YA books about social media can range from hilarious romcoms to scandal-ridden thrillers. Social media plays such a big role in the lives of teenagers today. It would be impossible for young adult books to completely ignore the place social networks and the Internet takes up in teenage characters’ lives. However, it’s hard to make a book interesting when the main characters are glued to their phones. There is definitely a balance to be struck when incorporating social media into a story, and these eight YA books about social media thread the needle perfectly.
That is because these books all use social media as more than just something happening in the background. Social networks and social media fame actively influence the plot in each of these YA novels, whether social media is used to spread vicious rumors, engage in flirtatious banter, or enable teens to create entire lives away from their real world high schools. They engage in big questions about social media. Like, is social media a force for good or bad in the world? Is Internet fame a valuable goal to strive for? And what does it mean when your online life is more meaningful than your IRL one?
There are many YA books about social media and social media fame. But among the many, here are eight that I think explore the topic in interesting and nuanced ways.
The Rumor Game by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra
This multi-perspective story directly looks at the consequences of social media and cyberbullying in an elite DC prep school. The main characters Georgie, Brynn, and Cora each rise and fall through their high school’s hierarchy according to rumors (sometimes true and sometimes false) that twist, turn, and exaggerate through streams of text messages and social media posts. The book does include sexual assault, racism, fatphobia, self harm, and disordered eating, so readers should check trigger warnings before picking this book up if these are sensitive topics. But I think most teens will find this fast-paced thriller highly relatable.
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
This YA romcom starts with a Twitter war between the teenage children of two restaurant empires. Pepper is a type A overachiever who secretly runs the popular social media accounts for her family’s burger restaurant. Jack is more of a class clown and a major antagonist of Pepper in school. But when he believes the burger restaurant stole his family deli’s grilled cheese recipe, he decides to start a Twitter war to win back his family’s honor — but in person and through their online restaurant avatars, the line between hate and love is thin. Soon, people are noticing the romantic tension between their tweets and shipping them. Will their online chemistry translate to their in school lives? You probably know the answer. This is an enemies to lovers, swoony romance — so be prepared for a lot of laughs and a happy ending.
Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith
Divya is a popular video game streamer who is helping to support her family with sponsorships. Aaron writes video game scripts while ignoring family pressure to become a doctor. Both of them are deeply connected with the popular game Reclaim the Sun. It can feel more real to them than the non-virtual world. Their avatars both end up on the same remote planet in the game. But when online trolls begin a doxing and harassment campaign against Divya, both of their relationships with Reclaim the Sun are at stake. And for Divya, what was once her safe place has now become a real world threat against her life and physical safety.
Tell Me Everything by Sarah Enni
Ivy is a shy artist who begins getting a little too involved in the new anonymous art-sharing app VEIL. The whole point is that what people post is supposed to be anonymous. But even with this protection, Ivy is too scared to post her own work to the app. Instead, she discovers that through careful study and context clues she can figure out the identity of some of her favorite VEIL users. And with the information, she begins performing small acts of kindness to the artists. But while she views these as good deeds, other view it as an invasion of privacy. And when Ivy decides to enact her biggest good deed yet for one of her best friends, the entire plan blows up in her face. And she ends up more alone than ever.
Anna K: A Love Story by Jenny Lee
“Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.” This sentence begins the modern day Anna Karenina retelling, featuring a Korean American teenage heiress and her elite NYC prep school world. This book has major Gossip Girl vibes, but with a lot more diversity and a whole new world of social media. When the flawless Anna K meets playboy Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central, rumors spread faster than ever about the pair. But is this a love story (as the title suggests) or a tragedy? Only reading the book will tell. There are a lot of potential triggers in this book, mostly related to addiction, mental health, homophobia, dieting talk, and slut shaming.
Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi
In a near-future world, Opal is a talented teen coder on a quest to discover the truth about her father’s mysterious disappearance. When WAVE, the biggest virtual reality platform, hosts a contest to meet the billionaire founder (who is also Opal’s dad’s former business partner), Opal decides she will do anything to win. She compromised her morals and bends the law to be a true competitor, and achieves viral fame in the process. Opal will have to decide if she cares more about maintaining her fame and attention or finding out the truth about her dad. The book also asks interesting questions about the true meaning of powerful Internet platforms. Can they ever be used for good? Or will the harms always outweigh the benefits?
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Eliza is a shy, anxious, and awkward girl who has no friends in her high school. She anonymously publishes the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea online and has a network of online friends that feel closer than anyone she knows in her offline world. But these worlds collide when Wallace, one of the biggest fanfic authors of her comic, transfers to her high school. He thinks she’s a fan artist, and the two develop an instant connection. But when her secret identity is revealed, Eliza will risk losing both her internet network of friends and Wallace — who she’s falling in love with.
The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby
When Mari’s estranged cousin dies, the popular Instagram influencer publicly quits social media and commits to hiking the entire John Muir trail in California. It’s a hiking trip she and her cousin planned to do together, before their falling out. And despite having no hiking training and limited experience, Mari throws herself into this unplugged journey and finds many friends (as well as her true IRL self) along the way.