Bookshop’s 2020 YA Holiday Gift Guide
There are going to be a ton of gift guides popping up this year and this is one I wanted to specifically feature. Bookshop is specifically set to allow you to purchase books in a way that benefits independent bookshops. This way, your money is going into the community and not lining the pockets of a certain billionaire who runs a company we all order far too much from. Not only that, but this YA list is quite a diverse one as well which will hopefully introduce you to authors who you may not have read before and, as we all know, variety is the spice of life!
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I’ve been reading young adult (YA) novels ever since I was a young adult myself. The genre is so interesting in that it’s typically about firsts: first kiss, first love, first realization of how much of your life is still ahead.
Lately, I feel that YA novels have been even better, certainly due to increased representation of marginalized identities. Readers deserve stories about LGBTQ+ people. They deserve stories about people who look like them and their family and their friends. They deserve to see themselves being loved in all their quirky, messy, heartfelt glory.
Every time I pick up a great YA novel, even now in my late 20s, I fall a little bit in love with its characters and in doing so, fall more in love with my younger self too.
If you’re still upset about missing your prom this year, this novel is for you, one of my favorite debuts of the year. The story follows Liz Lighty, a queer Black girl living in Indiana, who has spent almost her entire high school career flying under the radar. When her financial aid plans fall through, she gets the idea of running for prom queen, because there’s a scholarship attached. With her best friends and Mack, her new crush and competitor for the crown, behind her, there’s nothing that Lighty can’t do.
If you too want to fall in love with a bad boy and aren’t afraid of him haunting you, you’ll love this NYT Bestselling debut. Yadriel has come out to his traditional Latinx family as transgender. In order to prove himself, he sets out to summon the ghost of his murdered cousin and set him free. Instead, he accidentally summons the ghost of Julian Diaz, the resident hot bad boy, who is very shocked to find out that he is dead and won’t leave Yadriel until he gets to the bottom of what happened. It’s such a charming title, and that cover art? YAS.
If you like literal Black girl magic with a Southern twist, you’ll love Legendborn. I’m always here for a little Southern Black Girl Magic, and after seeing this book appear so often on Instagram, I knew that I had to pick it up. After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews decides to leave her childhood home and enroll at UNC Chapel Hill in a program for bright high school students. Everything seems to be going fine until Bree witnesses a magical attack her first night on campus (dang, can she catch a break?!). This one is a doozy, but WHEW, do you get sucked in.
If you have ever thought about singing “You’re the One that I Want” at karaoke, this is your next read. Once I saw that this was an LGBTQ+ novel with a Grease influence, I went and bought a copy immediately. It has everything that you could want: a summer romance that suddenly ends; the dreaded miscommunication; a core group of best friends who may or may not have your best interests at heart; and finally, a moment at the end of the novel that will make you want to sit up in bed at 3am and cheer. Oh, just me? Well then!
If you’re patiently waiting for someone to slide into your DMs, check out Tweet Cute. There are some tropes that I am a huge fan of, and one of them is enemies-to-lovers. Maybe it’s because I obsessively watched You’ve Got Mail growing up or because I thrive on the “will they/won’t they” aspect of these relationships or maybe it’s because I need to go to therapy. Who knows? Who cares! You have two restaurant competitors (and their names are Pepper and Jack, which is a great pun on its own) who duke it out with memes and retweets, but are also falling in love with each other in real life . . . AND THEY ARE NOT AWARE OF IT! Ah, we love to see it!
If you feel like you’re destined to forever be the single friend, this is the book for you. I know that we aren’t supposed to judge books by their cover, but I can’t help it: this cover is gorgeous. It’s Instagram worthy. Felix, a trans boy, has never been in love before, and he’s worried that he might be too many things to deserve it: Black, queer, and transgender. After an anonymous classmate begins to send him transphobic messages and creates a display where he deadnames (a “deadname” is the birth name given to a person before they transition and name themselves something new) Felix and posts photos of our young hero before he transitioned, Felix decides to stand up for himself and show the world exactly what he’s made of. This is a book about determining the love that you deserve, and it’s beautiful.
If you love the best-friends-falling-in-love trope, you’ll love The Henna Wars. Nishat is worried about losing her family if she comes out to them. It makes it even harder when her former childhood friend, Flávia, comes back into her life and is more beautiful than ever. When the art competition that they’re both in heats up—that’s where the henna wars come into play—it becomes harder and harder to ignore the chemistry between them. So Nishat has to make the hardest choice of her life: be who she is or lose the war—and the girl.
For fans of Becky Albertalli, especially if you have Instagram. Saorise doesn’t believe in happy endings, since her mother has early onset dementia, and this is a condition that she could one day inherit. So she swears off love, taking herself out of the game before she can even play. Then she meets Ruby, a rom-com fiend. Knowing Saorise’s distaste for romance, Ruby proposes a loophole: they’ll have one summer of cliché passion, filled with Instagram-worthy dates, and that’ll be it . . . or will it?
For fans of Elizabeth Acevedo. I’m usually not a big fan of novels in verse, but I really enjoyed this one. For such a deep book that discusses topics such as racism, drag, internalized homophobia, gender identity, and more, there are still a lot of beautiful lighthearted moments that made my own cold dead heart very happy. The reader will go on this journey with Michael of discovering himself, and by now, you should know how much I love a coming-of-age story. This book is so wonderful. Did I cry? Yes. Am I embarrassed by that? Absolutely not.
For fans of Booksmart. To call Codi a late bloomer is a bit of an understatement. She’s never been kissed. She’s never gone to a party. She spends most of her Friday nights watching Netflix with her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory. So, when she stumbles upon Ricky, a popular student, kissing another boy in the dark at a party that Maritza and JaKory begged her to go to, the two students develop the kind of bond that only two queer students could have. In exchange for keeping her mouth closed about the kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing, providing her with access to wild parties, cute girls, and so much more. The only problem? Codi keeps it a secret from the two people that matter the most. A wonderful title about self-acceptance, friendship, and becoming your own idealized version of yourself.
For fans of classical mythology, magic realism, and/or urban love stories, this book brilliantly blends all three. A Eurydice character (Eury) leaves Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, moving to the Bronx where she meets an Orpheus character (Pheus), who helps her fight the literal demons who have followed her. Both touching and thrilling, a story of grief, trauma, and first loves.
If you and your sibling have ever fought monsters with magic wands and also your smartphone, or wanted to, this book is for you. A rich epic fantasy about sibling relationships, power and violence, and Instagram.
A New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and IndieBound bestseller!
Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.
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