There are about two thousand books on my To-Read shelf on Goodreads. I’m not great at cutting that number down. Half my problem is that I find a lot of book lists of both upcoming thematic titles, and I add away indiscriminately.
So I’m giving you the opportunity to take my dubious example and do the same with this list of upcoming YA love stories perfect for all readers. If you’re looking for something different in your warm fuzzies, this is a good start for 2016!
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (Flux, February 8th)
Basic Premise: As a Reckoner, Cas Leung can control genetically engineered sea monsters, in order to defend ships from pirates. When the pirate queen kidnaps her to raise and control a new beast, Cas is stuck with the queen’s possible successor, Swift, as a guardian. The two shift from hatred to friendship to something more as they try to stay alive.
Why I’m excited: Second only to lesbian princesses are lady pirates. Not to mention racial diversity and socially-accepted same-sex romance.
These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas (Swoon Reads, February 9th)
Basic Premise: Bored with her life and missing her sister who mysteriously vanished, Evelyn runs off to London with the handsome Mr. Kent to find her. But Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, believing the sisters have special healing abilities. Evelyn thinks Sebastian is mad, until she finds out his tales of extraordinary people are true, and her sister is in grave danger.
Why I’m excited: Jane Austen meets X-Men is so up my alley.
Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor (HMH Books for Young Readers, March 1st)
Basic Premise: When Hope spends a summer in Scotland, she falls in with a secret society of time travelers. After becoming trapped in the twelfth century, she has only three days to make it back to her own time with the help of a boy who could be her undoing.
Why I’m excited: Outlander for teens – time travel is love.
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (Viking Books for Young Readers, March 8th)
Basic Premise: Amani is a gunslinger trying to escape her hometown, but she has to get past the beasts and djinni out in the barren wastes. Jin, a mysterious foreigner, seems like her ticket out, but she never thought she’d be running from the Sultan’s army as a fugitive.
Why I’m excited: Badass gunslinger girl! Plus I have a soft spot for escaping-my-hometown stories.
Love, Lies, & Spies by Cindy Antsey (Swoon Reads, April 19th)
Basic Premise: Juliana is much more interested in researching ladybugs than being fashionable or attending dances. When her father sends her to London for the summer, she plans to secretly publish her research. She meets Spencer, and to avoid the pressures of society, they agree to fake a romance, which of course turns into something more. What Juliana doesn’t know is that Spencer is actually a spy for the War Office, and his task is to observe Juliana and her travel companions.
Why I’m excited: 19th century lady scientist!
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s Griffin, April 26th)
Basic Premise: When Maya’s arranged marriage takes a fatal turn, she ends up married to Amar in a secretive kingdom. Beneath its magic, Maya fears for her life, but slowly falls in love with her new husband. She must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the Otherworld to protect her loved ones.
Why I’m excited: Inspired by Indian mythology with parallels to Hades and Persephone.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (Flatiron Books, May 3rd)
Basic Premise: When Amanda starts at a new school, she’s determined to not get close to anyone – until she meets Grant, of course. She wants to share all her secrets with him, including the fact that she used to be Andrew. But will the truth cost Amanda her new life – and new love?
Why I’m excited: This is the first YA love story with a transgender protagonist I’ve come across in mainstream publishing.
Even If the Sky Falls by Mia Garcia (Katherine Tegen Books, May 10th)
Basic Premise: In New Orleans for a mission trip, Julie feels trapped, so she sneaks out to a Mid-Summer Mardi Gras where she meets Miles. In one night, she sees the real New Orleans, until an oncoming hurricane changes course and Julie is pulled back into chaos. A whirlwind 24-hour romance!
Why I’m excited: Interracial romance and an exciting locale.
It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble (Soho Teen, May 17th)
Basic Premise: Part thriller, part murder mystery, part sci-fi – In 1916, an experimental polio vaccine causes two families to stop aging altogether. It suits Emma and Charlie, forever seventeen and madly in love. Soon, however, the Church of Light, a group of religious fanatics, massacre the families, and the lovers are the only ones to escape. The two are forced apart, and Emma spends the next one hundred years avoiding the Church of Light and trying to find Charlie.
Why I’m excited: It has a Tuck Everlasting-esque feel, and there aren’t enough mysteries in YA.
The Only Thing Worse than Me is You by Lily Anderson (St. Martin’s Griffin, May 17th)
Basic Premise: Trixie, a girl obsessed with Doctor Who and comic books, will do anything to get her class rank above Ben West’s, due to a rivalry stemming back over a decade. Unfortunately, her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend, and the two are forced to play nice. They form a tentative fandom-based friendship with plenty of room for more, until accusations of cheating cause chaos.
Why I’m excited: Trixie seems unabashedly nerdy, in a way unlike many predecessors where the girl is “so weird and unique” for loving awesome things. It also gives me a bit of a Kare Kano nostalgia feel.
When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (Thomas Dunne, October 4th)
Basic Premise: Best friends Miel and Sam are inseparable but strange. Miel grows roses out of her wrists and has questionable origins, and Sam is a transgender boy who paints moons and hangs them in trees. The Bonner girls, rumored to be witches, want the roses that grow in Miel’s skin, convinced their scent will make anyone fall in love, and they’ll do anything to get them.
Why I’m excited: There is a shortage of magical realism in YA, and I love 2016’s publication of several novels with trans* protagonists.
Beast by Brie Spangler (Knopf for Young Readers, October 11th)
Basic Premise: Dylan doesn’t look like your average teen – he is tall, muscular, and hairy, so people in high school are cruel. One day he accidentally falls off the school’s roof and is forced to attend group therapy for self-harmers. He vows to say nothing, until he meets Jamie, the first person to call him out on his self-pitying attitude. They become more than just friends, but Dylan wasn’t listening the day Jamie shares that she is transgender. But does it matter?
Why I’m excited: Contemporary Beauty & the Beast, plus a trans* protagonist.
Timekeeper by Tara Sim (Sky Pony Press, November 1st)
Basic Premise: In an alternate Victorian world, clock towers control the flow of time, and a stopped clock means a stopped town. Danny is a young clock mechanic desperate to prove his worth and save his father from one of these towns. His new apprentice in Enfield, Colton, is eager but secretive, for good reason: He is actually the clock spirit, a mythical being that powers the clock. Soon their relationship escalates into a forbidden romance. When a series of clock attacks occur across England, Danny must figure out who is behind the attacks to save not only his father and the boy he loves, but time itself.
Why I’m excited: Gay Victorian steampunk mythology romance! These are so many of my buzzwords.
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst (Balzer & Bray, November 22th)
Basic premise: Princess Dennaleia must keep her magical Affinity for fire a secret, as she is betrothed to the prince of a kingdom where magic is forbidden. To solve the mystery of a shocking assassination while hiding her growing power, Denna finds herself falling for her fiance’s unconventional sister, Princess Amaranthine.
Why I’m excited: Lesbian princesses are everything I never knew I needed.
Amber Neva Brown is assistant manager at Main Point Books and a recent Masters graduate in Publishing at Rosemont College. She grew up in North Carolina, and her ultimate fandoms are Harry Potter and Doctor Who. She could recommend a book to probably anyone. Find her at Letters from a [Future] Editor and on Twitter at @ambernevabrown.