Book Recommendations

2021 Most Anticipated Book Releases — YA Contemporary Edition

Hi hello, friends!

I’m back, as promised, with a new post in my 2021 Most Anticipated Book Releases series. The first two posts in this series delved deep into the world of science-fiction and fantasy which promised stunningly original debuts vying for space alongside exciting and long-awaited new works from beloved authors (in case you’ve missed those lists, you can find them here and here!). But if contemporary fiction is more your jam, well, this post is for you!

Next year’s buzziest YA contemporary releases include: a new Angie Thomas novel that takes place before the events of NYT bestseller The Hate U Give, a lesbian love story set in the afterlife, a trans boy vying for the title of Homecoming King against his ex-boyfriend, a cello prodigy falling into a whirlwind secret romance with a K-pop idol, lots of fake-dating shenanigans… and so many others that you should add to your TBR, pre-order, and shout about from the rooftops!

Below are 60-something titles that have been getting high ratings and positive reviews from readers. So, read on, and click the titles to add the books that snag your attention to your Goodreads want-to-read shelf!

N.B. There’s a little rainbow flag emoji next to books with LGBTQ+ representation. Books are in order of publication date.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite

Release date: January 5


“When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered.”

Roman and Jewel by Dana L. Davis

Release date: January 5


If Romeo and Juliet got the Hamilton treatment…who would play the leads?” The story follows “the stars of a hip-hopera Broadway musical that is a fantastical re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet“.

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Release date: January 5

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“Happily Ever Afters is about a creative writing student who gets writers block, so she decides to make her own life into one of the love stories she used to write. Unsurprisingly, it does not go according to plan.”

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: January 5


Project Runway goes to Comic Con in an epic queer love story about creativity, passion, and finding the courage to be your most authentic self.”

Concrete Rose (The Hate U Give #0) by Angie Thomas

Release date: January 12


“International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.”

The Meet-Cute Project by Rhiannon Richardson

Release date: January 12

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“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets Save the Date in this sweet and hijinks-filled rom-com about a teen girl who will do whatever it takes to find a date for her sister’s wedding.”

Wider Than the Sky by Katherine Field Rothschild 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: January 19


“In the wake of sudden tragedy, a pair of twin sisters uncovers a secret that rips open their world. Katherine Rothchild explores the pain and power of forgiveness in a stunning debut novel that will shatter your heart and piece it back together, one truth at a time.”

Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson

Release date: February 2


“When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . .”

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Release date: February 2

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“Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard. Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.”

The Project by Courtney Summers

Release date: February 2


“The book follows two sisters after the death of their parents: Lo is in the care of her great aunt, while Bea joins the Unity Project, a community in Upstate New York that bears a striking resemblance to a full-blown cult. While the Unity Project has won over the hearts and minds of many, Bea sets out to prove that there’s something more sinister going on.”

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

Release date: February 9

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When Dimple Met Rishi meets Ugly Delicious in this funny, smart romantic comedy, in which two Vietnamese-American teens fall in love and must navigate their newfound relationship amid their families’ age-old feud about their competing, neighboring restaurants.”

As Far as You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: February 9

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“A heartfelt coming-of-age story about finding the people who become your home,” As Far as You’ll Take me follows “Marty [who] arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.”

We Are the Ashes, We are the Fire by Joy McCullough

Release date: February 9

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“A new contemporary YA novel in prose and verse about a girl struggling with guilt and a desire for revenge after her sister’s rapist escapes with no prison time.”

Like Home by Louisa Onomé

Release date: February 23


“Fans of Netflix’s On My Block, In the Heights, and readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Ibi Zoboi will love this debut novel about a girl whose life is turned upside down after one local act of vandalism throws her relationships and even her neighborhood into turmoil.”

The Initial Insult (The Initial Insult #1) by Mindy McGinnis

Release date: February 23


“Welcome to Amontillado, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept for a price. And when it comes to revenge? Well, Tress will claim it, brick by brick.”

Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira

Release date: March 2

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A Latinx romcom set in Miami, described as “Jenny Han meets Jane the Virgin.”

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Release date: March 2

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“Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.”

I Think I Love You by Auriane Desombre 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: March 2


“A YA contemporary rom com about two girls who start as rivals but after a twist of events, end up falling for one another–at least they think so.”

Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: March 2

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“For fans of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, this is a riveting and irresistible take on love, life, and identity — both online and off.” It follows the story of Cece, a bisexual media influencer, who was #relationshipgoals with her girlfriend up until her girlfriend broke up with her. “Things get even messier when CeCe meets Josh, a new boy in town who is very much Not Online.”

Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: March 9

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“Steven Salvatore’s debut Can’t Take That Away is about Carey Parker, a genderqueer teen who dreams of being a diva like their hero Mariah Carey. When they are cast as the female lead in the school musical, they must fight against discrimination and injustice from their closed-minded school administration.”

Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: March 9


“In Sophie Gonzales’ Perfect on Paper, Leah on the Offbeat meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: a bisexual girl who gives anonymous love advice to her classmates is hired by the hot guy to help him get his ex back.”

Bruised by Tanya Boteju 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: March 23

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Whip It meets We Are Okay in this vibrant coming-of-age story, about a teen girl navigates first love, identity, and grief when she immerses herself in the colorful, brutal, beautiful world of roller derby.”

She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: March 30


“Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, this sexy psychological thriller explores the intersections of love, art, power and violence. “

Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Khan 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: April 6


“Zara’s family has waited years for their visa process to be finalized so that they can officially become US citizens. But it only takes one moment for that dream to come crashing down around them.”

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

Release date: April 6

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I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter meets Emergency Contact in this stunning story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong.”

The Sky Blues by Robbie Couch 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: April 6

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“Sky’s small town turns absolutely claustrophobic when his secret promposal plans get leaked to the entire school in this witty, heartfelt, and ultimately hopeful debut novel for fans of What if it’s Us? and I Wish You All the Best.”

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris

Release date: April 6

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Dear Martin meets They Both Die at the End in this gripping, evocative novel about a Black teen who has the power to see into the future, whose life turns upside down when he foresees his younger brother’s imminent death, from the acclaimed author of SLAY.”

Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: April 13


“Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life.”

The Key to You and Me by Jaye Robin Brown 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: April 20

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“Piper Kitts is spending the summer living with her grandmother, training at the barn of a former Olympic horseback rider, and trying to get over her ex-girlfriend. Much to Piper’s dismay, her grandmother is making her face her fear of driving head-on by taking lessons from a girl in town.”

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: April 20


“Contrary to popular belief, best friends Kate Garfield and Anderson Walker are not codependent. Carpooling to and from theater rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.”

She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: April 20

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“After losing spectacularly to her ex-girlfriend in their first game since their break up, Scottie Zajac gets into a fender bender with the worst possible person: her nemesis, the incredibly beautiful and incredibly mean Irene Abraham. Things only get worse when their nosey, do-gooder moms get involved and the girls are forced to carpool together until Irene’s car gets out of the shop.”

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: May 4

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“A sunshiney, summer romcom about a trans boy, a blog, and the fake relationship he stages to save it.”

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

Release date: May 4

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A YA romance that “stars Quinn, a teen who loses her journal and is blackmailed into facing a to-do list of her greatest fears—or risk having her journal exposed on social media. Through facing the blackmailer’s to-do list, Quinn unexpectedly finds the courage to change the way she’s living her life, and somehow, to fall in love along the way.”

Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan

Release date: May 4


“In this sparkling and romantic YA debut, a reserved Bangladeshi teenager has twenty-eight days to make the biggest decision of her life after agreeing to fake date her school’s resident bad boy.”

The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk

Release date: May 11

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“The story features a 16-year-old boy ballerina whose life-changing injury thrusts her back into the halls of a normal high school. As she navigates a world without her passion, she discovers friendship and romance, and finally confronts the discrimination in the dance industry that she tried hard to ignore.”

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: May 11


“Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl?”

It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: May 18

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“In Miel Moreland’s heartfelt young adult debut, It Goes Like This, four queer teens realize that sometimes you have to risk hitting repeat on heartbreak.”

May the Best Man Win by Z.R. Ellor 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: May 18


“A trans boy enters a throw-down battle for the title of Homecoming King with the boy he dumped last summer in ZR Ellor’s contemporary YA debut.”

Made in Korea by Sarah Suk

Release date: May 18


Frankly in Love meets Shark Tank in this feel-good romantic comedy about two entrepreneurial Korean American teens who butt heads—and maybe fall in love—while running competing Korean beauty businesses at their high school.”

Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey

Release date: May 18

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“Inspired by You’ve Got Mail, the debut YA follows a teenage girl who tries to save her family’s indie bookstore by taking down the flashier bookstore that moved in across the street—and the cute boy who works there.”

The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim

Release date: May 18

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“To cure her post–senior year slump, Noreen follows her mother to India. And when the Mirza girls are in Delhi, Bollywood celebrities, karaoke parties, and adventures are sure to follow. Oh, and family scandals.”

Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: May 18

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“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.”

Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: May 25

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“Aideen is a fixer. I mean, she has plenty of her own problems she can’t solve, but her knack for traded favors and ill-advised hijinks does her classmates well. And that sudden, unexpected chance at falling in love? Well…”

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: May 25

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“Two teens start a fake dating scheme, one to become head girl, the other to convince her friends she really is bisexual.”

Jay’s Gay Agenda (Jay’s Gay Agenda #1) by Jason June 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 1

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“Before Jay moved to Seattle, being the only out gay kid in town led to the creation of his own Gay Agenda. But now, as he crosses items off his list, he finds himself torn because love never acts according to plan.”

