YA Highlights

Looking for something new to read? Check out some of our favorite YA books of 2019

10. Amelia Westlake Was Never Here by Erin Gough: Erin Gough gifts readers a social justice adventure with heart and humor in equal measure. Teacher’s pet Harriet Price and anti-establishment artist Will Everhart team up to create the fictional Amelia Westlake, a high school hoax who speaks truth to power. In a time where hope can feel in short supply, it’s a breath of fresh air to get a tale that examines privilege and how to foment meaningful change without ever losing sight of its own charms. —Maureen Lee Lenker

9. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas: How do you follow up (spoiler alert!) one of the best YA novels of the decade? Angie Thomas delivered a deeply moving sophomore novel in the form of On the Come Up, another coming of age tale set in the fictional, richly realized community of Garden Heights. Impressively, it’s a different kind of novel from The Hate U Give, offering up a more prickly, outspoken protagonist whose impulsiveness could alienate readers, but never felt less than true. —David Canfield

8. Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian: This lyrical, heartbreaking period piece finds a way to accessibly render the bleak milieu of late-’80s queer NYC for a younger audience, following a teen love-triangle — an Iranian kid struggling with his sexuality, a young woman with a passion for fashion, and their school’s only out-and-proud student — as they navigate adolescent dramas and the sweeping social movements sprouting around them. It’s a lush, loving, wonderfully gay novel that finds poetry in authenticity. –DC

7. The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black: Can we talk about the ending of this trilogy yet? We’ll play it safe and say that Holly Black’s Folk in the Air series stuck the landing with this breathlessly plotted last book, the thrill of pieces falling into place accelerating by the page. We’ll at least dare to praise — admittedly, sort of spoil — the final turn, in which Jude’s saga gets a hopeful conclusion that feels fully-earned.  –DC

6. Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry: This teenage Thelma and Louise, laced with the feral charge of a Gillian Flynn novel, centers on unlikely duo Winona Olsen and Lucille Pryce, who’ve forged their friendship in fire. Leaving town in a stolen convertible to escape the abusive circumstances of their lives, they sputter their way across the country, their sisterhood only growing. Cavallaro and Henry tap into an electric current of female rage, cataloging this tale of loyalty and friendship with startling ferocity. –MLL

5. The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh: Ahdieh is a versatile author, but I didn’t expect her to bring vampires back to YA greatness in such smart, sexy style. This is one of those books where the elements tell you everything you need to know. Vampires! Paris! New Orleans! The 1800s! Murder mystery! Dive in and enjoy. –DC

4. Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi: The Children of Blood and Bone phenom had quite a cliffhanger to make good on, and succeeds with this superb sequel. With magic returned to the land of Orïsha, Adeyemi aptly continues the story of Zélie, Amari, et al. as they face new challenges. While if at first the novel lacks the radical energy of its predecessor, it builds beautifully. Its epilogue ranks among the best endings I’ve read in a YA novel — ever. Bring on the finale. –DC

3. Frankly in Love by David Yoon: The year’s best YA debut spins a rom-com staple — the fake-dating scheme — into a sweet, nuanced, and brilliantly entertaining take on Korean-American identity and the distance teens project from their parents. Specific in nature, the novel soars in its universality. –DC

2. Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali: This one will go in the canon of classic YA romances. Ali delivers a sort of perfectly swoony, fateful romance in the vein of other era-greats like The Sun Is Also a Star and Eleanor and Park. Its two heroes meet on a flight to Qatar and, from there, keep getting drawn back into each other’s orbit. The joy of this one is in the writing — the chemistry, the comedy, the budding love. It’s destined to be read over and over. –DC

1. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys: Part sweeping love story, part excoriating epic, The Fountains of Silence proves why Ruta Sepetys should be feted as one of the best YA authors writing today. Following Daniel Matheson, the 18-year-old son of Texas oil tycoon, through Franco’s fascist Spain, Septys peers into the darkest corners of Spanish history and the brightest capacities of the human spirit. Rich with historical detail, the book nails the languid roil of its setting, while never losing an absolutely vital sense of urgency. It’s a walk through the past that will linger long after your journey has ended. Fountains of Silence is an essential read that pierces to the bone — and makes us take pleasure in the pain. –MLL