Every year, it’s always so hard to choose my favorite books of the year. But there are certainly stand-outs — and even probably a few other titles that should be on this list, that I’ve failed to include for one reason or another. Regardless — here are my picks for the best YA books of 2014! (Look for my top middle grade picks tomorrow.)
The books below are listed roughly in chronological order of when I read them over the last year.
I’ve been obsessed with this series from German author Kai Meyer from the beginning — it’s a delightful mix of the paranormal and the mafia. This sexy, mature YA series takes place mostly in Italy — and this third and final book in the series is probably my favorite, since it elevates the stakes and it’s just so thrilling to see how the characters resolve their larger than life conflicts. Being wrapped up in two warring crime families certainly makes their forbidden romance much more dangerous!
J. Nelle Patrick is the pen name of author Jackson Pearce — and I’ve long been a fan of Jackson’s work, so it’s no surprise I was just as enchanted by her historical fiction as I have been by her other books. I loved this delightfully magical twist on the fall of the Romanov family, and the start of the Russian Revolution. Gut-wrenching, romantic, and whimsical at every turn.
Of course I’ll love anything John Corey Whaley writes, but Noggin was an exceptionally quirky, funny, and charming story. I love how practically Whaley approaches such an outrageous premise — that’s part of what makes this whacky story work so well! And as always, his writing is crisp, eloquent, and endearing.
Though the two books are very different, I almost felt like this was the perfect book to read after Tsarina because historically, the events in Sekret are largerly informed by the Russian Revolution chronicled in Tsarina. I loved this magical twist on the Cold War, and am eager to read the sequel in 2015.
I just adore Kimberly Pauley, and Ask Me is probably my favorite of her books to date. It’s a delightful combination of thriller, murder-mystery, and the supernatural — blended together with a healthy dose of Pauley’s signature humor, which gives the story just enough wit and charm to keep it from being too dour. Fans of Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series should definitely pick up Ask Me — and I sincerely hope Pauley’s publisher sees fit to allow for more books featuring these characters, as there is plenty of series potential.
Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
When I found out that Laini Taylor didn’t know how this series was going to end when she first started writing it, I was shocked. Shocked! Because Dreams of Gods & Monsters so perfectly wraps up what was already a lovely and elegant fantasy series. Everything comes full circle, and is so poetically wonderful … as always, Taylor’s writing is just breath-takingly gorgeous — and her masterful storytelling is at an all-time high, as she concluded this epic trilogy. This book — this series — is just a complete masterpiece.
The Treatment by Suzanne Young
Suzanne Young’s The Program was such a wholly original new story, and this year’s sequel was so compellingly-written and captivating … it had to make my “Best of 2014” list. Suzanne cleverly brings the drama and the emotions full-circle, while still inserting her signature humor and wit into what is otherwise a very serious, dark storyline. I can’t wait to see where the rest of this world goes in the upcoming novella The Recovery, as well as her spin-off novel, The Remedy.
Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
A fun, light-hearted contemporary story about BFFs with a healthy dose of romance and an awesome playlist. I was blown away by how outstanding this story was — from conception to execution. A fun, smart idea about a bold “to do” list, left behind by a best friend MIA. The heart and emotion of Since You’ve Been Gone resonated so much with me, and I was just swept away by this fantastic summer story.
I have adored every moment of Moira Young’s Dustlands Trilogy — and this final chapter was just so beautiful and brilliantly executed. I can’t say enough good things about this series, and this final book. It’s an emotional and epic conclusion to the Dustlands, and it was so satisfying to witness Saba’s tumultuous journey and transformation from book one through book three. Raging Star is just a masterpiece.
I’ve long been a fan of Sarah Beth Durst, and devour pretty much anything she writes. In fact, this is one of two books she released in 2014 — the other being Chasing Power, which should probably get an honorable mention on this list, given it’s fantastic Indiana Jones-esque feel, delightful characters, and wonderfully imagined magic. But The Lost eked it out just a teensy bit on my list, even though this book was technically adult and not YA (like Chasing Power). I was blown away by the imaginative world, where lost things and people end up — and the smoldering, smart, and bold plot twists that carried the book through. I am still mourning the loss of the two planned sequels when Harlequin was acquired by Harper Collins.
More magic & mobsters! Yes, I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it — I love the combination of magic and the mafia. Lish McBride’s new series, starting with Firebug, wholly satisfies by lust for more of this unique combination. (I’ve been suffering from withdrawals since Arcadia Falls concluded one such trilogy earlier this year; and Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy wrapped up a few years ago.) But beyond this delightful combination that I love so much, Firebug has really, really wonderful characters and a smart plot that was largely wrapped up in this first book — while still leaving PLENTY of bigger-picture issues to resolve in future additions to the series. (Like a certain romantic pairing!!!)
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Beautifully written and expertly plotted. This book takes you back and forth in time and perspective, weaving together an intricate tale about siblings, family, love, and loss in magnificent prose. I don’t often say this about a realistic contemporary novel – but I could not put this book down. I had to know what happened next, how the story would unfold, and how the two storylines would finally connect. Just a brilliant book, from start to finish.
Sherlock meets Doctor Who in this fantastic book about a brilliant detective with a gift for seeing the supernatural, and his spunky assistant (our delightful narrator, with a love of dresses with pockets). Charming and engaging, I just fell in love with these characters — and though the plot of Jackaby is wrapped up within this single book, there is plenty of room for more adventures with this pair and I honestly can’t wait to read more.
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
“Every me loves every you” became the sort of unofficial tagline for this book, in which a teen girl hops across multiple universes to try and solve the mystery of her father’s murder. But I could easily say, “Every me loves every page of this book.” I’m a huge fan of Claudia Gray’s work, and this might be her most thrilling and unexpected book to date. She tackles the science fiction genre like nobody else, mixing in bits of historical fiction (with a twist) and romance (with a twist) and adventure (with … you guessed it … a twist). I can’t get enough of the worlds within this book, and can’t wait to see where the series goes next.
Paper Airplanes by Dawn O’Porter
Like an ode to your BFF, Paper Airplanes is a celebration of female friendships. Taking inspiration from her own teenage journals, Dawn O’Porter’s Paper Airplanes is imbued with a raw honesty that is hard to find in most contemporary YA novels. I fell in love with these girls, and their relationship reminded me about all the things I love about my own best friend. This is a book I need to share with her STAT!
For the comments: What are the best books you read in 2014?
We’ve got Noggin and I’ll Give You the Sun on our 2014 Best of the Very Best list (http://readingunderground.org/2014/12/12/susan-reviews-2014-best-of-the-very-best/). But you’ve got a couple of other ones on your list—like Paper Airplanes and Firebug—that I’m really looking forward to reading too! Can we just hold off on 2015’s wonderful new books so I have time to get through everything from 2014?!?
I know, right? I always joke (semi-seriously), that I wish publishing could take a break for a while so I can catch up on all the previous releases that I haven’t read yet!
There are plenty on here I still need to read. One or two that I didn’t like as much as you did but several I also loved. I’ll Give You the Sun was EASILY the best book of the year. As I read it I knew it was the best. I need to read Jackaby still. And A Thousand Pieces of You. Oh, and I didn’t know Tsarina was so good. I guess I NEED it!
I’m excited to work on my list of favorites!
We should compare lists!
I kind of forgot about Sekret. I enjoyed that one. I really need to read Jackaby.