An illustration of a girl sitting on a stack of young adult fiction novels. Are you an avid YA reader? If so, you can’t miss the top books of this year so far.
The first half of 2021 has brought an abundance of exciting new YA reads. (Illustration by Sonja Vasiljeva, San Jose State University)
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An illustration of a girl sitting on a stack of young adult fiction novels. Are you an avid YA reader? If so, you can’t miss the top books of this year so far.

Are you an avid YA reader? If so, you can’t miss the top books of this year so far.

Sitting by the pool under the summer sun, you crack the spine of a new novel. All-day long you unwind and devour your book until it’s time to look for a new one. Except you don’t know where to start in your quest for your next favorite read. So you turn to the endless lists by Goodreads and Barnes & Noble and watch some videos on BookTube by your favorite creators to get some inspiration but you’re left even more confused. With the rising interest in young adult fiction, there are so many newly released books that are, unfortunately, easy to miss.

While the “New Releases” lists on book review platforms such as Goodreads and The StoryGraph are a great way to catalog books of all genres, lesser-known authors, especially those just debuting their first novels, are often harder to find. This list gives a glimpse into seven of the most anticipated young adult fiction releases from the first half of this year that book lovers can’t wait to read.

1. “Necropolis” by Bethan Evans

A tale of women’s empowerment in an oppressive dystopian world, Evans’ debut novel “Necropolis” was released in February of this year, securing Evans’ place in the young adult fiction world. While not super well-known, “Necropolis” boasts an average 4.54-star rating on Goodreads.

Chock-full of passion, bravery and romance, the novel follows a young girl’s attempt to gain back what she has lost by secretly joining the military, but she is faced with even more unexpected challenges when other organizations get involved. Evans tells us herself, full of “unexpected twists and turns, this story will take you on a wild ride.”

2. “Concrete Rose” by Angie Thomas

A prequel to her hit novel “The Hate U Give,” Angie Thomas’ “Concrete Rose” follows Maverick Carter as he navigates the demands of fatherhood, school and continuing to deal for the King Lords — the only way he knows how to make money for his family. However, when he is given the chance to “straighten up” and give a great life to his son, Seven, Maverick takes his chance. Thomas’ novel is a heart-wrenching story of loyalty, personal growth and responsibility that threatens to change everything you think you know about what it means to be a man.

3. “Kisses and Croissants” by Anne Sophie Jouhanneau

A tale of love and adventure, “Kisses and Croissants,” a debut English novel by renowned French author Anne Sophie Jouhanneau, is the perfect romance novel to sweep you into summer bliss. This young adult romance explores the life of ballet prodigy Mia as she spends a summer in Paris attending one of the most prestigious training programs in the world. While she dreams of auditioning for one of the biggest international ballet companies and has no intentions of exploring her ancestry in France, Mia finds herself with a big distraction: a dreamy boy named Louis who shows her the mysteries that lie within the City of Love.

4. “Daughter of Sparta” by Claire M. Andrews

Claire M. Andrews’ debut novel, “Daughter of Sparta,” is a fantastic reinterpretation of the classic Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo with an added twist of female empowerment and adventure. The novel follows 17-year-old Daphne as she quests to find nine missing items from Mount Olympus, which hold the fate of her brother, who is held by Artemis, and all the Greek gods’ powers. Daphne teams up with Artemis’ twin brother, Apollo, who guides her on her journey, and together they move through the realm fighting for their own.

Countless Goodreads reviews gush over the enemies-to-lovers trope in the novel, and some have even compared it to a condensed version of the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series, securing the novel an average 4.06-star rating on the website. “Daughter of Sparta” is assumed to be the first book of the title series.

5. “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo

Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare, Malinda Lo’s novel follows the struggles of two young women — Lily and Kath — after they meet at a lesbian bar called The Telegraph Club and fall in love with each other. Amid their epic love affair, the pair are plagued by persecution by those around them along with intense personal issues that cloud their daily lives — most notably, Lily’s father facing deportation as a Chinese American in San Francisco. Lily and Kath defy all odds and risk everything to make their love work.

This young adult historical fiction novel is beautifully written, giving readers a glimpse into the events surrounding the Red Scare and the persecution of LGBTQ+ members throughout history. Lo’s interpretation of 1950s America is stunningly reviewed, and the novel boasts a 4.36-star rating on Goodreads.

6. “Roman Jewel” by Dana L. Davis

“Romeo and Juliet” meets “Hamilton.” Dana L. Davis’ standout novel “Roman Jewel” follows the story of Jerzie Jhames, an aspiring Broadway actor who will do anything to land the lead role in the new musical “Roman Jewel,” a hip-hop era modern interpretation of the classic “Romeo and Juliet.” However, in her quest for stardom, she falls short and is cast as an understudy below superstar actress Cinny. Even more detrimental for Jerzie, both she and Cinny fall for the lead male actor, Zeppelin Reid, but when a video of Jerzie and Zepp rehearsing is leaked, her initial failure to achieve stardom is reexamined. Davis’ novel is a true gem in young adult fiction, as Jerzie learns the true importance of friendship, family and love.

7. “Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney

Although it is not set to be released until September 2021, Sally Rooney’s new novel “Beautiful World, Where Are You” is not to be missed. The newest publication by the standout author of both “Normal People” and “Conversations with Friends,” “Beautiful World, Where Are You” examines the journeys of four friends: Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon. Being in their early 30s, the four young adults are wary of their futures and are in dire search of love before time catches up to them. This young (transitioning into new) adult contemporary novel is yet another timeless treasure by Rooney that is topping every to-be-read list around the globe. It gives a great glimpse into the realities of friendships, romantic relationships, aging and so much more in a world that they strive to find “beautiful.”

Writer Profile

Kelsie Westmoreland

Washington and Lee University
Business Administration and Art History

Some of my favorite things include reading any YA novel I can get my hands on, practicing or watching ballet, baking (the more chocolate, the better!) and exercising!

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