It’s been an amazing year for young adult fiction. Old faves like Kiersten White brought us some amazing series starters. Others, like Marie Rutkoski, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Maggie Stiefvater, and Renee Ahdieh concluded their beloved series with amazing (if shattering) endings. There were some delicious standalones from authors like Kara Thomas, A.S. King, and Stephanie Kuehn. And there were some absolutely fantastic debuts from new faves like Kerry Kletter, Heidi Heilig, Jeff Zentner, and Roshani Chokshi. (Can I just say again: if you haven’t gotten your hands on The Star-Touched Queen yet, come on already!)
But even if you devour YA like I do (and if so, why aren’t you in my book club?), there’s probably a few awesome titles you managed to miss. No worries! We’ve got you covered. We asked those in the know — YA authors themselves, naturally! — for the scoop on what their favorite reads of 2016 were. And they so delivered.
Herewith, thirteen amazing 2016 must-read picks – from 15 young adult authors like David Levithan, Nicola Yoon (and of course she’s on the list!), Renee Ahdieh and more. Read these before the 2017 arrivals start being delivered. (Because you know there’s some really good stuff coming up, too!)
1. Gwenda Bond, author of Girl On A Wire, recommends...
Places No One Knows by
"This book is absorbing and weird, two of my favorite fictional things. Add beautifully fierce writing, characters with lots of jagged edges (visible and well hidden), magic that feels inconvenient, and a strange romance to cheer on and, yes, I loved this book and I could keep going about why. But I won't. I'll just say you should read it."
2. Valerie Tejeda, author of Hollywood Witch Hunter, recommends...
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
favorite YA read of 2016 was Labyrinth Lost by Zoriada Cordova.
Think The Craft meets Alice in Wonderland with a Latinx
heroine. The story follows Alejandra (Alex) who comes from a line of powerful
brujas (witches). Following her Deathday celebration, Alex embarks on a
dangerous quest to a deadly underworld called, Los Lagos, and finds more than
she'd bargained for. With its magic and romance, Labyrinth Lost felt
like a dark fairytale rooted in Latin-American culture and I loved every minute
of it. Also, the cover is so gorgeous, I have the book on display in my house.
3. Audrey Coulthurst, author of Of Fire And Stars, recommends...
Phantom Limbs by
"Phantom Limbs is one of the most emotionally nuanced YA books I've ever read. The novel opens as Otis finally hears from his former best friend and first love, Meg. She's coming back to town for a visit, finally ready to talk to him after three years of unexplained silence. In the meantime Otis has been half-heartedly training for the Olympics in swimming, driven by his overbearing friend Dara, an amputee who was once an Olympic hopeful. Heart shattering and heart mending in equal measure, this novel examines love, grief, loss, and how to reconcile the fantasy of someone you love with the reality of who they are. I couldn’t put it down."
4. Donna Cooner, author of Can't Look Away, recommends...
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
"My favorite YA read of 2016 was the wonderfully creepy novel, My Sister Rosa, by Justine Larbalestier. This suspenseful thriller is about a teen who realizes his beautiful ten-year-old sister is a psychopath and potential serial killer. Rosa is very good at hiding her true nature, so her brother, Che, is the only one who knows the truth about her. He feels responsible for protecting her, but also needs to protect everyone else she meets. It’s a horrible dilemma that drives the story relentlessly toward an unimaginable ending. Set in New York City, the wide diversity of characters create a world where Che’s normal teen life is in stark contrast to the always building suspense revolving around Rosa. It's a riveting story that will keep readers glued to the page until the very end."
5. Dhonielle Clayton, author of Shiny Broken Pieces, recommends...
The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
"I have a time travel obsession thanks to Outlander, and Heidi Heilig’s book hit the spot. Ships, worlds both mythical and real, and stakes so high you feel like the whole world might capsize sizzle in this debut. Heilig’s character Nix is half-Chinese and from Hawaii, like her, but this high seas fantasy isn’t contained by the constraints of time and place."
6. Brendan Kiely, author of The Last True Love Story, recommends...
Pasadena by Sherri L. Smith
always was a f------ train wreck. Leave it to her to end up facedown in a
swimming pool on the hottest day of summer.'
From those first two lines, Sherri L. Smith’s Pasadena, closed a tight and certain fist around the collar of my shirt, bent my head down to the page, and demanded that I read on. I read the book cover-to-cover in two sittings with the kind of urgency I remember as a young reader, and every time I thought I knew how Maggie died, I was wrong, and I had to ferociously turn the pages to learn more. Jude, Maggie’s best friend, wants to know what happened, because although the death is ruled and accident, she doesn’t believe it, and everyone in their community becomes a suspect. A riveting, stylish, teen LA noir, Pasadena was my favorite YA read of 2016."
