Skip To Content

    25 Great Books You May Have Missed This Year

    Whether you're just learning of these titles now or being reminded to read them, here are some books that deserve your attention!

    2021 was a great year for books, and while you may have made a huge dent in your TBR, there were a bunch of quieter releases you might have missed out on or didn't have time to check out. Whether you're just learning of them now or being reminded, here are some books that deserve your attention!

    1. Not Here To Be Liked by Michelle Quach

    A boy stares straight ahead at a girl who looks out to the reader
    Katherine Tegen Books / Via amazon.com

    Described as Emergency Contact meets Moxie, Michelle Quach's debut Not Here To Be Liked is equal parts swoony and thought-provoking, featuring an expertly orchestrated enemies-to-lovers trope, an MC who stands for what she believes in, and school newspaper drama. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    2. I Think I Love You by Auriane Desombre

    Two girls sit across from each other with laptops in front of them lighting their faces
    Underlined Paperbacks / Via amazon.com

    Emma and Sophie don't see eye to eye. Emma loves love — the bigness of it all, grand gestures, and especially rom-coms. Yet, as a bisexual teen, she doesn't feel like there's enough of those that really capture her. So when a film festival presents an opportunity to make the rom-com of her dreams, Emma can't wait to get started with her friends. That is, until, Sophie returns from Paris with the idea that rom-coms are not film festival material, and that their friend group should try to make something artistic and abstract if they want to win. But despite Sophie's reluctance, she might find she's in a rom-com herself — starring Emma.

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    3. The Girl Least Likely by Katy Loutzenhiser

    A yearbook style illustration with a faceless boy's photo heart-circled, and two grinning girls with arrows pointing to them
    Balzer + Bray / Via amazon.com

    A rich voice and a lot of self-exploration make Gretchen, aka The Girl Least Likely, a lovable character to follow as she stumbles across stand-up comedy, creating an alter ego that allows her to flirt with the funny bad boy while secretly pining for her longtime best friend, Samuel. But stand-up gives her more, too — like the ability to expand on feelings she's pushed down for a while, feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and other stuff that comes with being the youngest in her family. Full of rom-com tropes and fun stand-up routines, you won't want to miss this one.

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    4. Can't Say It Went To Plan by Gabrielle Tozer

    On a colorblock book cover, three faceless people stand or sit on text
    HarperCollins / Via goodreads.com

    Zoe, Samira, and Dahlia are done with school and ready to learn the hard way that taking trips together can really make or break a friendship or relationship. All struggling with their own personal conflicts and ideas for the future post high-school, the three girls help each other through every unexpected shift, realizing that the uncertainty of their futures is just as exciting as it is troubling. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    5. City of Shattered Light by Claire Winn

    A blonde girl with a braid, fingerless gloves and sleeveless vest holds a gun in front of a girl with cropped blue hair, standing before city lights
    Flux / Via goodreads.com

    Claire Winn's YA debut takes place in a cyberpunk setting, loaded with action and intrigue. The book follows tech heiress Asa Almeida who hopes to outrun her father's shadow and prove herself while saving her sister from his evil plans. Her destiny come to a halt when she crash lands in outlaw city, Requiem, and gets taken hostage by Riven Hawthorne, a girl determined to climb up the ranks of the underworld. But they have to work together to take on a powerful AI that threatens to destroy everything they've been working towards, including their new alliance.

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    6. House of Sticks by Ly Tran

    A baby photo of the author is placed between the text of the book title
    Scribner / Via amazon.com

    A deeply moving memoir, Ly Tran's House of Sticks details the author's tumultuous upbringing in Queens, New York, being the youngest (and only girl) in a family of four born to immigrant parents, helping her mom at the nail salon they eventually owned, her father's odd resistance to her getting glasses, her complicated college journey, and the love that helped her find the light again. Full of heart and forgiveness, this book will stay with you for a long time.

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    7. Can't Take That Away by Steven Salvatore

    A freckled redhead boy holds a microphone
    Bloomsbury / Via amazon.com

    In this heart-wrenching debut from Steven Salvatore, a genderqueer teen fights for their right to be who they want to be. Cary is an aspiring diva who's constantly being put down by others who refuse to let them follow their dreams. When Cary finds a friend, ally and maybe something more in singer/guitarist Cris, they gain some strength in getting closer to their dreams. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    8. Wider Than The Sky by Katherine Rothschild

    A house stands next to the Golden Gate bridge, a sunset sky behind it
    Soho Teen / Via amazon.com

