One thing we miss right now is travel. We’re both travel addicts and can’t wait to begin traveling across the U.S. again. Do you want to travel right now but can’t? We can help with book recommendations. The YA City Guide is a new feature on our blog to recommend books set in a certain city. If you haven’t already, check out our precious city guides for Paris and London.
Our next YA City Guide is New York City! The city that never sleeps. The Big Apple. We admit, we became obsessed with NYC because of Gossip Girl. We used to dream of strolling the streets of the Upper East Side like Blair and Serena. Here are some of our favorite YA books set in NYC!
1. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
City of Bones is the first book in Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. The book follows Clary Fairchild as she adapts to the shadowhunter world of NYC. TMI series is set in NYC circa 2007, so it’s a bit of a throwback. The book takes you around the city’s Burroughs, including Brooklyn, where the ever-charming Magnus serves as High Warlock. The Institute is on the Upper East Side and the book has the characters all over the island of Manhattan. In fact, the 10 year anniversary edition has a fantastic map to follow along.
If you’re looking for an urban fantasy set in NYC, look no further. These books are iconic. You’ll no doubt be sucked into Clare’s shadowhunter world and will find yourself binging the rest of her books.
2. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
The Sun is Also a Star is one of YA’s most beloved books (and movies)! The book is about Natasha, who has never believed in fate or destiny…until one day she meets a cute boy on a crowded NYC street and falls in love. And she especially never thought this would happen not 12 hours before her family is deported to Jamaica. This epic YA love story follows Natasha and Daniel through NYC.
What could be better than a love story set in NYC? Bring a few tissues, though. The writing is beautiful and will make you tear up. It also tackles the psychological study if 36 questions can make you fall in love. Has anyone tried this?
3. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
From the author of Anna and the French Kiss comes Isla and the Happily Ever After. Perkins brings us back to the School of America in Paris (SOAP), where minor characters from Anna and the French Kiss get their own love stories. Isla Martin has had a crush on introverted Josh Wasserstein for years. During the summer they had a random encounter in Manhattan, which gives Isla hope as they return to Paris for their senior year. Isla and Josh form a close friendship and eventually begin dating.
Though this book is set in Paris, there are some adorable moments in NYC that you won’t want to miss! Josh’s dad is a U.S. Senator from New York and Isla’s mom does the window displays at the famous department store Bergdorf’s.
4. Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies by Laura Stampler
Harper Anderson has always dreamed of escaping her life in Northern California for NYC. When she lands her dream internship in New York working as a dating blogger at a magazine, she couldn’t be happier. The only catch? She doesn’t really have much dating experience. But she’s determined to fake it till she makes it. Follow Harper as she runs across New York, from the Upper East Side to Brooklyn and to the Hamptons.
If you’re looking for a light hearted romcom set in NYC, then this is the book for you! We loved seeing Harper blossom in the Big Apple, and though she had some missteps along the way, we were happy to see her come into her own in New York. Even better? The book has a charming romance. There’s nothing better and more iconic than a NYC romance to leave you swooning.
5. The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
Lucy and Owen meet in a stuck elevator during a New York City blackout. Once they’re rescued, Lucy and Owen want to spend one night together on the streets of Manhattan. There’s no light except for the stars. However, tomorrow they have to face reality. Lucy’s parents want to move to Scotland and Owen’s dad plans to head out West.
The Geography of You and Me shows a different side of New York City. Imagine walking the streets ad being able to see the stars in between the large buildings? Lucy and Owen have a sweet story as the two try to find their way back to each other and their city.
6. Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
If you haven’t read the books or watched the TV show, what are you doing with you life? Serena Van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf are the iconic Upper East Side best friends. They seem to have it all as Manhattan’s young elite socialites.
Serena’s back from boarding school and Blair isn’t happy to see her? She always suspected her boyfriend Nate Archibald had a thing for Serena. You know who will be watching? Gossip Girl.
The books are different from the TV show in a lot of ways. Mainly, Dan and Chuck don’t play as big of a role in the books. But, if you want a crash course on living it up in Manhattan, this series is for you. You won’t want to miss iconic spots such as Grand Central Station, the Palace Hotel and all the shopping on Park Ave.
7. The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
The Carrie Diaries is the prequel series to the popular show, Sex and the City. Before Carrie Bradshaw was making her mark in NYC, she was a teenager growing up in the Connecticut suburbs. So how did she get to be the infamous Carrie Bradshaw? The Carrie Diaries follows Carrie and her best friends as they navigate in high school friendships and relationships. After a friend’s betrayal, Carrie is more determined than ever to make her city dreams come true.
