2017 was a banner year for YA: its books, their authors, and the community at large. Because when it comes to the necessary push for more diverse and Own Voices reads, YA has been leading the charge. Just a quick look at some of the YA contemporary and YA fantasy that was released this year reveals releases that tackled important issues ranging from mental health to police brutality. And tons of YA authors have done even more to rise against the tide of bigotry that has rolled in stronger than ever after the 2017 presidential election, using Twitter to fight back against white supremacy, encourage their readers to stay informed on political and social issues, and just generally get involved.
So much so that, out of all the lists I've put together for Bustle, this was definitely one of the hardest. There were so many incredible reads left off of this list, which is only further evidence of just how spectacular the YA of 2017 was. But below are 17 of the most important, compelling, exquisitely crafted and overall must-read books to come out of young adult this year, all with diverse representation, and necessary stories that will stay with you. And if this doesn't just make you more excited for all of the 2018 YA releases coming our way, you might want to rethink that TBR.
'The Upside of Unrequited' by Becky Albertalli
Seventeen-year-old Molly knows all about unrequited love. She crushes hard and often, but always in secret. Because no matter how often her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. Then a new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and suddenly, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. But Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be more than crush material. There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s awkward and nerdy, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?
'Far From The Tree' by Robin Benway
Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family: Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, whose adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface; and Joaquin, who has spent 17 years in the foster care system. Together they will learn what it really means to be a family, with all of its complications... and love.
'Little & Lion' by Brandy Colbert
When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are. And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support. But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself—or worse.
'Bad Romance' by Heather Demetrios
Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it's too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she's unable to escape.
'Turtles All The Way Down' by John Green
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a $100,000 reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
'We Are Okay' by Nina LaCour
Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Mabel is coming to visit. And Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid.
'The Gentleman's Guide To Vice & Virtue' by Mackenzi Lee
Monty Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. Even the constant disapproval of his father hasn't been able to curb any of his roguish passions. But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with vice is in danger of coming to an end. Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. He vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hurrah. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns the trip into a manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows.
'Warcross' by Marie Lu
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game — it’s a way of life. Struggling to make ends meet, Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down illegal betters. Needing some quick cash, Emika hacks into the game—only to accidentally become an overnight sensation. Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator with an irresistible offer. Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune. But she soon uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
'Moxie' by Jennifer Mathieu
Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.
'When Dimple Met Rishi' by Sandhya Menon
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready to head to a summer program for aspiring web developers...and forget her mother's obsession with finding her the ideal Indian husband. Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his Dimple will be attending the same summer program as him — wherein he’ll have to woo her — he’s totally on board. Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
'Akata Warrior' by Nnedi Okorafor
A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, Sunny is studying with her mentor and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book. Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny, traveling through worlds both visible and invisible, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.
'Long Way Down' by Jason Reynolds
Fifteen-year-old Will has a gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. His brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. He gets on the elevator. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? The elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an end… if Will gets off that elevator.
'I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter' by Erika L. Sanchez
Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role. Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. And Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
'They Both Die At The End' by Adam Silvera
On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They're going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they're both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There's an app for that. It's called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.
'Dear Martin' by Nic Stone
Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, music turned way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop. Shots are fired. And in the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.
'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood unarmed best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
'American Street' by Ibi Zoboi
On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie — a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own. Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost.