There is something about the summer that makes me want to read all of the YA contemporary novels that I can get my hands on. I thought it might be fun to share some of my all time favourites. Selfishly, I am hoping that you might get the sense of the kind of YA novels that I adore and will have some recommendations for me as well!
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
There is something so uniquely special about I’ll Give You the Sun. It will forever be one of my favourite novels. I love that the story is told in two different timelines, from two different perspective. In the earlier timeline, we follow Noah and his journey to self-discovery. A few years later we follow Noah’s sister, Jude, and we see how their lives have drastically changed. I’ll Give You the Sun is a compelling look at the bond between brother and sister. I myself have a younger brother, so it is a relationship that I wish was more prevalent in YA!
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
I knew that I was going to love With the Fire on High, but it completely blew my expectations out of the water. There is so much heart in this novel, and it was an absolute delight to follow Emoni on her journey. Her love for food was intoxicating, and the romance was very sweet and endearing. If I had to chose only one book on this list, it might have to be this one!
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Starfish was often difficult to read. Our main character has been through a lot and reading about her relationship with her mother was infuriating at times. I appreciated that the romance was a subplot and that Starfish is really about Kiko finding herself and her voice. It was fascinating to read about her relationship with her art, and to see how a creative outlet helped her come in to her own. Beautiful!
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
It is hard to put in to words just how wonderful Far from the Tree truly is. It touches on the bonds between siblings in a way that I had never read about before. It is an interesting look at adoption, what it means to be a family, loss, and so much more. I adored all three characters equally, which is not an easy thing to accomplish. They each had their own unique personalities and perspectives.
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
The Female of the Species is by far the darkest book on this list. It tackles some pretty heavy topics but does so in a what that felt honest and realistic. It is one of those books where you actually feel the character’s anger. On the surface it may appear to be a revenge story, but it is so much more than that.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
The entirety of this novel takes place over the course of one elevator ride, and it is quite brilliant. Long Way Down is written in verse and reads very quickly, which works perfectly in this case. Because the book is so short, I think it is best to go in knowing as little as possible. Just trust me on this one!
The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
Each of these characters has experienced a loss, and while they each deal with their grief in their own way, they all find comfort in music. I loved that The Beauty that Remains truly highlighted the power of music- something I relate to myself. I also appreciated that each of the characters had a distinct voice. I am shocked that this is Woodfolk’s debut novel and can not wait for her next book, When You Were Everything, which comes out next year.
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
I love books set at summer camp, and The Names They Gave Us is probably my favourite of the bunch. It has a great ensemble of characters and reading about their friendships with one another might have been my favourite thing about the book. It is a story that is both heart-wrenching and hopeful. It looks at many different types of relationships from the one between mother and daughter, between friends, and between romantic partners. I highly recommend it!
I have noticed that there are some common themes among all of these novels. I would consider the majority of them to be coming-of-age stories with the main characters experiencing a lot of character development. They also tend to deal with loss and grief in one form or another. It appears that I prefer my YA contemporary to be hard-hitting and heartbreaking while also being hopeful.
What YA contemporary do you think I would love? Do you have any favourites?