I mark the official start of fall as September 1, aka the annual departure of the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station for another year at Hogwarts. Starbucks has usually already started putting Pumpkin Spice Lattes on the menu, and by then, it’s all over: fall is here. For many book lovers, fall is the ultimate time to snuggle up with a novel and fight off the chilly temps by reading the day away inside. Some books just give me that cozy fall reading feeling, and the novels on this list are my go-to autumnal YA books. Leave a comment with your favorite cozy young adult books to read in the fall.
Rainbow Rowell’s hit novel Fangirl follows roughly one year in the life of Cath, a freshman at the University of Nebraska. The story starts the day Cath arrives on campus for move in—and meets her standoffish roommate, Reagan, and Levi, her boy… friend?—and instantly feels a panicky social anxiety, something familiar to her. Cath is famous for her Simon Snow (aka Harry Potter) fiction, something she shares with her twin sister, Wren, also a freshman at the same school. Over the school year, Cath becomes more comfortable in new situations, like a budding romance with Levi, and extending her writing beyond Simon Snow. I love this book because Rowell captures how school gives you a chance to start over and reset every September. She manages to transfer that cozy fall reading feeling through the novel. It’s also nice to watch Cath grow as a writer when she takes a creative writing workshop. Rowell manages to perfectly depict the bubble that college encourages when you can pursue academic interests while still having the independence to try out new extracurriculars and interests. So many fandom YA novels have followed, but Fangirl is the original.
I’m also recommending Carry On, the full-length Simon Snow novel Cath was working on that Rowell published, since it also takes place in an academic environment, a magical boarding school (sound familiar?) and it’s one of the closest novels you’ll get to a Harry Potter fix.
There have been many fairy tale retellings in YA literature. Maybe it’s hearkening back to childhood and some of the earliest stories you heard or read. Or maybe it’s the endlessly inventive ways writers seem to come up with a new creative angle. But I think even better still is Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, which isn’t an extension of any single canonical fairy tale’s universe but rather an entirely new story influenced by traditional Russian and Polish folktales. In this fantasy YA novel, our heroine, spunky Agnieszka, lives in a village where every few years a girl is selected to go live with a magician known as the “dragon” at his castle. Agnieszka knows she has nothing to worry about. Her best friend is the prettiest girl their age. For some reason, though, Agnieszka is chosen. The novel tells her unlikely journey with the dragon and the love that develops between them. Uprooted is such an awesome autumnal read because it takes place in that very familiar “Once upon a time” atmosphere that you can get lost in on a cozy fall reading day.
I can never get enough boarding school stories, and Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty certainly fits the bill. There’s something about fall that always makes me think of witchy stories, probably because Halloween is just on the horizon. Growing up in India, Gemma is sixteen and prone to visions, like seeing her mother’s death before it happens. Her strange experiences land her a one-way ticket to a boarding school in London, the all-female Spence Academy. While trying to get accepted into an exclusive clique at the school, Gemma realizes she has a power to move back and forth between our world and the Other world through her supernatural gifts. It’s impossible to fall into Bray’s elaborate world of secrets and not feel breathless. That cold chill you feel in the attic and can’t explain? That suspicion you have that someone is moving your belongings around? That wink of the supernatural, the “something wicked this way comes” feeling to fall, is brilliantly depicted in this engrossing yet cozy YA novel perfect for fall reading.
Are you ready for maximum fall feels? One of my favorite writers is Neil Gaiman, who is so effective at translating that slightly fairy tale, slightly supernatural, slightly cozy mood of autumn into his many novels. A good way to describe Gaiman’s writing is it’s like reading a movie by Tim Burton’s the cinematic kind of fall (hello, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Sleepy Hollow). One of his best books that falls into that category (pun intended) is Coraline.
Coraline is another quirky tale from Gaiman. In this Alice in Wonderland-esque story, Coraline enters an alternate universe that is eerily similar to her house and neighborhood, the dull life she wished away. Gaiman’s novel is one you’ll want to finish in one sleepy afternoon made for fall reading! Check out my post The Best YA School Novels For Fall for more great fall reading recommendations.