Although it's always easy to list off examples of women being undervalued in literature (*cough* the National Book Award for Nonfiction longlist *cough*), it's important to remember the successes women have had this year. And, in my humble, YA-loving opinion, respect for women's voices in young people's literature is at a peak right now.
There's the fact that Jacqueline Woodson took home the National Book Award for Young People's Literature (she was the fan favorite, too, by the way). And Kate Samworth earned the first annual Kirkus Prize for young readers for Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual. (Oh and the nominations list for that prize? Four out of six were books by women.) And the just-released, readers' pick for the Goodreads Choice Award YA book of the year was E. Lockhart for We Were Liars. Its best YA fantasy book? Another woman: Cassandra Clare for her latest installment of These Mortal Instruments, City of Heavenly Fire. It just so happens that young adult writer extraordinaire Rainbow Rowell took home the big one, the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction for her adult fiction debut Landline. Maybe YA fans had a little something to do with that voting? I could go on.
Though there were loads of women who shined bright this year, whether through their excellent book releases, their contributions to their fan base, their influence on the market, or a combination of those three and more. But these are just the top 13.
Melissa de la Cruz
I'm convinced that Melissa de la Cruz is one of the most hard-working writers out there. And her 2014 rap sheet pretty much confirms it: the sequel to Frozen, titled Stolen; the new Blue Bloods story Vampires of Manhattan; and a beginning novel to a brand-new series The Ring and the Crown — she published all three in 2014. And that's aside from her work on the highly anticipated Descendants, a companion to the show about the kids of famous Disney villains, and the spin-off of the beloved Witches of East End series that's also forthcoming. Oh, and yeah, she's still working on all those other series she has in the works. I'm exhausted just from typing it all out.
You've heard of Pretty Little Liars, right? Of course you have. Well, Sara Shepard finally brought down the house both her penultimate and concluding novel in the series this year, answering all of our lingering questions about our favorite high school girls. And that could be an "enough said," moment, but Shepard one-upped herself, beginning two new, completely enthralling series before the final chapter of PLL even hit shelves. Oh, and both of those series, The Heiresses and The Perfectionists, have TV options on the table. Just when we think we're out, she pulls us back in.
The buzz at BookExpo America for Maggie Stiefvater's Sinner, the latest book of her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, was B-A-N-A-N-A-S. And that excitement was only matched by the release of her latest installment of The Raven Cycle, Blue Lily, Lily Blue. With not one, but two hot new books on the shelves, any free time the author had was spent touring and promoting, and her devoted fan base is glad for it.
Marissa Meyer's epic Cress changed the game when it came to fairy tale re-imaginings, and it has had people talking since its release in 2014. It was helmed by not one or two, but three main female, multicultural protagonists. But Meyer didn't rest on her laurels; she knows just how to keep her fans happy. She also brought news of a bonus book to the Lunar Chronicles series, called Fairest, which she released to major fanfare. And that means there are at least two more books coming, with Winter already slated for release.
So much for the growing pains that come with having to publish a second novel. Heather Demetrios' excellent debut novel Something Real was released in February, and it was quickly followed up this October with her second novel, the first in a new series, called Exquisite Captive. And just in these two novels, she has already shown her incredible range, from reality TV to the jinnis of Arabian Nights. And with her third novel in less than a year, I'll Meet You There, slated for an early 2015 release — with some serious advance praise, no less — plus the sequel to Exquisite Captive, she's guaranteeing herself a spot on YA's talking points for next year, too.
This one is a little bit of a cheat because she leans more middle grade than young adult, but how could you not mention Jacqueline Woodson? You don't get much more "owning" 2014 than bringing home the prestigious National Book Award. But Woodson's name has been on the tips of literati tongues since her incredible book Brown Girl Dreaming was published, and it was a heavy favorite going into the NBA ceremony. And now, more than ever, all eyes are on Woodson to see what she's got up her sleeve next.
Whatever, Kim K; Kiera Cass nearly broke the Internet herself when she announced that she'd be adding at least two new books to her previously complete Selection series. Oh, and she then let readers "unlock" the first chapter of an additional novella, The Queen, and let readers know there'd be another novella to follow, The Favorite, focused on fan favorite character Marlee. But wait, there was more. Cass also added a new epilogue to her 2014 release The One, which revealed that America and Prince Maxon were expecting a child. In the months that followed, she also released the cover of the new novel, The Heir, and some tidbits about the plot. Oh, and I mentioned that she published The One THIS year, right?
Looking for a writing partner in the YA world? Cassandra Clare is the absolute best you could get — and she has a dozen or so books lined up through 2017 to prove it. Young adult fantasy and scifi powerhouses Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Cassandra Jean teamed up this year to release The Bane Chronicles, devised of their short stories surrounding one of the fan-favorite character of the Mortal Instruments and the Infernal Devices series. Plus, she worked with Holly Black to release the amazing The Iron Trial, which is the beginning of a new middle grade series. Oh, and of course there's that highly anticipated sixth book of the former series, City of Heavenly Fire Clare pushed out in 2014. Clare also teamed up with illustrator HyeKyung Baek to release a Manga version of the latter series, with Clockwork Princess released this year.
Jennifer L. Armentrout
When it comes to appreciating her fans and readers, Jennifer L. Armentrout is taking it to the next level. Armentrout is putting a major decision for her beloved The Dark Elements series into the readers' hands: solving the series' love triangle. Based on a poll, readers will pick whether Layla will end up with Zayne or Roth. And to list off the other things she's been up to in 2014, I'm going to need to take a deep breath, because it's a whole lot. There's the first and second book of her Dark Elements series, White Hot Kiss and Stone Cold Touch; the fifth book of her Lux series Opposition; special editions with bonus material of the first four books in the Lux series; a standalone novel Don't Look Back; her first adult novel Wicked; and a contribution to Fifty First Times: A New Adult Anthology. It's a wonder there's room on the bookshelves for anyone else's books.
To All The Boys I've Loved Before was a total break-out hit of 2014, but it wasn't nearly the end of what Jenny Han had to offer. She announced a sequel to come in 2015, much to the delight of readers everywhere. This Christmastime, you can read one of her stories alongside Stephanie Perkins and Gayle Forman, among others, in the holiday-themed collection My True Love Gave to Me, and she also released the third book in her Burn for Burn series with Siobhan Vivian, Ashes to Ashes.
All eyes were on Lauren Oliver's first young adult novel after coming off her huge Delirium series, and Panic succeeded in blowing everyone away. Then she hit audiences with a one-two punch, coming next with a hit novel in the adult fiction world, a totally unique ghost story called Rooms. And with a return to YA scheduled for 2015 with Vanishing Girls, it's clear that Oliver is here to stay, and that's good news for us readers.
Though Ellen Oh did release the excellent third novel of The Prophecy series, titled King, this year, she made even bigger headlines with her We Need Diverse Books organization and campaign that spread through the entire YA industry in 2014. Oh is the president of the crucial campaign, and she promotes its mission statement of promoting and advancing underrepresented narratives, most recently through its IndieGoGo campaign. It's Oh's work, along with her team's and every single donor, that will ensure that lists such as these, showcasing the major voices of the year, will be even more diverse each passing year.
Images: Melissa de la Cruz/Facebook; Getty Images; Scholastic; Marissa Meyer, YA Author/Facebook; Heather Demetrios, YA Author/Facebook; Getty Images; Goodreads/Kiera Cass; Cassandra Clare/Facebook; JenniferArmentrout.com; Simon & Schuster; Lauren Oliver/Facebook; Tahereh Mafi/Facebook; EllenOh/Goodreads