5 New YA Contemporary Books To Read

If I am in the mood to read something that I will find instantly absorbing or interesting, I pick up a young adult contemporary book. We are in a time of abundance and quality. Seriously, there are so many great young adult contemporary books coming out and already released that the challenge is really in picking one out – decision paralysis right. These five books below are diverse, immensely readable, thoughtful and HIGHLY recommended.

Little Universes by Heather Demetrios

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Little Universes by Heather Demetrios is an emotionally heavy book. There is so much going on that it actually does merit its almost 500 pages. Although Little Universes was not my favorite of the books I’ve read by Demetrios, it was an incredible read regardless.

Little Universes is about two sisters – Mae and Hannah. The sisters lose their parents to a tsunami in Malaysia and move from California to Boston. The story is an exploration of grief. It also is an exploration of the bond between sisters. Of course, that bond gets put to the test.

Mae is brilliant and wants to be an astronaut. She also is a little bit socially awkward. Hannah is very spiritual and intuitive. She also has a drug problem which is exacerbated by a difficult life experience previous to the tsunami. Ultimately, this book is about how both girls come through the other side of such tragedy. It does not paint a pretty picture but really depicts the struggle as well as plumbs the emotions.

Overall, I loved the exploration of the bond between Mae and Hannah – and how unique it was. I liked that there was romance in this book but that it was not the focus. Also, there’s parts where we get to see that maybe all was not perfect with their parents. Truly, both girls grow up quickly in this book. However, I’ll admit that there were parts of this book that just dragged for me. I think maybe my frame of mind just wasn’t right at the time. Regardless, if you want a book that actually goes really in depth and explores emotion on more than just a surface level -  Little Universes is ideal.


Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

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I wasn’t expecting to love Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen quite as much as I did. I thought it would be light, scandalous fun reading. FYI, I tend to really enjoy those sorts of books regardless. However, everything about this book just hit perfectly. It was the perfect book at the perfect time – for once.

Loveboat, Taipei is about Ever Wong, a girl from Ohio who loves dancing right down to her bones. Only, her parents want her to go to medical school and fulfill the life they have been work and sacrificing for her to have. Her parents then force her to go to a cultural program in Taipei for her last summer before college. Ever dreads this, until she learns it is essentially going to be a summer of freedom with no parental oversight.

There’s romance – a love triangle but not annoying. Ever also learns she can’t give up on her passion for dancing. She makes new friends. Ever comes to terms with her heritage and takes pride in where she comes from. It’s a summer of hook ups, drinking, sneaking out and so much more. This book goes down easy – at the same time having an excellent message. I really adored Loveboat, Taipei and only regret not reading it sooner.


Lucky Caller by Emma Mills

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I really just inhale the books that Emma Mills writes. Lucky Caller is the latest by Mills, and I flew right through it. I’ll admit that it wasn’t my favorite of all her books. However, it still is a compelling and engaging read.

Lucky Caller is about Nina who is a high school senior. She leaves in the Eastman apartment building with her mother and two siblings Sidney and Rose. Nina is fairly average. She does okay in school. When she was a kid, she was best friends with another kid in her building, Jamie. Now that they are nearly grown, Nina and Jamie are not friends anymore. Alas, Nina and Jamie get thrown together in a group for radio broadcast class. That group is comprised of completely different people, but that’s not a bad thing.

On the whole, I did find it somewhat hard to relate to Nina. She’s a classic middle child and I am a classic oldest in the birth order. Nina has like one friend too. Her family is a delight though – I especially liked her soon to be stepdad, Dan. Overall, this is a really engaging book. Just it did not leave me with the same OMG OMG OMG I LOVE THIS feelings like the rest of her books, and that’s okay. It’s still head and shoulders above many other things I read.


Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti

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Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti is a young adult book that takes on the male gaze. It delves into what it is like to be under that gaze as a young girl. This book explores both desire and objectification. I believe that Girl, Unframed is an important book — even though maybe it just didn’t quite hit or land as much for me. That’s fine though, I am not quite the target of this book. I do think that themes within will truly resonate for the book’s intended audience.

Caletti’s latest follows Sydney Reilly who is going to San Francisco for the summer to stay with her actress mother, Lila Shore. Lila lives in this beautiful mansion with her current boyfriend, a shady art dealer named Jake. Sydney feels all these gazes on her and keeps alluding to this event that honestly we don’t unravel or get to until the very end of the book. There’s a bit of a romance too. The best part though is the dog Max. It made me want to get a dog after reading.

I think reading this as a parent, I just was flabbergasted at how so many adults kept failing Sydney. I am glad that she did have a few people she could trust. Still, her mother has always been an object and in turn, treats Sydney like an object. The men are pretty much trash in this book. There’s street harassment. It’s just, I don’t know, frustrating to see her mom not give much of a crap and then turn herself into a child and make Sydney take on a parentified role. Obviously this is fiction and it would be boring if Lila was perfect. Just yeah, a tough read.

Girl, Unframed is a great book for budding feminists to read. Particularly as they go into theory on privilege and the male gaze. I think this book has relevance to the Me Too conversation. It’s a fast and compelling read. I do recommend it – even if it wasn’t the ideal read for me at the moment. Also, I recognize that this book has so many merits and strengths and really lends well to discussion.


Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao

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I think I will eagerly await each new release from Gloria Chao. Her books are emotional as well as character driven with solid plotting. Our Wayward Fate is her second book and I tore through it just as fast as I did American Panda. It was a solid book to pick finish off during the readathon, and honestly one I’d recommend you grab for to read the whole thing during readathon.

Our Wayward Fate is about Ali who lives in Indiana with her parents and is surrounded by white people who are lowkey racist – but think they are well meaning. Ali’s life is shaken up when a new boy moves to her town – Chase Yu. He calls his classmates on their bullshit. Also? He’s a great sparring partner in Ali’s kung fu class. The attraction is undeniable. However, Ali’s mother is dead set against them dating. Ali has no idea why though, her family doesn’t really communicate. Interwoven with Ali’s story is that of the Butterfly Lovers. There’s also a trip to Shanghai.

Chao’s book is a quick read that really had me feeling different emotions. I was very invested in the romance between Chase and Ali. Also, I was invested in the family dynamic – not just with Ali but another character who shows up later. I couldn’t figure out everything ahead of time and was actually appreciative of that fact. Read this book if you can’t resist a deep dive into character as well as a commentary on microaggressions and how much they suck and can hurt others. Also – for a brief love letter to Chicago.


If I am in the mood to read something that I will find instantly absorbing or interesting, I pick up a young adult contemporary book. Check these 5 out.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

Comments

  1. YA contemporary isn’t usually my thing but I’ve heard great things about Loveboat, Taipei!

  2. YA contemp has been my go-to this year, along with romance. Can’t imagine why!!! Haha. Lucky Caller wasn’t my fave Emma Mills either but I really enjoyed it and will read absolutely anything she writes. I loved Gloria Chao’s first book, will have to check out this new one 🙂
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  1. […] a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao Also by this author: Our Wayward Fate Published by Simon and Schuster on November 10, 2020 Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Romantic […]

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