Last year was an excellent year for YA, and 2019 is shaping up to be just as remarkable. Forthcoming books feature diverse stories about coming of age in the modern day: what it means to be a young woman, what it means to be a young person of color, what it means to be LGBTQ+, and what it means to find your place in a difficult world.
Here’s a list of YA novels that I’m most looking forward to in the first half of 2019. The list features sophomore novels from award-winning authors like Angie Thomas and Elizabeth Acevedo as well as bold debuts from own-voices authors that continue to ask vital questions about identity while delivering narratives of bravery and acceptance.
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali
By Sabina Khan
Published January 29, 2019
Rukhsana Ali feels she has to keep her girlfriend a secret from her conservative parents until she’s able to move away for college. But when Rukhsana’s parents find out anyway, they punish her by sending her to stay with her extended family in Bangladesh. From there, the story follows Rukhsana finding unexpected connections with family she’d always thought of as distant, and finding the courage to stand up for her dreams and her love. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, Khan’s first YA Contemporary novel, is a charming and empowering story from an own-voices author.
On the Come Up
By Angie Thomas
Balzer + Bray
Published February 5, 2019
Following the immensely popular The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas’s second novel, On the Come Up is another story about a young black woman using her voice to share her truth. Bri wants to be a famous rapper, but the path to fame isn’t easy, especially when her first song goes viral in a less-than-pleasant way. To make things worse, at the same time as Bri’s online explosion, her mom is dealing with an eviction notice after losing her job. Bri has to come to terms with the skewed image of herself in the public eye while also finding a way to use her talent for performance to protect her family. This novel further displays Thomas’s talent for capturing the complexities of race in America, and it’s sure to be brilliant.
The Great Unknowable End
By Kathryn Ormsbee
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Published on February 19, 2019
Stella wants to be a space engineer, but instead she has to stay home to take care of her sister after their mother’s suicide. Meanwhile, Galliard may have to look for other options after he is denied the resident artist position of resident artist in Red Sun, the local hippie commune where he lives. These two leading characters reckon with big dreams and the ways in which the practical world can stand in the way. On the day they meet, they’re also faced with mysterious natural disasters as well as the appearance of a literal doomsday clock at town hall. It may be the end of the world, and Stella and Galliard will have to choose how to face it. From the author of Tash Loves Tolstoy comes The Great Unknowable End, a novel about knowing who you are, deciding who you want to be, and following those passions to the very end.
Opposite of Always
By Justin A. Reynolds
Katherine Tegen Books
Published on March 5, 2019
Jack falls for Kate at a party, and everything seems to be going wonderfully. They talk until sunrise, Kate gets along with Jack’s friends, and by all accounts, they’re perfect together. But when Kate suddenly dies, Jack finds himself whirling back through time to when they met, over and over again. He learns that there may be a chance to save Kate, but it could come at an even greater cost. Opposite of Always is a novel about love, loss, and one’s own power to change the course of people’s lives, even amidst grief. Reynolds is a bright new voice in YA, and this story of time travel and earnest connection makes for a highly anticipated debut.
With the Fire on High
By Elizabeth Acevedo
Published May 7, 2019
After winning the National Book Award in YA Literature with The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo is back this year with another novel, this time about a young mother. After Emoni became pregnant during her freshman year, her life has been full of tough decisions, but she’s able to relax and let herself shine in the kitchen as she explores her passion for cooking. Emoni dreams of being a professional chef, and although she doubts whether this dream is actually possible, it seems like there might just be something in Emoni’s talent that will lead her to success, no matter what. In With the Fire on High, Acevedo promises to deliver another story exploring intricate themes wile crafting an unforgettable portrait of self-expression, determination, and creativity.
I Wish You All the Best
By Mason Deaver
Published on May 28, 2019
In this striking debut, Mason Deaver tells the story of Ben de Backer, who comes out to their parents as non-binary and is promptly thrown out of the house. Ben struggles living with their estranged sister, dealing with anxiety at school, and remaining (as much as possible) in the closet. But Ben hits a stroke of luck when they befriend Nathan Allan, who soon takes Ben under his wing. Ben’s friendship with Nathan grows, and as they become closer, Ben starts to believe that maybe there’s a chance for a happier life. I Wish You All the Best promises to be a novel with the power to offer its readers a deep and true sense of hope: for connection, for love, and for a life always worth living.