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January is a great time to read YA books about new beginnings, although I can’t believe it’s 2023. To be fair, I’m pretty sure it took me two full years to recover from 2020. Still, I’m willing to acknowledge that we’ve survived another trip around the sun and it’s worth writing about.
However, I’m not a resolution person. It feels like I’m putting too much pressure on myself at the start of a new year. I know full well that I’m not going to suddenly get up at 5am to run, and that I’ll still throw out most of a bag of salad every week because I’m sick. Resolutions just overwhelm me.
But contrary to intuition, I love the idea of new beginnings. I believe in second chances. I believe that every day is a new opportunity, a new chance to make dreams come true. Above all, I believe that it’s never too late to be better than yesterday.
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day without mistakes?”
–LM Montgomery, as Anne in Anne of Green Gables
So I thought it would be the perfect time for a list of recommended books on the topic of new beginnings. The characters in the YA books about new beginnings below could be starting over in a new town or school. Conversely, they may also make emotional or mental resets like learning to live after a loss or to live as their true selves. Regardless of the fresh start in question, these books will keep you entertained and inspired as you step into a flawless tomorrow!
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YA books about new beginnings
I miss you, I hate Sara Saedi’s
Books for young adults with high school seniors are often filled with themes of self-discovery and new beginnings. Of course, the characters dream of leaving behind the awkwardness and challenges of puberty as they pursue their dreams and head out into the larger world. This book takes all of that and adds one layer – a global pandemic. Two best friends with very different lives find and rediscover each other in this coming-of-age story.
The First to Die in the End by Adam Silvera
Sigh. I cried ugly when I finished They Both Die at the End, despite the warning in the title and my attempts to prepare for the inevitable end. So when I went to this prequel, I should have been ready. Dear reader, it wasn’t me. Adam Silvera caught me again with a heartfelt, weird love story. Valentino’s parents disowned him when he came out, so he and his twin sister decided to move to New York City and start over and pursue their dreams in the Big Apple. On his first night in town, Valentino meets Orion, a boy who is afraid he is clinging too much to life because of his heart condition and the tragic death of his parents. The night they meet is also the night Death Cast launches, promising to accurately predict the days of death of anyone who signs up for the service. Orion and Valentino both sign up and are together when Death Cast calls…
Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon
I knew this book would be amazing based on its all star cast of authors. I was not disappointed. Each of the authors weaves a love story that takes place on the night of a major blackout in New York City. The characters are all connected and all somehow heading towards the same block party. Most are starting over. A girl tries to pick up the broken pieces of her heart and find happiness again. A boy discovers how to come out as bisexual – to himself and to others. Another girl is trying to land a lucrative internship so she can afford a summer program at a college in Atlanta where she can escape the heartache of breaking up with her best friend-turned-boyfriend-bitter ex. Each of the six stories will captivate and make you root for the protagonists.
6 Times We Almost Kissed (And Once We Did) by Tess Sharpe
In this funny, touching story, two girls have been thrown together their whole lives because their mothers are lifelong best friends. Unfortunately, Penny and Tate never got along well. Everything changes when Penny’s mother decides to become a living donor to Tate’s mother. The mothers decide to combine their households and Penny and Tate agree on a truce. They really want to keep it drama free to help their moms, but there’s a problem. They almost keep kissing.
American street from Ibi Zoboi
This YA book about new beginnings has won many prestigious awards and was a National Book Award finalist. In it, Fabiola and her mother move to the United States in search of better opportunities. Unfortunately, the authorities are holding Fabiola’s mother in Haiti. As a result, Fabiola must figure out life alone with her American cousins on the bleak west side of Detroit. Zoboi’s Pride: A Pride & Prejudice Remix would also fit into this list.
I wish you all the best from Mason Deaver
After Ben came out as non-binary to her parents, her parents disowned her. Consequently, their only option is to move in with their estranged sister. Suspicious of her parents’ rejection, Ben decides to come out only to her therapist, her sister, and her sister’s husband. They’re also determined to blend in with their new school and fly under the radar. However, when the charismatic Nathan decides to befriend Ben, they are thrust into the spotlight. The result is the beginning of a new and happier life for Ben.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Peter
Told in two voices, Petrus’ debut novel follows a pair of lovable, funny, queer black girls. Audre’s strictly religious mother sends her from Trinidad to the United States to live with her father after finding out about Audre’s secret girlfriend. Mabel discovers her own identity when Audre enters her life. What follows is a beautiful exploration of love, friendship, life and death.
Hope Is Our Only Wing by Rutendo Tavengerwei
This YA book on new beginnings covers topics similar to The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. After Shamiso’s father mysteriously dies in a car accident, she and her mother leave England. They move to Zimbabwe to live with an extended family that Shamiso doesn’t remember. Unexpectedly, Shamiso forms an unexpected friendship with her classmate, Tanyaradzwa, whose recent cancer diagnosis has drastically changed her life. Together they learn about life and loss.
Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather
Finally, 16-year-old Indy tries to find a place to call home. Unfortunately, she is sent to live with her aunt in Nassau, where she tries to hide her unwanted pregnancy for fear of being thrown out. With few resources at her disposal, Indy just wants to find a safe place to call home. Luckily, she stumbles across a yoga retreat where she learns that home is so much more than a physical place. Few YA books about new beginnings are this raw and real.
Hopefully this list will help you start 2023 off on the right foot. If you’re looking for more great YA recommendations, check out the Book Riot YA archives or one of the lists below: