Top 25 Most Anticipated Young Adult Novels Of 2021

Fill your to-read list for the new year with these upcoming releases.
New book releases 2021
Image by Lubos Houska on Pixabay

With so many books coming out in the next year, it can be overwhelming to plan your reading list. Luckily, we made it easy for you. Here's your guide to the most anticipated and talked-about young adult releases for 2021:

1. Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Book cover for Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
Balzer + Bray

Release Date: January 12

Concrete Rose is a prequel set 17 years before the author's best-selling, award-winning debut novel "The Hate U Give." Maverick Carter's past was mentioned and alluded to several times in the first book, but now it takes center stage. A need to take care of his family forces Mav into the "family business" of gang life,  but when he's offered the chance to quit, he takes it, even though he knows quitting a gang isn't something you're "supposed" to do. This novel promises to be another poignant exploration of Black lives, in particular Black boyhood and manhood. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

2. Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

The book cover for Across the Green Grass Fields

Release Date: January 12

Though this is the sixth installment in Seanan McGuire's award-winning "Wayward Children" series, it is a standalone novel and therefore a perfect place for new readers to begin. When Regan finds a doorway into a world filled with magical horse-like creatures (think, centaurs, unicorns, and the like), she is expected to step up and be a hero. However, her hero's quest may not be quite as it seems. As with all the "Wayward Children" books, this one is bound to be an utterly captivating look into a fantastical world. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

3. The Project by Courtney Summers 

The book cover for The Project
Wednesday Books

Release Date: February 2

This book, described as a "gripping, flawless psychological thriller" by the School Library Journal, follows a young journalist named Lo Denham as she tries to save her sister from a cult. After their parents died, Lo's sister Bea joined The Unity Project, a group that performs lots of charitable work and is well respected among most people in the area. While investigating, she meets the leader of the organization, and as time goes on, begins questioning everything she thought about herself, her sister, and the world in general. This novel will be an exciting and emotional read about belonging and identity. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

4. Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher

The book cover for Amelia Unabridged
Wednesday Books

Release Date: February 16 

Amelia and her best friend Jenna get the chance to attend a book festival, but only Jenna gets the chance to meet the girls' all-time favorite author, N.E. Endsley. The girls have an explosive fight, but before they get a chance to reconcile, Jenna is tragically killed. As Amelia tries to navigate her grief, she's taken down a path that leads her to the very author that caused the trouble in the first place, and the only person who might be able to help her heal from the loss of her best friend. Reviewers who received advanced reading copies of this debut novel are praising it as a "beautiful" and "heartfelt" novel about friendship and love. An emotional journey awaits readers as they follow Amelia's struggle to find strength and hope within herself, even when all seems lost. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

5. Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales

The book cover for Perfect on Paper
Wednesday Books

Release Date: March 9

Darcy Phillips is her high school's anonymous relationship advice wizard, but when Alexander Brougham finds out her secret, he only has one demand: Darcy must be his personal relationship coach so he can win his ex-girlfriend back, or he'll reveal the secret to the whole school. Darcy has definitely given some advice she's not proud of, especially in situations involving her best friend Brooke, so she needs to keep Alex quiet. All she needs to do is help him win over a girl he already dated once before. No big deal, right? Praised as "perfectly wonderful” by Becky Albertalli, the New York Times–bestselling author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, this book is a mostly light, funny, and fun read. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

6. She's Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard

Book cover for She's Too Pretty to Burn
Henry Holt & Co.

Release Date: March 30 

Veronica is an artistic photographer who was feeling uninspired and dull in the last days of summer until she meets Mick, the perfect subject and muse. Falling in love as they fill their days with adventures, they're ripped out of their daydream by tragedies: A fire, murders, and a stalker that has them fearing for their lives. Inspired by "A Picture of Dorian Gray," this psychological thriller is sure to be a page-turner you can't put down. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

7. Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve

The book cover for Between Perfect and Real
via Goodreads

Release Date: April 13

Dean Foster knows he's trans, he's just not sure if he's ready for everyone else to know that yet, too. Everyone at his high school,  including his girlfriend, thinks he's a lesbian, and his theater director just cast him as a "nontraditional" Romeo, so he's starting to think it would be better to wait until college to come out. The more he plays his character every day, though, the more he wants everyone to see him for who he truly is. With early reviews praising it for its "relatable teen characters" in a poignant and important story, this novel, published by Amulet Books, will make people struggling with their identity feel seen. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

8. Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

Book cover for Witches Steeped in Gold
via Goodreads

Release Date: April 20

Iraya and Jazmyne are on opposite ends of society; one has spent her life in a cell and the other is the queen's daughter. These enemy witches are forced to form an alliance, as they share a common goal: vengeance. This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut is supposed to be a magical, thrilling adventure set in a beautifully crafted world published by HarperTeen. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

9. When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson

Book cover for When You Get the Chance
Running Press Kids

Release Date: May 4

Cousins Mark and Talia are reunited after years and quickly find out that although they were close as kids, all they have in common now is that they both would rather be at Toronto Pride than their family's old cabin. The two teens, along with Mark's younger sister Paige, decide to take a road trip and along the way, try to figure each other out. This book explores LGBTQ+ history and themes of community and family while putting a unique spin on the "road trip" storyline. This book should be a wholesome, satisfying tale that will get you excited for Pride month in June. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

10. The Ivies by Alexa Donne

Book cover for The Ivies

Release Date: May 25

A dark academia thriller about five prep school girls known as The Ivies who will stop at nothing to get into the elite Ivy League universities of their dreams. They're not above disrupting class ranks and academic competitions — hurting others to improve their own odds. However, they may have gone too far when they add murder to their growing list of activities... With early reviews calling it "smart and addicting," fans of tense page-turners will want to add this to their lists right away. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

11. An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi

Book cover for An Emotion of Great Delight

Release Date: June 1 

Set in 2003, several months after the US declares war on Iraq, the latest novel from bestselling author Tahereh Mafi follows Shadi, a Muslim girl who wears a hijab, as she struggles to cope with a world that feels like its crumbling around her. Her brother is dead, her father is dying, her mother is falling apart, her best friend abandoned her, and the Muslim community is being targeted and harassed regularly. Shadi will have to learn to find hope, love, and herself in the storm of war and sadness. This novel is sure to be a heart-wrenching yet hopeful uniquely brilliant coming-of-age story. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

12. Darling by K. Ancrum

Book cover for Darling

Release Date: June 22

The latest book from acclaimed author K. Ancrum is "Peter Pan" reimagined as a thriller set in today's world. When a beautiful boy named Peter appears at Wendy Darling's window asking her to join him for a night out, how can she say no? She meets his friends in the city's underground, like a punk named Tinkerbelle, but she also makes some enemies, too, like Detective Hook. As Peter's secrets are revealed and things start to get more sinister, Wendy must make sure that she, and everyone else, survives the night. This novel sounds like a wonderfully exhilarating breath of fresh air into a classic tale. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

13. Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Book cover for Six Crimson Cranes
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Release Date: July 6

Shiori, princess of Kiata, has forbidden magic that she has been taught to conceal, but she loses control of it on the morning of her betrothal ceremony. Her stepmother Raikama, who has dark magic of her own, banishes Shiori, turns her brothers into cranes, and warns Shiori that for every word she speaks, one of her brothers will die. While searching for her brothers, Shiori uncovers a plot to overtake the throne. In order to save her kingdom, she must ally herself with the boy she was supposed to marry and call on the magic she was supposed to hide. This beautiful story is inspired by East Asian folklore and is a must-read for young adult fantasy fans.  

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

14. XOXO by Axie Oh

Book cover for XOXO

Release Date: July 13

Cello prodigy Jenny would normally never let anything distract her from her goal of being accepted to a prestigious music conservatory, but some uncharacteristic spontaneity leads to an unforgettable adventure with the mysterious Jaewoo, who then disappears without a word. Months later, Jenny moves to South Korea and finds out that Jaewoo is a student at her school and also a member of a world-famous K-pop band. Jaewoo is forbidden from dating, and Jenny knows that a relationship is a distraction she can't afford if she wants to achieve her dreams, so they'll both have to decide if love is worth the consequences. K-pop and teen romance fans alike are sure to fall in love with this adorable romantic comedy published by HarperTeen.

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

15. The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

Book cover for the Dead and the Dark
Wednesday Books

Release Date: August 3

Teenagers are going missing in Snakebite, Oregon, and some of them are turning up dead. Ashley Banton's boyfriend was one of those teens and after TV's most popular ghost hunters come into town, his spirit begins following her around. Ashley asks for the help of Logan, the ghost hunters' daughter, and together they try to find out what's going on in Snakebite. As they uncover secrets about the town and their families, and things begin to get more dangerous, they begin to find that their relationship is a light in the dark places they're exploring. This debut thriller about hidden things, lurking shadows, and finding home in unexpected places already has young adult fans very excited and should definitely be on your radar if you're looking for a ghostly mystery with a side of romance. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

16. How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

Book cover for How We Fall Apart
Bloomsbury YA

Release Date: August 3

When Nancy's former best friend Jamie turns up dead, she and her friends become the prime suspects, thanks to someone on social media, calling themselves "The Proctor," accusing them of the murder. "The Proctor" seems to know all of Nancy and her friends' secrets, just like Jamie used to, and is slowly exposing them. As the friends try and figure out who the real culprit is, Nancy begins to wonder who she can really trust, as doubts about her friends begin to wiggle into her mind. This thriller, pitched as "Crazy Rich Asians" meets "One of Us is Lying," is perfect for fans of dark academia and is sure to be one of those books you just can't put down. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

17. Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer 

Photo of author Brigid Kemmerer
Brigid Kemmer via

(Book cover not yet announced.)

Release Date: September 14 

The kingdom of Kandala was nearly destroyed after an illness wiped out most of its people before a cure was found. The people of the kingdom are starkly divided into those who have access to the cure and those who do not. Tessa Cade is a Robin Hood-style outlaw who delivers food and medicine stolen from the elite to the poor. With rumors circulating that the cure is no longer effective, life in the kingdom is becoming more dangerous than ever. However, Tessa will soon discover that everything she believed about her kingdom is a lie, and changing the system of power may require the help of some of the people she despises most. This latest release from the New York Times bestselling author is sure to captivate young adult fantasy readers, especially those intrigued by Kemmerer's "dark and alluring" style. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

18. Daughters of a Dead Empire by Carolyn Tara O'Neil

A placeholder cover for Daughters of a Dead Empire
via Goodreads

Release Date: September 21

This debut from Roaring Book Press was pitched as a retelling of the legend of Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the last sovereign of Imperial Russia, that says she escaped the execution of the rest of her family. This upcoming novel follows two young women as they flee the Red Army during the Russian revolution. One girl is a peasant and proud member of the Bolshevik party and the other is a bourgeoisie girl who is keeping a secret that could endanger both girls' lives. Though not much else is known about this book, many fans of alternate histories are excited and eagerly awaiting its release. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

19. Little Thieves by Margaret Owen 

A placeholder cover for Little Thieves
via Goodreads

Release Date: October 5 

This upcoming book from Henry Holt and Co. takes its basic premise from the German fairy tale "The Goose Girl." The original fairy tale is about a princess who is sent to a faraway kingdom with one maid, but along the way, the maid stole the princess's clothes and horse, presenting herself as royalty, while the real princess was forced to work as a goose girl. Eventually, the truth comes out, the princess retakes her place, and the maid is killed for her crimes. "Little Thieves" lets the maid finally tell her side of the story. Owen is also a talented artist and posts concept art for her characters often. Below are some of the characters from her Twitter thread of "Little Thieves" art:

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

20. Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone

A placeholder cover for Lakesedge
via Goodreads

Release Date: October 12

This gothic romance follows Violeta Graceling, who thinks she knows what she's getting into when she arrives at the haunted Lakesedge estate. After all, she knows all the rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his whole family when he was young. As she falls for Rowan, she learns secrets about him and the estate, like the fact that he is bound to the Lord Under, the death god who lives in the depths of the lake. She feels strangely drawn to the Lord Under, though, and she must unravel the mystery of the connection if she wants to save Rowan and herself from his darkness. People who have read early versions say that it's full of fantasy and magic and told in "lush and masterful" prose, so many readers are highly anticipating this debut. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon

21. Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan  

Placeholder cover for Jade Fire Gold
via Goodreads

Release Date: November 2

Set in a magical Asiatic world reminiscent of "Avatar: The Last Airbender," this young adult fantasy is inspired by East Asian folklore and mythology. This story of family, revenge, and forgiveness centers on a young peasant girl trying to save her grandmother from a cult and the exiled prince she must ally herself with. The pair must learn to trust each other even when their pasts and the girl's dark magic keep haunting them. Many readers are hoping that not only the setting is inspired by "Avatar," since the blurb's "peasant girl" and "exiled prince" remind them of beloved "Avatar" characters Katara and Zuko.