7. Lamar Giles, author of Endangered, recommends...
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
"Shusterman's responsible for some of my favorite high-concept YA reads (Unwind,
hello!). His tale of apprentice grim reapers (really called "scythes"
because the reaper thing is just distasteful) in a future where immortality is
often taken for granted, is HIGH high-concept. High enough to facilitate an
epic 'splat' (read the book, you'll get it). It's a swift read that
poses deep moral questions, while providing no simple answers. That's a good
8. David Levithan, author of Every Day, recommends...
The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
am still in awe of Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also A Star, which manages to be
romantic and real, topical and magical, heartbreaking and life-affirming — all at once. I cared about the characters from page one, but just
as important, I cared about the complicated world that they live in — which
happens to be the complicated world that we all live in, masterfully rendered
by a wonderful author. In my opinion, it’s not just my favorite YA of
2016, I think it’s also the best YA for 2016."
Bonus! Also recommended by Aimee Friedman, author of Two Summers...
"It’s always damn
near impossible for me to choose a favorite book of the year. Not only because
I read so much, but I’m an editor, so all the books I edit and publish are my
favorites, my babies. For the purposes of this exercise, though, I will set
that list aside, and focus on my other favorite of the year: The Sun
is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. Told over the course of one day in New York
City, the novel is a brilliant and buoyant love story, full of sparkling, sexy
banter that reminded me of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. Beyond
that, the book is a breathtaking exploration of fate and chance, science and
poetry, the way our lives intersect and connect. It’s also an incredibly
resonant and timely portrayal of the immigrant experience in America today. In
the end, what Yoon pulls off is nothing short of a supernova."
9. Francisco X. Stork, author of The Memory of Light, recommends...
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
"I loved reading Ruta Sepetys' Salt to the Sea in 2016. Ruta has a way of helping us see the present with more compassion and clarity even as she takes us back in time and makes obscure events real for us. The sinking of an unknown German cruise liner in 1945 becomes a historical window into current evil and suffering and, more significantly, into the still existing goodness in our hearts."
10. Tiffany D. Jackson, author of Allegedly, recommends...
The Female Of
The Species by Mindy McGinnis
"I wasn’t expecting this book to sucker punch me in the gut the way it did. Honestly, you read the description, admire the bright cover, and assume it’s a light read. It’s not. It’s one of those stories that settles in and makes a home on your conscious. Timely and incredibly relevant, no one will read this book the same way, provoking a lot of opportunities for meaningful conversations about rape and consequences of actions."
11. Nicola Yoon, author of The Sun Is Also A Star, recommends...
A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir
"I have loved so many, many books this year that it's not quite fair to make me only choose one. Anyhoos, whining aside, my favorite YA book of 2016 was also my most anticipated book of 2016 — A Torch Against the Night, by Sabaa Tahir. Torch is the sequel to the beautifully epic An Ember In the Ashes, and somehow manages to be better than the first book. I really don't know how Sabaa managed that because I loved the first one to a ridiculous degree. I suspect some sort of sacrifice to a god or two was involved."
BONUS! Also recommended by Renee Ahdieh, author of The Rose & The Dagger...
"I adored Sabaa Tahir's A Torch Against the Night. I thought she raised the stakes delicately and beautifully.
For me, this book was so much more than a sequel. It was a careful exploration
of darkness and light. I loved how readers got to see the brutal world of the
Martial Empire from the perspective of Helene, and I can't wait to find out
what happens to all these amazing characters in the next installment!"
12. Heather Smith Meloche, author of Ripple, recommends...
Girl In Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
"I was blown away by Kathleen Glasgow’s Girl in Pieces.
Since its release last August, the book’s gotten a lot of buzz and that’s
because it’s straight-up one of the best novels to hit YA shelves. Main
is a cutter who’s been through more in her less-than-two-decades than most
people go through in a lifetime. The story feels like a Long. Slow. Deep. Cut.
With thick glass. Lyrically written, it’s painful — at times excruciating — but
Glasgow brilliantly makes it easy to connect with Charlie and feel invested
enough to follow her through to the end to make sure she finds relief. Girl
in Pieces crawls deep inside its readers and stays there long after it’s
finished, but more importantly, if put in the hands of someone who cuts, it’s a
book with the power to offer hope and change lives."
13. Cindy Pon, author of Sacrifice, recommends...
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna Marie McLemore
year I am thankful for When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. It
is a beautifully written, at times heart aching story about Miel, who can grow
roses at her wrist and Sam, the boy she loves, who hangs moons all across their
small town for her. And what happens when their lives are upturned by the
Bonner girls, rumored to be witches. With hints of magical realism, the story
draws you in and plants roots in your heart. So wonderfully done."