44 Recent Young Adult Debuts to Read Now

Posted by Sharon on October 12, 2020


If you love discovering great stories from new voices, then the past few months have been quite a treat in the world of young adult fiction! Plenty of debut novels from first-time authors (or, in a few cases, from authors writing YA for the first time) hit shelves during the summer and fall.

In the interest of helping you add even more books to your Want to Read shelf (we know, we know), we gathered up a bunch of YA debut books published between May and October. Some of these titles were among the buzziest books of the season, while others are still flying a bit under the radar—but with average ratings of 3.5 stars and above, early reviewers agree that these are all raveworthy reads.

So check them out, and maybe find a new favorite author or two!
 
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Which 2020 YA debuts would you recommend to your fellow readers? Let's talk books in the comments!

Check out more recent articles:
October's Most Anticipated YA Reads
How the Debut Authors of 2020 Are Coping
Ashley Poston on Writing a Different Kind of YA Fairy Tale Retelling

Comments Showing 1-39 of 39 (39 new)

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message 1: by Jake (new)

Jake Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado. Look for it soon!


message 2: by Marianna (new)

Marianna Petrovich What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatever happened to good books about friendship, honesty, moral/ethical values, exposure to cultures? My six year old already has problems falling asleep, worrying about COVID every night. Do I want to put more worries into her little brain?


message 3: by Nicole (new)

Nicole  P Hey Marianne, try children's books not Young Adult perhaps.


message 4: by Shelly (new)

Shelly Krueger Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatev..."

I totally agree. It seems that is all that is promoted as YA books.


message 5: by Marianna (new)

Marianna Petrovich Nicole wrote: "Hey Marianne, try children's books not Young Adult perhaps."

That was for the sake of example, I have 5 kids from 11 to 17. My comment still stands...


message 6: by Sjm (new)

Sjm I recommend Thirteen by Ameia Mikula-Noble. It is her debut book with a strong female character!


paperback writer Marianna, while I think we should all be concerned with seeing justice done in our communities, covers featuring LGBT folks and people of color are not, in and of themselves, activism. Many of those books feature exactly the kinds of stories you say you want your children to read.


message 8: by Lucia (new)

Lucia Nieto I recently discovered Steggie Belle & the Dream Warriors. This debut novel has just been released a few months ago and it blew me away! A fantasy based around lucid dreaming, mixing mythology, ancient folklore, and urban legends. Would highly recommend giving it a go!


message 9: by Gargi (new)

Gargi Palashikar Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatev..."

A lot of fantasy/sci-fi YA books feature themes of honesty, loyalty and friendship, and moral/ethical dilemmas based around a plot of a marginalized group fighting for justice against their oppressors. Why aren't they considered "social activist" books? Is it because they're fantasy? Could it be because the characters featured on the covers are white and fit conventional standards of beauty?

Stories that feature people of color, LGBTQ+ people, differently abled people are not stories of social activism - they're simply stories that feature a representation of people that exist in our society. Maybe you should read the book summaries to judge whether these books are right for your kids, instead of jumping to conclusions "just from titles and pictures".


message 10: by Kaye (new)

Kaye Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatev..."

Those books /are/ exposure to cultures! Social issues are very important for young people to read about; reading develops empathy!
But that said, these are YA books, and your six-year-old is likely reading chapbooks, MAYBE middle grade. And good news! When she gets to the age when she's reading MG/YA, all those books about friendship and moral values still will exist!
Also, if you don't want your kids reading about immigrants, news flash, you're racist. There's nothing political about human rights.


message 11: by Jennifer Medina (new)

Jennifer Medina Mermaid Eclipse

Excited to share this YA novel Mermaid Eclipse by author, N.E. Carlisle

The adventure focuses on mermaid lore intertwined with a twins theme...

Muriel and Morgan are twins, siblings so close that sometimes it’s a struggle to find their own identities. With their ailing mother and narcissistic father, their life is challenging enough – and then Aunt Mallory dies in a mysterious boating accident, revealing a family curse.


message 12: by Marianna (new)

Marianna Petrovich Kaye wrote: "Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at..."

