Best Young Adult Books of 2016


Another year is coming to a close, so that means it’s time to look back on my favorite reads from the last twelve months. Looking back, it’s interesting to take note of the books that really spoke to me. I read quite diversely, and this list really shows that. This list includes contemporary, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and more.

Today, in no particular order, I give you my picks for the Best YA of 2016!


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

salt to the seaA hold-your-breath, slow building and intensely powerful story, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is a stunning portrayal of one of the world’s biggest, yet littlest-known tragedies.

Based on the true story of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a luxury ship requisitioned by the Nazis to transport refugees from the Soviet invasion of Germany, Salt to the Sea is a heartfelt and deeply emotional glimpse at the lives of four people in the midst of war and tragedy. Salt to the Sea is a breathtaking must-read story, filled with gumption, heart, and — ultimately — hope.

See our full review here.

Revenge & the Wild by Michelle Modesto

revenge and the wildA seductive, wild western fantasy, Revenge & the Wild by Michelle Modesto is a genre-bending masterpiece — filled with (yes) revenge, adventure, danger, intrigue, romance, and so much more.

With the most unexpectedly delightful combination of genres and themes, Revenge & the Wild offers readers a stunning, page-turning thrill ride. With landscapes and imagery both familiar and bizarre, Modesto titillates readers’ senses with each new layer of this captivating story. Everything about this book is enchanting: its characters, its setting, its magic and whimsy, the danger and intrigue and lust and tension so thick you can almost feel it. There is so much going on in this book, and in any other author’s hands, I’d worry that it would become clumsy and clunky. But not so here. Modesto has masterfully balanced every element, creating a triumphant masterpiece of a book that will have readers rooting for Westie at every turn, and dying for more.

See our full review here.

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

glass swordA stunning new chapter in the Red Queen saga, Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard picks up smack in the middle of the action where book 1 left off — and whisks readers on a thrilling, emotional ride that continues right up to the very last word.

There is no so-called “middle book syndrome” at work here; Glass Sword is just as captivating and pulse-pounding as Red Queen — offering a deeper look at the characters, the world, and the stakes — both political and emotional. There are so many nuances, and these little details are what makes Glass Sword so special.

If you haven’t yet discovered the Red Queen series, now is the time to jump on that bandwagon — because these books do not disappoint. Glass Sword is a triumph; filled with treachery, treason, and agonizing romance, it will leave readers aching for the next installment, which comes out in early 2017.

See our full review here.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

serpent kingAn explosive and gut-wrenching novel about growing up and defining oneself, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner has all the makings of a modern classic.

This book blew me away, and months after reading it, I’m not surprised to see it nominated for the Morris Award, as well as other accolades. It is gorgeously written, with Zentner’s writing transporting the reader to small town Tennessee and into the lives of three teens on the brink of adulthood. Following Dill, Travis, and Lydia as they navigate their senior year of high school, Zentner captures a universal adolescent experience in a truly unique place.

See our full review here.

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

Athe way i used to ben explosive and powerful debut novel, The Way I Used Be by Amber Smith is an intense and moving portrayal of trauma, and the uncertain path towards recovery. Smith’s raw portrayal of Eden’s experience — both her actual rape, and the fallout that occurs over the next four years of her life — is beautiful and moving.

And while Eden’s story is a tragic one — to be so brutally attacked, and to suffer silently alone for so long — The Way I Used to Be is an ultimately triumphant story. It sheds light and hope on a very dark subject. With an achingly beautiful narrative and carefully crafted plot, The Way I Used to Be is more than just an excellent book; it’s an important one.

See our full review here.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

lady midnightI thought I was done with the Shadowhunter books, but 2016 had other plans for me. Whether you’re new to the series or a long-time fan, Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare is a not-to-be-missed new masterpiece in the world of young adult fantasy epics.

I’m so glad I took the plunge with this new generation of Shadowhunters. Clare still has more stories to tell, more themes to explore, and more shining new characters for us to fall in love with. Lady Midnight is proof enough. I absolutely adored Emma Carstairs and her parabatai Julian Blackthorn. I love the extended members of their family — Julian’s siblings, fellow Shadowhunter Cristina, and so many more. I connected with these characters instantly and was delighted to explore their part of the Shadowhunter world.

And their story is equally new and compelling. Tying in nicely with the previous nine books, Lady Midnight sets out with a fresh mystery to solve, new dangers and challenges to overcome, and a new set of characters (and couples) to root for, through all their trials.

See our full review here.

