Debut young adult novelist L.L. Mckinney knows a thing or two about what makes a great YA novel because of her love for other fantastic reads in the genre. In celebration of Teen Reads Week and her recent release of A Blade So Black, we’ve procured McKinney’s reading list of the books she thinks are must-reads. This is what L.L. McKinney reads.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

This book was gorgeous, all the way around. Gorgeous cover, gorgeous world, gorgeous words, gorgeous characters—even if some of them had hideous souls—just a gorgeous story. I could not put it down, Dhonielle pulls you in. Actually, she lures you in, with this beautiful façade that she slowly peels back to reveal this darkness you weren’t expecting, and by the time you realize what’s happening she’s got you, and you’re thrilled about it.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

I did not know I needed a post Civil War reconstruction story with a zombie apocalypse sprinkled in until Justina gave it to me. The characters are full, the setting is rich, the monsters—both the undead and the living—are terrifying, and I couldn’t get enough. I’m so glad there’s a sequel coming, but also mad that I have to wait two years, but good things are worth being patient for.

Monday's Not Coming cover

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson

Whuff. Just . . . whuff. Tiffany is great at getting to those sensitive parts in you and then just laying waste to them with meaningful, profound prose that reflects the world we live in, which is not always pretty. I laughed, I cried, I was pissed as all hell and in the end, I was . . . not okay, but okay, you know? It’s a complicated emotion, this thing that Tiffany brings out of you.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Nic cracks you open and lays your humanity bare. She makes you ask hard questions about yourself, your loved ones and the people you’ve chosen as friends. She makes you look at the world around you more critically and how your actions, or inactions, can affect those around you in significant ways. This book does all of that and more.

the hate u give book cover

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I can’t believe there are still people who haven’t read this book. Just…get your life right. That’s all I’m gonna say. Get your life right by getting your hands on this book.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

This book right here. This book right here. It’s kickass, it’s badass, it’s an absolutely delightful read. The world building is just . . . I honestly lack the words. How about amazing. Incredible. The characters make you follow them from page one through to the very end. Like, you have no choice, you’re that captivated by what Rebecca is doing on the page, and you realize you’d rather be nowhere else.