Kaye, I am an immigrant myself, my kids understand the dynamics of living on the cultural borderlands first-hand. I completely support modern movement of creating diversity in YA literature, but it shouldn't overtake the literature, the main goal of which is to build their own self-identity and grow their minds. If I strip out the list presented here of the politicized stuff I will be left with K-Pop as my only option.


message 13: by Rez (new)

Rez Delnava Marianna wrote: " ...If I strip out the list presented here of the politicized stuff I will be left with K-Pop as my only option.
"


I'm having a hard time figuring out what's politicized about a cute friends-to-enemies plot with a friends-to-lovers romance involving superheroes (The Extraordinaries) or a plot about twins with strained a relationship reconciling while finding young love (If We Were Us).


message 14: by Marianna (new)

Marianna Petrovich Rez wrote: "I'm having a hard time figuring out what's politicized about a c..."
Out of 44 book you managed to find two that you thought were not politicized... Congratulations!
Extraoridinaries -- is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD...
If We Were Us -- main character Charlie is gay, who is dating pretty girls just to hide his identity, while not treating those girls very well...


message 15: by Rez (new)

Rez Delnava Weird… even when you say it like that, it still isn't remotely political.


message 16: by Adriana (new)

Adriana @Marianna - I wouldn't consider queer books politicized. But what about Hood? It's the story of Robin Hood's daughter. Or Crownchasers? I mean most fantasy books have politics surrounding it in general but it's a completely made up world.


message 17: by Vaishvi (new)

Vaishvi Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatever... you do know these books are for teens between the ages of 14 to 21???


message 18: by Eule (new)

Eule Luftschloss If you disagree with the main message of "be nice to people regardless of their gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation" or describe this as being political, I really hope your children will read this books and not adopt your worldview.


Latanya (Crafty Scribbles) So, everyone else's lives are political? That's an asinine view of the view - quite myopic even. What a way to live a life.

Anyway, I have "Little Creeping Things" in my possession and will read it asap.


message 20: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatev..."

Kids need to be politicized at that age because our country is in ruins and they are the ones who are going to have to fix this mess.


message 21: by carinne (new)

carinne Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatev..."

I agree young adult has changed. I used to love the genre. In the last few years I find myself reading older published titles.


message 22: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey If a grown adult only experiences the realities that these books discuss as 'political issues,' I find it hard to believe that they're mature enough to handle living in the real world. And if they don't want their kids learning about how other kids live, well. That's not going to end well either.


message 23: by Jennifer (last edited Oct 15, 2020 09:27AM) (new)

Jennifer Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatev..."

Totally agree with you, Marianna!

Does all fiction have to be activist? I would guess yes, according to the CRT believers. All of life is a war between oppressed and oppressor, so why not make all fiction reflect that?

And, by the way, I have no idea what all of these books are about...just commenting on the trends taking over both children's and young adult fiction.


message 24: by Emma (new)

Emma Shelly wrote: "Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at..."

These books are aimed at people who are learning what they think about the world around them, not adults who've already decided. They help teens face the world as it really is while they are losing the childhood version they used to believe in. They're meant to be political because the world we live in is political. If you're looking for something else your best bet might be fantasy novels, not young adult. If you're looking for something for a pre-teen child, you should be looking for middle school aged books.


message 25: by Anastasia (new)

Anastasia Reventlow Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatev..."

Hi Marianna, maybe I misunderstood your comment, But this a list for young adult books, not children’s books. That might be why they’re more political than you think appropriate for a children’s book.


message 26: by Feyza (new)

Feyza Imagine comparing PoC on covers with a COVID ...


message 27: by Sara (new)

Sara Hollingsworth Personally, I don't think young adult has changed all that much. I'm getting to the point where it's been about a decade since I was last considered a young adult, and I have to say that the material hasn't changed much. Young adult has always been primarily contemporary and always tackled serious contemporary issues. School shootings were a big deal when I was a teen (still is, but there was kind of a huge burst of contemporary school shooting novels when I was in high school), and body image issues also were fairly common in YA contemporaries during my youth. Even young adult fantasy/sci-fi have elements of politics. Heck, adult fantasy/sci-fi has always pushed the envelope on political and social issues in general, so that's just part of the fantasy/sci-fi genre in general.

I doubt you could find a single book, even the typical "adventure, beat the bad guys" plot that doesn't have some elements of politics and social issues because politics/social issues give complexity and depth to any book you read. Even books such as Warriors where the characters all are cats address issues such as discrimination, it's simply much more subtly handled so children only absorb it subconsciously.

That said, I'd say the majority of the books aren't inherently political, in the sense that they are pushing a particular political agenda. These books are diverse and share a diverse collection of perspectives, but I personally don't consider books that have PoC/LGBT characters as inherently political. Nearly a dozen listed here are rom-com/cute romances and a couple of the others are thriller/mysteries. Not pure contemporaries.

Anyways. Either way, I've picked up a lot of these books already and plan to read them. And I was happy to find a few recommended here that I hadn't heard of yet and added those to my want list. I've only read Henna Wars so far and I'd definitely recommend it.


message 28: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey Sara wrote: "Personally, I don't think young adult has changed all that much. I'm getting to the point where it's been about a decade since I was last considered a young adult, and I have to say that the materi..."

