It’s almost 2017. There’s a lot to look forward to – and a lot, we know, to be nervous about. We’ll be tackling it all head-on in 2017 – and we’ll be taking our annual two-week holiday break to prepare for it. (See you again on January 1st!) But before we slide into the new year, let’s take a look at the books we loved most this year. Wheat were our favorite YA books of 2016?
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
Jaye Robin Brown has created a vibrant world that sucks the reader in. Her characters are beautifully relatable, and we can’t help but root for Jo to find her happiness, despite all the hurdles she faces. I think what spoke to me the most about this novel was how real the situation was, and how well Brown dealt with Jo’s identity as a lesbian girl in a homophobic environment.
Raven: The Pirate Princess (Vol. 1 & 2) by Jeremy Whitley, Ted Brandt and Rosy Higgins
Set in the larger Princeless universe, Raven the Pirate Princess follows Raven as she fights to reclaim her throne as pirate king from the brothers who stole it from her. There is nothing I don’t love about this series. Not only does it blatantly mock the ideas that a lot of men seem to have about gender roles and a woman’s place, but it features so many ladies. Tiny ladies. Tall ladies. Fat ladies. Muscled ladies. Thin ladies. Deaf ladies. Queer ladies. (So many queer ladies.) Nerd ladies. Hijaabi ladies. Ladies of color. (So many ladies of color.) Angry ladies. Nice ladies. Scientific ladies. Thief ladies. Ladies everywhere! It’s totally fun and the character dynamics are shaping up so well; I can’t wait to see where the series goes.
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
Bursting with brujeria and lush imagery, Labyrinth Lost is the tale of Alex, the reluctant recipient of magic and the most powerful bruja in years. At her Deathday celebration, she accidentally banishes her family to Los Lagos, an in-between land full of trickery and death. I loved this novel for it’s incredibly intricate world building and the breadth of its representation. The main character is bi, a bruja, and pretty darn kick-butt.
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
Queer girls! Lady pirates! Baby sea monsters! Healthy relationship dynamics! There’s so much to love about The Abyss Surrounds Us. Skrutskie priorities the stories of queer women and women of colour, and the hero, villain and love interest of The Abyss Surrounds Us are three of the most fantastically well-rounded women I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel next year.
Queer pirates! What’s not to love, honestly? But aside from that already awesome premise, Skrutskie has created an intricate world of monsters that is utterly fascinating. Cas’ personal journey from prisoner to part of the crew is one of self-discovery, and growth that deals with loss and love in a beautiful way.
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
A World Without You by Beth Revis
I have the tendency to not read the summary of a book before diving into it and wow, was I in for a great read! A World Without You immerses you into Bo’s world, taking the reader on an emotional journey of the life that Bo leads. At the same time, readers are given another POV – Bo’s sister Phoebe, which provides a completely different perspective. This book is important for both those who are and are not familiar with mental illness.
Half in Love with Death by Emily Ross
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Alex is angry, and she’s okay with that. Alex is also a murderer, and she’s okay with that too. After her sister’s murderer walked free, violence is her solace. Then she meets Jack and Peekay, two people who strive to befriend her despite her self isolation. As their senior year unfolds, the three are set on a collision course that will change everything they’ve ever known. I have a lot of feelings about this book, most of which I can’t talk about without spoiling the whole thing. I adored this book for the main character’s unquenchable anger and hunger for revenge, something that women are not usually allowed to feel.
The Female of the Species is a heart-stomping, unapologetically angry masterpiece, the kind of story that stays with you long after you’ve turned the final page. With searingly beautiful prose and complex morally-grey characters, McGinnis forces readers to pay attention to the ugly reality of the way our world treats women. The Female of the Species deserves to be prominently displayed in bookstores and school libraries everywhere.
The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
I couldn’t ask for anything more in a contemporary than what Nicola Yoon delivered in this beautifully written novel. I read this at a time when I didn’t feel like reading and it reminded me exactly why I love reading. The ability for writers to craft characters, minor characters included, who feel so real that your reactions to their life are as visceral to you as they are to the characters.
