What a year it's been for young adult books! Some of our favorite authors returned with new novels to quickly devour and 2019 has also been a year of new voices we hope to hear more from in the future. It's always agonizing to narrow it down to 20 that stood out the most as the best of the year, but we forged ahead, made some hard cuts, and came up with a list that has something for everyone. Young adult is not just for the under-20 crowd--we like to call it a crossover genre, because these are books that readers who are well beyond their teen years also love. If you've never read a young adult book, this is a great year to give one a try, particularly if you're in the mood to escape into a new fantasy novel or begin a trilogy you can dig into over the coming weeks or months of the new year.
Our list begins with our number one pick, The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, a stunning fantasy that is perfect for our times and for readers (or viewers) of The Handmaid's Tale. Below are the top five books on our best young adult of 2019 list, and you can see all twenty here.
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
Part dark fairy-tale, part speculative thriller, The Grace Year is a story of survival, and female relationships fraught with peril and competition. At age sixteen the girls of Garner County are banished to the woods in order to rid themselves of the dangerous magic that makes them something like sirens before they can marry. In the woods there is much to fear, including poachers who would steal the young women to sell on the black market, and each other, as the novels takes on something of a Lord of the Flies note. A fast-paced and thought-provoking read for anyone who loved Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.
Frankly in Love by David Yoon
My favorite feel-good rom-com of the year that is so much more than that sounds. David Yoon's debut novel is about Frank Li, an American teenager in a very traditional Korean family trying to manage his family's expectations against his own desires when it comes to dating. Within the tight-knit Korean community to which his family belongs, Frank has friends who are can empathize with his situation and he and a young woman named June form a plan to fake-date each other while they really date people their parents would never approve of. What could go wrong? If you want a novel that will make you laugh out loud and give you warm feeling that last long after the story ends, Frankly in Love is for you.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi
Adeyami's first book, Children of Blood and Bone, was our number one pick for the best young adult books of 2018, and we've been waiting anxiously for the sequel. Children of Virtue and Vengeance is everything I'd hoped for, and Adeyemi's skill at reorienting the reader with the world she created and the events at hand is remarkable. Magic has been returned to Orisha, but things are far from peaceful. Amari prepares to take the throne but fresh betrayals await, and those with power will do whatever it takes, no matter how ruthless, to keep it. Zélie feels torn apart; the powerful ritual she performed had unexpected consequences, and it seems as though the kingdom is more divided than ever. As she did in book one, Adeyemi continues to keep readers on the edge of their seats in the atmospheric world she's created, quickly turning the pages as the action, romance, and political intrigue unfolds. If you haven't read book one, this is a great time to start it so you can jump straight into Children of Virtue of Vengeance without delay.
Call Down the Hawk (The Dreamer Trilogy, Book 1) by Maggie Stiefvater
A new trilogy from Maggie Stiefvater is always something to look forward to and Call Down the Hawk starts it off with a bang. While a spin-off from the Raven Cycle series, you don't have to have read those books to love this one. The story centers around two brothers who are dreamers, which in this case means their dreams, or those in their dreams, can in some way return through them to the waking world, with frightening results. Besides the brothers, there is Jordan Hennessy, an art forger and thief, who also has these powers, though with a potentially deadly complication. Those who have this power are being systematically hunted down, and this cat-and-mouse chase through a reality that is sometimes hard to define is thrilling. Another terrific fantasy from a bestselling author, I can't wait for the next book in the sequel!
The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air) by Holly Black
The final book in The Folk of the Air series, and it's a bittersweet event. As usual Holly Black pulls out all the stops for the last book in her trilogy, but oh, do we hate to see this story end... The Wicked King ended on a total cliffhanger, and Jude is sent back to the human world where it turns out she no longer feels at home, despite her longing for it. All the political intrigue of the first two volumes comes to a resounding conclusion, and as we've learned in this trilogy, expect the unexpected. This world of fairies and humans, complicated relationships and families is one of Black's best, in my opinion, and I'm a little jealous of those who are just beginning the first book, The Cruel Prince, since they will be able to read this trilogy from start to finish without all the agonizing waiting in between.