It’s hard to definitively pick the best YA novels, because there’s no way I can read them all.
For the last several years I’ve read a ton of newly published young adult novels, and even thought the amount of my reading is down considerably this year, I still think I’ve got a handle on the best YA being published, mostly because I’ve gotten damn good at selecting the YA I do read. While I’m definitely still in the loop about big, buzzy books, in my heart I’m still seeking out those hidden gems and championing debut authors. Even though I still have an extensive amount of 2017 YA titles on my TBR, I’m confident that my personal favorites are also representative of the best YA being published this year. I mean if you share my taste.
Here are my top eight YA titles published in the first half of 2017! But I am so confident in my ability to select the best titles to read that I full expect When Dimple Met Rishi, Forever and Always, Love, Laura Jean, and In a Perfect World to make my top YA of 2017 list, too, even though I’m still in the process of reading them.
The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu
There’s a street in Brooklyn where all the girls are cursed: if they fall in love, their beloved will die. Lorna, one of the Devonairre Street girls, doesn’t put much stock in the neighborhood legend, even though her father died in a terrorist attack similar to 9/11. That is until her best friend’s boyfriend dies, and she starts to wonder if it’s real.
With tinges of magical realism, this novel explores the contradictions and challenges of being a modern girl and the complications of friendship and love. Beautiful and strange, raw and real, I highly recommend it to fans of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater or Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.
And I mean those are two of my favorite books ever.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Oh you know that a Laini Taylor book is virtually guaranteed to make it onto my favorite lists (I have tattoos on my wrist inspired by Daughter of Smoke and Bone.) And just to seal the deal, this one is about a librarian!
With lush and lyrical writing that forces the reader to linger on every phrase, a fascinating world to explore, and characters to care about, it’s absolutely enchanting.
I had the chance to interview Laini Taylor over at Book Riot, so you can read all about her thoughts on fantasy and how fiction can sustain us in dark times.
Dear Reader by Mary O’Connell
Mary O’Connell’s writing transports the reader—to a sun-baked rock in the Flint Hills of Kansas at sunset, to a bathroom stall in a Catholic girls’ school in Connecticut, to the back of a cab zooming through upper Manhattan, as if you are sitting beside Flannery Fields all along as she searches for her missing English teacher with the help of her strange diary that appears on the pages of an old copy of Wuthering Heights.
Which really is quite the peculiar story, but the writing is so captivating I just went along for the ride, enjoying all the irreverent humor and earnest angst in equal measure. This is a story for anyone who believes in the power books have to help you figure out your life and remind you to go out and live it. And I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly the kind of book I’ve been needing lately.
(Full disclosure, Mary is also one of my favorite people ever.)
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
This is the fun Victorian road trip novel with a bisexual main character you didn’t know you needed! All the shenanigans, all the angst of having a major crush on your best friend, all the adventure. It’s the total package!
Fans of historical romance and YA will both enjoy this novel. It takes all the best of contemporary LGBTQIA young adult novels and mixes in the historical elements, which is just all around good fun.
Did I mention how fun it is?
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This debut is worth all the excitement and buzz.
It authentically tackles a tough, topical issue: police violence against young black men. It manages to have sympathetic, well-developed characters that represent a lot of different views on the issue, while still being an authentic coming of age story with incredible voice.
Even though it’s about a heavy subject, it’s a highly readable novel an transcends the trappings of an “issue novel.”
I’ll be eagerly awaiting whatever Angie Thomas writes next.
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
To be honest, I didn’t love this quite like I did Becky’s debut, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (full disclosure: I liked Simon A LOT). But, it was a really true to life story that captured a lot of my own teenage anxieties about crushes, while at its heart, still being a story about family, and especially about sisters.
Becky definitely gets teenagers, which is so critical to a successful YA novel.
Also, the world needs more stories about fat girls falling in love, and about teenagers falling for the person they really click with, rather than the person everyone thinks they should fall for.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
This novel is a love letter to used books and falling in love with your best friend.
I adored Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon, so I was expecting to enjoy this — but it’s about childhood friends who develop feelings for one another, and the timing was just always off, until maybe it isn’t (sigh…my favorite romance storyline) and it’s set in a used bookstore with a wall of shelves of books that act as mailboxes, with people leaving notes in the margins and letters tucked between pages.
So of course I loved it.
If you like YA with lots of heart, this is for you.
After the Fall by Katie Hart
I was surprised by how much this debut young adult novel affected me.I loved the characters. Raychel is prickly and a teen girl that a lot of young women can probably relate to, and Matt is a seemingly “golden boy” who is actually a bit of a douchey asshole. Andrew is a fun-loving, flirty goofball who seems like a screw up but actually is kinda sweet. They’re all realistically drawn.
I loved the issues that this book brings up about consent, about the line between friends and romantic interest, poverty and privilege. I loved the complicated relationship between a young woman from a poor, single parent family and two brothers from a well-adjusted, more affluent family in a familiar Ozark setting. The depiction of a hard-partying crowd of high school kids felt very true. I’ll definitely be picking up any of Kate Hart’s future books.
These are the best YA novels of 2017, at least according to my taste. What YA novels have you loved this year?