Over the years, the young adult genre has enjoyed steady popularity and there’s good reason why. There’s a myth that only young ones should read this genre, but we beg to differ. 2021 was an epic year for young adult book lovers. Many of the young adult books we read this year are quite insightful and give you a fresh perspective about life.

We’ve rounded up the best young adult books released in 2021 that made us stay up late and cry, and some that just blew our minds. Whether you’re looking for young adult books to lose yourself in, books that will make you fall in love, or keep you guessing, consider adding these books to your list. Here are the best 2021 young adult books we enjoyed reading this year, in no particular order.

Six Crimson Cranes

By Elizabeth Lim

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A princess in exile, a shapeshifting dragon, six enchanted cranes, and an unspeakable curse… Drawing from fairy tales and East Asian folklore, this original fantasy from the author of Spin the Dawn is perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone.

“A dazzling fairytale full of breathtaking storytelling.” –Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval

A stunning remake of a fairytale. Six Crimson Cranes is the perfect blend of whimsy and ferociousness, with twists and turns that will tug at your heartstrings.” —Chloe Gong, New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights

Fast-paced excitement is balanced with a satisfyingly intricate plot that weaves in elements from Western fairy tales and East Asian folklore.” —SLJ, starred review

A dragon from the deepest sea, six enchanted cranes, and an unspeakable curse.

Dangerous magic, untimely romance, and more than a few twists await readers in a magical adventure set in the same world as Lim’s “Blood of Stars” duology.

Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

By Malinda Lo

Winner of the National Book Award

“Exquisite and heart-shattering, Last Night at the Telegraph Club made me ache with wishing. This book is for anyone who has ever loved—in any sense of the word.”—Emily X.R. Pan, New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the feeling took root—that desire to look, to move closer, to touch. Whenever it started growing, it definitely bloomed the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. Suddenly everything seemed possible.

But America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

House of Hollow

By Krystal Sutherland

A dark, twisty modern fairytale where three sisters discover they are not exactly all that they seem and evil things really do go bump in the night.

Iris Hollow and her two older sisters are unquestionably strange. Ever since they disappeared on a suburban street in Scotland as children only to return a month a later with no memory of what happened to them, odd, eerie occurrences seem to follow in their wake. And they’re changing. First, their dark hair turned white. Then, their blue eyes slowly turned black. They have insatiable appetites yet never gain weight. People find them disturbingly intoxicating, unbearably beautiful, and inexplicably dangerous.

But now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school on time–something her two famously glamourous globe-trotting older sisters, Grey and Vivi, never managed to do. But when Grey goes missing without a trace, leaving behind bizarre clues as to what might have happened, Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren’t the only ones looking for her though. As they brush against the supernatural they realize that the story they’ve been told about their past is unraveling and the world that returned them seemingly unharmed ten years ago, might just be calling them home.

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

Firekeeper’s Daughter

By Angeline Boulley

“One of this year’s most buzzed about young adult novels.” —Good Morning America

A TIME Magazine Best YA Book of All Time Selection
Amazon’s Best YA Book of 2021 So Far (June 2021)
A 2021 Kids’ Indie Next List Selection
An Entertainment Weekly Most Anticipated Books of 2021 Selection
PopSugar Best March 2021 YA Book Selection

With four starred reviews, Angeline Boulley’s debut novel, Firekeeper’s Daughter, is a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, perfect for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.

Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe

By Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

The Hating Game meets I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter in this irresistible romance starring a Mexican American teen who discovers love and profound truths about the universe when she spends her summer on a road trip across the country.

When her twin sister reaches social media stardom, Moon Fuentez accepts her fate as the ugly, unwanted sister hidden in the background, destined to be nothing more than her sister’s camerawoman. But this summer, Moon also takes a job as the “merch girl” on a tour bus full of beautiful influencers and her fate begins to shift in the best way possible.

Most notable is her bunkmate and new nemesis, Santiago Phillips, who is grumpy, combative, and also the hottest guy Moon has ever seen.

Moon is certain she hates Santiago and that he hates her back. But as chance and destiny (and maybe, probably, close proximity) bring the two of them in each other’s perpetual paths, Moon starts to wonder if that’s really true. She even starts to question her destiny as the unnoticed, unloved wallflower she always thought she was.

Could this summer change Moon’s life as she knows it?

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

The Mirror Season

By Anna-Marie McLemore

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

One of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books 2021

“An unforgettable story of trauma and healing, told in achingly beautiful prose with great tenderness and care.” #1 New York Times-bestselling author Karen M. McManus

When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season

The Mirror Season
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

Any Way the Wind Blows

By Rainbow Rowell

New York Times bestselling author Rainbow Rowell’s epic fantasy, the Simon Snow trilogy, concludes in Any Way the Wind Blows.

