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8 Uplifting and Feel-Good Speculative YA Books

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Abigail Clarkin

Staff Writer

Abigail can often be found holding a book in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other. When she is not devouring stories (or dessert), Abigail trains for marathons and writes poetry about growing up with eight brothers and sisters. She enjoys working in marketing for a real estate developer and creating Instagram content for fun (@marathonandmunch) about all the tasty eats found in Providence, RI.

I know the feeling all too well — it is the end of a long week where nothing has gone well at all. I want to just curl up on the couch with an iced latte and disappear into a book that will make all of my troubles fade into the background. When I get this feeling, it especially helps to read a book that is fantasy, sci-fi, or some other genre that takes me to a new world. However, a happy ending or hilarious dialogue that is going to have me falling off the couch because I’m laughing too hard isn’t always guaranteed. Books can have a way of breaking our hearts, after all. (Crooked Kingdom has me sobbing on the daily, tbh.) That’s why I’ve put together a list of feel-good speculative YA books that I recommend.

From time travel in a bid to save a loved one to receiving the power to see the future outcome of romantic relationships to a science fiction retelling of a classic fairytale, these stories about teens are sure to brighten up your day. Read on for my list of eight uplifting and feel-good YA books. Crack one open the next time you need an escape!

Feel-Good Speculative YA

illustrated book cover with three sets of characters sitting on staircase

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

Kate captures Jack’s heart over a conversation about breakfast cereal at a college party. And then, while their relationship is just getting started, heartbreaking tragedy strikes. But their story does not end there. Instead, Jack is trapped in a never ending time-loop where he relives the moment the two met and the days after. He’s given an opportunity to change the story, although not without consequences that affect the lives of those he loves. Opposite of Always is a witty, amusing, and sweet tale that’s worth reading on repeat.

book cover of Faith: Taking Flight by Julie Murphy

Faith: Taking Flight by Julie Murphy

High school is hard. Faith is missing her parents — who passed away — and struggling with insecurities when it comes to feeling like the third wheel with her best friends. She’s busy with school, college plans, and volunteering at a vet clinic, too. And then there’s that little matter of Faith having supernatural abilities. When Faith’s favorite TV show heads to her hometown to film, though, the summer is about to get even more dramatic. In Faith: Taking Flight, author Julie Murphy writes about grief, magic, and love in a heartwarming tale.

book cover with teens in blue ball gowns

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Bachelor, but with royalty in a dystopian world? Well, in 2012, many readers — including myself — read the premise of The Selection and said, “heck yes.” Meet Prince Maxon, America Singer, and the rest of the crew as they search for love and fight for a future of peace. There are rebels breaking into the palace. Unlikely alliances between enemies. And, of course, something even bigger than a love triangle — a love heptatriacontagon? The plot is deliciously dramatic and a ton of fun.

cover for the library of fates

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

Amrita’s life is upended when her betrothed destroys her home and slays her family. (Yes, things, get pretty crazy pretty fast.) The princess flees with only an oracle by her side, and the two set off to find the Library of Fates. The library is believed to hold the power for fates to change. But a mysterious young man that they meet on the road throws a wrench in the plan. Why does it feel like Amrita has met him before? The Library Fates brings readers on a leisurely journey about love, the past, and destiny.

cover of Instructions for Dancing

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Evie used to devour romance novels like they were candy. But when she finds out her dad cheated, love does not seem like something to celebrate anymore. Evie’s current mission is to find new homes for her many romance novels. When she drops a few off at a Little Free Library, she is greeted by an elderly woman who insists Evie take a book too. The book is not the only thing she takes home with her — she also now has the ability to see the fate of the romantic relationships of those around her.

cover of The Lovely War

Lovely War by Julie Berry

Imagine if the Greek gods had a hand in World War I. According to Aphrodite, Hephaestus, and Ares, they did indeed (two hands each, and they were up to some serious mischief). In Lovely War, the gods narrate the intertwining stories of two mortal couples. Hazel is a pianist and James is a soldier and aspiring architect; they meet before they are separated by the war. Colette is a singer and volunteer who meets Aubrey, an African American musician, in a twist of fate — or the work of Aphrodite — as they uplift the spirits of American soldiers. How can they find happiness and hope in a world torn apart? While Julie Berry’s book does deal with the horrors and tragedies of one of the biggest wars in history, there is timeless romance and rich music within each page.

cover image of Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Whenever they’re together, Sheetal’s aunties and uncles proudly boast about the accomplishments of her cousins as Sheetal tries her best to blend in. Why? Because there’s this little secret about Sheetal’s mother being a star. When she loses control of her powers and her father is injured, Sheetal can’t stay on earth any longer. The young star must meet her mother’s family and enter a competition that will unveil who she truly is. The whole story shimmers and is a magical joy to read!

cover of Cinder

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This list of feel-good speculative YA cannot be complete without Cinder. In this unique Cinderella retelling, the hero is a badass cyborg mechanic with an unknown past. (Need I say more? For real?) For years, Earth has had strained relations with the Lunar people on the moon. Between meeting the earthen Prince Kai, losing two of her adopted and beloved family members, and an aging doctor claiming to know who her parents are, Cinder’s life is thrown into chaos. The first book in the Lunar Chronicles is fast-paced and buzzing with light and life.

Hopefully the next time you are feeling blue, or just need a good book, one of these feel-good speculative YA titles will be there for you. Want to read more YA reads with a guaranteed happy ending? Take this quick quiz and receive a romantic YA recommendation. Or looking for sci-fi for young adults? Check out a few coming-of-age in space stories for teens.