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

rose and the daggerA breathtaking and intoxicating conclusion to the saga of Sharzad and Khalid, The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh is the stunning sequel to The Wrath & the Dawn that readers have been waiting for. That’s the magic of Ahdieh’s writing and storytelling in these books; it’s intoxicating. She weaves together tales of magic and love and struggle and war so elegantly; she is truly an enchantress with words.

If you haven’t discovered this stunning duology yet, dive in now — you can binge read both books back to back!

See our full review here.

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

HighlyIllogicalBehavior_OnlineOnlyFilled with heart and hope, Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley is an exquisite story about mental health, love and friendship, and the things that keep us connected.

Whaley takes a deep (and, at times, very personal) look at mental health, what it really looks like to those who suffer from it, and how it affects the people in an individual’s life. It’s heartbreaking; and yet, Whaley also paints a picture of hope. Whaley shows that mental illness doesn’t have to be the end of the story; in many ways, it’s just the beginning. Life is hard and filled with challenges; but as with anything, if it’s worth having, it’s worth fighting for. And that’s something Solomon and Lisa and Clark all learn, in aces and spades.

Rich with humor, heart, and hope, Highly Illogical Behavior will leave a lasting mark on readers for years to come.

See our full review here.

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

learning to swear in americaLearning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy is an adorable and quirky contemporary YA story that is funny, sweet, and thought-provoking all in one, and is unlike any other book I’ve ever read (which is a feat, in and of itself).

I loved Yuri for his smarts and his social inadequacies, and his determination. I loved Dovie’s sense of adventure and whimsy; I loved her brother’s cynicism and crankiness and secret soft spots. I loved the way these characters come together in extraordinary circumstances, to do extraordinary things, for the sake of saving their simple lives and the little things that make life meaningful to each of them.

Life-affirming and hopeful and funny and so unexpected; I adored Learning to Swear in America, and I think you will, too.

Beast by Brie Spangler

beastA story as charming and entertaining as it is moving and important, Beast by Brie Spangler hits all the right notes in this triumph of contemporary YA fiction. I am obsessed with this gorgeous & inventive transgender teen love story, inspired by “Beauty & the Beast.” Brie Spangler’s Beast is a brilliantly conceived and beautifully written story of acceptance and unconditional love.

Through Spangler’s whip smart and witty writing, readers will fall in love with Dylan, Jamie, and the other characters in Beast — and their stories will seduce you into savoring every word. This book has all the charm, appeal, and heart of a John Green book or a David Levithan story, but it still feels new. Spangler has breathed new life into a “tale as old as time,” and given it a modern twist that demands attention. This is an important book, and it’s an important book right now. It’s the kind of book teens need to read and discover, and to know this exists.

A story about learning to love and accept yourself, as much as it as about learning to love and accept others, Beast is a triumph of heart and humanity.

See our full review here.

A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray

Claudiaa-million-worlds-with-you Gray’s Firebird saga comes to a stunning conclusion in A Million Worlds With You, which sees the battle to save or control the multi-verse to its explosive finale.

From exquisite writing to a heart-wrenching romance to an intricately detailed plot, A Million Worlds With You is thrilling and satisfying. It’s rich with romantic tension, unexpected new multiverse worlds, and a surprising twist that sees the saga come full circle. Plus, it’s all just gorgeously written. Every part of this series, and this final book, are executed to perfection.

See our full review here.

Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

geminaAn out-of-this-world, rock star wild ride of a book, Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff is the sequel to Illuminae you’ve been longing for.

As much as Illuminae pushed the boundaries of storytelling format, Gemina finds new ways to creatively tell a story — with a format that feels both cohesive with the first book, and yet still fresh and new and not just the same trick repeated for effect. We also meet new characters Hanna and Nik, whose story is just as compelling and still loops back to Ezra and Kady from Illuminae. And there are yet more surprises and twists in store for the plot, proving that Illuminae was not just a “one-trick pony.” Indeed, Gemina just proves there is so much more in store for this captivating sci fi series.

See our full review here.

We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen

we-are-still-tornadoesThe publicist for We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen described it to me as being perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell, and I’m inclined to agree. I adored this 1980s-set coming-of-age and coming-together story about two best friends, struggling to find themselves and their place in the world in the year after graduating high school. Cath has gone off to college, and Scott has stayed behind — and their stories are told through a series of letters they write to each other over the course of a year.

Heartbreaking, funny, and sweet, We Are Still Tornadoes delivers a compelling and delightful story about best friends, love, and growing up.

What are your favorite YA books of 2016?

Tell us below & tune in tomorrow for the Best Middle Grade of 2016.
















3 thoughts on “Best Young Adult Books of 2016

Add yours

  1. I loved The Serpent King and Learning to Swear in America. Your list of books are all ones I still haven’t read, but really want to. So many books, so much life to do first….

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