13 Spectacular Young Adult Books From Independent Publishers

Don't miss these great YA books from indie presses and self-published authors.

1. Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (Duet Books/Interlude Press, 2016)

Duet Books / Via cb-lee.com, Caroline Tran / Via cb-lee.com

Kicking off a joyful and inclusive superhero series, Not Your Sidekick stars Jessica Tran, a girl who wants nothing more than to have inherited her parents' powers, to no avail. What she does have, at least, is a killer internship that'll put her in the same office as her crush Abby. Sure, the job is for a supervillain, and sure, she stumbles into a sinister and dangerous plot, but at least it'll look good on her college apps, right? (For more great speculative YA fiction from Interlude, check out The Seafarer's Kiss by Julia Ember and The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic by F.T. Lukens!)

Buy it from Bookshop, Target, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

2. When the Truth Unravels by RuthAnne Snow (Sky Pony Press, 2019)

Sky Pony / Via simonandschuster.com, Erin Summerill / Via ruthannesnow.com

Only Elin's best friends know about her suicide attempt a month earlier, and they're determined to help her get past it with the perfect prom. Then Elin disappears, leaving Jenna, Rosie, and Ket to figure out where she's gone and why — all amid their own messy dramas. On the surface, this falls into the delightful subgenre of "mean girl YA," but Snow turns it into something rare and special with open discussions about mental health and illness and friendships that truly evolve into something special. (For more gems out of Sky Pony, try Tara Sim's queer alt-history fantasy Timekeeper trilogy and Brianna Shrum's fun and messy romance, Kissing Ezra Holtz (and Other Things I Did for Science). )

Buy it from Bookshop, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

3. Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve (Seven Stories Press, 2019)

Seven Stories Press / Via sevenstories.com, Micah Brown / Via halschrieve.com

Longlisted for the National Book Award, this unique and nuanced paranormal YA features the dual perspectives of genderqueer 14-year-old Z, who's emerged from a car crash as a zombie, and an "unregistered" lesbian werewolf Aysel. The two find themselves in an unexpected friendship, binding together two loners in a town where everyone would be happier if they simply disappeared. Things only get worse for them when a murder victim turns up — but can they prove their innocence to people who've already deemed them guilty by virtue of just being who they are?

Buy it from Bookshop, Target, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

4. How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters (Duet Books / Interlude Press, 2019)

Duet, julianwinters.com

This warmhearted contemporary stars sweet, popular, out-and-proud Remy, who seems to be crushing it at high school but is internally riddled with self-doubt. It's certainly not easy being a gay adopted Black teen boy in a world obsessed with identity and labels, and when he has to write an essay about that, it's the beginning of a self-reflective journey that'll have him looking for answers in unexpected places. (Winters also has a great new title with this publisher — don't miss out on The Summer of Everything.)

Buy it from Bookshop, Target, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

5. Tinfoil Crowns by Erin Jones (Flux Books, 2019)

Flux, Twitter: @jonese9

Somehow still one of the few YA books diving into teens finding social media fame, this debut stars Fit, a vlogger whose career is on the verge of blowing up thanks to her new agent. But fame is the last thing Fit and her little brother need, because getting in the spotlight means dragging up their family's horrific past — and a reconciliation they're not ready for may be the only way to move forward. (For some more innovative and heartwrenching Flux books, check out Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass and Brave Enough by Kati Gardner.)

Buy it from Bookshop, Target, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

6. By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery (Page Street Kids, 2019)

Page Street Publishing / Via candicemontgomery.com, Kay Barth Photography / Via candicemontgomery.com

Killer voice and a much-welcome college setting kick off this contemporary about a beekeeping (!) freshman boy named Torrey who's finally embarking on his future — only to have to potentially give it up to protect his apiary. It's no small thing for Torrey to leave college behind — not when he's found a great new group of friends and even a potential boyfriend. And it isn't as if home is all that welcoming, either. But in the fight between maintaining his uncle's legacy and forging his own unique path, which will he choose? (For another queer Page Street romance exploring cultural issues, try The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar.)

Buy it from Bookshop, Target, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

7. Reclaimed by Sarah Guillory (Spencer Hill Press, 2013)

Spencer Hill Press / Via spencerhillpress.com, Via sarahguillory.com

Jenna can't get out of small-town Arkansas fast enough, but if she has to stick around for senior year, at least there are a couple of compelling new boys to make life more interesting. Not that Jenna has time for boys, but somehow it's just impossible to stay away from the McAlister twins. And it isn't so easy to choose between them, either, especially after everything they've gone through. Think you might know where this is going? You don't, because nothing about this lovely, twisted, deep South debut is what you think it's going to be — and that's so much of the fun. (For other gems out of Spencer Hill Press, check out hilarious romantic fantasy Between by Megan Whitmer, touching mental health contemporary Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke, or sweet and sporty Play On by Michelle Smith.)

