January's Most Anticipated YA Books

Posted by Sharon on December 30, 2020
As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of young adult fiction. Every month our team looks at the books being published and how they're resonating with early readers. We use this information to put together a roundup of soon-to-be favorites.

New in January: Those DNA heritage tests trigger some very surprising news in You Have a MatchThe legends of ancient Arabia come alive in We Free the Stars. And the popular Graceling Realm series wraps up with the final adventure of Winterkeep. Also look for renegade gods in New York City, fledgling demigods in Houston, and a gorgeous new illustrated installment of The Hazel Wood series by Melissa Albert.
Add the books that catch your eye to your Want to Read shelf, and let us know what you're reading and recommending in the comments!

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Author and former teenage rapper Angie Thomas is back with another story set in the Garden Heights neighborhood. With his father in prison, 17-year-old Maverick Carter is providing for his family the only way he knows how—dealing dope for the King Lords gang. When Mav discovers he’s going to be a father himself, he tries making a break for the straight life. It can be done, but walking away from the King Lords is a complicated maneuver.

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This third and final installment of the Cursebreakers series brings Brigid Kemmerer’s popular high fantasy epic to a stunning conclusion. The people of Emberfall are divided, torn between prince Rhen and the true heir Grey. Meanwhile, Lia Mara is having her own problems governing the country of Syhl Shallow. As the two kingdoms prepare for war, things get even dodgier with the arrival of an old enemy who could destroy everything...and everyone. Bad timing, old enemy! Bad timing!

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Steeped in the rich thematic details of Greek mythology, author Alexandra Bracken’s Lore imagines a world where the gods walk as mortals in New York City. Lore Perseous is desperate to escape her family’s legacy of bloody retribution, but she’s dragged back into the fight when she helps a gravely injured Athena, one of the few survivors of the original pantheon. Alert readers will recall that Athena is traditionally remembered as the protectress of cities. This may be relevant.

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Those DNA analysis services might seem like good, clean, 21st-century fun—but they can cause complications. To wit: Teenage Abby watches her life go supernova after a DNA match reveals that she has a younger sister—Instagram superstar Savannah Tully. Why was Savvy given up for adoption? Why is she being so weird to Abby? And what does Abby’s crush Leo have to do with all this? If these questions are likely to keep you up at night, You Have a Match drops on January 5.

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Sequel to 2019’s acclaimed debut We Hunt the Flame, this next installment in the Sands of Arawiya series returns readers to a fully developed world based on the legends of ancient Arabia. Author Hafsah Faizal is a fan of the video game series Assassin’s Creed and Elder Scrolls, so you know she has good taste, and her first book was widely admired for its fresh approach to magic systems and world-building. The Sultan’s Keep! The Lion of Night! Minarets and caliphates! Good times!

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Swirling up in the airspace between science fiction, high fantasy, romance, and adventure yarn, Winterkeep is the fourth chapter of the delightfully imaginative Graceling Realm series, which treats genre designations as dubious advice, best ignored. Set four years after the previous book, Bitterblue, the new story expands into new territories of author Kristin Cashore’s world of adventure. Also: telepathic foxes. You can’t go wrong with telepathic foxes.

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Melissa Albert’s debut, The Hazel Wood, was named best young adult book of the year by Kirkus Reviews a couple of years back, establishing a new kind of YA flavor we might call "fairy tale noir." Albert’s back with this new collection of 12 illustrated tales, and yes, artist Jim Tierney is back on board. The Hinterlands promise to be delightfully strange: A young woman spends a night with Death. Houses get married. Events of this nature.

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The first book in the new Wickery duology, Dana Swift’s fantasy epic follows the fortunes of two star-crossed characters. Adraa is an accomplished witch and heir to the kingdom of Belwar. Jatin is an ambitious wizard and heir to the kingdom of Naupure. When the two rivals cross paths under secret identities, the relationship dynamics get complicated. And if they think it’s tricky now, wait until they get to the arranged-marriage part…

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Sister authors Maika and Maritza Moulite have delivered something special here, contemporary YA fiction with social relevance and a mystery-thriller twist. When teenage activist Kezi Smith is killed—at a social justice rally, under mysterious circumstances—multiple families and communities are devastated. But there’s more to this story than anyone could have expected. This buzzy new book is being promoted as a cross between Get Out and The Hate U Give.

