12 YA Books We Can’t Wait to Read This Year

7 minute read

There’s no shortage of incredible YA books this year: you can look forward to thrilling, heartfelt, and funny stories about teenagers in mortal and magical realms set all over the world. Some big-name authors, including Traci Chee, Casey McQuiston, and Emily X.R. Pan, are returning with new releases, while others, like Jeff Bishop, are making their debut.

Here are 12 of the most anticipated YA books of 2022.

Akata Woman, Nnedi Okorafor (Jan. 18)

Nnedi Okorafor delivers yet another captivating story about African magic rooted in Nigerian folklore in Akata Woman, which follows Akata Witch and Akata Warrior. Readers are reunited with Sunny Nwazue, who’s doing her best to control her mystical powers. In this fantasy, Sunny struggles to balance her American and Nigerian identity as well as the magical and “normal” world while seeking a precious object that may be key to her journey.

Bitter, Akwaeke Emezi (Feb. 15)

Akwaeke Emezi has crafted a powerful story about art and protest. The novel follows Bitter, who grew up in foster care, as she attends Eucalyptus—a special school that fosters creative talent. There, she wrestles with whether to focus solely on her individual pursuit of painting and wall herself off from the protest-filled streets, where her peers are boldly calling for change. Bitter is a companion to Emezi’s 2019 novel Pet, which was a National Book Award finalist.

A Thousand Steps Into Night, Traci Chee (March 1)

Traci Chee, a National Book Award finalist, has created a vivid fantasy world inspired by Japanese mythology in which an innkeeper’s daughter, Miuko, is cursed and begins to change into a demon. As Miuko sets off on a quest to reverse her fate, she has to navigate a land where Gods, spirits, and monsters exist alongside mortals. Accompanied by a trickster spirit named Geiki, Miuko embarks on a journey of self-discovery that pushes her to confront what it means to feel empowered as a woman in a patriarchal society.

Lakelore, Anna-Marie McLemore (March 8)

Award-winning author Anna-Marie McLemore brings a magical underwater world to life in Lakelore. In the novel, two non-binary, neurodivergent teens, Bastián and Lore, discover the underwater realm, and it changes their lives. The lines between the two worlds—above and below the surface—sometimes blur together, and the duo need to work together to keep things in order.

Kiss & Tell, Adib Khorram (March 22)

William C. Morris Debut Award-winner Adib Khorram delivers a fun and dramatic novel about what it means to be queer in the public eye. Kiss & Tell follows Hunter Drake—a boy band megastar—as his group embarks on its first major North American tour. The problem? Hunter’s ex-boyfriend just leaked their explicit texts, and now he has to deal with public scrutiny over a painful heartbreak. Plus, his label is pressuring him to conform to an image as a queer role model that he’s not sure feels authentic. The plot gets more complicated when Hunter becomes involved with a recently out Iranian-American who is part of the tour’s opening band.

The Color of the Sky Is the Shape of the Heart, Chesil, translated by Takami Nieda (April 5)

The translated version of Chesil’s debut novel, which was originally published in Japanese, draws from her own childhood. It centers on a Zainichi Korean teen girl, Pak “Ginny” Jinhee, who bounces between schools as she moves from Japan to Hawaii before ending up with an American host mother in Oregon. Set in 2003, the novel unpacks the complexities around nationalism, prejudice, and identity.

An Arrow to the Moon, Emily X.R. Pan (April 12)

Emily X.R. Pan—the award-winning author of The Astonishing Color of After—delivers a lyrical love story infused with Chinese mythology. In An Arrow to the Moon, Hunter Yee arrives at Fairbridge High School after being expelled from prep school and is drawn to another teenager, Luna Chang. The duo share a birthday, and both have immigrant parents who expect perfection. An Arrow to the Moon follows Hunter and Luna as they navigate family secrets and try to understand strange happenings such as cracks in the earth and a sudden influx of fireflies.

Flirting with Fate, J.C. Cervantes (April 19)

J.C. Cervantes’ YA debut, Flirting With Fate, is a heartfelt story about family and finding love. Ava Grandados can’t believe she was late to her nana’s deathbed, a delay that happened because of a flash flood and minor car accident with a mysterious boy. It turns out that boy may have received a magical blessing from Ava’s nana—the one that Ava was supposed to receive. Ava befriends the boy in an attempt to set things right and receive her share of family magic.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler, Casey McQuiston (May 3)

Casey McQuiston—author of Red, White & Royal Blue—makes her YA debut with I Kissed Shara Wheeler. It’s a funny and compassionate story about 18-year-old Chloe, who’s fixated on becoming her school’s valedictorian. But something throws her off: a kiss from her rival, prom queen Shara, who then vanishes. It turns out Chloe isn’t the only person who was kissed by Shara before she disappearedso were two other classmates. The trio team up to unearth the mystery behind Shara’s disappearance, breaking rules and finding love in the process.

Kings of B’More, R. Eric Thomas (May 31)

In his YA debut, R. Eric Thomasauthor of the essay collection Here for It—crafts a beautiful story about joy and friendship. Kings of B’More follows two Black, queer best friends on the precipice of saying goodbye to one another. After Linus tells Harrison that he’s moving to a different state at the end of the week, Harrison plans a grand-send off that’s packed with adventure. The duo embark on a road trip, hit their first Pride celebration, and enjoy a rooftop dance party as they cement their bond.

Tokyo Dreaming, Emiko Jean (May 31)

Tokyo Dreaming, Emiko Jean’s sequel to Tokyo Ever After, is a heartwarming and thrilling story about royal love. The novel follows Japanese-American Izumi as she adapts to her new life as a princess after learning that her formerly absentee father was the Crown Prince of Japan. Izumi is forced to balance her responsibilities and duties as a princess with her own happiness. The book centers on her relationships with her bodyguard-turned-boyfriend and her parents, who have rekindled their romance despite obstacles presented by Izumi’s mother’s lower status in society.

A Heavy Dose of Allison Tandy, Jeff Bishop (July 12)

Jeff Bishop delivers a funny and charming story about a teen’s delirious adventures with an ex-girlfriend. Senior year is over, and Cam would have been partying with his friends if not for two disasters: a car crash that left his recent ex, Allison, in a coma, and a basketball accident that resulted in a torn ACL. Stuck on the couch, Cam can’t stop worrying about Allison—and after taking pain medication, he starts having visions of her and is able to talk with her. That’s when things get interesting.

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Write to Sanya Mansoor at sanya.mansoor@time.com