Some call it April. But at Refinery29, we call it YA Month. Over the course of the month, we'll be celebrating and exploring the culture of young adult literature through feature stories, exclusive interviews with authors, book roundups — and an interactive reading challenge. After all, there's no YA without its accompanying hive of readers (of all ages), buzzing with opinions and enthusiasm.
Now for the fun part: what are we reading?
Here's how the Refinery29 YA Month Reading Challenge will work. Amid all of 2019's dazzling new YA releases, we've selected four books we're particularly crazy about. Week by week, we'll gush about them on Instagram, Twitter — and who knows, maybe in person. To join in the discussion, head over to our Instagram page, where we'll be hosting conversations on posts corresponding to each book. Or, use the hashtag #R29YAMonth on Twitter.
Now, let's get on a first-name bases with the picks. Brace yourselves, because these incredible books will make you feel all the feelings. We're convinced the entire range of human emotion is conveyed, at some point, within these four novels, written across genres.
What It's About: Welcome to Medio, an island of sharp divides between populations. Daniela has crossed more of those barriers than anyone knows. As a little girl, Dani and her family illegally crossed the border to the more prosperous side of the island so that she could attend the Medio School for Girls, which trains girls to become wives — the only social mobility available to women. At 16, she's poised to become the Primera wife to the son of a powerful government official. As a Primera, she'll be Mateo's life partner. Mateo's Segunda wife, who will eventually bear his children, happens to be Daniela's nemesis. Graduation Day is everything Dani and her family have strived for: So why is she suddenly so disillusioned?
Why We Chose It: Since their post-Hunger Games explosion in popularity, the sub-genre of YA dystopias has produced countless grim scenarios of authoritarian societies and sorting systems. Amid this sub-genre is Tehlor Kay Mejia's refreshingly original debut. We Set the Dark On Fire is like a less grim The Handmaid's Tale infused with Latinx spirit and a forbidden love story.
What It's About: Twenty years ago, Laurie Halse Anderson was a debut novelist coming out with a little book called Speak. You may know what happened next: Speak, a book about a depressed girl barely coping through her freshman year of high school, became an instant classic. Shout is Anderson's highly personal follow-up to the book that launched her career. The memoir is composed entirely in incendiary, chill-inducing poems. In the first section, Anderson describes her dysfunctional childhood in upstate New York and the traumatic incident that inspired Speak; in the second, she recalls the torrent of traumatic readers' stories unleashed by her book.
Why We Chose It: We'll put it briefly: Shout is an essential book. It belongs in school libraries, on teenagers' bookshelves (both girls and boys), and in the shopping cart of any adult who's ever been a teenager. In Speak, Melinda struggles to speak about her rape. In Shout, Anderson implores us to do the opposite. She asks us to shout about rape culture, because silence only perpetuates it. It's a book of staggering importance.
What It's About: Ruby Chertok isn't like the rest of her family. The youngest child of America's most famous contemporary composer, Ruby has grown up among Manhattan's musical elite. But unlike her three musical savant siblings, she floundered though her audition for the prestigious Amberley School of Music. Still, all of the Chertok kids' talent pales next to Oscar Bell, the (pretty dreamy) 17-year-old budding composer who moved into the Chertoks' apartment to complete a summer music fellowship. As Ruby grows closer to Oscar, she also grapples with an uncomfortable truth: If music isn't her future, what is?
Why We Chose It: After an intense week reading Shout, we'll follow up with an absolutely irresistible story about a high schooler falling in love for the first time. Though to call Night Music a rom-com undersells the book's compelling coming-of-age storylines. Night Music is a story about two individuals poised on the brink of the rest of their lives. Ruby's figuring out her future; Oscar's contemplating the potentially nefarious strings attached to his status as Amberley's rising star. Plus, the love story sparkles.
What It's About: Sixteen-year-old Brianna Carter has dreams of rap stardom. The daughter of a famous underground rapper, she has the chops to achieve her dreams. But Bri's feet are tethered to the ground by a change in her family's tough circumstances. After her single mother loses her job, Brianna become more focused on her family staying afloat in Garden Heights than on getting out of Garden Heights.
Why We Chose It: Angie Thomas ignited the world of YA literature with her debut novel, The Hate U Give. Her second novel will not disappoint. Bri is a bold, charismatic character facing the everyday tragedy of poverty. Also, since On the Come Up is set in the first book's town of Garden Heights, On the Come Up is teeming with easter eggs for close readers of THUG. Would Starr and Bri be friends? Debate freely.
That's a wrap. Tag us, talk to us, and let us know how your R29 YA Month Book Challenge is going. We'll all be on the same page.