The best books for young adults who love a touch of magic

Camille Gomera-Tavarez Author Of High Spirits
By Camille Gomera-Tavarez

Who am I?

As a Dominican-American writer, I grew up constantly looking for representation and characters I could relate to. I could never really find whatever I was looking for until I got to college and discovered the long history of infusing realistic storytelling with surreal elements that finds roots in Indigenous and Black communities in Latin America. Once I found it, I was obsessed. I was so bored of western storytelling and basic, straightforward books, and here was this well of creativity that belonged to my ancestors. That’s when I noticed that the books I loved in my childhood all had this same quality – just a touch of magic.


I wrote...

High Spirits

By Camille Gomera-Tavarez,

Book cover of High Spirits

What is my book about?

High Spirits is a collection of eleven interconnected short stories from the Dominican diaspora, inspired by a history of “lo real maravilloso” in Latin America. It is a book centered on one extended family – the Beléns – across multiple generations. It is set in the fictional small town of Hidalpa and Santo Domingo and Paterson and San Juan and Washington Heights, too. It is told in a style both utterly real and distinctly magical and its stories explore machismo, mental health, family, and identity. But most of all, High Spirits represents the first book from Camille Gomera-Tavarez, who takes her place as one of the most extraordinary new voices to emerge in years.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Song of Solomon

By Toni Morrison,

Book cover of Song of Solomon

Why this book?

This book was probably my first exposure to the magical realism genre when I was in High School. Toni Morrison, a friend of my English teacher while they were both at nearby Rutgers, donated a class set to my classroom. It was one of the few times I remembered having an actual fresh new book that wasn’t scribbled in or torn up from school. The book opens with a man attempting to fly by jumping off a roof as a community watches. It is written in this fluid, poetic way that just blew my high schooler mind. I wasn’t even sure what was going on the first time I read it, but I knew it was exciting.

Song of Solomon

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Song of Solomon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Song of Solomon...profoundly changed my life' Marlon James

Macon 'Milkman' Dead was born shortly after a neighbourhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly.

In 1930s America Macon learns about the tyranny of white society from his friend Guitar, though he is more concerned with escaping the familial tyranny of his own father. So while Guitar joins a terrorist group Macon goes home to the South, lured by tales of buried family treasure. But his odyssey back home and a deadly confrontation…


Wake

By Lisa McMann,

Book cover of Wake

Why this book?

One of my all-time favorite books. I recommend the whole trilogy. This YA book focuses on a young girl named Janie who has grown up with the annoying (sometimes dangerous) power of constantly getting sucked into people’s dreams when they sleep near her. It’s dark and realistic. There’s a mystery and it turns into a Veronica Mars-esque detective story, especially as the books progress. The romance is also amazingly developed. Chef’s kiss.   

Wake

By Lisa McMann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams at any given moment is getting tired. Especially the falling dreams, and the standing-in-front-of-the-class-naked ones. But then there are the nightmares, the ones that chill her to the bone... like the one where she is in a strange house...in a dirty kitchen...and a sinister monster that edges ever closer. This is the nightmare that she keeps falling into, the one where, for the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant...


Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic: A Novel of the Titanic

By Suzanne Weyn,

Book cover of Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic: A Novel of the Titanic

Why this book?

I love a historical fiction novel. Give me every iteration of Pride and Prejudice, give me old time-y things, give me Great Gatsby flapper dancers. I love it. Distant Waves is a really fun YA novel focused on five sisters who meet as they find their way onto the Titanic and befriend famous inventor, Nicola Tesla. The sisters come from a mother who is in the spiritualist community and they have a feeling the ship will sink, but they hop aboard anyways with a very sweet boy named Thad. There’s paranormal stuff and kooky inventions. Gotta love a sprinkle of magic. 

Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic: A Novel of the Titanic

By Suzanne Weyn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Distant Waves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Science, spiritualism, history and romance intertwine in Suzanne Weyn's newest novel. Four sisters and their mother make their way from a spiritualist town in New York to London, becoming acquainted with journalist W. T. Stead, scientist Nikola Tesla, and industrialist John Jacob Astor. When they all find themselves on the Titanic, one of Tesla's inventions dooms them . . . and one could save them.


One Last Stop

By Casey McQuiston,

Book cover of One Last Stop

Why this book?

One Last Stop is a recent favorite. The book follows August, a bisexual transplant to Brooklyn whose very relatable goal is to just stay in college for as long as possible until she figures out what she wants to do with her life. Again, this book has a bit of magic as August discovers a girl who is perpetually stuck on the Q train and seems to have time jumped from the 1970s to present day. And, of course, they fall in love. This book is a celebration of all things queer, it’s super steamy, romantic, hilarious, and just very very fun.

One Last Stop

By Casey McQuiston,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked One Last Stop as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don't exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can't imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there's certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there's this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges…


Kindred

By Octavia E. Butler,

Book cover of Kindred

Why this book?

I recently have discovered the brilliance that is Octavia Butler. My first experience was Parable of the Sower and then Kindred. The woman was an oracle. Most of the societal issues we have today concerning race, class, and climate change were explored and predicted by Butler in the 80s. Her work is so deep and layered, but community and optimism are always at the center of it. Even with a work like Kindred, which follows a 26-year-old woman living in 1970s California who is suddenly pulled back in time to a plantation in Baltimore, Maryland where she meets her ancestors and is thrust into action having to save a white boy from drowning. There’s so much about power and gender and race and memory that goes into this book, it should be required reading.    

Kindred

By Octavia E. Butler,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Kindred as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Parable of the Sower and MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Nebula, and Hugo award winner

The visionary time-travel classic whose Black female hero is pulled through time to face the horrors of American slavery and explores the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now.

“I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.”

Dana’s torment begins when she suddenly vanishes on her 26th birthday from California, 1976, and is dragged through time to antebellum Maryland to rescue a boy named Rufus, heir to a slaveowner’s plantation. She soon…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Michigan, New York State, and the South?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Michigan, New York State, and the South.

Michigan Explore 44 books about Michigan
New York State Explore 488 books about New York State
The South Explore 125 books about the South

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Three Mothers, Salvage the Bones, and The Handmaid's Tale if you like this list.