If you’ve ever joined a book club, you know there’s more to choosing a group read than simply picking a good book; it only takes about two minutes for everyone to go around in a circle and say “I loved it!”
The best picks are the ones that inspire conversation, whether that means debate over character and plot choices, comparisons to similar books or even an original work that might’ve inspired it, dissection of the time and place of the setting, or any other of a thousand talking points.
With that in mind, here are some great YA books that’ll light a spark under your book club.
The Last True Poets of the Sea
There is so much going for this debut YA novel as a book club book, between the absolutely beautiful writing, the queer and mental health representation, the incredible coastal backdrop and narrative line of a historical shipwreck that guides the story, and its Twelfth Night inspiration, I dare you and your bookish friends not to fall in love with it.
It stars Violet, who’s forced to move up to Lyric, Maine—a town founded by her ancestors after her great-great grandmother was the sole survivor of a shipwreck there—while her brother undergoes treatment following his suicide attempt. There, she finds a new family of friends, including an intriguing girl named Liv who’s more than happy to hunt for the shipwreck remains along with her in a welcome distraction.
While definitely not the easiest read, Jackson is a master at simultaneously keeping readers on the edges of their seats while exploring oft-overlooked points of view, usually of Black girls. This newest (at least until White Smoke releases in September) takes on celebrity, manipulation, and statutory rape for a story that’s technically fictional but still manages to feel ripped from the headlines.
Enchanted Jones falls hard and fast for Korey Fields; how could she not get sucked into the orbit of a rising star, especially when she has her own dreams of making it in the music world? But when Korey’s found dead, Enchanted is a top suspect, laying bare the details of his toxic and traumatic treatment in a relationship that should have never been. If your book club friends discussed Surviving R. Kelly, this is a definite must.
Related: These Are the Best YA Books Getting Us Through 2020
Like a Love Story
Historical fiction makes for perfect book club selections, even if they’re set as recently as the late 80s, as is the case with Nazemian’s poignant sophomore YA novel.
It follows three teens in New York City during the AIDS crisis: an Iranian boy named Reza who just moved from Canada and is still coming to terms with being gay; an out-and-proud boy named Art determined to live life to the fullest; and Art’s best friend, Judy, whose greatest loves are all gay men, including Art, her uncle Stephen, and her (closeted) new boyfriend, Reza. When Reza and Art hit it off, it threatens all the connections they hold dear, at the absolute worst time.
The Black Kids
And speaking of recent historicals, this utterly compelling and forever timely debut sets readers alongside wealthy Black teen Ashley in 1992 LA, witnessing the Riots from within both her dominantly white friend group and her Black family, which includes her activist sister.
It’s a book about finding your voice and your people, and shedding those who don’t belong by your side in the future while embracing those who do, and between current events and the masterful depiction of social dynamics shifting on multiple levels, this is a book that’ll give you plenty to talk about.
We Are Okay
Don’t wait until just before the meeting to finish this one or you’ll be showing up with the most tearstained of faces. But it’s worth all the tissues to sit with this Printz-winning story of grief, love, friendship, and family, helmed by a girl named Marin who’s drowning in the feelings that come with losing everyone important to you as she embarks upon spending winter break alone at her first year of college.
But how lost are they really? And how does one move on as relationships both end and change, just as your life is transitioning to new places?
A Million Junes
Henry has taken the world by storm these past couple of years with her bestselling contemporary romances Beach Read and People You Meet on Vacation, but before she became a household name with those, she was writing spectacularly beautiful and genre-bending Young Adult fiction.
My favorite of those is this forbidden romance between two teens from families who’ve been feuding for generations before discovering that a name can’t compete with chemistry. Between the family secrets and the stunning writing—particularly fascinating in the way it switches between gorgeous literary narrative and sharp, clever modern dialogue—there’s much to discuss in this gem.
A Girl Like That
Good luck even knowing where to begin when it comes to conversing about everything tackled by this fascinating and fantastic debut. First of all, it’s one of very few YAs set in the Middle East—in this case, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia—and stars an Indian expat from a Zoroastrian family. (Five years later, Bhathena’s books remain the only Zoroastrian rep I’ve personally seen in YA.)
Second of all, the book has four POVs, and the characterizations are so interesting and come with a decent amount of insight into a fifth. Then there’s the way it discusses being an expat, mental health, sexual assault, and sexism. And if that’s not enough, it uses the rare conceit most famously seen in Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall and Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, telling the story as a couple lies dying from a car accident. If it sounds unlike anything you’ve read before, that’s because it is. So go read it!
Keep Reading: The Best YA Books with Multiracial Main Characters
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