2021’s Must-Read YA Novels According to YA Authors

A collage of the covers included in this article

Looking for your next young adult read? Let the experts help you out! YA authors are also voracious YA readers, and they know the genre inside and out. I always trust their recommendations, which is why I asked 13 of them to share the one YA novel they recommend readers pick up in 2021. Check out their picks and share your 2021 YA TBR in the comments!

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

“I read Everything, Everything in one sitting and I savored The Sun Is Also a Star because I didn’t want it to end. I have been patiently waiting YEARS for another Nicola Yoon, and I’m so hyped for Instructions for Dancing. It’s a romance about a girl named Evie, who has suddenly gained the power to see how love stories between couples begin and end. Even without that power, I already know I’m gonna love this book from start to finish.” —Adam Silvera, author of Infinity Reaper

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody, Christine Lynn Herman

“A book coming out this year that I think should be on everyone’s radar is All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman. I was lucky enough to read an early version, and I was absolutely enthralled by this story of feuding families amid a brutal competition with a fascinating magic system at its core. For those who love magic, flawed characters, and darker fantasy, this is for you!” —Tara Sim, author of Ravage the Dark

The Marvelous by Claire Kann

“If you don’t have The Marvelous by Claire Kann on your TBR, what are you even doing? It’s Willy Wonka meets TikTok—what more could you want? Jewel, the reclusive heiress at the heart of the story, is fascinating and mysterious, and all six contestants had me cheering for them. They were all compelling in different ways, all of them with a very good reason why they deserved to win. The puzzles kept me guessing the whole time, and the writing—Claire Kann’s words are so refreshing and brilliant. You won’t be disappointed.” —Brittney Morris, author of The Cost of Knowing

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

“Lim is a master of the fairytale retelling, melding Asian myth and culture with Grimm’s fairytales, and as a lover of both, I cannot wait for her next book. Filled with forbidden magic, a jealous sorceress, and a banished princess whose six brothers were turned into cranes as a threat to keep her silent, I am so excited for Six Crimson Cranes to fly into my hands this summer!” —Heidi Heilig, author of On This Unworthy Scaffold

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

“While I’m drafting rom-coms, I like to shift gears and only read mysteries and thrillers. When I heard Katie Zhao was coming out with a YA thriller described as Crazy Rich Asians meets One of Us is Lying—with secrets, lies, betrayals, and murder at an elite prep school—how could I not be excited about this novel? Overachieving Asian Americans are the primary characters in How We Fall Apart and I’m 100% sold on this dark academia book. Take my money please.” —Suzanne Park, author of Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous

Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa

“Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa is exactly the kind of book that made me a reader, that keeps me up reading until the wee hours of the night, and that also inspires me to write fun, hopeful, sweet stories for young readers. When Julián accidentally outs himself, he thinks everything he’s worked for is ruined. Little does he know that this is his big chance to finally be who he’s meant to be. Full of heart and vulnerability, it had me cheering for the main character and swooning for the sweet romance. This story is poised to become one of the summer’s must-reads!” —Yamile Saied Méndez, author of Furia

The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros

“I can’t wait for more people to read The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros and fall under its dark and deadly spell. It’s part murder mystery, part supernatural thriller, part queer love story, and part narrative of Eastern European Jewish immigrants at the turn of the 19th century, which is just unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It’s so close to my roots and my heart and I feel genuinely grateful that it’ll be in the world.” —Dahlia Adler, author of Cool for the Summer

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

I can’t wait to read Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp, which comes out on April 6. I’ve had the fortune of reading the first chapter and I’m already hooked! It’s told from the dual perspectives of Pen and Xander, who meet while working at Pen’s father’s restaurant and connect over their shared love of food. There is so much this story has that I’m eager to explore: love, family, mental health struggles, that complicated time just after high school, and Mexican and Chicanx identity, and delicious food. April can’t arrive soon enough!” —Crystal Maldonado, author of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega

Lucky Girl by Jamie Pacton

Jamie Pacton’s Lucky Girl begins with the life-changing news that 17-year-old Fortuna Jane Belleweather has just won more than $58 million in the lottery. The problem is, because she’s still a minor, she can’t claim her winnings and her mother can’t be trusted not to spend it on the sentimental items she’s started hoarding since her husband died. This emotionally complex book is a gorgeous portrayal of small-town life, complicated family relationships, mental health, grief, and friendship that will make you question the concept of ‘good luck.’” —Lizzy Mason, author of Between the Bliss and Me

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar

“I read an early copy of Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar and it is now one of my favorite books of all time. Readers are in for a treat in May! If you love To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Sandhya Menon’s work then this book will bring you so much joy. It is queer, it has fake dating, and it is so wonderful.” —Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, author of Ace of Spades

Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis

“Everyone should add Bad Witch Burning to their TBR right now! It’s a chilling, urban fantasy with light horror elements about a Black teen with a lucrative hustle: talking to the dead. But when she accidentally raises one, she realizes that’s worth a lot more money. But the dead don’t like being alive again, and Katrell may be the one to pay the price. Lewis has penned a dark and daring portrait of a teen fighting for a place in a world that’s set them up to fail.” —J.Elle, author of Wings of Ebony

Indivisible by Daniel Aleman

“Mateo Garcia is living a different kind of YA book entirely at the start of Daniel Aleman’s debut Indivisible. He’s trying to nail his big audition. He’s navigating his feelings about his best friend, Adam. From the beginning, you’d think the story might lead to a charming romantic storyline where the hero’s biggest problem is his first kiss. That’s when a nightmare consumes his life, in the form of his parents being snatched away by immigration. Aleman’s gift as a writer is not only in telling this urgent story, but in cruelly, necessarily showing you the life Mateo had interrupted.” —Adam Sass, author of Surrender Your Sons

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

“My most-anticipated book of 2021 is Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. I loved Neon Genesis Evangelion and Pacific Rim, and it sounds like this story is going to be right in that sweet spot for me. I love big, high-stakes stories and can’t wait to dive into this one. It’s always fun to see how an author takes historical references and weaves them into an imaginative sci-fi world. According to the author, the story features a f/m/m poly relationship and I’m also deeply here for that, especially since I’m writing that relationship dynamic in a current WIP.” —Maria Ingrande Mora, author of Fragile Remedy

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

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