In Carry On, Simon Snow and his friends realized that everything they thought they understood about the world might be wrong. And in Wayward Son, they wondered whether everything they understood about themselves might be wrong.

In Any Way the Wind Blows, Simon and Baz and Penelope and Agatha have to decide how to move forward.

For Simon, that means deciding whether he still wants to be part of the World of Mages — and if he doesn’t, what does that mean for his relationship with Baz? Meanwhile Baz is bouncing between two family crises and not finding any time to talk to anyone about his newfound vampire knowledge. Penelope would love to help, but she’s smuggled an American Normal into London, and now she isn’t sure what to do with him. And Agatha? Well, Agatha Wellbelove has had enough.

Any Way the Wind Blows takes the gang back to England, back to Watford, and back to their families for their longest and most emotionally wrenching adventure yet.

This book is a finale. It tells secrets and answers questions and lays ghosts to rest.

Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

The Girls I’ve Been

By Tess Sharpe

A BUSTLE, REFINERY29, COSMOPOLITAN, BUZZFEED and MARIE CLAIRE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK of 2021

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when her mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter the bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage . . .

The Girls I've Been
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

Dark and Shallow Lies

By Ginny Myers Sain

“Dreamy prose conjures a mythical Southern Gothic atmosphere, mixing violence with a Byronic characterization of Elora’s stepbrother Hart. Taut pacing builds sustained terror on the page with each successive suspect in this formidable debut.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

A teen girl disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp like water rot, in this chilling debut supernatural thriller for fans of Natasha Preston, Karen McManus, and Rory Power.

La Cachette, Louisiana, is the worst place to be if you have something to hide.

This tiny town, where seventeen-year-old Grey spends her summers, is the self-proclaimed Psychic Capital of the World—and the place where Elora Pellerin, Grey’s best friend, disappeared six months earlier.

Grey can’t believe that Elora vanished into thin air any more than she can believe that nobody in a town full of psychics knows what happened. But as she digs into the night that Elora went missing, she begins to realize that everybody in town is hiding something—her grandmother Honey; her childhood crush Hart; and even her late mother, whose secrets continue to call to Grey from beyond the grave.

Dark and Shallow Lies Best Young Adult Books
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

Home Is Not a Country

By Safia Elhillo

A mesmerizing novel in verse about family, identity, and finding yourself in the most unexpected places–for fans of The Poet XI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, and Jason Reynolds.

Nima doesn’t feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider to fit in and not enough like an outsider to feel like that she belongs somewhere else. At least she has her childhood friend Haitham, with whom she can let her guard down and be herself.Until she doesn’t.

As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen, the name her parents didn’t give her at birth: Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might just be more real than Nima knows. And more hungry.And the life Nima has, the one she keeps wishing were someone else’s. . .she might have to fight for it with a fierceness she never knew she had.

Home Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo Best Young Adult Books
Amazon
B & N
GOOGLE
KOBO

Tokyo Ever After

By Emiko Jean

The New York Times bestseller and Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine YA Book Club Pick! Emiko Jean’s Tokyo Ever After is the “refreshing, spot-on” (Booklist, starred review) story of an ordinary Japanese American girl who discovers that her father is the Crown Prince of Japan

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in―it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi―or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”―and her mom against the world. But then Izumi discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

In a whirlwind, Izumi travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.

Izumi soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself―back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairy tale, happily ever after?

Tokyo Ever After
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

Some Girls Do

By Jennifer Dugan

In this YA contemporary queer romance from the author of Hot Dog Girl , an openly gay track star falls for a closeted, bisexual teen beauty queen with a penchant for fixing up old cars.

Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

Some Girls Do Best Young Adult Novels 2021
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

As Good As Dead

By Holly Jackson

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING SERIES WITH OVER ONE MILLION COPIES SOLD • The highly anticipated finale to the A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series, the instant bestsellers that read like your favorite true crime podcast or show. By the end of this mystery series, you’ll never think of good girls the same way again…

Pip is about to head to college, but she is still haunted by the way her last investigation ended. She’s used to online death threats in the wake of her viral true-crime podcast, but she can’t help noticing an anonymous person who keeps asking her: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears?

Soon the threats escalate and Pip realizes that someone is following her in real life. When she starts to find connections between her stalker and a local serial killer caught six years ago, she wonders if maybe the wrong man is behind bars.

Police refuse to act, so Pip has only one choice: find the suspect herself—or be the next victim. As the deadly game plays out, Pip discovers that everything in her small town is coming full circle . . .and if she doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears. . .

As Good As Dead (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder #3) by Holly Jackson
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
KOBO

Ace of Spades

By Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.

All you need to know is . . . I’m here to divide and conquer. Like all great tyrants do. —Aces

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.

Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

Little Thieves

By Margaret Owen

Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl…

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.

The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.

Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.

Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.

