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30 Of The Best YA Speculative Fiction Novels Of 2020

Get ready to stock your bookshelves, because these 30 books are *chef's kiss* impeccable.

We hope you love the products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

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1. A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Tor Teen, bethanycmorrow.com

What it's about: Tavia is a siren, but since society is unkind to sirens, who are Black women, that identity is kept firmly a secret. She lives in Portland with her best friend Effie, where there are only a handful of Black folk and even fewer with powers. But in the wake a murder trial flipping on its head when it's revealed the victim may have been a siren, Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past and Tavia's magical voice makes an accidental appearance. Delving into misogynoir, mythology, and the importance of friendship, this remarkable work cements Morrow's status as a literary master.

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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2. Ashlords by Scott Reintgen

Crown, itspronouncedrankin.com

What it's about: The Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, and since them, they have raced them, culminating in the modern competition that is The Races. The horses are made of ash and alchemy, and burst into flame each sunset, meaning that at night different ashes can be mixed together to curate the ideal phoenix horse. But night is also when the riders must know how to defend their horse, since breaking bones and poisoning ashes are not just legal, but encouraged. Reintgen deftly handles three points of view (even getting me to enjoy a POV using second person) and creates a thrilling and stellar reading experience.

For another great series starter involving phoenix imagery, read Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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3. Lobizona by Romina Garber

Wednesday Books, Drew Bordeaux / Via rominagarber.com

What it's about: Manuela, or Manu, is on the run from her father's Argentine crime-family, and she's living as an undocumented immigrant in a small apartment in Miami, Florida. After her mother is arrested by ICE, Manu follows the only clue she has about her past, a mysterious "Z" emblem, which leads her to a world connected to her late father's criminal past and filled with Argentine folklore. It is a gorgeous and powerful book that I think everyone should read.

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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4. Shadowshaper Legacy by Daniel José Older

Scholastic Inc., literary-arts.org

If you haven't read Shadowshaper: Sierra Santiago discovers she is part of a supernatural order called Shadowshapers, who connect to spirits through art. But the Shadowshapers are in danger, as an anthropologist named Jonathan Wick, who learned the order's secrets from Sierra's grandfather, wants to kill the rest so he might become the ultimate Shadowshaper.

What it's about: The Shadowshapers are split apart, and Sierra is determined to protect them. The ripple effects of a deal made with Death by one of Sierra's ancestors are felt in the present-day battles, and Sierra has to confront the past in order to save the future. Every book in this series got better and better, leaving us with this truly majestic ending.

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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5. Vicious Spirits by Kat Cho

Penguin Random House, Claribel Ortega / Via katchowrites.com

If you haven't read Wicked Fox: Gu Miyoung is a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men to survive, living in Seoul. When she stumbles upon a goblin attacking a human boy, Jihoon, she rescues the boy and loses her fox bead, her gumiho soul.

What it's about: In this companion, Junu, a chonggak dokkaebi (handsome goblin), and Somin take the lead. Cho does with this book what the best companion novels do — expands on the world and the mythology, presents new characters and conflicts for the audience to care about, while still staying true to the leads and themes of the first — and the result is a book that improves on the (already excellent) first and leaves you scrambling to reread both.

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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6. Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

HarperTeen, rebeccacoffindaffer.com

What it's about: When Alyssa's uncle, the emperor, becomes gravely ill, she ends up exactly where she's always strayed from: fighting for the throne. For the first time in seven centuries, the emperor calls a crownchase, a race to find the royal seal, hidden somewhere in the empire, between representatives from each of the prime families. Alyssa, an explorer by nature, is favored to win, but the chase quicky turns deadly. Certainly one of the most thrilling and twisty books on this list, Crownchasers is a delightful gem of a space opera, and one of the best YA sci-fi books I've read in years.

If you want other great action packed science fiction, check out Skyhunter by Marie Lu

Get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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7. Half Life by Lillian Clark

lillianjclark.com

What it's about: Lucille doesn't seem to have enough hours in the day, so in the typical overachiever fashion she enrolls in an experimental clone study. But Lucy, who is supposed to be just a copy of Lucille, seems to be living Lucille's life better than she is, making Lucille question the way she views herself. Effortlessly mixing the contemporary life of Lucille (and Lucy!) with some speculative struggles, Clark's second book reaffirms that she knows how to keep you hooked.

If you want another excellent sci-fi dealing with doppelgangers, read The Art of Saving the World by Corinne Duyvis

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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8. Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuchi

Penguin Random House, Christina Orlando / Via tochionyebuchi.com

If you haven't read War Girls: In 2172, much of the Earth is unlivable, and those rich enough and lucky enough to escape have abandoned the planet for colonies in the sky. Sisters Onyii and Ify live in war-torn Nigeria, where soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs so they might be protected from the radiation-heavy climate.

