Happy 2019, book nerds! We here at Epic Reads hope you had a wonderful time ringing in the new year with family, friends, or the pile of books you shut yourself in your room with (no? Just us? Okay.)
As we’ve been working our way through our TBR piles (and revisiting some old faves, because our love for Evangeline will never die), we started thinking about our resolutions—reading more books, sharing more books, buying more books (don’t act like you don’t get it). And THEN we started thinking about resolutions in books themselves. Which characters have an *epic* transformation? Which books talk about life’s journey and whatnot? So in honor of this *epic* new year, we’ve decided to share with you some of our favorite books in which the characters experience a “new you” transformation.
10 YA Books to Read for the New Year
1. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Bri goes through a pretty serious transformation—from relative anonymity but hoping for fame, to unfortunate infamy. She’s one of our favorite new characters for so many reasons, and we can’t wait for y’all to read Queen Angie’s latest.
Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.
But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons.
Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.
Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.
2. The Resolutions by Mia Garcia
Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora give us so much inspiration to stick to our own resolutions (i.e. reading our entire TBR before buying more books)! Their (rather tumultuous) journey through friendship and first love is a sweet way to kick off a new year.
A heart-expanding novel about four Latinx teens who make New Year’s resolutions for one another—and the whirlwind of a year that follows. Fans of Erika L. Sánchez and Emery Lord will fall for this story of friendship, identity, and the struggle of finding yourself when all you want is to start over.
From hiking trips to four-person birthday parties to never-ending group texts, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora have always been inseparable. But now with senior year on the horizon, they’ve been growing apart. And so, as always, Jess makes a plan.
Reinstating their usual tradition of making resolutions together on New Year’s Eve, Jess adds a new twist: instead of making their own resolutions, the four friends assign them to one another—dares like kiss someone you know is wrong for you, find your calling outside your mom’s Puerto Rican restaurant, finally learn Spanish, and say yes to everything.
But as the year unfolds, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora each test the bonds that hold them together. And amid first loves, heartbreaks, and life-changing decisions, beginning again is never as simple as it seems.
3. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Willowdean Dickson is the star of our hearts—and her own movie (duh!) Watching her grapple with her confidence, with people’s expectations, and the affection of everyone’s new book boyfriend, Bo, you can really see how much of a star she really is!
Plus, everyone’s favorite side character-turned-star-in-her-own-right shines bright in the super sweet companion novel, Puddin’, giving us even more reasons to aspire to be Millie Michalchuk. (@ Netflix—ADAPT PUDDIN’!)
Now a Netflix film—starring Jennifer Aniston, Danielle Macdonald, and Dove Cameron, as well as a soundtrack from Dolly Parton!
The movie tie-in edition of the New York Times bestseller and feel-good YA of the year—about Willowdean Dixon, the fearless, funny, and totally unforgettable heroine who takes on her small town’s beauty pageant.
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.
With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does.
Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
- Buy Dumplin’ now!
- Add Dumplin’ to your Goodreads shelf!
- Go Behind the Scenes of the Dumplin’ Movie with These Exclusives Straight from the Set!
4. That Night by Amy Giles
This gorgeous, heartbreaking book is all about Jess and Lucas’s transformations, and how they work towards moving on and moving forward. Read this for a beautiful story of growth and love!
An evocative story by acclaimed author Amy Giles about tragedy, love, and learning to heal.
The year since a mass shooting shook their Queens neighborhood has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar and deeply personal ways.
As Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother and Lucas takes up boxing under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, their paths converge. They slowly become friends and then something more, learning to heal and move forward together.
But what does it mean to love after an unspeakable tragedy?
- Buy That Night now!
- Add That Night to your Goodreads shelf!
- 14 Life-Changing Books That Deal With Important Social Issues
5. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
In the beginning of They Both Die at the End, Mateo is sweet but shy, a bit awkward, and fearful of life. We get to watch him break down his walls in one gut-wrenchingly beautiful day, and no, we are still. not. over it, thank you very much.
On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today.
Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.
In the tradition of Before I Fall and If I Stay, They Both Die at the End is a tour de force from acclaimed author Adam Silvera, whose debut, More Happy Than Not, the New York Times called “profound.”
- Buy They Both Die at the End now!
- Add They Both Die at the End to your Goodreads shelf!
- Read the First 5 Chapters of They Both Die at the End
6. Evermore by Sara Holland
In Everless, Jules lit-er-ally discovers that she’s a whole different person. If this doesn’t scream “new you,” what does??
Jules Ember was raised hearing legends of the ancient magic of the wicked Alchemist and the good Sorceress. But she has just learned the truth: She is the Alchemist, and Caro—a woman who single-handedly murdered the Queen and Jules’s first love, Roan, in cold blood—is the Sorceress.
The whole kingdom believes that Jules is responsible for the murders, and a hefty bounty has been placed on her head. And Caro is intent on destroying Jules, who stole her heart twelve lifetimes ago. Now Jules must piece together the stories of her past lives to save the person who has captured her heart in this one.
7. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Mare was always sly and smart, but the events of the Red Queen series really forced her hand. And while we maybe, probably, definitely wouldn’t wish her journey for ourselves, we can definitely appreciate her growth in becoming the lightning girl.
Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.
To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction.
One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.
And don’t miss War Storm, the thrilling final book in the bestselling Red Queen series!
- Buy Red Queen now!
- Add Red Queen to your Goodreads shelf!
- These Hilarious War Storm Reactions Will Comfort You After the Epic Conclusion
8. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
Norris, once a hilarious, snarky, cynical kid, becomes a hilarious, snarky, cynical kid with a little more empathy. We stan a redemption arc, and we can’t wait for you to meet him.
Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.
Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.
Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris…like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making.
But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.
- Buy The Field Guide to the North American Teenager now!
- Add The Field Guide to the North American Teenager to your Goodreads shelf!
9. The Disasters by M.K. England
Nas is a washout, a screw-up—that’s no secret! But when he and his fellow misfits band together to do what’s right… talk about a redemption arc!
The Breakfast Club meets Guardians of the Galaxy in this YA sci-fi adventure by debut author M. K. England.
Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours. But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy.
Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.
On the run, Nax and his fellow failures plan to pull off a dangerous heist to spread the truth. Because they may not be “Academy material,” and they may not even get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.
Full of high-stakes action, subversive humor, and underdogs becoming heroes, this YA sci-fi adventure is perfect for fans of Illuminae, Heart of Iron, or the cult classic TV show Firefly and is also a page-turning thrill ride that anyone—not just space nerds—can enjoy.
- Buy The Disasters now!
- Add The Disasters to your Goodreads shelf!
- Blast off on a New Adventure With This First Look at ‘The Disasters’
10. The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
Ev and Philippa go through it all, and we think you’ll love their *epic* journey.
What happens when you return to the real world after being in a fantastical one like Narnia? This YA debut by Laura E. Weymouth is perfect for fans of Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.
Six years ago, sisters Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell were swept away to a strange and beautiful kingdom called the Woodlands, where they lived for years. But ever since they returned to their lives in post-WWII England, they have struggled to adjust.
Ev desperately wants to return to the Woodlands, and Philippa just wants to move on. When Ev goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.
Walking the line between where fantasy and reality meet, this lyrical and magical novel is, above all else, an exploration of loss and healing, and what it means to find where you belong.
- Buy The Light Between Worlds now
- Add The Light Between Worlds to your Goodreads shelf
- Toe the Line Between Real and Heartbreakingly Fantastic in The Light Between Worlds
Whose New Year’s transformation are you most excited about? Do you have any tips to sticking to resolutions? Let us know in the comments below!