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Gift Guide — YA Books You Need Beneath the Tree

It’s easy (and sometimes also not) to find books we know we’ll love. Shopping for someone else? Well, that’s a another ball game entirely. But despair not. Pour yourself a glass of eggnog, kick back, and relax. This holiday shopping guide is here to help you find the perfect gift for everyone on your list! And maybe also a book or two for you. Hey, I mean, what’s merry about the merry season if we forget to treat ourselves.

Have a scroll below, and let me know which titles speak most to you.

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

For the person who stands up for what is right.

Because when is love ever easy?

Answer, if you’re a witch (in hiding) living during a witch genocide and find yourself married to a witch hunter, the answer is never ever. Serpent & Dove is an addictive fantasy-romance that will keep you on the edge of your seat. A veritable crowd pleaser, as the story will appeal to fantasy, historical, and romance enthusiasts alike. One of my favorite books of 2019. Ages 16+


The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

For the aspiring history buff.

Because we don’t shy away from asking hard questions about the past.

Set in 1950’s Spain, The Fountains of Silence shows us Spain during one of its most cruel periods (the blood-soaked dictatorship under Francisco Franco). The story is told through the lens of four teenagers who are close to adulthood, three Spanish and one American tourist. And the story’s threads flow and intertwine to weave a tapestry rich in details, depicting both the brutality as well as the beauty of the setting and period. There’s much heartbreak that goes hand in hand with this dark stretch of history, but there’s hope too, stemming from the resilience of the human spirit. Mystery keeps the pages turning, and for all those fans of a forbidden romance, yup, there’s that too. A masterful piece of historical fiction. 15+


SLAY by Brittney Morris

For tech wizards and outside-the-box thinkers.

Because black girls code and build massively multiplayer online role-playing games. 

Tired of being bullied while playing white-player dominated online games, high-school senior, Kiera created SLAY. An online roleplaying game and safe space for black gamers that celebrates black excellence. Not that anyone knows that she is the game’s developer. Kiera never feels more fully herself than when playing SLAY. In SLAY, Kiera doesn’t have to watch how she speaks (like she does when around her mom). In SLAY, Kiera doesn’t have to be the “voice of Blackness” like in her majority white high school. In SLAY, she can just be.

But when a real-world death connected to SLAY brings the attention of the media and cries of racism, Kiera has to fight to protect the SLAY community. Here’s a book that will have you instantly hooked and zooming through the pages. 13+ 


The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

For the person who dreams of journeying to other worlds.

Because who hasn’t dreamt of finding a door to another world.

Seventeen-year-old January is stuck in a life in which she is outwardly well cared — by billionaire collector of antiques and curiosities Cornelius Locke — but otherwise abandoned. Her mother is presumed dead, and her father is forever off collecting things for their benefactor, Locke. And although Locke has groomed her to fit into his world, her skin-color makes her accepted only when she is in his company. It stands to reason that anyone in January’s position would start looking for a way out… only January actually finds one. A way out in the shape of doors. Doors leading to other worlds. YA historical fantasy fans rejoice, The Ten Thousand Doors of January is utterly mesmerizing. 14+


Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

For the adventure seeker.

Because somehow it feels like we never live up to our parents’ expectations. Believe me, Arrah gets it.

Hailing from a long line of powerful witchdoctors is excellent when you’re in need of a witchdoctor, but not so great when you’re the only one in your family without powers. Especially when your mom’s the super judgmental and eternally disappointed-in-you Ka-priestess of the Kingdom.

With a standout cast of characters to lead this story through its twists and turns, Kingdom of Souls flows from start to finish. Get ready to be swept away in an African-inspired fantasy world with this first book in an epic new series. 14+


Crier’s War by Nina Varela

For the person who knows that you shouldn’t eat a raspberry pi.

Because our smartphones somehow know us better than we know ourselves … and where is it all leading?

It’s the robot apocalypse. Some time in Earth’s future, insanely advanced machines, called Automa, have taken over the world. Humans now exist solely to serve the machines. Crier is an Automa. And she’s not just any Automa. Crier is the daughter of Sovereign Hesod. There’s just one problem, Crier believes that when she was made, she was made with the capacity for passion (and love) — a flaw that if it came to light would spell her unmaking. And she’s only just learning what it means to feel, including feeling for mistreated humans. For everyone looking for more than revolution, there’s a budding romance here too, between Crier and her (human) handmaiden, Ayla. An epic, suspense-filled fantasy read. Age 14+


The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

For the person who’s going to change the world.

Looking for a book to chill you to the core?

In Garner County, women have only one purpose: to serve men. And they are kept in line through fear. Fear that any sign of disobedience on their part will be interpreted as a remaining trace of (man-manipulating) magic, which would mean the gallows. For this reason, all sixteen-year-old girls (the year a girl comes into her magic) are exiled to a remote island to rid themselves of their diabolical magic, to return docile and broken… if they return. Because not nearly everyone makes it through their grace year. Hunted by poachers for their body parts, the death toll is high. A powerful, unflinching story that will stay with you long after the final page. 15+


Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus

For the amateur sleuth who dreams of going pro.

What would be your survival strategy in a town infamous for dead girls and girls going missing?

If you’re true-crime addict (and fraternal twin) Ellery, then your answer is to get a job at Murderland (not just an amusement park but the site of an actual murder) and get on the case. Adding to Ellery’s determination, her mother’s twin sister is among the missing girls, having disappeared twenty-three years ago. The narrative shifts between Ellery and Malcom, who has a talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and is looking more and more like he’s somehow involved. Or at least, he makes for one heck of a scapegoat. As the killer has no intention of being found out. And once a killer, always a killer. Two Can Keep a Secret is a brilliantly written thriller with masterful twists about a family’s and a town’s dark secrets. Ages 14+

Enchantée by Gita Trelease

For those who love life best with a pinch of magic.

Because (sometimes) our siblings can be jerks, but we’ll forever give them a second chance. 

Camille is an orphan. But she’s got a secret power –magic! And she works this magic to keep her siblings from starving. Until her abusive brother runs off with their rent money, and Camille sees no other alternative for building a better life than going for a bigger wager. And so she dips into a new and deeper well of magic, transforms her appearance,  and turns to the high-stakes gambling tables at Versailles. Gorgeously crafted historical fantasy set during the dawn of the French Revolution with a generous dash of romance. 13+


3 comments

  1. Honestly I just feel like I’ve found books for myself instead 😂 these all sound like amazing reads and great recommendations! As usual my tbr is ever growing thanks to you Mer 😂 I love it though ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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