YA Beach Reads For Those Who Don’t Really Read Contemporary YA

YA fantasy beach reads

Typically when you think ~beach read~ and what you’ll find on most lists are contemporary books (like the beach reads list I made last week)…which I love! But what about when contemporary isn’t your jam or you aren’t really in the mood for contemporary?? I gotchuuuu!

Here are some books that I think make excellent beach reads and in some way kind of capture the same spirit of a ~beach read~ except it’s not contemporary! I tend to really like addictive and page-turning beach reads and all of these pretty much have that element. With fantasy, my beach reads tend to be not like super high fantasy or with super intricate world-building because I’m too easily distracted on a beach for that!

Next week I’ll be back with my adult fiction recs!

Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall: This book was a really fun thriller/mystery that will have you traipsing around the world to figure out a mystery that is rooted in an ancient prophecy. It’s got a dangerous secret society of powerful people, conspiracies, secrets and lies and some eye candy for the main character. Pretty much a YA DaVinci Code!!


Brazen by Katherine Longshore

Brazen by Katherine Longshore:  Brazen is an addictive romp through King Henry VIII’s court and you will forget where you are as you turn the pages of this scandalous and drama-filled historical YA. If you enjoyed the CW’s Reign, this book is perfect for you! SUPER addictive!!


Crown's Game Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye: This historical fantasy set in imperial Russia is full of magic, a life or death competition and a cat and mouse game so complicated. The high stakes and the action just kept getting getting higher and higher to catapult you to this dizzying ending. The fantasy element is easy to get into which is how I like my beach reads because the magic isn’t something everyone has and the world is just an alternate imperial Russia so it’s not this totally fictional world you need to learn about.


these shallow graves cover

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly: If historical fiction is your jam and you like mysteries, I think this one would make a compulsive read on the beach as the main character tries to figure out if her father’s death was really an accident or a suicide or something far more sinister.


Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman cover

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman: I think this Wild Wild West YA historical will be a perfect addition to the beach bag  because it’s an exhilarating and gritty adventure as the main character is on a road to revenge after her father is killed by a notorious gang.


An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: It’s the book equivalent of a summer blockbuster honestly! It’s got everything — an intensity that will have you hooked and on the edge of your seat, characters to really root for, high stakes, espionage, traitors, magic, betrayals and so much action!!


The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows review/cover

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows: I like fantasy books that don’t have too much world-building (not in a bad way) when I’m on the beach because I’m always distracted easily and too much world-building in the beginning might make it hard for me to start. The Orphan Queen is great like that! Just enough world-building and action to make you want to dive in head first!


The Walled City by Ryan Graudin book cover

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin: This one was super action packed and gritty. There was so much tension as the main characters try to survive in this dangerous walled city and it kept me on the edge of my seat.

Illusions of Fate Kierstan White

Illusions of Fate by Kiersen White: I loved this quick and fun fantasy! It’s snarky and fun and I BLEW THREW IT. Magic! Great setting! Banter! WHAT IS NOT TO WANT!? I feel like it flew under the radar, too, but it’s not to be missed and I think it would make a great addition to your beach bag — especially because it’s a standalone fantasy so you won’t be on the beach like OMG WHAT DO I DOOOOOO if you finish it and there is no bookstore in sight.


Pawn Aimee Carter cover and review

Pawn by Aimee Carter: This dystopian novel one had me on the edge of my seat! I think the world system is pretty easy to understand so it’s pretty easy to just jump right into it without a ton of exposition of why the world is the way it is in this one.

Tell me some non-contemporary books that you think make great beach reads!!

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I totally agree with These Shallow Graves and An Ember in the Ashes – they’re perfect summer reads!

    • They really are! I’m so distracted at the beach or any public place so it’s so crucial to read something that just makes you so hooked you won’t even think about anything else!

  2. Totally agree with Pawn (the entire series really!) and An Ember in the Ashes. I’m actually re-reading AEITA right now in preparation for the release of book #2. Cannot come soon enough!

    • I actually NEED to finish the series! Will probably reread Pawn again when I do because I know it will take me like no time to finish it bc it was such a page-turner. And SAME cannot wait for book 2!!!

  3. I’m one of those people who doesn’t really read YA contemporary, I simply much prefer fantasy. Such an amazing list of books, thank you for sharing! ^_^

    Brittany @ Brittany’s Book Rambles

    • You are welcome! And yeah, I DO read a lot of contemporary, but every summer I always think “maaaan these lists, my own included, are so full of only contemporary type books!”

  4. Great post ~ I definitely found some new books to add to my summer reading. Thanks!

  5. Thanks for sharing this, there are a few books on there I hadn’t heard of that have now gone on my TBR list! I really like the sound of Brazen (I love historical fiction, especially set in the Tudor or War of the Roses eras) and The Crown’s Game sounds right up my street! I also may give Vengeance Road a go. I have only ever read one Western type book, and I really wasn’t sure that I would like it, but ended up loving it!
    Great list!

    • Oh man I think you will TOTALLY love Brazen then!! She has some other ones too! Brazen is the only one I read so far though. It’s sooo addictive and made the history nerd in me excited). I hope you love Crown’s Game and Vengeance Road too!! They are SO good!

  6. Some great choices! I’ve had Walled City on my TBR for a while now… Maybe I need to try to get to it this summer! 🙂 And I completely agree with you about An Ember in the Ashes – it’s a smashing blockbuster already, which makes it a perfect summer read!

    • Yes you totally should! It DID take me a little to get into it but I was so fascinated by the idea of this walled city (which is based off a REAL one which she talks about in the author’s note) that I didn’t care and then BOOOM suddenly it became such a page-turner.

  7. These are great choices! I loved The Orphan Queen and Vengeance Road, and I really need to read Brazen!! I loved the first two books. Historical fiction is one of my go-to beach reads actually, besides contemporary 🙂

  8. I’m reading Vengeance Road right now and totally agree, it’s a compulsive read! Plus the hot, sandy beach will evoke the feeling of being in the desert!

  9. So many books on this list that I’ve been wanting to read! When I look at them, I don’t usually think “beach reads” but now I might pick them up sooner than originally planned! Definitely most excited to pick up The Conspiracy of Us as I have heard absolutely WONDERFUL things!
    -Monica @ Tomes Project

  10. I really need to read The Walled City. I just read his book, Wolf by Wolf, and I FREAKING LOVED IT!! Great list. 🙂

  11. Brittany K says:

    Thanks for making this list! Summer definitely becomes YA contemporary book season on book blogs and booktube, so it’s nice to have some non-contemporary books to add to my summer tbr. 😀


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