I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a crap year.
Sure, there have been positive things that have come to light, like getting to spend more time with family, saving money on gas and eating out, having more free time, wearing pajama pants every day, etc. . . but in all seriousness, it’s been a very difficult year for many.
Now I’d like you to take a moment and imagine what it’s like being an author whose book came out in quite possibly the suckiest year ever. Or what if you’re a debut author? You’ve waited years and years for your dream to come true. Anticipation builds month by month as your book release draws ever nearer. Then BOOM! Covid hits, political turmoil is at an all time high, people are marching for their very lives, and the world is a complete and utter mess.
But yay, at least your book is out!
Because 2020 authors likely haven’t had the book launch of their dreams, I wanted to feature some of their books here. The following are young adult books that I loved (denoted with a *) or that am excited to read soon–or they’re books that come highly recommended by some of my writing friends. They would make great holiday gifts for your teens or really anyone who loves YA (me, hint, hint!).
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (debut novel)
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay—Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down—until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
Fable by Adrienne Young
As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.
But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.
The Marked Princess by E.P. Stavs (debut novel)
With her eighteenth birthday fast approaching, crown princess Josselyn deLure knows it’s her duty to choose a husband, but that doesn’t mean she has to be happy about it. She’d much rather be practicing her swordplay with her best friend, Edmund, or teasing her straight-laced guard, Alex. Ballgowns and suitors? No, thank you.Marriage will be the least of her worries, however, when a plot to overthrow the kingdom sends her fleeing for her life, with nothing more than a dagger and her loyal guard to defend herself with. That, and a secret even she didn’t know existed within her…… let sleeping beasts awaken in this exciting, first installment of E.P. Stavs’ The Shendri Series. THE MARKED PRINCESS is a fast-paced adventure filled with witty dialogue, forbidden romance, and just enough fantasy to captivate the reader’s imagination. The first in a four book series, it sets the stage for a fairytale-like epic that will put four, young women on the path to love, loss, and some kick-ass fight scenes.
The Silence of Bones by June Her (debut novel)
1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.
As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.
But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.
*More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn
Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.
Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out of this world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her?
Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka (debut novel)
Seventeen-year-old Chloe had a plan: work hard, get good grades, and attend a top-tier college. But after she collapses during cross-country practice and is told she needs a new heart, all her careful preparations are laid to waste. Six months after her transplant, everything is different. Stuck in summer school with the underachievers, the “new Chloe” takes heedless risks, like skipping her anti-rejection meds while running wild with the class party girl and nearly crashing a motorcycle she’s not even licensed to drive. Even more unsettling: her recurring nightmares of dying and the vivid memories she doesn’t recognize as her own.
The only place Chloe feels at home is in the ocean, where she’s learning to surf the Pacific’s wild waves and slowly falling for her instructor, Kai. But as her strange symptoms continue, she becomes more and more convinced that something is wrong with her new heart—or even worse, her mind. As Chloe searches for answers, what she learns will lead her to question everything she thought she knew about life, death, love and the true nature of reality.
*Today, Tonight, Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.
Tonight, she puts up with him.
When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.
As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.
Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
The Degenerates by J. Albert Mann
The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded is not a happy place. The young women who are already there certainly don’t think so. Not Maxine, who is doing everything she can to protect her younger sister Rose in an institution where vicious attendants and bullying older girls treat them as the morons, imbeciles, and idiots the doctors have deemed them to be. Not Alice, either, who was left there when her brother couldn’t bring himself to support a sister with a club foot. And not London, who has just been dragged there from the best foster situation she’s ever had, thanks to one unexpected, life-altering moment. Each girl is determined to change her fate, no matter what it takes.
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (debut novel)
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
If you’d like to peruse more 2020 YA debut titles, take a look at the Roaring 20’s Debut website.
Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, so I make a small percentage if you purchase a book using any of these links.