    In this complex and eye-opening novel, twin sisters Sabina and Blythe mourn the unexpected loss of their dad, moving into a beat-up mansion in the Bay Area owned by a stranger who only showed up when their dad was dying. Their grieving processes are different, but what they find out about their parents' secret pasts brings them together. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    9. Pipe Dreams: The Urgent Global Quest to Transform the Toilet by Chelsea Wald

    A toilet with a wooden back blooms flowers out of its bowl
    Simon & Schuster / Via simonandschuster.com

    In this heavily researched and entertaining book, author and science journalist Chelsea Wald deep dives into something we've been taking for granted: the toilet. How it operates in our modern society, the intricacies of sanitation systems in place, their impact on the environment, and the future of plumbing are all explored in Pipe Dreams, a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about the ways everyday living affects climate change. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    10. Nightwatch on the Hinterlands by K. Eason

    A mess of red wires twist over each other on a black background
    Penguin Random House / Via amazon.com

    Combining sci-fi and mystery, this novel about an unlikely pair teaming up to investigate a curious murder case is entrancing in more ways than one. With complex worldbuilding, Eason creates a delicately woven yet easy to navigate reality where humans don't take the main stage, with two aliens leading the show as the main characters working together to solve the dark mysterious murder. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    11. Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay

    Two girls stand with their backs against a tree, opposite each other, frowns on their faces
    Hachette Book Group / Via amazon.com

    A complicated family gets even more complicated in this heartfelt novel that finds estranged cousins Becka and KJ forced to go on a bucket-list style road trip and adventure together in order to get their late grandpa's inheritance. In their exploration, they get past the surface and learn more about each other and their family than they bargained for, ending their journey closer to each other in more ways than one. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    12. A Convenient Christmas by Jody Holford

    A girl holds a christmas tree which covers her face, next to a scottish terrier in front of a christmas decorated cabin
    Jody Holford / Via goodreads.com

    Abigail Smith is the queen of Christmas — she loves it so much, she made it her job to make everyone else's holidays special with her professional tree-trimming, decorating business. Even the Scroogiest of people, like Finn Edenbury, can't resist her charms, though he does try. When the divorced dad realizes he is spending the holidays with his daughter after thinking he'd be alone, he needs Abby to help turn his daughter's holiday around. And they both find themselves wanting something unexpected for Christmas...

    Get it from Amazon.

    13. Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea by Ashley Herring Blake

    Two young girls look out at the sea and a house in the distance
    Little, Brown Books For Young Readers / Via goodreads.com

    This touching and beautiful middle grade novel follows a family on the heels of a tragic loss. Hazel Bly is anxious and grieving for her late mother. Together, Hazel and her other mother, Mama, and her sister Peach move around, never staying anywhere too long, until one town in Maine brings an old friend back into Mama's life with a daughter Hazel's age who introduces her to a magic she'd never believed in before, but she wants to believe in now. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    14. The Most Fun Thing: Dispatches From A Skateboard Life by Kyle Beachy

    A black and white photo of a broken skateboard
    Grand Central Publishing / Via goodreads.com

    In this memoir told through essays, creative writing professor and skateboarder Kyle Beachy lends time to a lesser-explored sport and pastime in literature: skating. A sport and hobby that many find in youth, that becomes all-consuming, and that only some carry into adulthood is certainly worth writing about and worth reading about. Beachy writes about the culture, the exploitation of it in fashion, and the love of it all. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    15. Vampires, Hearts, & Other Dead Things by Margie Fuston

    A girl in a dress leans against a wall near a graveyard
    Margaret K. McElderry Books / Via amazon.com

    Love makes you do crazy things. Sometimes those things are traveling to New Orleans with your former best friend in search of a vampire and completing various tasks including singing with a band and scarfing down beignets in order to prove yourself a worthy candidate to be immortal, all so you can turn into a vampire and save your dad who's dying of cancer. Well, at least this is true if you're Victoria, the MC of Vampires, Hearts & Other Dead Things, an unforgettable book ripe with grief, hope, and healing. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    16. Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

    A girl stands before lanterns, holding herself as waves seem to overtake her body
    Penguin Random House / Via Twitter: @zenaldehyde

    Broke, unemployed and still not out to her parents, Jess has to live with her parents post-Harvard graduation. But her father is sick and they're going back to Malaysia, and she's coming with them, leaving her secret girlfriend behind. Alone, she starts hearing a voice that belongs to her grandmother, a now deceased once powerful medium who needs Jess's help to cross over. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    17. Punch Me Up To The Gods by Brian Broome

    A photo of the author as a young boy and the text of the title in block letters
    University of Queensland Press / Via amazon.com

    Brian Broome's debut memoir is often funny, often sad, sometimes relatable and always cleverly written, rich in voice. The memoir finds the author reminiscing on growing up gay and Black in Ohio in the '90s, when it was hard to be himself, and all the messes he found himself in along the way.

