Winter YA Reads

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Because Punxsutawney Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter, that could mean more reasons to stay indoors and read. So if you’re looking for a good book to keep you company, then we’ve got you covered. Here’s a short list of fascinating stories that combine the beauty and harshness of the season–but trust us, you don’t need to be snowed in to enjoy these!


Night of Cake & Puppets (Laini Taylor)

A companion novella to Laini Taylor’s popular Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, Night of Cake & Puppets follows two lovable favorites from the original series on the night they fell in love. Zuzana is a ‘rabid-fairy-carnivorous-plant’ puppeteer who’s usually pretty fearless—but not when it comes to Violin Boy. She’s been crushing on him for months and he doesn’t seem to know she exists, but she’s determined to change all that. So she borrows some magic from her best friend Karou and plans one of the most enchanting first dates you’ll ever read about. It takes place during a winter night in Prague, and Taylor’s writing (as well as her husband Jim DiBartolo’s accompanying illustrations) will make you wish you were right there to watch how it all ends.

Salt to the Sea (Ruta Sepetys)

World War II is rife with tragedy and triumph, and while this book about a historic maritime disaster may be one of many, it carries a weight that is hard to shrug off. Sepetys’ masterful storytelling gives voice to four characters and their struggle for survival and escape culminates in the freezing waters of the Baltic Sea. You’ll be grateful to read this in a warm and cozy place, but its themes will definitely jolt you out of your comfort zone and make you face your own dark moments.


Lovely, Dark and Deep (Amy McNamara)

‘Lovely’ is one way to describe the way McNamara writes this story of isolation and recovery. Wren has lived through a tragic accident, and survivor’s guilt and other trauma have led her to retreat to her father’s studio in the woods, trying to escape parental concern and small-town gossip. Her father encourages her to work for a local boy, and it’s this tenuous thread of human contact that becomes her lifeline. While the story takes its time to unfold, McNamara’s elegant turn-of-phrase and her believable characters make the journey worth it.


Love and Other Train Wrecks (Leah Konen)

This book will make you glad you aren’t trudging through the snow and looking for a bus station with a guy you’ve just met. Ammy and Noah are both headed for the same place when they meet on the Amtrak. But certain mishaps find them lost and train-less, and they have to rely on each other to get back to the lives they think are waiting for them. Elements of insta-love here may turn some readers away, but others may enjoy the serendipity. Even in the winter, anything is possible.


The Smell of Other People’s Houses (Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock)

Any self-respecting Alaskan tasked with creating a winter reads list should be proud to include a book set in Alaska written by an Alaskan. Here’s one: Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s The Smell of Other People’s Houses. Set in Fairbanks during the seventies, it takes a hard look at poverty, abuse, and fractured relationships as seen through the eyes of four teens with diverse backgrounds. Each story is sharp and infused with so much sense of place that it would be a shame to let this one pass. Pick it up for the unique flavor, but stay for the emotional upheaval that these characters will take you on.


And Both Were Young (Madeleine L’Engle)

When Flip’s father sends her to a Swiss boarding school, she’s far from thrilled. She’s clumsy and socially awkward, and her bad knee from an old accident keeps her from making friends among girls crazy about boys and sports. Paul, a young man she meets during one of her solitary walks, is the only one who makes her feel at ease, but he’s battling his own demons as well. But over the winter term, his friendship and the encouragement of her art teacher will slowly draw Flip out of her shell. The romance is low-key and the plot can meander more leisurely than most, but it’s got skiing, hot chocolate, chalets, Byron, and secret rendezvous—everything that makes it perfect for a winter read.


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