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?
44 thoughts on “Favourite YA Contemporary Novels”
You always include books I don’t see elsewhere like Long Way Down. Bless.
Ah thank you! I try! Long Way Down is so amazing. I think it’s one everyone should read!
I’m actually going to see if we have it at work and about to check it out right now because of this post.
That makes me so happy!
We have it, and it’s in my bag now! Thanks for writing about it.
Yay! Hope you love it!
So many excellent choices!!! Long Way Down, The Beauty That Remains, and Starfish are some of my faves!!!
I still need to read I’ll Give You the Sun. I tried it once years ago, but I didn’t have much experience with flowery writing then.
Such great books!
I’ll Give You the Sun is a book that takes awhile to get in to for sure. But it’s worth itn
I have to confess I haven’t read any of these although a few are on my tbr.
I do know what you mean about being drawn to YA contemporary at this time of year. I think they’re just a bit lighter and easier even when the subject is dark.
One of my most recent reads and one I’d definitely recommend is Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer. She is fast becoming one of my fave authors.
I have been seeing Call It What You Want everywhere lately! I really want to read it. I have had another one of her novels (Letters to the Lost) sitting on my shelves for years now. I’ve heard it’s amazing as well!
I gave A Long Way Down, Female of the Species, and I’ll Give You the Sun all 5 stars! These are great choices. I wish more people talked about A Long Way Down.
Yes! I completely agree. It got some buzz when it first came out but no one seems to talk about it any more.
I can’t remember if you’ve read Sadie and/or Asking For It, but my answer to both of your questions is Sadie and Asking For It!!! I loved The Female of the Species as well.
I haven’t! I’ve been meaning to read Sadie. It sounds like it tackles some similar themes to The Female of the Species.
Asking for It is by Louise O’neill right? I’ve heard great things about her books!
Thanks for the recommendations!
Sadie and The Female of the Species are very similar! I preferred Sadie but maybe that’s because I read it first. But yes, very very similar themes.
And yes, Louise O’Neill – she’s brilliant! I’ve only read this one and her adult novel Almost Love, which I’d highly recommend as well. I’ve heard good things about her Little Mermaid retelling but I haven’t gotten around to it.
I love Starfish!
Me too! So good!
I totally agree with with the fire on high! Haven’t read any of the others but some of them are still on my TBR, especially the female of the species!
Such a great book!
I’d loved to see what you think of Female of the Species. I know it has some mixed reviews but I really enjoyed it!
This is a great list! Starfish is definitely one of my favorite YA contemporaries too. I’d never heard of Long Way Down, but it sounds so interesting! I haven’t been reading many YA books lately, but this post is giving me the itch to pick one up 🙂.
Thank you. I’m so glad! Long Way Down is fantastic!
I love The Female of the Species!! It’s one of my favourites ever
I would recommend When Dimple Met Rishi (1) and There’s Something About Sweetie (2) by Sandhya Menon. They’re more lighthearted than what you list here, but they are coming-of-age stories. They’re about Indian-American young women who are learning to accept themselves and go for what they want.
Ah awesome! I’ve been meaning to read When Dimple Met Rishi. Thank you!
It’s perfect for summer!
I absolutely loved I’ll Give You The Sun. I think it was even the first contemporary I ever read
What a great place to start!
Thank you for the recommendations!! I always thought Starfish was a science fiction haha – definitely shows you can’t judge a book by its cover!
My favourite YA contemporaries include The Upside of Unrequited, Anna & The French Kiss, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before & The Hate U Give/On the Come Up. Besides from the last two, I think I prefer my contemporaries to be more light-hearted than hard-hitting 🙂
I can totally see how the cover of Starfish gives off science fiction vibes!
I also loved To All the Boys and The Hate U Give!
I love YA contemporaries so thank you so much for the book recs! So many I didn’t know about 😱😱
Yay I’m happy to hear that!
There are a lot of great titles in this list! I loved Far From the Tree a lot as well. I feel like, even though it is a YA novel, it touches on subjects most YA books don’t, such as adoption and motherhood. It was really impressive to me that it was able to talk on all of these matters, while still being your normal YA, with some romance and over the top dialogues. I really want to pick up some of the ones you mentioned as well, like Female of the Species and Long Way Down. I’ve read another book by Jason Reynolds before and loved it, so I feel like this one has the potential to become a favorite as well.
So well said about Far from the Tree! It’s an important book in many ways.
I need to read more from Jason Reynolds. Which one did you read? Need to make it a priority!
I read All American Boys, which he wrote with Brendan Kiely. It’s a really powerful novel; I hope you enjoy it!
It’s so good. A book that has stuck with me!
Great list of favorites! Almost all of them are ones that I really want to read.
Thanks! They are all so great!
I loved The Poet X and With the Fire on High is my current library read! Acevedo’s voice is so unique and beautiful! I love that it has a Like Water for Chocolate vibe too! Also, Jandy Nelson is my girl! I fell for her book The Sky is Everywhere! That book was so lyrical and beautifully written and I am still dying to read I’ll Give You the Sun! And I agree that there are not many family relationship books in YA! There is another amazing YA contemporary book that I loved this year and it’s great especially for summer! It’s Don’t Date Rosa Santos and it has a Latinx character! It also has a coming of age feel to it too! This also has a great coming of age theme to it too!
I can’t believe that I still haven’t read the Sky is Everywhere! If it’s even half as good as I’ll Give You the Sun I will love it.
Family is so important during teens years. It’s surprising to me that they aren’t a bigger part of YA novels.
That sounds like a great book. Thank you!
Your welcome! The Sky is Everywhere is the most lyrical, adorable, and romantic read! It’s def a must read from her! Let me know how you like it!
Love these recommendations – I’ll be checking out With the Fire On High and The Names They Gave Us for sure!
Both such amazing books. I truly think you will love them!