Well said, Sara.


message 29: by Amber (new)

Amber Marianna wrote: "Nicole wrote: "Hey Marianne, try children's books not Young Adult perhaps."

That was for the sake of example, I have 5 kids from 11 to 17. My comment still stands..."


Did you look at Elatsoe above? I agree with your comment. While I find those books important for discussion, it's good to have a variety to choose from, especially when kids need a break from reality for a while. That one particular book seemed like an interesting read that is focused more on culture and fantasy.


kittykat (Jo Tortitude) Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatever happened to good books about friendship, honesty, moral/ethical values, exposure to cultures? My six year old already has problems falling asleep, worrying about COVID every night. Do I want to put more worries into her little brain? ."

A few things to unpack from your comment here, but I do wonder if you have even read the premises of any of them?

1) The fact that books about POC and queer teenagers and the untold number of issues that many of them have to deal with as part of their coming of age - alongside all the 'normal' or 'usual' aspects of growing up - elicits this response from you is worrying.

2) I'm sure your six-year-old is not at the relevant reading age/level of understanding for YA books so I wouldn't worry about it

3) Most, if not all of these books are about one or more of the things you are concerned about "friendship, honesty, moral/ethical values, exposure to cultures" so it is easy to assume you are just unhappy with how inclusive of different identities they are.

4) Fun fact... your six year old, indeed most six year olds have already been politicised unless they live in a bubble that is, because virtually everything in our world have been deliberately politicised in some way or another. In fact, many of those six year olds' very identities have been politicised.

5) There are literally 1000s of other books to choose from if you want to ensure your kids are reading books in a bubble. although, you may want to consider how benign some of them really are...

6) If more young kids and teenagers read more books like these alongside their 'bubble' books earlier in their lives, I'm sure it would go a long way to making them more empathetic adults.


message 31: by nitya (new)

nitya Elatsoe, Furia and The Henna Wars definitely top my list! Enjoyed Star Daughter but I wanted more from it.

And some people forgot the personal is political 😑 that's all.


message 32: by Clarke (new)

Clarke Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatev..."
"political undertones" in YA books ARE morals. Black people and other people of color exist, and it's morally right that their stories should be heard. I wish more stories like this were promoted when I was a teen, and I'm not so far removed from those years.
Teaching about poverty and racism and why it's bad is a question of morals. Not a political issue.
Teaching about LGBTQ people, and that they should be treated like everyone else (and can have cute love stores) is a moral issue, not a political one.
Stories about a corrupt government, are both moral and political, and I agree they're not everyone's cup of tea, and that's fine, but would you say the same thing were The Hunger Games or Divergent on the list?


message 33: by Bliss (new)

Bliss TJ Klune has another really good book call The House in the Cerulean Sea. I plan to read it to my 7 and 10 year old.


message 34: by Keisha (new)

Keisha H Bliss wrote: "TJ Klune has another really good book call The House in the Cerulean Sea. I plan to read it to my 7 and 10 year old."

I just wanted to say that I absolutely loved that book.


kittykat (Jo Tortitude) Bliss wrote: "TJ Klune has another really good book call The House in the Cerulean Sea. I plan to read it to my 7 and 10 year old."

A beautiful and hilarious book by one of my favourite authors. Also brimming with socio-political commentary, it wouldn't be half the story it is without that. An adult book suitable for all ages.


message 36: by Marlene (last edited Oct 18, 2020 07:34AM) (new)

Marlene Leach Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatev..."

Agreed. They're far left morality plays. At the turn of the century it was the far right Christians that believed all literature for children had to promote " good values" and have a moral lesson. And if you objected, then it's 'don't YOU have good values? Don't you WANT to teach children good values?' Exact same arguments, exact same insufferable self-righteous attitudes. The more things change, the more they stay the same.


kittykat (Jo Tortitude) Marlene wrote: "They're far left morality plays...."

🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣


message 38: by Candice (new)

Candice Gigous Marianna wrote: "What I see here just from titles and pictures is a bunch of books with political undertones and calls to action on social activist issues. I don't want to politicize my children at this age. Whatev..."

We must not be looking at the same list. These books do deal with moral values, friendship, love, and honesty. Just because all the people on the covers are not white does not make a book political. I think you would want your kids/teens to read diverse stories to have an open mind and compassion and not to be filled with hate.


message 39: by theatresofvinyl (new)

theatresofvinyl as much as i love the riveting discussion we're having here, i'd just like to mention that i love that Daven McQueen (an author from Wattpad!) is on this list. i'm so glad she's getting recognition like the other authors they published who already have a massive following. i can't wait to read her story!


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