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    18. Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

    A black girl with large hoop earrings looks down, her head is filled with leaves
    Macmillan / Via amazon.com

    While short in length, this novella is rich in worldbuilding, imagining a heroine in an Afrofuturist Ghana who is haunted by Death. With only a fox as her companion, Sankofa, who forgot her old name, walks the land in search of an object she remembers that gave itself over to her, careful as not to just take someone down with a look — that's all it takes. Her search for answers leads her down different paths of thinking as she considers who she's meant to be.

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    19. Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth

    A girl stands with a pensive look, in a school uniform holding books
    Walker Books / Via amazon.com

    Aideen doesn't want to face her own problems: her mother's drinking, her issues with her best friend, her anxiety. So when she's approached to help overachieving student Meabh fix her problem, she welcomes the distraction. Soon, a chain of favors is underway, getting Aideen and her newfound friends and peers into a variety of messes. And the feelings bubbling up between Aideen and Meabh are hard to ignore. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    20. Tidesong by Wendy Xu

    A young girl stands on rocks in the middle of a wave-filled ocean with a mermaid tail peeking out
    Quill Tree Books / Via amazon.com

    This Studio Ghibli-reminiscent graphic novel is heartwarming and full of adventure, following Sophie, a young witch who is forced to stay with relatives she isn't close to so she can hone in on her magic skills and strengthen her chances of getting into the Royal Magic Academy. But when she arrives, she finds she's more alone than before, practicing magic by herself and getting herself and others into messes that aren't easy to get out of. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    21. Cool For The Summer by Dahlia Adler

    A girl with a bob wears heart-shaped sunglasses, a girl with long dark hair is reflected in one lens while a boy in a varsity jacket is reflected in the other
    Wednesday Books / Via amazon.com

    There are too many queer Grease-inspired books, said no one ever. Dahlia Adler's Cool For The Summer is a masterful exploration of the ups and downs of discovering new feelings and new love when you're not even sure what you're looking for. Lara starts senior year with a Jasmine-shaped pit in her stomach after a curious summer with a dark and mysterious girl, but her longtime crush, football star Chase Harding, is trying to keep her occupied. When the girl she was never supposed to see again shows up at her school, things get complicated.

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    22. The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood

    In front of the Golden Gate bridge a Muslim woman in an American flag hijab stands back to back with a man eating ice cream
    Doubleday Books / Via amazon.com

    With wit and dry humor, Syed M. Masood tells a story of two very different Muslim people who move to California from their respective countries under very different circumstances. Anvar is jaded by his perception of religion, feeling left out, while Safwa has been dealing with unimaginable grief, holding onto faith. In spite of their differing circumstances, the two find themselves living in the same building that offers a "good Muslim discount." Taking place over the '90s and 2000s, the book shows how their lives intertwine in a deeply layered depiction of being a Muslim in America at a turning point in time.

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    23. Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

    In light blue over a dark blue background, silhouettes of flowers and leaves glow
    Merky Books / Via amazon.com

    Haunting and harrowing, this fantasy novel follows a young mother forced to flee the only life she's known in search of a better future for herself and her children, away from her abusive husband and the cult she grew up in. Rich with historical references to America's damning culture, Sorrowland is an engulfing read that you won't be able to get out of your head. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    24. XOXO by Axie Oh

    A girl and boy hold each other in sunset filled alleyway in Seoul
    HarperCollins / Via amazon.com

    A chance meeting in a California karaoke bar, mysteriously unanswered texts, an unexpected reunion in Seoul, a major K-pop group, and a forbidden romance are just a few of the main elements in Axie Oh's delightful and dreamy XOXO. There's also the beauty in new friendships, the journey of finding yourself and your passion, and navigating complicated family dynamics — and so much more. 

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.

    25. It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland

    Four teens sit on bleachers awash in purple light
    Feiwel + Friends / Via amazon.com

    Full of life lessons and universal truths about the art of growing up, It Goes Like This is a lively debut from Miel Moreland. Moonlight Overthrow hasn't been a band in years. The once-larger than life queer pop quartet has dissolved, each member doing their own thing: reckoning with their new identities and supporting their families, having public and messy breakups, venturing into the quieter world of songwriting...but when the opportunity to reunite in support of a charity show for their hometown presents itself, they don't pass it up, no matter how complicated things might get.

    Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie via Indiebound here.