3 on a YA Theme: Indie Press YA

This round-up of indie press YA is sponsored by Nobody Real by Steven Camden, published by HarperCollins

For years, Marcie has been hitching a ride on the train of her best friend Cara’s life. Now there’s only one more summer until they’re off to college as planned. But Marcie has a secret, and time is running out for her to decide what she really wants. Thor was also Marcie’s friend—before she cast him out—and time is running out for him too. But Thor is not real. And that’s a real problem. This is the story of a teenage girl and the return of her imaginary friend, and we guarantee you’ve never read anything like it.


It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype of books published by the big five publishers (HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin Random House, and their many imprints), that you might be overlooking some really excellent indie press YA that should be on your radar. Indie presses often have smaller and more focused lists, and they are putting out some really excellent books. Rioter Kelly highlighted a few good ones in this column a few years back, but here are a few of my recent favorites!

Forgive Me if I've Told You This BeforeForgive Me if I’ve Told You This Before by Karelia Stetz-Waters

First off, if you’re looking for something to read after devouring The Miseducation of Cameron Post, you need this book ASAP. It’s set in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and follows the high school years of Triinu Hoffman in Oregon. Her story is an exploration of identity (not just sexual, either), bullying, friendship, and religion. It’s also a great story about how it can feel as a teen to stand up for yourself when adults in power, the ones we’re taught to respect, are wrong. This book is deeply thoughtful, with luminous prose.

Gabi, a Girl in PiecesGabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

This epistolary novel reminded me why I loved the Georgia Nicolson Confessions series when I was a teen. Gabi is similarly intimate and hilariously honest in her journals, but her family and friend challenges and budding talents as a poet give this novel a gravitas that Georgia Nicolson lacks. Gabi’s poetry is a vehicle for processing her feelings about her best friend’s pregnancy and her other friend’s coming out, her father’s addiction, her first romance, and the precarious hope of going to college far away. This is easily one of the best YA books I’ve read in 2018.  

Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia PatelRani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel

Rani Patel lives on Moloka’i, with her strict immigrant parents, and she harbors a secret passion for hip hop. Writing rhymes helps her make sense of her family’s deep unhappiness, her father’s infidelity, and the exhilarating attention of a much older guy, Mark. I loved the intensity of Rani’s emotions, the power of her poetry and hip hop performances, and how Rani’s art forces her to confront not just her bad choices, but the pain behind them. Ultimately, Rani’s story is cathartic, triumphant, and empowering.

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