As per usual, this post is a mix of authors and books. I want to note that these books are YA contemporaries that I would consider light reads. They do not tackle heavy topics (though a post about heavy topics in YA is coming, eventually, because I have a list started that I’m really excited to talk about!). So these books are light contemporary reads or ones where the “heavy” topic is discussed and dealt with in a way that still feels easy to read. The line there is difficult to draw so you may disagree with where I’ve drawn it so I’ve tried to identify any potential trigger warnings that could be relevant. Also, I capped this list at ten, which means that there are books that I’ve read and loved that did not fit on this list. Regardless, please list more in the comments contemporary YA books that you would recommend to me! Okay, enough disclaimers, I hope y’all find some books you’re excited to read!
1. I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo
Have I ever giggled so much reading a book? Maybe, but I doubt it. This book is so funny and relatable that I couldn’t stop laughing or reading things out loud to Jaclyn in the car (because I’m terrible and started this right away in the car on our way to dinner). Basically, this book is about Desi, a high school student, who has never had luck with guys–her friends have coined the word flailure for her rather mortifying encounters with boys she’s liked. When a new guy moves to town (Luca), Desi decides to take a page out of the K-Dramas her dad is always watching and hatches a plan to get the guy. It’s perfection.
2. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Of course, we’ve established that I love all of the books on this list, but this book made me follow Becky Albertalli on Twitter and so now I love her and Simon. Plus, this book is going to be a movie, so instead of showing you the cover, the picture here is of the adaptation poster and I am SO EXCITED. I’m leaving it full size too because I wanted to make sure you get all the fun puns that have been going around Twitter, like coming out and keeping his story straight. Simon, in case you missed it, is gay. He’s pen pals with a boy from his school whose code name is Blue. He also gets blackmailed, but don’t worry, it’s totally fine. Really. Just read it and love it and then come back and fangirl with me about it.
3. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
First of all, this book includes Max and Paige arguing over who is the best character in Pride and Prejudice so if that alone doesn’t make you want to pick up this book… I’m confused. The book is about Paige, who is trying to stop just being the girl whose boyfriend died in her small town. So Paige, like every good Type A person, makes a list of how she’s going to shed that image. Specifically on her list is to date Ryan, but when she meets his cousin Max who convinces her to join Quiz Bowl, things get tricky. This book is about friendship and healing and it’s seriously so amazing. Also, WE ARE GETTING A SEQUEL. Not until like 2019, but y’all, who cares, it is HAPPENING!
I love Rainbow Rowell’s YA fiction, regardless of whether it’s contemporary or fantasy. I also enjoyed her adult book, Landline, but haven’t been able to get very far into Attachments. Regardless, today we’re talking about Fangirl and Eleanor & Park. While my favorite book is definitely Fangirl, I did also love and appreciate Eleanor & Park. My sister got really upset that originally I was only going to talk about Fangirl, which I suppose is especially fair since I talk about it quite often. So I’m going to focus instead on Eleanor & Park and tell you about it instead. Eleanor is an overweight teenage girl who has a pretty terrible home life and Park is a skinny Asian-American boy who loves to listen to old music. The two sit together on the bus one day and the story kind of goes from there. Watching Eleanor and Park fall in love with each other is… the best kind of evolution. It’s an incredible book and I cannot recommend highly enough.
5. To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han
I still need to read Always and Forever Lara Jean, but this series (or at least the first two books) are absolute perfection. I love the relationship between Lara Jean and her sisters, between each of her sisters and her dad. I love that Lara Jean loves baking and that she writes out her feelings in the form of letters to the boys she’s moved on from. I also love the way each boy responds to getting those letters. And I adore the relationship in book one. It’s one of my favorite tropes, but no spoilers. If you haven’t read this series yet, allow me to highly recommend it to you!
6. Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens
You all should know by now how much I loved this book and the group of friends (the Hexagon). Billie is an adventurous teenage girl and she and her friends get into some shenanigans that have consequences. Billie doesn’t dress very traditionally feminine and doesn’t necessarily conform to society’s expectations, especially those of her pastor father’s congregation. This book explores themes of gender, sexuality (lots of LGBTQIA+ representation!), friendship, and how religion fits into all of that. I love this book so much and even though it looks like it’s tackling a lot of heavy subjects, it reads like you’re falling in with a group of friends and it’s a delight.
7. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
I loved this book. It gets me on a lot of levels. The anxiety representation in here was amazing, but this is not a book about mental health. It’s a book about three friends, one of whom is a bisexual Chinese Australian burgeoning superstar, one of whom is dealing with anxiety, has Asperger’s, and is overweight, and one of whom (to the best of my recollection) is a white guy from the U.S. These friends travel from Australia to Los Angeles for SupaCon (think Comic Con) and Charlie has to face her ex-boyfriend and incessant questions about whether they’re going to get back together, while also learning that the YouTuber she’s had a crush on for ages maybe likes her too. Wild. And Taylor and Jamie meanwhile are going around the Con, with Taylor dressed in her amazing Queen Firestorm (maybe?) cosplay and dealing with anxiety attacks and meeting/interacting with a ton of new people. Again, this book tackles a lot of issues, but it’s really about friendship and falling in love and learning to live your life without your anxiety controlling you. It’s an excellent, very fun read and I highly recommend.
8. Sarah Dessen
My favorite Sarah Dessen books are The Truth About Forever, This Lullaby, and Just Listen but I haven’t read one I’ve rated less than four stars. She has written thirteen books and won a ton of awards. Each of her books is more or less about a teenage girl, usually set in summer, and generally there’s a love story. The majority of her books include parents and/or siblings, which is something I love in YA. Even when the relationship between parent and child isn’t great, parents exist and I feel like I’ve read too many books where that relationship is non-existent. Her books are perfect summer reads, but you could read them at any time!
9. Ally Carter
Ally Carter does technically write contemporary YA, but her books are about girl spies or action-adventure type books and they are amazing. I can’t tell you how much I love her books and how excited I am for her upcoming 2018 release, Not if I Save You First. The first book I read by her was I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You and I loved it so much. That series is about Cami and the Gallagher Girls (aka SPIES) and it’s just absolute perfection. There’s also Heist Society, which is amazing and I could go for like ten more books in the series, but that’s nothing compared to how I want to move into the world of the Embassy Row series. Basically, all of her characters are fantastic and the worlds she creates are excellent.
I’ve recapped Ramona Blue in a recent wrap up, so I’m going to focus more on Dumplin’ for this post. Basically, Dumplin’ tells the story of Willowdean, a fat girl with a complicated relationship with her beauty queen mother. Everything changes to Willowdean when she decides that there’s no reason she can’t enter the local beauty pageant, not because Willowdean magically shrinks or transforms, but because Willowdean goes on adventures that slowly but surely see her learning to actually love herself. There’s also a romance in here between Willlow and Bo and, um, yeah. I related so hard to some of the things Willow thought as she began this relationship. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, especially if you’re a person who has ever been self-conscious about your body.
So there you have it! My list of ten contemporary YA I would recommend if you want to run from your problems! Please leave your own recommendations for me down in the comments below or at least tell me what your favorite contemporary YA that has let you run from your problems! This is a genre I love and will definitely (always) be reading more books in the genre so I would love your recommendations.