November 2020 finds us nine months into the Covid-19 pandemic. Teens are dealing with the stress of continued disruption to school and socializing. Anticipating the outcome of the presidential election is a source of anxiety for many—and of course we can’t help but wonder what life in 2021 will be like. Sometimes you just want to dive into a book that will distract, entertain, and offer a few hours’ relief from reality. Each of the YA titles below will serve that purpose admirably.
Heartstopper: Volume 1 (Graphix/Scholastic, May 5) and Heartstopper: Volume 2 (Nov. 10), written and illustrated by Alice Oseman: These graphic novels follow rugby-playing Nick and slender Charlie, British teen boys who are fumbling their way into a budding romance. The masterful artwork enhances the sweetness and charm of their relationship.
Hood by Jenny Elder Moke (Disney-Hyperion, June 9): Fans of the Merry Men will enjoy returning to Sherwood Forest in this exciting historical adventure that introduces readers to Isabelle, daughter of Marien and Robin Hood, as she leaves behind the safety of her childhood home in the priory and flees for her life.
Chasing Starlight by Teri Bailey Black (Tor Teen, Aug. 11): The glamour of 1930s Hollywood—and its dark underbelly—creates an immersive setting for a suspenseful mystery. A teenage girl goes to live with her once-famous movie-star grandfather and his hopeful-actor boarders…and murder soon follows.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery and Crystal Chan, illustrated by Kuma Chan (Manga Classics, Sept. 1): This well-loved classic has endured for over a century as readers have been charmed by orphan Anne Shirley. Her story is presented here in an engaging, expressive, and accessible manga format.
White Fox by Sara Faring (Imprint, Sept. 22): In this atmospheric psychological mystery, sisters Noni and Tai are close in age but complete opposites in personality. Their film-star mother disappeared a decade earlier, and now an incomplete screenplay she was writing has turned up, possibly revealing answers to her fate.
Shine by Jessica Jung (Simon and Schuster, Sept. 29): Real-life K-pop star Jung takes readers behind the scenes for a tantalizing look at the gossip-filled world of an elite Seoul talent agency. A Korean American teenager seeks success (and finds love) even though the odds often seem stacked against her.
Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, Oct. 13): Blackmail unexpectedly leads to love in this tale of Henri, a charismatic, first-generation Haitian American teen whose life involves juggling his parents’ academic expectations, his dog-walking business, and a mutually beneficial deal with classmate Corinne.
Folding Tech: Using Origami and Nature To Revolutionize Technology by Karen Kenney (Twenty-First Century/Lerner, Nov. 3): The ancient practice of paper folding might seem worlds away from 21st-century technology, yet scientists and engineers are using the principles of origami in their work. Readers who pick up this well-illustrated guide will wonder at these marvels.
Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao (Simon and Schuster, Nov. 10): A Taiwanese American college student attempts to fend off her parents’ pressure to marry a successful (but obnoxious) man by hiring a fake boyfriend. Fortunately for readers, what should have been a simple business transaction evolves into something more.
A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey (Atheneum, Nov. 10): After one too many things in her life goes wrong, Lila leaves Miami for England, where she helps out in the kitchen of her aunt’s inn—which turns out to be just the thing her battered and bruised heart needs.
Laura Simeon is a young readers' editor.