’tis the season for ‘Best Of’ lists with plenty of suggestions for the best books of 2015! With so many great books out there, it can be a daunting task to pick out the best of the best. After spending a few weeks compiling titles from various sources, I came up with the books that appear on the most lists. Last year’s pick for best YA book of the year was We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, appearing on 13 of the 15 best-of lists I drew from.
This year, I expanded my sweep to include as many reputable best books lists as I could find. I go to my usual sources of book reviews (School Library Journal, Booklist, etc.), then check out a few other media outlets that have year-end reviews as well. Here are my Top 23 Best YA Books lists of 2015…
- School Library Journal – Best Books 2015
- Booklist – Editors’ Choice 2015: Books For Youth
- Kirkus Reviews – Best Teen Books of 2015
- Horn Book – Horn Book Fanfare
- Publishers Weekly – Best Books 2015
- New York Public Library – Best Books for Teens 2015
- Chicago Public Library – Best Teen Fiction of 2015
- Time – Top 10 YA and Children’s Books
- Entertainment Weekly – 7 Amazing Books For Teens
- New York Times – Notable Children’s Books of 2015
- The Boston Globe – The Best Books of 2015: Young Adult
- The Washington Post – Best Children’s Books of 2015
- Amazon – The Best Books of 2015: Young Adult
- Barnes & Noble – Best Teen Books
- BNTeen Blog – The Best Young Adult Books of 2015
- NPR’s Book Concierge – Best Books of 2015: Young Adult
- Goodreads – Best Books of 2015: Young Adult | Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy
- Forever Young Adult – FYA Faves: Best Books of 2015 (29 Titles)
- Book Riot – Best of 2015: Young Adult
- BookPage – Best Children’s and Teens Books 2015
- Buzzfeed – 16 Of The Best YA Books of 2015
- The Huffington Post – Top 10 YA Books of 2015
- PopCrush – 10 Best YA Books of 2015 (plus 4 honorable mentions)
Each list is a little different — some include just fiction or nonfiction, some include both, and some include books for all ages, from which I pick the ones written for teens and young adults (again, it’s a daunting task!)
This year, from the 23 lists I drew from, three titles showed up on 11 of them: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Another book was on 10 lists (Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’), four were on 9 (Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep, and Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon), and four appeared on 8 (An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap, The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz, and Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not). Two titles made it onto 7 best-of YA lists, and five books were on 6. Those 18 books make up the CA Library Best YA Books of 2015 Superlist!
The Best of the Best…
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older — When the murals painted on the walls of her Brooklyn neighborhood start to change and fade in front of her, Sierra Santiago realizes that something strange is going on–then she discovers her Puerto Rican family are shadowshapers and finds herself in a battle with an evil anthropologist for the lives of her family and friends. “Excellent diverse genre fiction in an appealing package” (School Library Journal starred review).
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli — Sixteen-year-old, not-so-openly-gay Simon Spier is blackmailed into playing wingman for his classmate or else his sexual identity–and that of his pen pal–will be revealed. “Albertalli’s sensitive, incisive novel expertly gets at the complexity of identity, the difficulty of change, and the importance of growth” (Booklist starred review).
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo — Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction–if they don’t kill each other first. “Cracking page-turner with a multiethnic band of misfits with differing sexual orientations who satisfyingly, believably jell into a family” (Kirkus starred review).
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy — Sixteen-year-old Willowdean wants to prove to everyone in her small Texas town that she is more than just a fat girl, so, while grappling with her feelings for a co-worker who is clearly attracted to her, Will and some other misfits prepare to compete in the beauty pageant her mother runs. “A joyous read that will be beloved by many teens who can relate to feeling uncertain in their own skins” (School Library Journal).
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven — Told in alternating voices, when Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, both teetering on the edge, it’s the beginning of an unlikely relationship, a journey to discover the “natural wonders” of the state of Indiana, and two teens’ desperate desire to heal and save one another. “At the heart–a big one–of All the Bright Places lies a charming love story about this unlikely and endearing pair of broken teenagers” (New York Times book review).
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell — Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommateat the Watford School of Magicks, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right. Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. “With rock-solid worldbuilding, a sweet and believable romance subplot, and satisfying ending, Rowell’s latest is a monumentally enjoyable reading experience” (School Library Journal starred review).
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman — Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench. And Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd schizophrenic behavior. This is a captivating book about mental illness that lingers long beyond the last page, and a deeply powerful and personal novel from one of today’s most admired writers for teens. “Haunting, unforgettable, and life affirming all at once” (Booklist starred review).
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon — The story of a teenage girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more. “This heartwarming story transcends the ordinary by exploring the hopes, dreams, and inherent risks of love in all of its forms” (Kirkus starred review).
And the Rest of the Best…
An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir — Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution. “This novel is a harrowing, haunting reminder of what it means to be human — and how hope might be kindled in the midst of oppression and fear” (Washington Post book review).
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby — The story of Roza, a beautiful girl who is taken from a quiet midwestern town and imprisoned by a mysterious man, and Finn, the only witness, who cannot forgive himself for being unable to identify her kidnapper. Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.”A haunting and inventive work that subverts expectations at every turn” (Publishers Weekly starred review).
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz — Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself — because maybe a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of — a woman with a future. “A memorable novel from a captivating storyteller” (Booklist starred review).
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera — In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again — but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely. “A beautiful debut novel…[Silvera] manages a delicate knitting of class politics through an ambitious narrative about sexual identity and connection that considers the heavy weight and constructive value of traumatic memory” (New York Times Book Review).
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen — Sydney’s charismatic older brother, Peyton, has always been the center of attention in the family. But when he is sent to jail, Sydney struggles to find her place at home and the world — until she meets the Chathams, including gentle, protective Mac, who makes her feel seen for the first time. “Taut, tightly structured with well-rounded characters, this novel is sure to please Dessen’s many fans and attract new ones” (School Library Journal).
The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough — Flora and Henry were born a few blocks from each other, innocent of the forces that might keep a white boy and an African American girl apart; years later they meet again and their mutual love of music sparks an even more powerful connection. But what Flora and Henry don’t know is that they are pawns in a game played by the eternal adversaries Love and Death, here brilliantly reimagined as two extremely sympathetic and fascinating characters. “Brockenbrough never sugarcoats the obstacles facing Henry and Flora’s love — whether human prejudices or supernatural manipulations — in this inventive and affecting novel” (Publishers Weekly starred review).
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff — The planet Kerenza is attacked, and Kady and Ezra find themselves on a space fleet fleeing the enemy, while their ship’s artificial intelligence system and a deadly plague may be the end of them all. Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents — including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more — Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes. “Ambitious, heartbreaking, and out-of-this-world awesome” (Kirkus starred review).
Mosquitoland by David Arnold — When she learns that her mother is sick in Ohio, Mim confronts her demons on a thousand-mile odyssey from Mississippi that redefines her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane. “There is no shortage of humor in Mim’s musings, interspersed with tender scenes and a few heart-pounding surprises. Mim’s triumphant evolution is well worth the journey” (Publishers Weekly starred review).
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard — Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood — those with common Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. “A solid debut from Aveyard and a welcome addition to the plethora of speculative teen lit” (School Library Journal).
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma — On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries. “With evocative language, a shifting timeline and more than one unreliable narrator, Suma subtly explores the balance of power between the talented and the mediocre, the rich and the poor, the brave and the cowardly — and the unpleasant truths that are released when those scales are upset” (New York Times Book Review).