What it's about: Five years after the Biafran War, Ify is a high-ranking medical officer in the Space Colonies, helping refugees rebuild their lives. Back in Nigeria, Uzo is a young synth, working to preserve memories of those lost. When a virus breaks out in the Space Colonies among children, their paths collide. Onyebuchi is a must-read author, and this duology is proof of that.

For other excellent sequels, read Spell Starter by Elsie Chapman, The Faithless Hawk by Margaret Owen, Iron Heart by Nina Varela and The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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9. Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

Flatiron Books, somaiyabooks.com

If you haven't read Mirage: Amani is a dreamer, longing for adventure while living in the brutal Vathek empire. As she and the cruel princess, who is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, look nearly identical, Amani is captured and forced to appear in public as Maram. But while Amani doesn't hate everything about the palace, or her time with the princess' fiancé, one wrong move will lead to her death.

What it's about: After Maram discovered Amani's connection to the rebellion, Amani was put into isolation, despite the fact the two seemed to be slowly developing a friendship. Daud draws on the best elements of the first book, expands the world, and peels away even more layers of both Amani and Maram, making this one of the best sequels in YA SFF.

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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10. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Margaret K. McElderry Books, thechloegong.com

What it's about: In 1926 Shanghai, the blood feud between the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers leaves the city helpless. In the center of it all are Juliette Cai, a former flapper and heir of the Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, heir of the White Flowers, and Juliette's first love. But something bigger is threatening the city as gangsters on both sides show signs of instability — ending with them clawing their own throats out. It's sensational, astounding, and absolutely brilliant.

For more excellent historical fantasy, read Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco and The Mirror: Broken Wish by Julie C Dao

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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11. A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

Penguin, sabaatahir.com

If you haven't read An Ember in the Ashes: Set in a fantasy world inspired by Ancient Rome, Ember follows characters from two different groups in the Martial Empire. Laia is a Scholar, who goes undercover as a slave at the military academy in exchange for assistance in saving her brother, who has been arrested for treason. Elias is a soldier at the academy...one who is considering deserting.

What it's about: It feels extra strange to be summarizing the fourth book in a series, especially one that has been with me through much of my book world journey, so I'm just going to say this: Sabaa Tahir is an icon, and this book hurt in all the best ways, and An Ember in the Ashes is truly one of the greatest YA series of all time.

Other incredible series conclusions that released this year include Lightbringer by Claire Legrand, Gold Wings Rising by Alex London, and Igniting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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12. Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger, illustrated by Rovina Cai

Levine Querido, darcielittlebadger.wordpress.com

What it's about: Elatsoe takes place in an America much like our own...except, the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples helped to dramatically shape it. Elatsoe lives in this world, harboring the skill to raise the ghosts of dead animals, something that has been passed down through her Lipan Apache family. After her cousin is murdered, and her town turns away, she takes it upon herself to discover what truly happened. Atmospheric and lyrical, Darcie Little Badger's debut is a gorgeous work of art.

For another speculative book with a mystery/thriller feel, check out The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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13. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A Brown

Balzer + Bray, roseanneabrown.com

What it's about: After a vengeful spirit takes Malik's younger sister, Nadia, he makes a deal to get her back. Meanwhile, Karina is reeling from the assassination of her mother, the Sultana, and the threat of mutiny from her court. But she can resurrect her mother, for a price. Both Malik and Karina plan to act around the Solstasia festival — Malik competing to get close to Karina, as he is meant to kill her, and Karina offering her hand in marriage to the winner, since she needs the beating heart of a king to bring back her mother. Epic in so many ways, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin will stab you in the feels and leave you aching for book 2.

For another excellent debut fantasy, check out The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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14. Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Emily Frazier Creative / Via marafitzgerald.com

What it's about: Emanuela, a socialite who knows how to get what she wants, lives in a world where the water is created by the Watercrea, who is able to create water from the blood of people who have these mysterious marks on their skin. If you get one of these marks, you have to turn yourself in, but until now, Emanuela has managed to keep hers hidden. When the Watercrea discovers her, the two fight and the Watercrea is killed, so Emanuela goes on the run and has to find a new way to bring water to her town. Emanuela is an extraordinarily compelling lead character who pulls you to the pages and keeps you hooked past the final page.

If you love journeys to other worlds, make sure to also check out Havenfall by Sara Holland

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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15. Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova

Disney-Hyperion, Sarah Elizabeth Younger / Via zoraidacordova.com

What it's about: When Renata was young, she was kidnapped and brought to the Andalucia palace, where she was used to carry out a siege that brought about the deaths of thousands of her own people. Though she was rescued by a group of rebel spies called the Whispers, she is unable to escape the memories of her time in the palace. When the commander of her unit, Dez, is taken captive, she must return to Andalucia. Now faced with completing his mission, Renata has to keep her cover, even when faced with a chance at vengeance against the prince. The whole book is great, but the last fourth is absolutely outstanding, so if you're obsessed with a twisty fantasy plot and multi-layered characters, this is absolutely the book for you.

