Some time ago, disenchanted with the state of YA, I embarked on a quest to discover superior young adult fiction: fantastic, diverse, original, heartbreaking, uplifting, powerful, moving, inspiring books. 2019 has been a fantastic year for superior young adult fiction and these are the books that really moved me. I have numbered each of the books because while one shouldn't have favourites, I did want to highlight how superb those at the top of the list were.
10. How to Make Friends With the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow
Kathleen Glasgow's devastating novel about grief stopped me in my tracks. On a day that begins with an argument about a dance and ends with the death of her mother, Tiger Tolliver finds herself in the dark without a safety net. As she is shifted from foster home to foster home, Tiger's journey leads her through a web of addiction and pain as she discovers the meaning of family.
9. Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
This devastating and powerful coming-of-age novel is set against the backdrop of Philippine President Duterte's war against drugs. High school senior Jay Reguero is looking forward to a summer of video games before taking up his place at University of Michigan. That all ends when his cousin Jun is murdered in Manila and Jay travels to the Philippines to discover the truth behind Jun's death. With themes touching on poverty, slums, addiction, drug use, extrajudicial killings, guilt and redemption, Patron Saints of Nothing is a powerful and devastating story.
Full review: Randy Ribay's Devastating Patron Saints of Nothing
8. 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons
Pure and uplifting, 100 Days of Sunlight is a wonderful young adult debut by Abbie Emmons about getting back up again after life has knocked you down. When sixteen-year-old Tessa Dickinson is involved in a terrible car accident, she temporarily loses her eyesight. Despondent and isolated from her life as an online poet, Tessa takes an instant dislike to Weston Ludovico, the boy hired by her grandparents to help transcribe her poems. What Tessa can't see is Weston's secret and an indomitable spirit that will change her world.
7. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Set in Franco's Spain 15 years after the Spanish Civil War, The Fountains of Silence tells the story of forbidden love and stolen babies in an authoritarian state. I read and loved Ruta Sepetys's Salt to the Sea and this epic story of life in Madrid during the 1970s firmed her position as my favourite historical fiction author. In fact, I was so impressed by this novel that I've decided to concentrate far more on historical YA fiction in 2020; I loved that one book could teach me so much about a part of history that I'd formerly known little about.
6. A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by Charlie Fletcher
One of the most exciting things to happen to me in 2019 was winning a copy of Charlie Fletcher's speculative masterpiece A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World. Griz has grown up in an empty world, not the result of some grand cataclysmic event but simply a world where people stopped being able to reproduce. When a stranger steals the family dog, Griz embarks on a journey to the ends of the world to track them down. Featuring a trek across a barely recognisable Britain, this book has one of the best twists I've ever encountered.
5. Season of the Witch (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina # 1) by Sarah Rees Brennan
So, spoiler alert: I wasn't going to include audiobooks on this list because I have a whole other post planned just for all the amazing audiobooks I listened to this year. Nevertheless, I loved Season of the Witch so much that it absolutely deserves a place on this list. It'll also be on the other list. Taking place just before the events in Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina season 1, Season of the Witch sees Sabrina preparing for her dark baptism and I'll-advisedly putting a love spell on Harvey. Delightfully dark and full of angst, this book made me a firm fan of both author Sarah Rees Brennan and narrator Jesse Vilinsky.
4. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
This is another book that I consumed on audiobook, expertly narrated by Bahni Turpin. I loved Angie Thomas's debut novel The Hate U Give but I think I possibly adored this one more. Bri is an aspiring young rapper growing up in Garden Heights, hoping to use her talents to rise to the same levels of fame as her late father Lawless. With her mother struggling to make ends meet and her aunt in deep with a local gang, Bri needs this break more than ever; the only problem is that she starts getting all the wrong types of attention in her bid to make a name for herself.
3. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
The first book I read in 2019, Tahereh Mafi's superb semi-autobiographical novel about a Muslim teen living in America post-911 took me through every emotion possible. Wise beyond her sixteen years and weary of all the racist, bigoted things people say to her, Shirin is biding her time in high school by putting in her earphones and ignoring the world around her. That's until she meets Ocean in bio class and decides, against her better instincts, to let him in. Warning: this book will break your heart.
Full review: Tahereh Mafi's Superb A Very Large Expanse of Sea
2. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
This was a truly difficult choice because Akwaeke Emezi's Pet is absolutely spectacular. Set in the near-future in a world that has been rid of monsters, Pet is the story of Jam, a transgender girl with selective mutism, who unleashes a creature of justice and vengeance into the world. For monsters aren't always who you'd expect and something very dark is happening in a home in the town of Lucille. I love this book so much and recommend it to everyone.
Full review: Akwaeke Emezi's Incredible Pet
1. Sadie by Courtney Summers
Sadie tore out my heart and tore it to tiny little bits. This superb young adult novel is about a murdered girl, her missing sister, the police who don't care enough to investigate her disappearance and the radio personality who goes against his better judgement to discover the truth. It was told in chapters alternating between Sadie's story and West McCray's podcast 'The Girls'. While I loved reading this book, I believe the audiobook is especially powerful which means I get to revisit it again soon. With so many great books out there, I only reserve re-reads (and read-to-listens) for my very favourite books. And Sadie is one of my favourite, not just of 2019 but of all time.
Full review: Courtney Summers' Superb Sadie
They didn't quite make the top ten but there are two books that need to be on this list. Hannah Alkaf's excellent debut The Weight of Our Sky looks at the May 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia through the eyes of Melati, a sixteen-year-old music-loving schoolgirl and OCD sufferer (full review). Mindy McGinnis is one of my favourite authors and Heroine is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the opioid crisis in America (full review).
What a list of fantastic YA novels. 2019 was a brilliant year for reading and I can't wait to see what 2020 brings.