It’s not a secret that I’m a Teen Librarian and I absolutely love Young Adult literature! Today I’m happy to share the top 10 YA books I read this year- without further ado (in no particular order) here are my 10 favorites of the year!
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Summary: Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough.
As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.
Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine.
Thoughts: I don’t normally read novels in verse in print, if at all, but when this book won the Stonewall Book Award before even being published in America, I knew it was going to be a special one. And special it was- it burrowed into my heart and hasn’t let go since June. The poems are raw and real, and any people who has tried to understand their place in this world will find something to identify with in this one.
Readalikes: Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju, Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh, Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Summary: Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
Thoughts: Will I ever finish singing this book’s praises? Yeah, no I won’t. I knew this was going to be a great one, as Kacen Callender is an undeniable talent and that COVER- wowee! Pals, there’s a reason that this is so hyped- the story, the characters…are true perfection. Seriously I just love this book so dang much and you should too!
Readalikes: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson
Quince by Sebastian Kadlecik, Kit Steinkellner, & Emma Steinkellner
Summary: Lupe is just your average, insecure, well-meaning, occasionally cranky teenage girl whose life is completely turned upside down when she discovers she has superpowers at her quinceañera.
Her quince powers only last as long as she’s fifteen, so over the course of this rollercoaster year, we follow the adventures of Lupe as she figures out what it really means to be a hero.
Thoughts: This book showed up on a list of Latinx comics, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before! In the end, I absolutely loved it- Lupe is so relatable as a teenager trying to live a double life and find out who she is, as well as what evil is and isn’t. I don’t see this one very often on lists, but I really recommend it to anyone who loves superhero tales or coming-of-age stories.
Readalikes: Snapdragon by Kat Leyh, Primer by Jennifer Muro, Thomas Krajewski, & Gretel Lusky, Bitter Root, Vol. 1: Family Business by David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, & Sanford Greene
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
Summary: Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.
There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.
Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.
Thoughts: Ace and indigenous MC? Yeah, I had to get my hands on this one immediately after it released. I’m not normally a fantasy person but the world that Darcie Little Badger created in Elatsoe is lush, detailed, and also realistic, and I love the genre-bending achieved in this one. Truly a masterpiece, and an excellent audiobook!
Readalikes: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow, How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Summary: A coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder.
Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.
Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth — and the part he played in it.
Thoughts: This had been recommended to me by a few other teen librarians, and ooooooh boy this was rough in ALL the best ways. It addresses grief, addiction, and family in a beautiful and heartbreaking way. Truly I was at the end of my seat through the whole book, and it had an equal amount of beautiful day-to-day moments and larger-than-life experiences. I didn’t love the narrator of the audiobook, but I still gave it 5 stars because it was just that GOOD. I’m excited to read more by this author in the future.
Readalikes: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite, Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork
Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Summary: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common.
As the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
Thoughts: Yes, I can’t believe it took me so long to read this one either. I was in desperate need of a new audiobook to listen to and this one was available so I finally took the plunge…and it was beautiful. The story is raw, relatable, and sometimes downright heartbreaking, and I just start getting all up in my feels just THINKING about it. Friends, if you haven’t, pick this one ASAP. It is truly a beautiful story of growing up, discovering who you are, and falling in love.
Readalikes: The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Summary: Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña have no false illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Though their families–both biological and found–create a warm community for them, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the three teens know they have no choice but to run: for the border, for the hope of freedom, and for their very lives.
Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico with their eyes on the U.S. border, they follow the route of La Bestia, a system of trains that promise the hope of freedom–if they are lucky enough to survive the harrowing journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and the desperation that courses through their very veins, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know that there’s no turning back, dangerous though the road ahead might be.
Thoughts: I’m not going to lie to you, this is a difficult read. Not because it’s poorly-written; no, in fact it is beautifully penned. But the experiences that these characters, and many other teens like them, go through are visceral and painful. I had to stop the audio to cry, to digest, and to gain a greater understanding of their journey- and I think that’s exactly what is needed for this one. It is a masterpiece that I think should be read by all.
Readalikes: Beast Rider by Tony Johnston, We Are Here to Stay by Susan Kuklin, American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon
Summary: Beyond the Gender Binary, spoken word poet Alok Vaid-Menon challenges the world to see gender not in black and white, but in full color.
Taking from their own experiences as a gender-nonconforming artist, they show us that gender is a malleable and creative form of expression. The only limit is your imagination.
Thoughts: This was an illuminating read, which really didn’t surprise me. One of my goals this year was to greater explore, understand, and respect the vast array of gender identities in the world, and this book was a wonderful reminder of that goal. Indeed, it made me want to more fully explore my own gender identity in a way I hadn’t thought of before; Alok’s moving personal narratives really are to thank for that curiousity!
Readalikes: A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities by Mady G. & J.R. Zuckerberg, Trans+ by Kathryn Gonzales & Karen Rayne, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Go With the Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann
Summary: Good friends help you go with the flow. Best friends help you start a revolution.
Sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are fed up. Hazelton High never has enough tampons. Or pads. Or adults who will listen.
Sick of an administration that puts football before female health, the girls confront a world that shrugs―or worse, squirms―at the thought of a menstruation revolution. They band together to make a change. It’s no easy task, especially while grappling with everything from crushes to trig to JV track but they have each other’s backs. That is, until one of the girls goes rogue, testing the limits of their friendship and pushing the friends to question the power of their own voices.
Now they must learn to work together to raise each other up. But how to you stand your ground while raising bloody hell?
Thoughts: I picked this one up because the authors/artists were going to be at C2E2 the same time I was, and it really didn’t disappoint! This is such a necessary read for guys, gals, and nonbinary pals, and I truly wish I had it as a teen (since I deal with PCOS and didn’t realize the symptoms and thought really terrible things about myself because of it???). Between the minimalist color palette, the art, and the strong portrayal of female friendships, I absolutely adored this one.
Readalikes: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg, Girls Can’t Hit by T.S. Easton, Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson & Ellen Hagan
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Summary: Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
Thoughts: This one, like others mentioned previously in this post, was selected for the #HEAYourWayBINGO challenge and I wasn’t sure how it was going to be (Everything, Everything threw me for a loop, I’ll be perfectly honest). However, what happened is that I read this book, and watched the movie, in one day. I instantly fell in love with Natasha and Daniel, felt their struggles and feelings, and spent a magical day with them. This book made me think more broadly and more critically about the world around me, and I still have moments where it crosses my mind almost 7 months later. This one is a winner y’all.
Readalikes: The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
What YA books did you read and love this year? Share them in the comments below!
Tomorrow I hope to share my top 10 audiobooks, so until next time…