Carrie’s dad gets her a law internship and that how she discovers she’s meant for Manhattan. Except, she soon realizes she’d much rather be a writer. This book was also turned into a TV show. It lasted two seasons and follows both books in the series.
8. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Craig Gilner is an ambitious student who got accepted into one of the best school in New York City. The pressure becomes unbearable though and he tries to take his own life. Craig gets checked into a mental hospital where he meets a variety of people. Craig’s able to make friends and confront his own insecurities and mental health struggles.
This isn’t the feel good NYC story like most of the others. However, it’s important to see teenagers who are struggling. The book tried to end the stigma of mental health. Craig can be both brilliant and struggle with anxiety and depression. Warning: This book has a few triggers so make sure you do your research before picking it up.
9. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Pepper’s mother owns a fast-food chain called Big League Burger. When the chain expands throughout the country, Pepper and her mom trade in country life for the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Jack attends the same fancy private school as Pepper, but he doesn’t have the same money as his classmates. His twin Ethan, mom, dad and grandma, all run a deli called Girl Cheesing in the East Village. They are famous for their Grandma’s special grilled cheese sandwiches. When Pepper and Jack find themselves in a Twitter battle over a stollen grilled cheese recipe, they have to learn to coexist at school…and figure out if their feelings for each other are real.
If you love YA romcoms, then definitely check out Tweet Cute. Lord’s book has taken the YA internet by storm. This is a light hearted book that takes you across Manhattan.
10. Kiss Me in New York by Catherine Rider
It’s Christmas Eve! Charlotte and Anthony meet by chance in an airport. Both of them have been dumped and neither can get out of the city because of a blizzard. In the gift shop they pick up a book about getting over their exes and set off to explore NYC.
Kiss Me in New York is a heartwarming story about losing love and finding it in an unexpected way. With the snow covered streets and the city decorated for the season, how could you not fall for the person who understands what you’re going through?
11. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohen and David Leviathan
Lily leaves a list of dares in a red notebook inside of her favorite NYC bookstore, waiting for the perfect guy to accept her challenge. When Dash discovers the notebook, they start a friendship of sorts, trading dares, dreams and desires at locations across NYC.
If you’re in the market for a quirky and real romance that takes place in NYC, look no further. The romance in this book is adorable and it has even been turned into a TV show on Netflix, debuting in November 2020! Follow Dash and Lily across NYC as they embark on their love story.
12. The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell
If you love history and the idea of time travel, then this is the book for you! The book follows Esta, a talented thief with the magical ability to manipulate time. She lives in modern day New York, where Mageus— or those with magical powers— are basically extinct. Any Mageus that enters Manhattan is trapped by the Brink, a magical barrier that causes them to lose their powers. Using her abilities, Esta steals magical artifacts from the Order, the society that invented the Brink. Her power allows her to manipulate time and steal artifacts before the Order even knows they exist. Her benefactor sends her on one final job: go back to 1902 and steal the book containing the secrets of the Order before the mysterious Magician can destroy it. While in 1902 New York, she joins a gang and meets Harte, a boy who may not be who he seems. To save the future, Esta will need to team up with those she doesn’t trust and unlock the secrets to her past.
History lovers will enjoy seeing NYC in the early 20th century. If you enjoy urban fantasy, definitely check this out. Maxwell does an excellent job of researching 20th century NYC. If you know the city well, see if you can catch the historical nuances.
13. Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson
Kat and Stevie head into New York City, lying to their parents that they are staying at their friend Teri’s house and not leaving suburban Connecticut. Except, nothing goes as planned as soon as they enter Grand Central Station. Stevie runs into her step sister, who needs a favor. That one action spirals into a crazy night of losing phones, having no money, getting completely lost and meeting some interesting characters along the way.
The night that consisted of a crazy amount of comedy of errors made the two friends even stronger in the end and we appreciated how much Matson put into their stories. Also, we loved the NYC setting, which felt different from any other book we read set in the city. Matson took time to describe the different neighborhoods and we could tell how familiar she was with each location.
14. The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith
It’s New York City in 1911. Frances Hallowell is an ordinary seamstress who lives with the other girls she works with. Her life changes forever when she kills a man who is trying to attack her. Except, she never moved a muscle. Afraid of an impending murder investigation, Frances tries to lay low when a couple of women whisk her away from Manhattan to a place called Haxahaven Academy located in Queens. Once she arrives at Haxahaven Academy, she starts receiving mysterious notes about her brother William. To make things worse, everything she knew about her family growing up was a lie.
The most interesting aspects about The Witch Haven are the setting and time period. It’s cool to get a glimpse of NYC over 100 years ago. Also, we get to see more than just Manhattan since a lot of story takes place in Queens.