If 2017 was the year of diverse representation in YA, then 2018 was the year that brought the unique and wide-ranging voices in young adult fiction to a whole new level, with marginalized people at the forefront. Just one look at Bustle's 25 Best YA Books of 2018 reveals well-crafted and crucial tales that run the gamut from empowering fantasy to heartfelt contemporary to spooky tales. No matter their genre, all these books delve into important topics: identity, love, family, faith, personal power and our complicated connections to wider humanity. Before 2018 takes its final bow, you're going to want to add some of these must-read YA books to your end-of-year stack.
Whether you're looking for stories about young women finding their strength in a complicated world — including Elizabeth Acevedo's National Book Award winning The Poet X and Tahereh Mafi's A Very Large Expanse of Sea — lighthearted coming-of-age tales like Maurene Goo's The Way You Make Me Feel or heart-stopping fantasies like Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone, there is an exciting read on this list that you're sure to love. Check out blurbs and quotes from each book below to help you decide which one you want to read first:
'The Poet X' by Elizabeth Acevedo
When young Afro-Latina Xiomara discovers spoken word poetry, she uses it as a way to begin understanding her complicated relationship with her mother and her own connection to the wider world.
“I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn't that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.”
'Children of Blood and Bone' by Tomi Adeyemi
With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie Adebola is on a mission to bring back the magic that was taken from her people, and strike against the the ruthless king who destroyed her family.
“You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn't keeping us alive. it was thinking we'd never fight back.”
'Love Hate And Other Filters' by Samira Ahmed
In the aftermath of a horrific crime, American-born Muslim Maya Aziz's life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable and soon Maya must find the strength to determine where she truly belongs.
“One thing I’ve learned: people love a camera, and when I’m filming, they see it, not me, so whenever I need to, I can quietly disappear behind my trusty shield.”
'The Hazel Wood' by Melissa Albert
Alice must ventures into the Hinterland — the supernatural world where her grandmother's cult-classic dark fairytales are set — to retrieve her mother who has been taken there by a mysterious figure.
“And while they're being told, stories create the energy that makes this world go. They keep our stars in place. They make our grass grow.”
'What If It’s Us' by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but when he meets Ben at the post office while he's returning a box of his ex-boyfriend's things, the universe pushes them together in unexpected ways.
“I believe in love at first sight. Fate, the universe, all of it. But not how you’re thinking. I don’t mean it in the our souls were split and you’re my other half forever and ever sort of way. I just think you’re meant to meet some people. I think the universe nudges them into your path.”
'Undead Girl Gang' by Lily Anderson
Teen witch Mila Flores uses a spell to bring Riley, Dayton, and June back to life. Now they have seven days to discover who murdered the three girls before the killer strikes again.
“Spells are just prayers with more steps and a name that scares people.”
'The Cruel Prince' by Holly Black
Jude wants to belong in the High Court of Faerie, but many of the fey — including Prince Cardan, wicked son of the High King — despise humans like her. To win a place at the Court, Jude must defy him... and face the consequences.
“What could I become if I stopped worrying about death, about pain, about anything? If I stopped trying to belong? Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear.”
'It's Kind Of An Epic Love Story' by Kheryn Callender
Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been Nathan's MO ever since his father died. His friend Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone. And someone does come along: Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend.
“I’m realizing it doesn’t really matter if we have a happy ending or not. We’re happy right now. That’s the important part, right?”
'American Panda' by Gloria Chao
Mei is a freshman at MIT, on track to fulfill her predetermined future: become a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer. But when Mei connects with her classmate Darren Takahashi, she starts to wonder if she can ever be herself.
"And right now I had no idea where I ended and my parents began.”
'The Storyteller' by Traci Chee
The Book — an ancient, infinite codex of the past, present and future — tells of a prophecy that will plunge Kelanna in a bloody war for the Five Kingdoms. But the prophecy requires Archer, the boy Sefia loves, and she will stop at nothing to ensure his safety.
"Destiny. Her parents had been destined to die, their futures recorded in the Book with everything that had ever been or would ever be, from the flicker of a mayfly’s wings to the life spans of the stars overhead."
'Emergency Contact' by Mary H.K. Choi
When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams.
“I like knowing that you exist. It doesn't make me feel any less lonely, because life is lonely, but it makes me feel a lot less alone.”
