Hello everyone, and welcome back!
This is it: the best YA books I’ve read this year. In some cases, the race was close between some books I was similarly into (or on similar topics), so I went with what stuck with me the most.
Let’s get to it!
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
You don’t need me to tell you to read this book, because everyone has said to read this book. It’s one of those few situations where a book lives up to its hype.
This contemporary drama is about a young woman, Starr, and the worlds that come crashing down (in her poor Black neighbourhood and at her mostly-white prep school) when she witnesses one of her friends getting shot by a cop. It’s obviously currently relevant but also is generally refreshing: it’s nice to spend time with a YA protagonist who actually has and gets along with their family.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
This young adult historical drama-ish takes place in Alaska in the 1970s, following the lives of four perspective characters and dealing with the subject of family (blood families and found families) and friendship.
This is a short book, but it’s very strong in its use of setting, symbolism, and description. It was also super refreshing to spend time with a contemporary-like book with not very much romance.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
No dystopians on this list, but here’s a utopian book for you. (Okay, that’s how it’s described, but there are clearly insidious aspects to this society.) This speculative future exists in a world where medicine has advanced to a point where no one ever has to die—so to prevent overpopulation, some are “reaped” at random by a group of people called Scythes. The two protagonists are chosen to be new apprentices.
I didn’t really review this one as I read it during a reading marathon, but it definitely has stuck with me. I’ve already pre-ordered the sequel to this one for early next year; it was a fun and interesting setting with likeable characters, if a slightly over-the-top villain.
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Another reading marathon read, and a really unique one. It’s hard to classify this book: it’s kind of a series of vignettes that take place on the same secluded island over many years between different characters. It’s a little bit horror, a little bit mystery, a little bit romance, and pretty unique.
It’s also not very long (this was the year of short books), so I would definitely recommend giving it a look if you want to read something a bit different. (I read a lot of YA, so sometimes I’m looking for the best of a genre, and sometimes, it’s nice to find something else entirely.)
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Here’s the contemporary romance of our list (and a second chance read), a story about Natasha, whose family is soon to be deported, and Daniel, headed to a college interview he really doesn’t want. The two meet in New York and travel the city together while fate changes their lives and the lives of others around them.
This one might grate on you if you’re not much of a romantic (Daniel is; Natasha isn’t, but the book itself definitely is written with a butterfly effect in mind). It also sometimes wanders into the minds of the characters around the protagonists and unravels some of their stories, which I found touching but might not be for everyone (it’s not the most usual form of storytelling, for sure). But as a fairly romantic person who also loves setting stuff, I enjoyed this a lot.
Geekerella by Ashley Poston
My favourite fairy tale retelling and fan culture read of the year, and I read quite a few of them. This contemporary romance/fairy tale retelling is about a young woman who longs to reconnect with her lost parents by attending the fan convention they helped to run, and the young actor who’s been cast in the new adaptation of her favourite old show. (Obviously, hijinks ensue.)
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Another contemporary drama because apparently, it’s that kind of year. This one is about rape culture, largely, so it’s not one to wade into without feeling ready for the material. One of the protagonists, Alex, murdered the man who assaulted and killed her sister; the story follows her later on, as she slowly forms friendships with a coworker at the animal shelter and a young man who starts to notice her.
This is a heavy book that’ll definitely have an impact; it’s dark, but it has humour to balance it.
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
I wasn’t 100% sure at first if this belonged on my list or if it just surprised me how much I actually had fun with it, but let’s give every genre a chance: this was my favourite sci-fi of the year. It follows two characters, a young woman and an artificial intelligence, from two different worlds, and their quest to do something about the conflict that’s coming.
This was a pretty fun romp from futuristic setting to futuristic setting, and it didn’t contain a rushed, canned romance, so I had a good time with it. (This was also a second chance after A Thousand Pieces of You.)
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
I also wasn’t 100% sure if this belonged at first; I liked it quite a bit, but I wasn’t sure about “favourite” status? But this book got me into reading more magical realism, and I’ve been really enjoying that, and I came to love Sam and Miel (the protagonists of this magical realism/romance), so I think it’ll be the one that sticks out most in months to come.
(Also it’s fun to have a span of genres, obviously.)
Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
So this is yet another testament to why it’s good that I retry authors, because I was definitely in the minority of people who just really didn’t get into the Grisha trilogy and I was hesitant to try this duology. But then I did, and it was a lot of fun.
This is a medium-fantasy heist duology about a group of not-really-villains who team up to pull off some major crimes and have a lot of interpersonal drama. The characters are vivid, the setting is fun, and it’s probably pretty accessible to read even if you don’t know anything about the Grisha world.
What were your favourite reads of the year? What new releases are you looking forward to in 2018? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!