There’s nothing like a new reading challenge and new books to devour, and 2020 promises a whole new plethora of YA novels. More than ever, YA is such an important genre in the literary world: diverse characters and settings; magic, fantasy, realism; and for me, the most critical piece is characters who are relatable, real, down-to-earth. For 2020 YA, I’ll take all the queer witches, badass female protagonists and sensitive boys. While this list will definitely grow once more titles are released for the second half of the year (I’m looking at you, Angie Thomas), these are currently the 18 must-read YA books of 2020.

We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding

This book is ultimately about a friend break-up, but the two things that really sold me? The title has me singing the Veronica Mars theme song over and over, and one of the main characters is a girl named James! I’ve always loved names that defy gender expectations and this novel is sure to be one of the best YA picks of the year.

The Conference of the Birds by Ransom Riggs

I really love the Miss Peregrine’s series. I think the books are so much fun. This one’s the latest in the series. (Who else thought it was ending with book three, then just kept going? Just me? Oh.) I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what happens with Jacob and the gang next in The Conference of the Birds.

If You Only Knew by Prerna Pickett

This forbidden romance story sounds sultry and loads of fun. When the daughter of a prosecutor and a gang member fall in love, they must beat the odds for their relationship to survive. Also, the female protagonist drives a motorcycle, so that’s pretty badass too.

The Life Below by Alexandra Monir

The highly-anticipated sequel to The Final Six features contestants Naomi and Leo after Leo was left to survive on a failing Earth. While Naomi embarks on her mysterious – and potentially dangerous – trip to Europa, Leo continues to work with a scientist on Earth in the hopes that he will send him to meet Naomi at the International Space Training Camp. What Naomi doesn’t know is that Leo may be the only one who can warn them about the extraterrestrial life on Europa and the problems they may encounter.

*A She Reads Editors Pick

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

I am very into anything Sarah Gailey writes. I read Magic for Liars in 2019 and this sounds like it’ll fall in the same category. Queer teen witches accidentally kill a boy and things only get worse from there. Everything about this book seems fantastic and YA readers everywhere are looking forward to picking it up in 2020.

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

This book sounds like an absolute must-read for 2020. Girl gets lost in woods. Girl gets bad leg infection. Girl must survive in the woods alone. Ashley loves being in nature but when she heads out to the woods with friends for a party, things take a turn for the worse when she falls into a ravine, leaving her seriously injured and alone.

We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia

This LGBTQ #ownvoices novel is about forgoing labels and figuring out who you are on your own terms. The cover alone has got me sold (it’s got some serious James Potter/Sirius Black vibes, for real). 

Girls Save the World in This One by Ash Parsons

This YA horror novel features a cast of badass girls who go to ZombieCon – but an actual zombie breakout occurs. This one sounds like a great read for fans of Undead Girl Gang

Last Girls by Demetra Brodsky

Doomsday prepper girls are living in secret compounds, getting themselves prepared for the day that upends all of their lives. But when doomsday arrives and training becomes their new reality, the girls learn that no place is safe. This novel sounds like one hell of a good ride.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Literally every Acevedo book is on my TBR (too many books, too little time am I right?). But this one sounds amazing. Two sisters, unknown to each other, suffer the day their shared dad dies in a plane crash. After the accident, they have to get to know each other while also learning how to live without their father. I’m getting tons of The Stars and the Blackness Between Them vibes, and I loved that book. So I’m thrilled to pick this one up.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

In a village where a blood ceremony determines the fate of its girls, 16-year-old Deka’s blood is deemed impure forcing her to become a warrior in a fight to survive. This sounds like a powerful story, and the cover is drop-dead gorgeous. 

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Portland, Oregon – the capital of hip, cool, trendy folks. A black protagonist… that’s a siren. Seriously, what is not to love about this book? Tavia is a siren who is forced to hide her identity and live in Portland where she feels out of place. But everything changes when a murder trial comes about, a popular fashion icon announces her siren identity and Tavia accidentally makes her secret known at a police stop.

This Coven Won’t Break by Isabel Sterling

This is one of the only sequels on this entire list. I read the first in this series, These Witches Don’t Burn, last summer and it was such a fun book. It’s a queer witch story, so what’s not to love? I’d definitely recommend reading the first book prior to the release of This Coven Won’t Break.

The Mall by Megan McCafferty

This is literally just a novel about hanging out in the mall in 1991. I’m here for it. Cassie Worthy could not be more excited for the summer after graduating high school. Working at the Parkway Center Mall with a plan to start her dream life in college with her boyfriend in six weeks, she learns that sometimes even the best-laid plans don’t work out the way you expect them to.

Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Here’s what you need to know: this entire book is about queer black girls who are overthrowing the patriarchy. It’s set 200 years after the original Cinderella story, in the same kingdom, and girls are still being courted like it’s the damn Middle Ages. But that’s all about to change if 16-year-old Sophie has anything to do with it.

All These Monsters by Amy Tintera

Clara is a 17-year-old girl ready to fight back against her abusive father. In order to do so, she joins a monster-fighting squad. As she trains with the squad, she learns that while the training can be tough, there are worse things than monsters in the world. Very Buffy. Totally up my alley. 

The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig

Gay boys in a vampire town. This sounds amazing. It’s like Buffy and the Hellmouth, but gayer. Auggie Pfeiffer hates living in a vampire town but everything changes when a good looking vampire boy shows up in need of Auggie’s help. I’ve always loved vampire stories, so bring it on! 

Lyrics & Curses by Candace Robinson

There’s not too much information about this novel yet. Just that it’s Stranger Things (one of my favorite things!) meets Pretty in Pink, and is set in 1985. What else do I need to know? Literally nothing, it’s a must-read.

(Feature image courtesy of @evilqueenreads)

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