The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 1

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The Ghosts We Keep is the story of Liam Cooper who is a trans kid still trying to figure things out. So they’re still in the closet, but mostly because that’s where they’re most comfortable right now. They have a crush on their best friend Joel, and they’re desperately hoping that something will come of it and they’re trying to get the nerve to ask Joel out. Things come crashing to a halt when Liam’s twin brother is killed though. Suddenly Liam sees their brother’s face in the mirror, and they have to contend with being half of a whole.

The (Un)Popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 1

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A YA gay political romance with a trans protagonist,” compared to Red, White & Royal Blue.

Never Kiss Your Roommate by Philline Harms 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 1


“Welcome to Seven Hills, the world’s most exclusive boarding school where only the best and brightest roam the hallowed halls. Being committed to your studies, service, and community doesn’t mean that you can’t break the rules now and again, right?”

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Release date: June 1

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“A wedding harpist disillusioned with love and a hopeless romantic cater-waiter flirt and fight their way through a summer of weddings in this effervescent romantic comedy from the acclaimed author of Today Tonight Tomorrow.”

Trouble Girls by Julia Lynn Rubin 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 1

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“When Trixie picks up her best friend Lux for their weekend getaway, they’re looking to forget the despair of being trapped in their dead-end rustbelt town. But a single night of violence derails their trip, and the girls’ go from ordinary high schoolers to wanted fugitives.”

Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 8

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“When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind. That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.”

The Sea Is Salt and So Am I by Cassandra Hartt 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 8


“In the wake of the town’s latest devastating storm, Tommy goes out for a swim that he doesn’t intend to survive. It’s his unexpected return that sets into motion a sea change between three teens. One that tests old loyalties, sparks new romance, and uncovers painful secrets. And nothing stays secret in West Finch for long.”

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 10

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“An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light.”

Afterlove by Tanya Byrne 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 10

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“A YA lesbian love story set in the afterlife.”

Indestructible Object by Mary McCoy 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: June 15


“Perfect for fans of What If It’s Us and Mary H. K. Choi, this stunning coming-of-age novel from Printz Honor author Mary McCoy follows a Memphis teen whose quest to uncover the secrets of love reveals new truths about herself.”

Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: July 6

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“Toni is grieving the loss of her father and she’s desperate to get back to loving music. Olivia is a hopeless romantic whose heart has just taken a beating (again) — but the Farmland Music and Arts Festival is a chance to find a place where she fits. The two collide and it feels like something like kismet when a bond begins to form. But when something goes wrong and the festival is sent into a panic, Olivia and Toni will find that they need each other (and music) more than they ever imagined.”

The Mythic Koda Rose by Jennifer Nissley 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: July 13


“In the spirit of Nina LaCour and Adam Silvera, this offbeat and romantic debut novel follows a teen girl whose desire to find out more about her late rock star father brings her closer to the last person she expected.”

XOXO by Axie Oh

Release date: July 13

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“The YA rom-com follows a Korean-American cello prodigy who spends part of her junior year at an elite music academy in Seoul, where she falls into a whirlwind secret romance with the lead singer of K-pop’s biggest boy band.”

Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin 🏳️‍🌈

Release date: August

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“Teen lesbian Mara joins her rural high school’s football team, and in doing so inspires four more girls to join, upending the boys’ club culture and sparking a mini-revolution.”

How We Fall Apart (How We Fall Apart #1) by Katie Zhao

Release date: August 3

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“In a YA thriller that is Crazy Rich Asians meets One of Us is Lying, students at an elite prep school are forced to confront their secrets when their ex-best friend turns up dead and they’re the prime suspects in her murder.”

Dangerous Play by Emma Kress

Release date: August 3

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“… about a girl’s field hockey team that uncovers rape culture at their school and channels their anger into vigilante justice after one of their captains is sexually assaulted.”

Like A Love Song by Gabriela Martins

Release date: August 3

Cover: Yet to be Revealed

“This debut paperback original romance follows a Latina teen pop star whose image takes a dive after a messy public breakup, until she’s set up with a swoon-worthy fake boyfriend.”

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Release date: August 10


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.”

And voilà! If you didn’t catch a glimpse of YOUR most anticipated YA contemporary novel(s) of next year, let me know and I’ll add it! Hope this list helps you find your way to a new favorite story, and make sure to keep an eye out for a post about Adult Contemporary releases of 2021 coming very soon!

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4 thoughts on “2021 Most Anticipated Book Releases — YA Contemporary Edition

  1. There’s so many I have on my list too 😍 and I love all those illustrated covers I just think it’s super pretty!! And I had the chance to read Fat Chance Charlie Vega in advance and it is just so good I hope you’ll like it too!


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