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12 must-read YA books for summer 2023

12 must-read YA books for summer 2023

Summer is officially here but you don’t need to travel to faraway destinations to feel like you’ve taken a vacation. The best escapes can be found in fiction and if YA is your genre of choice, we’ve compiled a selection of books that are perfect for whiling away these long, sunny days. From twisty murder mysteries to swoony rom-coms to historical fiction, these are our young adult picks for summer 2023.

The Love Match by Priyanka Taslim

Billed as To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before meets Pride and Prejudice, The Love Match follows Bangladeshi American teen Zahra Khan who finds herself caught between her heart’s desire and her family’s expectations when her meddling mum sets her up with the wealthy, handsome and aloof Harun. With her heart set on another boy, Zahra hatches a plan with Harun to sabotage their parents’ plans. Cue the perfect love triangle situation. Set in New Jersey yet full of Bengali culture, Priyanka Taslim’s debut is a story of love, identity, family and that most delicious of YA tropes – the fake dating set-up. (2 March, Simon & Schuster Children’s)

Stateless by Elizabeth Wein

From the author of the bestselling Code Name Verity comes another absorbing historical novel inspired by Wein’s love of flying. Stateless takes place in 1937 amidst a spectacular air race around Europe.  As the sole female contestant, Stella North is determined to not only prove her skill as a young pilot but also her identity. When she witnesses a horrifying attack on another contestant’s plane, Stella embarks on her own investigation. With everyone hiding something, she must separate her enemies from her allies. This is a wonderfully researched pre-WWII story that blends fascinating history with an intriguing murder mystery. (16 March, Bloomsbury YA)

The Lesbiana’s Guide To Catholic School by Sonora Reyes

Having been previously outed by her ex-best friend, Yami tries to lie low at her new school – a difficult enough task when she’s one of the only Mexican kids at the elite, mostly white Slayton Catholic. But it’s even more difficult to fake being straight when Yami’s constantly drawn to Bo – the only openly queer girl at school, who also happens to be annoyingly perfect and smart. Sonora Reyes’ story of queer teens trying to make their way in a world that isn’t always kind is witty, warm-hearted and full of youthful vulnerability. It explores self-acceptance, conflicting ideologies, family and community with refreshing honesty and realism. (4 May, Faber & Faber)

They Hate Each Other by Amanda Woody

Jonah and Dylan are sworn enemies. Jonah thinks Dylan is an arrogant golden boy, whilst Dylan sees Jonah as a loud-mouthed show-off. Yet their friends are convinced Jonah and Dylan’s mutual hate is a mask for lust – a rumour that’s fuelled when they wake up in the same bed after homecoming. The pair decide to maintain a fake dating ruse so that they can stage a public break-up, thus proving how incompatible they really are. But the more time they spend together, the more they question their real feelings. Funny, tender and genuinely emotional, Woody’s coming-of-age rom-com will have your heart bursting for its central two characters. (9 May, Hodder & Stoughton)

Broken Hearts and Zombie Parts by William Hussey

William Hussey’s gay YA romance is Sex Education meets Love, Simon with fake zombies. Its protagonist, Jesse Spark, has a broken heart and he has two impossible tasks to accomplish before he has to undergo major surgery to repair it. First he has a zombie movie to shoot on a shoestring budget if he has any hope of getting into film school. But Jesse also wants to fall in love. Because he doesn’t think anyone will fancy him with scars. Entertaining and heartening in equal measure, this is a complete charmer of a book. If you want to read more LGBTQ+ YA novels, add this to your collection now. (11 May, Usborne Publishing)

Gwen & Art Are Not In Love by Lex Croucher

Gwen and Arthur have been betrothed since birth, despite being wildly unsuited in more ways than one. When they discover that they share something in common after all, the two become reluctant allies – pretending to fall for each other, whilst they explore their feelings for other people – in Gwen’s case it’s female knight Bridget, and for Art it’s Gwen’s bookish brother Gabriel. Lex Croucher’s debut YA novel is categorically not a Camelot retelling. Instead it spins a fun Knight’s Tale-esque medieval story that’s part romantic romp, part subversive comedy, and all kinds of brilliant. (11 May, Bloomsbury YA)

The Night In Question by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson

Once again paying homage to Queen of Crime Agatha Christie, The Night in Question reunites readers with teen sleuths Alice and Iris as they investigate a violent assault that happens at the Castle Cove High School dance. To understand this most recent mystery, they must dig into the unsolved death of Hollywood starlet Mona Moody in 1949. With both characters still dealing with the ramifications of their investigation in book one, they’ll need their wits about them if they’re to crack the interlinked cases – and stay alive to tell the tale. An entertaining mix of Poirot, Miss Marple and Veronica Mars, this is a twisty murder mystery that offers up a new crime to solve, whilst expanding on the characters and story readers have already come to love. (1 June, Rock The Boat)

The Thing About Lemons by Tasha Harrison

Inspired by the family holidays of her youth, Tasha Harrison’s YA rom-com has all the ingredients of a perfect summer vacation book. It invites readers on a road trip adventure with teen Ori Reynolds and her estranged granddad Claude as they travel to his home in the French countryside. But what begins as a nightmare for Ori might just be the break from normal life that she needs. Capturing the angst and drama of youth with warmth and humour, The Thing About Lemons is a tale about discovering who you are and who you want to be. It has similar awkward teen vibes to Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson books, making it a funny, light-hearted read. (1 June, UCLan)

Her Good Side by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Sixteen-year-old Bethany Greene is confident and self-assured, yet she’s what you’d call a late bloomer in the dating department. When her crush turns her down for homecoming and her back-up falls through, she agrees to a platonic date with her best friend’s boyfriend Jacob. But when Jacob finds himself dumped for the second time in two months, the two unlucky in love teens decide to pretend date for practice. But things get complicated when their arrangement begins to feel real. Her Good Side is a sweet romance with a heart-stealing central duo and a refreshing body positivity message. Perfect for fans of the eternally popular fake dating trope. (1 June, Razorbill)

The Broken Hearts Club by Susan Bishop Crispell

Despite being the daughter of a magical matchmaker, photographer Imogen Finch is perpetually single and has never been in love. When she hears that her forever crush, Ren, was recently dumped, she comes up with a project to photograph the broken-hearted in order to get closer to him. But the last thing she expects is for the boy she pretended was her boyfriend, a near-stranger named August, to appear in her life, demanding to know why they “broke up”. Before she knows it, Imogen is juggling two boys – but only one can be her first true love. With a quaint setting, a dash of magic, cute banter and a cast of loveable characters, The Broken Hearts Club is a sweet contemporary romance and uplifting coming-of-age story wrapped up in one. (6 July, Sourcebooks Fire)

Murder On A School Night by Kate Weston

A YA murder mystery that weaves in the theme of period positivity might initially feel like a strange combination, but when that book is written by comedian Kate Weston, it absolutely works. Roped into going to their first sixth-form party by her BFF, Kerry gets more than she bargained for when she discovers the body of the most popular girl in school. Brutal method of murder: suffocation with a menstrual cup. And when another student winds up dead, this time with a sanitary pad across their eyes, Kerry and Annie are determined to uncover the killer. Murder on a School Night has mystery, suspense, romance, unfiltered humour and snarky dialogue. Think Means Girls meets Pretty Little Liars meets Booksmart – with added menstrual chat. (6 July, Electric Monkey)

Sing If You Can’t Dance by Alexia Casale

Alexia Casale’s own voices story of a teenager who discovers her dream of being a dancer is over before it properly began is the kind that stays with you long after the final page. It follows Ven as she’s forced to change course after she’s diagnosed with a medical condition that means she can no longer dance. But Ven is vivacious and strong-willed, and she’s determined to have the exciting life she always wanted, even if it means shifting her talents to singing. This is a novel that doesn’t sugarcoat what it’s like to live with a chronic condition – it’s authentic, relatable and full of a whole spectrum of emotions. If you’re looking for a hopeful book that combines music, friendship and young love, with the ups-and-downs of coming to terms with a disability, this is it. (6 July, Faber & Faber)

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