Mail Call: 7 YA Book Subscription Boxes To Check Out

If subscription boxes have been on your radar but you haven’t taken the plunge, here’s a primer. Plus, YA-themed boxes to recommend to teens.

If subscription boxes have been on your radar but you haven’t taken the plunge, here’s a primer on the format and its history. In our fast-paced, always-on world, there’s something special about receiving physical mail. No doubt, that’s part of what has fueled the tremendous growth of subscription box services over the last half decade. Subscription services aren’t new—Columbia House was a mail-order music club that launched in the 1970s. What is new is the boom in the market and the wide range of services available. As of March 2017, more than 2,000 subscription box services exist in the United States, and websites for those subscription services have seen tremendous growth in traffic—nearly 3,000% percent between 2013 and 2016, according to Shorr Packaging. Subscription boxes are developed both by well-known brands, such as Sephora or Wal-Mart, as well as by individuals or organizations with a passion and the knowledge to curate a selection of items that will excite subscribers. For readers, one of the things that makes subscription boxes so thrilling is discovering new books and connecting with other readers over a shared love of the written word. While many services drop teasers about what subscribers might see in their upcoming mail, part of the draw is the anticipation of and surprise at some of the items that arrive. Subscribers put their trust in a curator to build a box that they’ll love, even if it’s not necessarily something they may have picked up on their own. And that’s the fun of it—discovery. Forging relationships with other subscribers and readers is another part of the appeal. “Unboxing” blog posts and videos connect subscribers, who can read and talk about the boxes, as well as other books they love, with one another. Many subscription boxes have active social media presences, and they encourage customers to snap pictures and share their thoughts about the boxes with a brand-focused hashtag. Here’s a look at a few YA-focused boxes in case you want to stay abreast of what readers are receiving and if your teens are looking for recommendations for what to subscribe to next.

FairyLootFairyLoot was started by two book lovers who wanted to spread the love of fantasy reads while also providing a small selection of goodies such as specially made scarves, quote prints, and even a Funko POP! Each box is themed, and recent packages have included “Whimsical Journeys” with Jessica Leake's Beyond a Darkened Shore, “Memorable Moments” with Melinda Salisbury's State of Sorrow, and “Oh So Regal” with Sara Holland's Everless. FairyLoot is sometimes able to receive their books ahead of publication date, and in some instances, they’ve offered special editions of books for their subscribers only. Based in the UK, this YA fantasy–themed book box is available to subscribers worldwide. Cost: Monthly boxes cost approximately $35, plus shipping (for Canadian subscribers, there is also a customs charge). There are also three- and six-month prepaid subscription plans available.

LitJoy Crate Self-proclaimed book nerds Alix Adams and Kelly Dearth started LitJoy Crate to share that love and build a community around it. LitJoy Crate offers three different subscription boxes—a monthly YA box, a quarterly middle grade box, and a monthly picture book box. The YA box includes one new release in each subscription, along with two to four items to go with it. Recent boxes include “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” which contained Alexandra Christo's To Kill a Kingdom, seashell lights, earrings, a signed bookplate, and other goodies; “Upon Her Throne,” with Rebecca Ross's The Queen’s Rising, an exclusive constellation scarf, a letter from the author, a bath bomb, and more; and “Forged in Friendship” with Anna Priemaza's Kat and Meg Conquer the World, a lavender eye mask, a signed bookplate, a “Harry Potter”–inspired tote bag, and more. Cost: $30 for a month-to-month subscription plan, with three- and six-month prepay plans slightly less, plus shipping.

My YA Reading Club This box is for readers who want only books in their subscription, rather than accompanying goodies. My YA Reading Club selects two hardcover titles per month, as well as an ebook, to send out. They lean toward fantasy reads. Some of their recent selections have included Moïra Fowley-Doyle's The Accident Season, Jen Alexander's Aftermath, and Sherry Thomas's The Burning Sky. With less focus on social media than other boxes, this one is for passionate readers itching for new books in their life. Available only in the United States and Canada. Cost: $22 for a month-to-month subscription, with prepaid plans available at a lower monthly rate, plus shipping and handling.