And I Darken by Kiersten White
We talk about unlikable heroines, but what happens when you take a historical figure known for their brutality and make that figure a girl? That’s what you’re getting with And I Darken. It reads a bit like an epic, starting when Lada and Radu are very young and following them through their teens as they are pulled from their beloved Wallachia. We get to follow Lada’s struggle with her femininity and her struggle with her love of Wallachia vs her love of her brother. Radu, on the other hand, is growing in his spirituality and discovering his sexuality and loving his new home. Then they’re both falling for the same boy and as a reader, it’s hard to tell who that boy loves more. It’s one of the most fascinating, gripping books I read this year and I’m eager to get my hands on book two.
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
I’m a sucker for a good fantasy. Throw in a kickass heroine, and you’ve got me, hook, line and sinker. Empire of Storms continues Aelin’s journey to Terrasen, and the ongoing battle against what can sometimes feel like the rest of the world. Maas confidently juggles the various perspectives, tying up all the different threads together to make a compelling story that I could not pot down.
As I Descended by Robin Talley
Usually, I read YA books that were popular months after their popularity has waned. Miraculously, I read Robin Talley’s As I Descended at the same time everyone else was. I loved Lies We Tell Ourselves and this novel measured up. As I Descended was another novel I wouldn’t normally read, due to its paranormal aspects. The characters were inclusive and true to life, and the flawless adaption of Macbeth was what really got me excited. I almost didn’t mind that I was afraid to read this book in the dark.
Gena / Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson
At first glance, Gena and Finn have little in common – Gena’s preparing to leave her boarding school for college, while Finn struggles to make ends meet in her day-to-day life. But in this novel that tackles coming-of-age post-high school, Gena and Finn find something in common: their online fandom presence and their love for the show Up Below. The more they blog – and email – and text – the more intense their friendship (and fandom feels) grow. Sure to strike a cord with anybody who has ever loved a TV show, Gena / Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson is a fast-paced homage to both fandom friendships and the media that inspires them.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
A heart-warming story of friendship and fandom from one of the U.K.’s most talented new voices. Oseman’s characters are wonderfully diverse and eschew stereotypes at every turn – from a bisexual protagonist whose story doesn’t revolve around romance, to a demisexual main character in a loving romantic relationship. If Radio Silence isn’t on your radar yet, it should be!
Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
I also fell in love with the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard. I loved the world of Mare Barrow, the intense powers, the political atmosphere, and the underground revolution simmering throughout the series. I tore through Red Queen, Glass Sword, and the Cruel Crown novellas in less than a month, and I can’t wait for the next installment!
Exit, Pursued By A Bear by E.K. Johnston
This is, technically, a contemporary YA where a cheerleading captain gets date raped at cheer camp. However, it still had this echo of fantasy because of the kindness and support she received. Hermione does not remember her rape and she is surrounded with love and support – from her friends, her family, her doctors, the cops on her case. Even when she finds out she’s pregnant, her support system never wavers. She gets to have a fulfilling, wonderful senior year despite being raped and getting pregnant and she gets her happy ending. It’s not realistic to what most rape victims will experience, but it’s the kind of read that reassures you and reminds you that it can still be okay. I want every teen girl to get to read this book and have that reassurance.
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
Left in pieces by a life that has ravaged her, Charlotte Davis is covered in scars. Some are from others, but most are from her own hand wielding a trusty piece of broken glass. With a fractured family dogging her heals, friends who are not friends at all, and always hope, Charlie sets off on a journey to heal. Glasgow shows that just because you’re broken, doesn’t mean you can’t heal. As an abuse survivor myself, that message is one that resonated with me on a deeply personal level.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Faith Sunderly is a proper young lady to the Victorian society that judges her, but she burns with questions and yearns to study science – the very thing forbidden to her by nature of her sex. When her father begins to act strangely, it’s Faith who keeps the secret of his Lie Tree, a plant that grows and blossoms when fed lies – and when he dies, it’s up to Faith to use the tree to avenge his murder. Frances Hardinge crafts a world that enchants and haunts in turn, crafting a world that looks at the nature of truth: the truth in the things that we believe and the things that we know, and what truths are made invisible through our own wishes and through the ideas of society. The Lie Tree forces you to look at your own believes, to crack open your own heart until you can see some of your own truth, and it does it with beautiful writing and a hint of the fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.