You Don't Have to Be a Teen to Read These 16 Young-Adult BookTok Recs
If you're looking for your next five-star book recommendation, you don't even need to get up from the couch; just open TikTok. When I first started reading my way through #BookTok's favorite picks, I skipped over many of the "young adult" titles, thinking I was too old to enjoy them. I'm here to tell you now: that was a mistake. The world of YA books is deeply engaging, no matter your age.
Young-adult books are generally geared toward kids ages 12-18, but a Publisher's Weekly survey in 2012 revealed that over half of YA readers are adults — and for good reason! YA books often center on "coming of age" plots, and they're intense. Reading about teenagers navigating their way through the world and facing new challenges — whether it's their first kiss or overthrowing a dystopian government — is fun and engrossing. Ahead, you'll find 16 young-adult picks that TikTokers can't get enough of, myself included.
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
In this retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai, These Violent Delights ($15, originally $20) is filled with flappers, mob rivalries, and a monster that lurks within the depths of the Huangpu river. When 18-year-old flapper Juliette Cai returns to resume her role as the rightful heir of the Scarlet Gang, the only thing that stands in her way is the White Flowers — along with the heir to the rival gang and her first love, Roma Montagov. But when both mobs are on the brink of instability, Juliette and Roma must put their guns — and grudges — aside to stop the mayhem and save the city they both hope to rule.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe ($11, originally $15), Aristotle spends his days wandering El Paso, thinking about his brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all with an interesting way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the local swimming pool one summer, they both realize they have a special connection and learn more about each other than either of them thought possible.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
In the bustling trade hub of Kitterdam, anything can be bought for the right price — something criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker knows intimately. When Kaz is offered the chance to pull off a wild heist, he can't do it alone and must team up with a group of six outcasts to pull it off . . . as long as they don't kill each other first. If you loved Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse, Six of Crows ($8, originally $12) is a perfect pick.
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Fans of Love, Simon: Heartstopper ($17) is for you. In this graphic novel, teenagers Charlie and Nick attend the same school but have never met . . . until they're forced to sit together. What follows is a beautiful tale about love, friendship, and mental illness that encompass Charlie and Nick's lives in bigger ways than either of them realized.
Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
The princess of Kiata, Shiori'anma, is keeping a secret — she can do magic. Normally, she can conceal her powers, but on the day of her betrothal ceremony, she loses control, which catches the attention of her stepmother, who banishes her and turns her six brothers into cranes. And if Shiori tries to tell anyone the truth, her brothers will die. Drawing from East Asian folklore, Six Crimson Cranes ($16, originally $19) is perfect for Shadow and Bone fans.
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The premise of The Inheritance Games ($18) seems simple enough: Avery Grambs just wants to graduate high school with a scholarship that will take her to college far away from here. But when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies, leaving her his entire fortune, Avery is stumped: she has no idea why and doesn't even know who he is. To receive his inheritance, she must move into his sprawling mansion, filled with puzzles, codes, secret passages, and of course, the four Hawthorne grandsons, whom Tobias just dispossessed. Caught in a world of privilege and danger, Avery must play the game to survive.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Now a Netflix movie, All the Bright Places ($7, originally $11) focuses on Theodore Finch, who is fascinated by death, and Violet Markey, who can't stop living for the future. When they meet on the ledge of their school's bell tower, it's unclear which one of them saved the other. Soon, they're inseparable, but as Violet's world grows, Theodore's seems to shrink . . .
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
In The Gilded Ones ($15, originally $19), Deka just wants her blood to run red at the blood ceremony, the trial that determines whether she can become a member of her village. When her blood runs gold, the sign of impurity, a mysterious woman offers her a choice. She can either stay in the village and face a consequence worse than death, or leave for the capital to join the emperor's army filled with girls just like her. But nothing is quite what it seems . . . not even Deka herself.
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Pick up a copy of One of Us Is Lying ($11, originally $18) before you watch it on Peacock! In this Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club novel, this is what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four make it out alive. Can you solve the mystery of Simon's death before time runs out?
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Welcome to Caraval ($11, originally $19), the once-a-year, faraway performance where the audience is allowed to participate — and Scarlett has always dreamed of going. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Scarlett's sister Tella arranges for the two to see Caraval, but upon arriving, Tella is kidnapped. Turns out, the theme of this year's show revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first wins. Whether Caravel is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five days are over and she loses her sister for good.
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Step inside this grim take on a fairy tale in House of Salt and Sorrows ($17, originally $19). In a manor by the sea, 12 girls are cursed, and four of them have died under ghastly circumstances. Annaleigh believes that her sisters' deaths weren't accidents — after all, the girls have been sneaking out at night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn. But who — or what — are they dancing with? As Annaleigh tries to untangle the mystery, she must race against time before the curse claims its next victim.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
What happens when your parents are killed and you and your two sisters are whisked away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie? That's what happened to 7-year-old Jude in The Cruel Prince ($14, originally $20), who, 10 years later, wants a place in the faerie court. In order to do so, she must defy Prince Cardan, the youngest son of the High King. Is the mortal Jude willing to risk her life to save The Courts of Faerie, her sisters, and herself?
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
If you live in Fairbanks, you know the story by now: popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, just before he killed himself. For Pip, it's all she can think of — but she wants to know more about that day. She's known Sal since they were kids . . . could he really be a murderer? In A Good Girl's Guide to Murder ($9, originally $18), follow Pip through her own senior year as she tries to uncover the truth — even at the cost of her own life.
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
A Blade So Black ($14, originally $19) is an urban retelling of Alice in Wonderland. The first time the Nightmares came, Alice almost died. Now, she's trained to battle monstrous creatures in Wonderland, but in her real life, she has a curfew. In real-world Atlanta, she must juggle her overprotective mom, a slipping GPA, and her high-maintenance best friend while keeping Wonderland at bay.
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
Within the world of The Kiss of Deception ($10, originally $12), society is steeped in tradition. When Princess Lia's parents arrange to have her married off in order to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom, she flees on the morning of her wedding. As she settles into her new life in a distant village, she meets two handsome strangers — but what she doesn't know is that one of them is her jilted prince, and the other is an assassin sent to kill her.
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
You might have seen the 2019 movie starring Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton, but you have to read The Sun Is Also a Star ($13, originally $19) as a book! You'll meet Natasha, a girl living illegally in NYC, whose family is about to be deported back to Jamaica, and Daniel, a poet trying to live up to his parents' expectations. When they meet, a million new possibilities open up for them. Which outcome will they choose?