Goodreads | Author's Website

22. Fools in Love edited by Ashley Herring Blake and Rebecca Podos 

Photos of Ashley Herring Blake and Rebecca Podos
Ashley Herring Blake via / Rebecca Podos via

(Book cover not yet announced.)

Release Date: December 2021

If you haven't gotten into short story anthologies yet, this one seems like a perfect place to start. This collection is focused on offering new takes on classic romance tropes. This anthology is edited by Ashley Herring Blake, author of "Girl Made of Stars," and Rebecca Podos, author of "The Mystery of Hollow Places," who are both literary agents in addition to authors, so their keen eyes and tastes will mean excellent stories for us. Contributors for the collection are Rebecca Barrow ("This Is What It Feels Like"), Gloria Chao ("American Panda"), Sara Farizan ("Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel"), Claire Kann ("Let's Talk About Love"), Hannah Moskowitz ("Teeth"), Natasha Ngan ("Girls of Paper and Fire"), Lillian Rivera ("The Education of Margot Sanchez"), Laura Silverman ("Girl Out of Water"), Amy Spalding ("The Summer of Jordi Perez"), Rebecca Kim Wells ("Shatter the Sky"), Julian Winters ("Running With Lions"), and more are still to be announced. 

Goodreads | Ashley Herring Blake's Website | Rebecca Podos' Website

23. A Heavy Dose of Allison Tandy by Jeff Bishop

Photo of Jeff Bishop
Jeff Bishop via

(Book cover not yet announced.)

Release Date: Summer 2021 (according to the author's Twitter)

Pitched as "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" meets "Paper Towns," Bishop's debut novel is a funny and heartfelt story about Cam's delirious summer adventure with his ex-girlfriend Allison Tandy. The summer starts with tragedy: Ally is left comatose after a car accident, and Cam is forced to spend his days in pain recovering from an unrelated ACL surgery, ruminating over Ally's survival. Then, Cam begins seeing Ally everywhere, under the influence of his medication, and thinks perhaps the summer might be more interesting than he thought. Exploring coming-of-age and coming to terms with how much control we really have over love and life, "A Heavy Dose of Allison Tandy" is perfect for fans of romance novels that tug at the heartstrings. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon 

24. Stalking Shadows by Cyla Panin

Photo of Cyla Panin
Cyla Panin via

(Book cover not yet announced.)

Release Date: Fall 2021

"Stalking Shadows," Cyla Panin’s debut novel, is a feminist retelling of "Beauty and the Beast." Marie is determined to protect her sister Ama, even when Ama is cursed to turn into a beast who hunts humans at night. That's why Marie laces perfumes to mark her sister's victims; to keep them out of trouble. But when a child is killed, Marie is forced to realize she may be losing control of Ama, and what she really needs is a cure for the curse. This gothic young adult fantasy will be published by Amulet Books. 

Goodreads | Author's Website

25. You've Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Photo of bound manuscript version of You've Reached Sam
via @Dustin_Thao on Twitter

Release Date: Fall 2021

This debut novel is described as "If I Stay," the wildly popular young adult romantic drama novel and movie, meets "Your Name," the award-winning Japanese animated film. Julie's boyfriend Sam has died and in an effort to soothe her grief, she calls him to hear his voicemail. But instead of his prerecorded voice, Sam picks up on the other end of the line. Their temporary connection has given them a strange second chance at goodbye, but the longer they talk, the more impossible it is for Julie to hang up and let him go for good. A heart-wrenching book about grief, loss, letting go, and moving on, this novel is sure to break readers' hearts that hopefully also shows them how to put it back together. 

Goodreads | Author's Twitter

Make sure to mark these exciting titles on your to-read list and preorder from your local bookstore! 

Stevie is a writer who perpetually has a coffee in her hand and a cat on her lap. Her other hobbies include reading and playing video games.

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