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Recommended for devotees of Mary H.K. Choi and Nicola Yoon, Happily Ever Afters follows teenage Tessa Johnson, an aspiring romance writer who would very much like to see better representation in the books she loves. Tessa gets her chance when she’s accepted into a prestigious creative writing program, but there’s a problem. She needs a real-life romance to work from. Well, that’s easily remedied. Tessa has a best friend, Caroline. And Caroline has a plan

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Another debut generating good advance buzz, Wings of Ebony follows Houston teenager Rue, whose life gets suddenly and severely complex when she learns of her own divine ancestry. Half-human and half-god, Rue journeys to the secret island of Ghizon, where evil magic forces thrive on suffering. What’s more, the evil of Ghizon is manifesting in her own real-world Black community. Rue must draw on the power of her ancestry to save her neighborhood.

Which new releases are you looking forward to reading? Let's talk books in the comments!

Check out more recent articles, including:
A Young Adult Fiction Expert's Year of Spectacular Teen Reads
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Comments Showing 1-23 of 23 (23 new)

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message 1: by Sneha (new)

Sneha What? A new YA flavour? I'm in. I'm SO IN!!

Sharnett the Reader I'm interested in reading Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant. I am not familiar with her books. Has anyone read her books before?

sophia | sophilozophy I've pre-ordered Cast in Firelight and Wings of Ebony.

Cast in Firelight because I'm drawn to stories about star-crossed characters. It also has Indian cultural references, which is different from other fantasy books.

Wings of Ebony makes me think of Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout, which I loved and has the added bonus of a poc main character.

I can't wait to read them.

message 4: by Celia (new)

Celia Buell I have an ARC of You Have a Match and I am pumped to read it, I started it a few months ago but got involved with holiday reads instead.

message 5: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Osorio-Cruz Omg I have the ARC of One of the Good Ones. Can’t wait to read it!

message 6: by Leo (new)

Leo Oh they all sounds interesting. Hope I can get my hands on some of them in my book app next year!

message 7: by Bayley (new)

Bayley Mae They all sound so good! But I’m particularly sooo excited for Wings of Ebony!!

message 8: by Ashley (new)

Ashley These all look awesome!! I pre-ordered Wings of Ebony and can't WAIT to get my hands on it!!!

message 9: by Lori (new)

Lori Wings of Ebony is so good! The entire first edition is signed so it's an excellent thing to preorder

message 10: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Wings of Ebony is almost here!!!!! Can’t wait.

message 11: by Justice (new)

Justice Hill Look at Wings of Ebony just looking all beautiful!

message 12: by Tianna (new)

Tianna || One Page at a Time So many good but I’m so excited about Wings of Ebony

message 13: by Runeda (new)

Runeda I’m impatiently waiting for my copy of Wings of Ebony to arrive in the mail!! Excited is an understatement!!

message 14: by holly (new)

holly SO, SO EXCITED FOR WINGS OF EBONY!!!!! And WE FREE THE STARS! I can tell 2021 is going to be an amazing year for YA!

message 15: by Mary (new)

Mary YES so excited for WINGS!!

message 16: by EK (new)

EK Williams I've had my eye on a few of these for a minute, but WINGS OF EBONY has me geeked! Super excited for that one😍

message 17: by Astrid Pizarro (new)

Astrid Pizarro (Book Lover's Book Reviews) Wings of Ebony, I’m so excited for it!

message 18: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I can’t wait to read Wings of Ebony! It’s the YA fantasy we need right now :)

message 19: by Anumita (new)

Anumita Mazumdar Why is everyone excited for Wings of ebony?

message 20: by Ocean (new)

Ocean I'm really excited for Concrete Rose and Wings of Ebony!!

message 21: by Joyce (new)

Joyce Sichel sicheljl@gmail.com John Grisham A Time for Mercy
I liked this book and have read several others by him. Which of his books did other legal thriller fans read and recommend the most highly?

message 22: by Cat (new)

Cat These releases sound so good!

message 23: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Happily Ever Afters looks really good!

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