For another jaw dropping ending, check out Soulswift by Megan Bannen

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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16. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Margaret K. McElderry Book, tracydeonn.com

What it's about: When Bree arrives to her residential program at UNC-Chapel Hill, she's not expecting to witness a flying demon feeding on human energies. And she's certainly not expecting a teenage mage to attempt to wipe her memory and instead unlock Bree's own magic and reveal a hidden connection between him and someone who was at the hospital the night her mother died. She decides to infiltrate the Legendborn — descendants of King Arthur and his knights — as an initiate, so that she might put the pieces together of what really happened to her mother. A majestic, epic, magical journey awaits anyone who opens Legendborn, and this is definitely one to force your friends to read along with you so you can share your feelings (because you'll have a lot when you get to the end).

For more Arthurian magic, check out Kiersten White's The Camelot Betrayal and Amy Rose Capetta & Cory McCarthy's The Sword in the Stars

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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17. The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

Erin Craig / Mary Luna / Inkyard Press, Nadine Rodler / Via alechiadow.com

What it's about: Two years ago, one-third of the population of Earth was wiped out after a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori. Ellie lives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City, where humanity's emotional expressions like art and books and music are all grounds for execution. M0Rr1S is a young Ilori commander who finds a secret library of books that Ellie keeps, and he knows he should turn her in. But as he himself is drawn to human music, he offers another idea: they work together and try and save them both. Dow's debut is a testament to hope and the power of art.

For even more aliens, check out Laura Pohl's The First 7

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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18. Rebelwing by Andrea Tang

Penguin, andreatangwrites.com

What it's about: After a routine smuggling deal goes wrong, Prudence Wu is saved by Rebelwing, a sentient cybernetic dragon. If it hadn't been for the dragon, she'd be in jail, and now it has returned to her side. With enforcers onto her, and the knowledge that Rebelwing is a weapon the government needs in a brewing war, Pru needs to learn how to pilot a dragon — and quickly. Inventive and compelling, Rebelwing is a standout sci-fi book.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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19. Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Charlie Bowater / Corina Lupp / Harpercollins, Lindsey Márton O’Brien / Via Lumina Noctis / luminanoctisart.com

What it's about: Sheetal is the daughter of a mortal father and a star mother, who returned to the sky long ago. But when a flare of starfire injures her dad, Sheetal will have to travel to the celestial court to get the help of a full star, like her mother, to heal him. And once she arrives, she must act as her family's champion in the competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens...or risk never returning to Earth. With some of the most beautiful prose YA shelves have ever seen, Star Daughter is a stunning modern fairytale.

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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20. Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston

Harpercollins, ashposton.com

What it's about: Taking place in the kingdom of Aloriya, peaceful and prosperous since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest, When Cerys, the daughter of the palace gardener, was young, she barely escaped the forest that killed her friends and her mother, for as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew cursed and dark. But the biggest threat she faces in the royal gardens is the pesky fox who won't leave her alone. That changes when a new queen, Cerys' best friend, Anwen, is crowned. Things that had been hidden in the woods emerge, and Cerys is forced on the run, alongside that pesky fox. And now it's up to the two of them, with the help of a strange and powerful bear, to find the Lady of the Wilds and save her home. With the fairy tale feel of Tangled and Sleeping Beauty, Poston's newest is a spellbinding standalone.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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21. Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro

Tor, Zoraida Córdova | zoraidacordova.com

What it's about: Xochital wants to share her heart with a kindred spirit, but she is destined to wander the desert alone with just the stars as companions. But Xo's wish unexpectedly comes true when Emilia, the cold and gorgeous daughter of the town's murderous mayor, joins her for a journey across the desert where stories come to life. I have been trying to find words that envelop my feelings for this book into a cohesive sentence, but since that could take years — this book is a stunning, incredible journey showing the ways that storytelling is an integral part of life.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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22. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Bloomsbury, kalynnbayron.com

What it's about: Two centuries ago, Cinderella found her prince. Now, teen girls have to attend the Annual Ball, where the kingdom's men select their wives. If a girl is not chosen, she's never heard from again. This is the world that Sophia lives in, though if she had a choice she'd just marry her childhood best friend, Erin. When Sophia's ball approaches, she flees to Cinderella's mausoleum, where she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella's family, and together they vow to bring down the king. Bayron has truly re-envisioned what a Cinderella inspired story can look like, and has gifted YA shelves with a dynamic, gasp-inducing tale.