'The Belles' by Dhonielle Clayton
When Camellia Beauregard is chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, she uncovers dark secrets of The Belles — a group of young women like her who have the power to control beauty.
“No one is a prisoner. Even you have the power to make your own choices.”
'A Winter’s Promise' by Christelle Dabos, translated by Hildegarde Serle
Headstrong Ophelia's idyllic life is disrupted when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, an influential member of the distant Dragon clan. Ophelia slowly realizes that she is a pawn in a political game that will have far-reaching ramifications for her entire world.
"Forgetting the dead was like killing them a second time."
'The Way You Make Me Feel' by Maurene Goo
After a practical joke goes terribly wrong, Clara Shin's dad forces her to spend a summer working on his food truck alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. But as Clara becomes more invested in the business, she realizes this summer may change everything.
“As I stood there surrounded by three people who had the ability to do just that — crack my chest open to all the disappointment and difficulty and grief — I knew I still wanted it. The risk of the bad stuff was so worth the good stuff. People who would be there for you when you messed up and behaved like a little jerk? They were the good stuff.”
'Everless' by Sara Holland
In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency — extracted from blood and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she goes to Everless, the estate of the aristocracy, to earn more time for him.
“Maybe I am a mystery — a secret — that needs unravelling...”
'Sawkill Girls' by Claire Legrand
Marion, Zoey and Val come together to fight a mysterious monster who has been stealing girls away from their small town for decades.
“Girls hunger. And we're taught, from the moment our brains can take it, that there isn't enough food for us all.”
'A Very Large Expanse Of Sea' by Tahereh Mafi
In 2002, Muslim teen Shirin hides from the turbulent world through afternoons break-dancing with her brother. Even when she meets Ocean James, who wants to get to know her, Shirin's not sure she’ll ever be able to let her guard down.
“I wondered, for the very first time, if maybe I was doing this whole thing wrong. If maybe I'd allowed myself to be blinded by my own anger to the exclusion of all else. If maybe, just maybe, I'd been so determined not to be stereotyped that I'd begun to stereotype everyone around me.”
'Blood Water Paint' by Joy McCullough
In 1610, 17-year-old Artemisia Gentileschi is one of Rome's most talented painters, even if no one knows her name. But after she is raped Artemisia is faced with a choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.
“And listen to me love, when a woman risks her place, her very life to speak a truth the world despises? Believe her. Always.”
'Puddin' by Julie Murphy
When Millie Michalchuk and popular girl Callie Reyes are brought together over the course of a semester they surprise themselves when they realize they have more in common than they imagined.
“Oh, I need you,” I tell her. “I need you like Oprah needs Gayle.”
'The Astonishing Color of After' by Emily X.R. Pan
Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time after her mother's death. There, she chases after ghosts, uncovers family secrets, and forges a new relationship with her grandparents.
“There's no point in wishing. We can't change anything about the past. We can only remember. We can only move forward.”
'Ash Princess' by Laura Sebastian
Theodosia was six when her mother, the Queen of Flame and Fury, was murdered. Ten years later, Theo has learned to survive under the relentless abuse of the Kaiser but when he forces her to execute her last hope of rescue, she can’t keep her feelings pushed down any longer.
“I was a princess made of ashes; there is nothing left of me to burn. Now it's time for a queen to rise.”
'A Room Away From The Wolves' by Nova Ren Suma
When Bina finds herself at a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village, nightmare and memory soon become tangled, and Bina is forced to face the truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave.
"When the girl who lived in the room below mine disappeared into the darkness, she gave no warning, she showed no twitch of fear."
'Sadie' by Courtney Summers
After Sadie's sister Mattie is found dead, she hits the road to find her killer. When radio personality West McCray overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl, and starts his own podcast to track Sadie's journey.
“It was a terrible thing, sure, but we live in a world that has no shortage of terrible things. You can't stop for all of them.”
'The Beauty That Remains' by Ashley Woodfolk
When tragedy strikes Autumn, Shay and Logan, it seems their shared love of music is no longer enough to keep them together. Despite the odds, one band may just reunite them and prove that beauty is possible after grief.
“Lying is the new language we speak. It's the only way we can talk at all.”
'Sky In The Deep' by Adrienne Young
Raised to be a warrior, 17-year-old Eelyn's life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.
“We find things, just as we lose things. If you’ve lost your honor, you’ll find it again.”