My favourite genre of books is historical fiction, particularly YA historical fiction. I also have a particular affinity for certain periods of history and one of those is the 1920s. Even though (I find) there aren’t as many YA historical fiction novels compared to other genres, I feel that those written about the 20s are increasingly popular so I have compiled a short list of some of my favourite 20s books as well as a couple I can’t wait to read. Hope you enjoy and possibly find something new to add to your TBR!
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.
This series first started being published in 2012 and so far there are only two (rather large) books released—The Diviners and Lair of Dreams. Even though it may take some time to get your hands on the complete series, let me tell you, the wait is definitely worth it! These are some of my all-time favourite books and are already quite popular in the YA community. Set in the 20s, you get some awesome flappers vibes AND creepy supernatural elements; what isn’t to love?
Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York’s glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star….
Cordelia is searching for the father she’s never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined — and more dangerous. It’s a life anyone would kill for…and someone will.
The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia’s brother, Charlie. But Astrid’s perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.
This trilogy—Bright Young Things, Beautiful Days, and The Lucky Ones—is a completed series and Anna Godbersen is one of my favourite authors. Lots of people describe her YA books as historical Gossip Girl (but I think it’s better than Gossip Girl). These books are totally addictive and really keep you guessing and there is a pretty epic conclusion in the final book. The characters are very realistic (and damn, they are sexy), they grow and develop throughout the series, and I got really attached to them. Also, lots of couples to OTP. And the outfits? My imagination went to town with all those sequins, tuxes, and fringed skirts—makes the book almost worth reading just for that!
Debutantes by Cora Harrison
It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing, and parties. Violet, Daisy, Poppy, and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away. Luckily the girls each have a plan for escaping their humdrum country life: Rose wants to be a novelist, Poppy a jazz musician, and Daisy a famous film director. Violet, however, has only one ambition: to become the perfect debutante, so that she can go to London and catch the eye of Prince George, the most eligible bachelor in the country. But a house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans—ruin everything—forever.
This is a super cute duology—Debutantes and Debutantes in Love—that is about sibling relationships and the love for family with a Downton Abbey vibe being set in London and a country manor house. These books are a lighter read and are more appropriate for younger YA readers than the other books on this list.
Flappers by Jillian Larkin
Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination.
Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?
Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . .
Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . .
I have yet to read this trilogy—Vixen, Ingenue, and Diva—but I’ve heard from many other readers that if you like The Great Gatsby or Anna Godbersen’s Bright Young Things, then you’ll love this. I don’t know much about these books, but I believe that they’re aimed at an older YA audience.
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
Jo, the firstborn, “The General” to her eleven sisters, is the only thing the Hamilton girls have in place of a mother. She is the one who taught them how to dance, the one who gives the signal each night, as they slip out of the confines of their father’s townhouse to await the cabs that will take them to the speakeasy. Together they elude their distant and controlling father, until the day he decides to marry them all off.
The girls, meanwhile, continue to dance, from Salon Renaud to the Swan and, finally, the Kingfisher, the club they come to call home. They dance until one night when they are caught in a raid, separated, and Jo is thrust face-to-face with someone from her past: a bootlegger named Tom whom she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Suddenly Jo must weigh in the balance not only the demands of her father and eleven sisters, but those she must make of herself.
I own this book in a beautiful hardcover edition and I can’t wait to read it! All I know about this book is that it is a retelling of the fairy-tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses but set in the speakeasies of 1920s Manhattan. Hooked? I know I am!