Other excellent fairy tale retellings this year include Emma Theriault's Beauty and the Beast inspired Rebel Rose and Intisar Khanani's Goose Girl inspired Thorn

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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23. Girl Serpent Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Flatiron, Teresa Marie Photography / Via melissabashardoust.com

What it's about: There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. Girl, Serpent, Thorn follows Soraya, a girl cursed by a div, who has lived her life hidden in the shadows. As she decides to take her existence into her own hands, she crosses paths with a boy who seems not to fear the poison within her, and a div girl who is being kept in the dungeon. Bashardoust's Girls Made of Snow and Glass has long been a favorite, so it's no real surprise that Girl Serpent Thorn is here, and it's an absolute stunner of a sophomore novel.

For another intriguing main character dealing with a curse, read A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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24. Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McMillan

Little, Brown, Black Forest Photography / Via kellymcwilliamsauthor.com

What it's about: This dystopian novel follows Agnes, who lives in a cult called Red Creek, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet. Reckoning with what she believes is and isn't a sin, like the insulin she gets for her younger brother even though medicine is outlawed, her need to escape grows as the Prophet becomes more dangerous. But Outside, there's a viral pandemic burning through the population...Agnes at the End of the World reckons with faith, institutions, and impossible choices, and does so beautifully.

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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25. The Other Side of the Sky by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

HarperTeen, CHRISTOPHER TOVO; DISNEY PUBLISHING WORLDWIDE

What it's about: Nimh lives on the surface, the goddess of her people who is responsible for providing answers...and hope. North is a Prince of a gleaming city in the sky, held up by intricate engines and technology. When North ends up crashing to the surface, their paths intertwine, though a connection between the two can end in nothing but heartache. This excellent blend of technology and magic leads to a book that absolutely shimmers with beauty.

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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26. Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Abrams, jordanifueko.com

What it's about: Tarisai was raised in isolation by The Lady, a mysterious and often absent mother. The Lady sends Tarisai to the capital of Aritsar to compete for the chance to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince's Council of 11. Those chosen for the Council are joined through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood and something Tarisai craves. But she's been compelled to obey The Lady's wish that she kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Ifueko's debut is majestic, with absolutely remarkable worldbuilding and originality that prove she's already a master of YA fantasy.

If you need another series starter in your life, make sure to also check out Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee and Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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27. Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz

Page Street, Melanie Barbosa / Via amparoortiz.com

What it's about: Blazewrath Games follows Lana, whose biggest dream is to represent her native Puerto Rico in its first ever appearance in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament for dragons and their riders to compete. Her chance arrives when the person who is supposed to be the runner for the Puerto Rico team gets kicked off. Quickly, though, she realizes that not everything is as dreamy as it seems, because a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with a dragon in human form to take down the entire world cup. Brimming with conspiracy, athleticism, and originality, Blazewrath Games is an absolute spark of joy.

For another dragon filled fantasy, try Storm the Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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28. How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black, illustrated by Rovina Cai

Little, Brown, en.wikipedia.org

What it's about: This illustrated novella that accompanies The Cruel Prince series reads like a fairy tale collection, all centering around Cardan. From the first pages, Rovina Cai's illustrations are what leave you absolutely breathless, and Holly's words, as magical and mystical as always, ground you in the faerie world you already love. And seriously, if I could wallpaper my room with these illustrations, I would.

For another stunning companion collection, check out The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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29. Teen Titans: Beast Boy by Kami Garcia & Gabriel Picolo

DC Comics, kamigarcia.com

What it's about: After accepting a dare from the social elite at his high school, Garfield Logan grows 6 inches overnight and gains both speed and strength. On top of that, there's also the popularity that has come along with the acceptance of the Chosen Ones, but he'll have to keep impressing them with higher stakes and bigger dares. Not only that, but there's a few other changes on the horizon...For Teen Titans megafans and those new to their world (like me!), Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo's story and illustrations, respectively, make this a stellar graphic novel.

For other incredible tie-ins that released this year, read Shadow of Kyoshi by F C Yee, Faith Taking Flight by Julie Murphy, Black Canary Breaking Silence by Alexandra Monir and The Unstoppable Wasp: Built on Hope by Sam Maggs

Get it from Bookshop, Target, or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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30. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Swoon Reads, Elizabeth Stelle / Via aiden-thomas.com

What it's about: To prove himself a brujo to his traditional Latinx family, Yadriel, a transgender boy, attempts to summon the ghost of his murdered cousin to set it free. The ghost that shows up instead? Julian Diaz, the school's resident bad boy. Julian is utterly determined to find out what happened to him, and, as there's not really another choice, Yadriel agrees to help. But the longer the two boys spend together, the less Yadriel wants Julian to leave. An instant YA classic, Cemetery Boys is an absolute treasure.

For more excellent queer fantasy, make sure to also check out The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke and When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

Get it from Bookshop or from your local bookstore through Indiebound here.

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