Buy it from Bookshop, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

8. The Undoing of Thistle Tate by Katelyn Detweiler (Holiday House, 2019)

Margaret Ferguson Books / Via holidayhouse.com, Via katelyndetweiler.com

Thistle Tate is living the dream, famed for being the author of a hugely popular book series about to embark on its final volume. But Thistle's also living a nightmare, because she's not the real author of those books — her father is — and everything in her life will come crashing down if anyone finds out. That's never been more true than now, when she meets a superfan's brother at a signing and begins to fall hard, even while she's already taken. There's only so long the truth can stay hidden, but who will Thistle be when it comes out, and what will she have left?

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

9. All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry (Algonquin, 2017)

Algonquin Press, samanthamabry.com

Longlisted for the National Book Award, this gorgeous work of magical realism follows immigrant field workers Sarah Jac and James, who've fallen into a secret love and a whole world of peril when an incident forces them on the run to potentially cursed ranch. Come for the beautiful language, atmosphere, and incisive look at worker conditions; stay for the compelling plot that'll keep you turning pages until you finish it in a single sitting. (For more gorgeous literary YA out of Algonquin, try the chilling The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma and the absolutely crushing You Are the Everything by Karen Rivers.)

Buy it from Bookshop, Target, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

10. Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley (Page Street Kids, 2019)

Page Street, zacksmedleyauthor.com

Get ready for lots of feelings about the complexity of queerness, identity, and family in this bold, visceral, and well-crafted debut about a boy named Nathan who's forced to confront the emotional abuse of his childhood when his friendship with the new kid turns into something confusing, unexpected, and, for Nathan, dangerous. Per the title, half the book is set at a deposition after things between the boys nearly turn deadly, while the rest shows the yearlong journey toward that point, making for a complete package that'll have you deep in your thoughts long after The End. (For another insightful look at teen sexuality and its intersection with faithful upbringings from Page Street, try Sonia Hartl's Have a Little Faith in Me.)

Buy it from Bookshop, Target, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

11. The Girl With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke (Albert Whitman & Co., 2017)

Albert Whitman & Co. / Via albertwhitman.com, Jen Bragan Photography / Via katherinelockebooks.com

This critically acclaimed debut fantasy is magical in every way, taking readers through time between modern day, 1988 East Berlin, and the Holocaust, all thanks to the powers of a red balloon. When Ellie, who's Jewish, accidentally time travels and lands at the Berlin Wall, no one understands how it happened, how she got there, or how to get her home. But along the journey to figuring it out, there are harsh truths, dark secrets, and the threat of a rewritten history in the making. Can Ellie find her way back home, even changed as she is by all she's learned? And what will it mean for her heart and the Romani boy she's leaving behind if she does? (For more well-crafted excitement from Albert Whitman, check out Tom Ryan's thrilling Keep This to Yourself, or go full-on fantasy with Descendant of the Crane by Joan He.)

Buy it from Bookshop, Target, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

12. How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis (Self-published, 2012)

Mindy Dunn / Via jclillis.com, R. Graver / Via jclillis.com

Fandom, romance, queerness, friendship, religion, and an epic road trip collide in this gloriously fun, clever, and romantic contemporary about a newly out fanboy. When Brandon hits the road on a traveling fan convention with his vlogging partner, Abel, they know they're in for a great time celebrating their favorite show, Castamere, with celebs and fans alike. But they don't expect any of the bumps along the way — especially being shipped by their loyal viewers. Just how dangerous is it to play along, especially in the fandom crowd? "Abandon" is about to find out. (For another great self-pubbed queer romance, this one between girls, check out Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley; or, for less romance and more adventure, try The Black Veins by Ashia Monet.)

Buy it from Bookshop, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

13. Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer (Candlewick Press, 2017)

Candlewick Press / Via candlewick.com, K. Vorce Photography / Via ruthlehrer.com

Prepare to have your heart and soul ripped to shreds (and be grateful for it) when you meet Fishkill Carmel, a girl with an attitude, an iffy home life, and no friends until she crosses sunny Duck-Duck Farina. Duck-Duck welcomes Fishkill into her own home, sharing her mother and giving Fishkill somewhere to feel safe, if a bit confused. But just when Fishkill has finally found a family that fits, she's thrust back into the one she can't seem to escape. (For another excellent friendship-centric heartbreaker from Candlewick Press, check out Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner.)

Buy it from Bookshop, Target, or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

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