OwlCrate Created in late 2014, OwlCrate is the brainchild of Korrina Ede and Robert Madden. Once run out of a basement suite, the subscription box took off so quickly that they both quit their day jobs to work on OwlCrate full time. Ede and Madden note that it was because of the encouragement of the online young adult lit community they launched the service, and it’s through sharing on social media that it continues to thrive. Each box has a unique theme and includes one new hardcover YA book across any number of genres, along with three to five awesome bookish goods made from small businesses across the United States. Past boxes have included Melissa Albert's The Hazel Wood, signed exclusively for OwlCrate, along with a wall tapestry, a pouch inspired by Laini Taylor's The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, stickers, and other goodies; a signed and exclusive edition of Holly Black's The Cruel Prince, along with a handmade bracelet, Sleeping Beauty–influenced pillowcase, and more; and an exclusive edition of Anna-Marie McLemore's Wild Beauty, with tea, bookmarks, a mug, and more. For middle grade fans, OwlCrate also offers OwlCrate Jr., focused on ages eight to 12. Open to subscribers nearly worldwide. Cost: $30 month to month plus shipping. Three- and six-month prepaid boxes are available.

ParnassusNext If you’re looking for a no-frills book subscription box featuring a single, brand-new YA book, selected by well-read book sellers, this service, created at Parnassus Books in Nashville, is the one for you. Each of the books in the box are signed first editions by the author. Recent titles include Samira Ahmed's Love, Hate, and Other Filters, Melissa Albert's The Hazel Wood, and Emily X.R. Pan's The Astonishing Color of After. This is an excellent box for readers wanting to stay on top of new releases, especially the titles that will go on to be big hits. ParnassusNext is open to subscribers in the United States and Canada only. Cost: Between $17 and $19 (the retail cost of the book) monthly, plus shipping. Three-, six-, and 12-month subscription plans are available.

Red.Blk.Girl Red.Blk.Girl is a subscription service focused on Black girls. The books selected feature Black girls, written by Black authors—an #OwnVoices box. Each month, a contemporary YA title is included, along with three to five items. Red.Blk.Girl emphasizes “positive themes [that] promote a healthy sense of self and overall well-being.” Past boxes have included Ibi Zoboi's American Street, along with bubble bath, an enamel pin, and more. They’ve also featured Sherri L. Smith's Flygirl  and Necole Ryse's The Legacy, along with bookmarks, a notebook, and more. Available worldwide. Cost: $35 month to month, plus shipping. Available in prepaid subscriptions of three, six, and 12 months.

Uppercase Box Billing itself as the most affordable monthly subscription box for YA fans, Uppercase Box includes signed first editions of exciting new titles, along with non-fandom themed items, exclusives from the author of the selected book, and an active community of readers. Uppercase was started by YA blogger Lisa Parkin, and she includes a handwritten personal note in each box. Recent boxes have included Jenn Bennett's Starr Eyes, along with a notebook and exclusive enamel pins; Gwendolyn Clare's Ink, Iron and Glass, along with magnets, a necklace, and a notebook; and Olivia A. Cole's A Conspiracy of Stars, along with a wooden bookmark, a sticker, and a bookish print. Available in the United States, including Puerto Rico, and Canada. Cost: $23 per month, plus shipping. You can also subscribe to receive just the book at a cost of $18 a month, plus shipping. Even if you don’t choose to subscribe to any of these boxes, it’s worthwhile to give them a follow on your favorite social media tool. Often, you’ll learn about the books in the boxes, as well as other fabulous reads from their community—an excellent tool in your readers' advisory and collection development toolkit.

Kelly Jensen is a former librarian–turned–editor for Book Riot. Along with maintaining her long-running YA blog "Stacked," she has edited two anthologies for young adults. Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World is available now, and (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start The Conversation About Mental Health will be available in October 2018.

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