Little Thieves
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

Beasts of Prey

By Ayana Gray

In this blockbuster fantasy series, perfect for fans of Kingdom of the Wicked and Iron Widow, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they journey into a magical jungle to hunt down a vicious monster.

“Rich in magic and mythos, Beasts of Prey is a feast for all the senses.” —Renée Ahdieh, New York Times bestselling author of The Beautiful

An Instant New York Times and Indie Bestseller

There’s no such thing as magic in the broken city of Lkossa, especially for sixteen-year-old Koffi, who indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, knows the fearsome creatures in her care and paying off her family’s debts to secure their eventual freedom can be her only focus. But the night those she loves are gravely threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn’t fully understand, upending her life completely.

Beasts of Prey
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

Winterkeep

By Kristin Cashore

The highly anticipated next book in the New York Times bestselling, award-winning Graceling Realm series, which has sold 1.7 million copies.

For the past five years, Bitterblue has reigned as Queen of Monsea, heroically rebuilding her nation after her father’s horrific rule. After learning about the land of Torla in the east, she sends envoys to the closest nation there: Winterkeep—a place where telepathic foxes bond with humans, and people fly across the sky in wondrous airships. But when the envoys never return, having drowned under suspicious circumstances, Bitterblue sets off for Winterkeep herself, along with her spy Hava and her trusted colleague Giddon. On the way, tragedy strikes again—a tragedy with devastating political and personal ramifications.

Meanwhile, in Winterkeep, Lovisa Cavenda waits and watches, a fire inside her that is always hungry. The teenage daughter of two powerful politicians, she is the key to unlocking everything—but only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.

The Graceling Realm books are a companion series, not direct sequels, so they can be enjoyed in any order.

Winterkeep
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

White Smoke

By Tiffany D. Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House meets Get Out in this chilling YA psychological thriller and modern take on the classic haunted house story from New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson!

Every town has its secrets. Every home has its ghosts.

“Thrilling, chilling, and utterly riveting. Tiffany D. Jackson crafts high-stakes tension, a deliciously creepy atmosphere, and characters you really, really hope make it to the end.” — Karen McManus, #1 New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying

White Smoke
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

Steelstriker

By Marie Lu

Explosive action and swoon-worthy suspense collide in this riveting conclusion to the Skyhunter duet from #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marie Lu

As a Striker, Talin was taught loyalty is life. Loyalty to the Shield who watches your back, to the Strikers who risk their lives on the battlefield, and most of all, to Mara, which was once the last nation free from the Karensa Federation’s tyranny.

But Mara has fallen. And its destruction has unleashed Talin’s worst nightmare.

With her friends scattered by combat and her mother held captive by the Premier, Talin is forced to betray her fellow Strikers and her adopted homeland. She has no choice but to become the Federation’s most deadly war machine as their newest Skyhunter.

Red is no stranger to the cruelty of the Federation or the torture within its Skyhunter labs, but he knows this isn’t the end for Mara – or Talin. The link between them may be weak, but it could be Talin and Red’s only hope to salvage their past and safeguard their future.

While the fate of a broken world hangs in the balance, Talin and Red must reunite the Strikers and find their way back to each other in this smoldering sequel to Marie Lu’s Skyhunter.

Steelstriker
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

The Box in the Woods

By Maureen Johnson

The Truly Devious series continues as Stevie Bell investigates her first mystery outside of Ellingham Academy in this spine-chilling and hilarious stand-alone mystery.

Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.

But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls—the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.

Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.

But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.

The Box in the Woods
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE
KOBO

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World

By Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The highly anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an achingly romantic, tender tale sure to captivate fans of Adam Silvera and Mary H.K. Choi.

Yesterday, they discovered the secrets of the universe…

Now they’ll write their names on the map of the world.

“Sáenz himself is something of a cartographer, drawing an intricate map of the human heart. The result is a brilliant, character-driven novel that challenges its readers themselves to think about life while falling in love with those two unforgettable characters, Aristotle and Dante.” — Booklist, starred review

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World (Aristotle and Dante #2) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Amazon
B & N
APPLE
GOOGLE

Want more book recommendations? We’ve got you covered.

Check out the best historical fiction books of 2021. We’ve also rounded up the best books we read in 2021.

If you’re ready to dive into the fascinating pages of a dark academia book, here are 10 Insanely Good Dark Academia Books You Should Read.

Because we love books so much, we also post our book recommendations over on Instagram. If you love talking about your favorite books, then join in our bookish discussions with fellow book lovers on our Facebook page.

Set yourself up for a great reading year! Join the Dango Books’ 2022 Reading Challenge!

Discover Stories You’ll Love.

Handpicked eBook deals and recommendations straight to your inbox. Plus our “Weekly Subscriber Giveaway!”

Sign Up And Get Free Books Today!