Wow, this was a hard list to put together. I want to be clear that these are my favorite YA books I read in 2017, not that books were necessarily published in 2017! With that, onward! These are all books that got at least 9/10 on my heart rating scale, and a lot of them I gave as Christmas presents this year. It would be awesome if you bought them from the links embedded in the images! I promise they are worth it.
In no particular order:
1. Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Boys Series
Every single book in this series got literally and figuratively more magical. Stiefvater brings Blue’s sleepy town to life with bright, original, memorable characters and a deep sense of longing. I loved watching Adam Parrish and Ronan Lynch grow as characters. I loved the forbidden romance, which felt more like love than romance, for me. Sometimes in YA you get all thudding hearts and sparkling eyes– of course there is that, but the kiss Blue can’t possibly have makes every interaction all the more heightened. I cried at the end, and I don’t often cry while reading. It’s just weird enough and scary enough to keep you on your toes if you read a lot of fantastic YA. These are not sexy books. I will say though, that the intimacy in these books feels more intimate than some explicit scenes I have read– it’s very well done.
2. Phillip Pullman, The Book of Dust
As a dedicated His Dark Materials fan, you know I got this book the day it came out and had it read within 24 hours. I was in love with the setting as always. I’ve wished for my own Daemon so frequently over the years that I can almost track my age by what I thought my Daemon would settle as. Some of my favorite fanfictions over the years have been Daemon AUs. Suffice to say, Pullman’s world is as part of my internal imagination in the same way Harry Potter and Star Wars are; an integral part of my childhood, adulthood and identity.
With that in mind, I had some trepidation opening this book. What if I hated it? Was this Pullman’s “The Cursed Child”?! No, it definitely was not. It was a fast paced, interesting tale that was its own moving story while giving us a delicious taste of the background information I’ve wanted for years. Absolutely worth a read even if you’ve never picked up The Golden Compass (which, omg, why?! Go! Go read it!)
3. Nicola Yoon, The Sun is Also a Star
This book was enchanting. That’s the only word for it. It feels like an adorable indie movie. This is the book I decided to give my mom for Christmas (she’s already done with it and plans to read Everything Everything next!) If that’s not an endorsement I don’t know what is. The book follows Natasha and Daniel through one red-letter day. Natasha is about to get deported. Daniel is headed to his admissions interview with Yale. It’s romantic, lovely, well-paced, and was a beautiful read. It had just a vague feeling of magical realism– like perhaps something was in the air that day. *mystery sparkles*
4. E.K. Johnston, That Inevitable Victorian Thing
This book deserves most of its points for resolving a love triangle in away that didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out with a spork. It can take the rest of its points for being extremely creative, having a lovely diverse cast of characters, and being a delight to listen to as an audio-book. It’s lovely and romantic and just plain interesting. The descriptions are lush and it makes me want to go live by a lake. Sign yourself up for it. Seriously. I don’t want to give anything away!
5. Jennifer Niven, Holding Up the Universe
The hook for this book is incredibly sharp and effective: Meet Libby, formerly the fattest teen in the USA. She’s finally ready for high school after years of losing weight, now able to walk on her own. Jack, though, is another story. I didn’t know what prosopagnosia was before I read this book, but Jack’s path through not being able to understand human faces– and keeping it a secret– is fascinating. I feel like I don’t even have to tell you more than that. Libby and Jack, team. It’s absolutely worth it.
7. Benjamin Alire Saenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
When I recommended this book to a dear friend of mine, I told her it’s sweet, sad, thoughtful, dreamlike; like reading underwater, or from deep within the protagonist’s head. Ari is an emotional and thoughtful teen, and his relationship with the small, bright Dante lights up this story with a glow like warm Christmas lights. If you’re an audio-book person, definitely listen to it– Lin-Manuel Miranda brings a poetic rhythm to Ari’s already lyrical thoughts.
8. Katherine McGee, The Thousandth Floor
I have my feelings about this book already written up and published, but the TLDR of my rambling feels-filled post on this book is: It’s complex, it’s beautifully textured, and I was sucked into the characters lives so fully I really should have pulled my car over at the climax of this (audio) book. It’s delicious and soap-opera-y, except it’s a soap opera where I care about the people and no one has amnesia. Truly the best of both worlds!
9. Melissa Bashardoust, Girls of Snow and Glass
Who else here is a sucker for a beautiful feminist fairytale? All of us? I should hope so. Girls Made of Snow and Glass is a gorgeous, detailed re-imagining of an old fairy tale. One that doesn’t get a lot of attention these days. I won’t tell you which it is, because it’s so lovely to watch it unfold as you get to know Lynet and Mina. THIS should be a show or a movie. I’d watch the stuffing out of it, just like I ate this book up so fast I wanted to re-read it right away and texted several people that they needed to immediately read it. It might be my pick for my YA book club next year.
You can read my review of this book here, but I will say that this adorable, short little story about Molly and her twin brought me absolute joy. A lot of it might be because I was just like Molly when I was younger; chubby, insecure, absolutely virginal. But mostly it’s that this book is clever and captures the zeitgeist of pop culture right this minute. I wrote in my review that is what might keep it from being a “true” classic; one that’s recommended decades in the future. It’s also what makes it an awesome book to grab and read as fast as you can.
Finally, I have to shout out to Esperanza Rising, which I gushed about here. This book is a classic for a reason. It’s stirring, emotional, powerful, even-tempered, and just plain beautiful to read. This is also undoubtedly the youngest book on this list, and one I recommend for anyone to read with a young person in their life. Munoz Ryan’s masterful handling of coping, loss, loneliness, and the absolute perseverance of hope make this a spectacular read, no matter how old you are.
Happy New Year! I wish you much peace, love, and literature for 2018!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”