlasting Rose, comes out soon! I'm so excited."
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Dhonielle Clayton
Author of The Belles series

"Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson, a love letter to hip hop and Brooklyn that took me back to high school. It follows three Brooklyn teens who plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he's still alive, and reminded me how deep the bonds of friendship went during those days; where friends were family, hip-hop and rap music were stitched into the fabric of how you related to a person, and there wasn't anything you wouldn't do to make sure your friend got the respect he or she deserved."
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Lilliam Rivera
Author of Dealing in Dreams

"When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. McLemore's novel is such a beautiful exploration of family, gender identity, and young love. It is rich with fantastical elements, poetic, and haunting."
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Ellen Hopkins
Author of People Kill People

"Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere. Her book I'll Give You the Sun might have earned more accolades, but I loved her first book. Dealing with grief is something every young person must eventually face, and this book is a gorgeous study. Jandy's an MFA poet, and while the book isn't in verse, her poetry is obvious in the beautiful language. Stunning."
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Marissa Meyer
Author of The Lunar Chronicles and The Renegades Trilogy

"My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows. It is quirky, magical, hysterical, and romantic, with just enough "real history" mixed in to make me curious about what really transpired hundreds of years ago."
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Maurene Goo
Author of Somewhere Only We Know

"Tell Me Everything by Sarah Enni. Sarah Enni has been a big part of the YA community for the past few years with her amazing podcast, First Draft, where she interviews writers about their journeys and creative processes. Like Sarah, her debut is clever, hilarious, and full of heart. Tell Me Everything is pitched as Amelie meets Instagram and it's both fun and incredibly timely — I highly recommend it for lovers of contemporary YA!"
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Hafsah Faizal
Author of the forthcoming fantasy novel We Hunt the Flame

"The one YA novel I remember connecting with so deeply that it made me sob in the middle of the night is I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios. Demetrios gives us a protagonist who is vulnerable and fierce, who sees her world falling apart, struggles to take control, and suffers through so much; only to surface stronger than ever before."
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Victoria Lee
Author of The Fever King

"This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada. This book made me nauseous but a good way. I've never read anything quite like it. It twists genre conventions and eviscerates expectations. Science! A virus that makes people literally explode! Hacker girls! Seriously...what are you waiting for?"
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Jennifer Mathieu
Author of Moxie

"Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll. A terrific story of three teenagers in the American South whose lives intersect when they all find work at a quirky place of employment — a store that sells lost luggage. I fell in love with these characters. They all felt so real, so genuine, so unique, and their struggles are just as authentic. You root for them, you worry for them, you cheer for them. I loved this book!"
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Taran Matharu
Author of The Summoner series

"Ready Player One by Earnest Cline. It's no surprise that this book was Amazon's top selling book of 2018. The novel tells the story of a futuristic dystopia where an economic crisis has led to most of the population retreating into the Oasis, an all-encompassing virtual reality game that has become the world’s chief pastime and economic resource."
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Tricia Levenseller
Author of The Daughter of the Wild

"Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers. It's such a powerful story of hope. Even those from the darkest backgrounds and most tragic of pasts can rise and become great. It's up to us to choose what to do with the hand we are dealt."
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Olivia Hinebaugh
Author of The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me

"The Female Of The Species by Mindy McGinnis. Holy crap, this book is fierce and powerful and the characters are so wonderfully real and flawed and authentic. It's a must-read contemporary YA. Hand it to people unfamiliar with YA lit, and they'll be way more open to read more of what YA has to offer."
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Alex London
Author of Black Wings Beating

"Claire Legrand's Sawkill Girls captures the vibe of great Stephen King and of Stranger Things, and even of e. lockhart's We Were Liars, all wrapped up in a chilling, thrilling tale of righteous, powerful girls fighting monsters. It's a book of gorgeous story burning with the heart-warming rage."
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Kate A. Boorman
Author of What We Buried

"The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. It was pitched as Black Swan meets Orange is the New Black, and it has a supernatural element that makes it unique. So: ill-fated friendships, ballet rivalry, violent crimes, a female juvenile detention center, and ghosts! It’s wonderfully written—unsettling and full of tension, with a gorgeous, dreamlike feeling."
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Mariah MacCarthy
Author of Squad

"Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. It deals with mental illness so expertly and tenderly, and it's such a pure feat of imagination. It made my heart hurt."
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Shelley Sackier
Author of The Antidote

"The book I recommend most is a tale of two rabbits and a band of their brethren, all who muscle and muddle their way through adventure and survival as they are forced from their home and search for another. The story, Watership Down, is a brilliant novel by Richard Adams — supposedly meant only to entertain his children. Deeply infused with rich allegory and the realities of man versus nature, the saga catapults into a far more complex category. It is as soul satisfying a story as one may ever find. A true precious gem."
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Amber Smith
Author of Something Like Gravity

"I read The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown several months ago, and I have not been able to get it out of my mind since. It's about love and loss and healing, with a cast of amazingly authentic characters (plus strong, solid, beautiful LGBTQ+ representation!). There were so many parts of this story that resonated deep in my bones, from the sweet awkwardness of first love, to the rawness of grief and healing. I haven't cried over a book in so long, but that's how real these characters felt — I loved them and didn't want the story to end (although the ending was perfect). I cannot recommend it highly enough!"
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Jasmine Warga
Author of Other Words for Home

"Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert. It's such a gorgeous, radiant book. Both beautifully written and searingly honest, I read this book months ago, and I still think about it all the time."
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Abdi Nazemian
Author of Like a Love Story

"Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. I love how specific the book is to the experiences of its characters, and the way it gently explores the intersection of queer identity and cultural identity. That said, the more specific a story is, the more universal it can be, and this is a truly universal story of love and acceptance."
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Suzanne Young
Author of Girls With Sharp Sticks

"A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast that gives us an unexpected journey. More than anything, I like to be surprised."
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Jenn Bennett
Author of Serious Moonlight

"Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. The voice hooks you from the first page, and the will they/won't they plot will keep you flipping pages until the end. Funny, charming, and swoonworthy."
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Julie Berry
Author of Lovely War

"The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope. It's as old as I am, and it's perfect. Dark, intense, medieval, mythological, psychological, feminist, and deeply romantic. Is it fantasy, or isn't it? Readers must judge. Fans of Robin McKinley, and of any of her literary daughters, will lap this up. Just writing this makes me put it at the top of my read-it-again list."
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Kit Frick
Author of All Eyes On Us

"I tore through Kate Alice Marshall's I Am Still Alive in two days—and while I rarely read books in one sitting, I wouldn't have put this one down at all if pesky work and social plans hadn't gotten in the way! It's just that riveting. Marshall masterfully balances nuanced detail about Jess's experience vying to survive in the wild with gripping, page-turning tension. This is an absolute must-read for fans of young adult thrillers and survival adventures. Jess gives a whole new meaning to the term "strong female protagonist."
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