Best YA Books of 2016

With much fanfare, here it is — CA Library’s Best YA Books of 2016! 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.

This year, I again tried 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 22 Best YA Books lists of 2016…

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 22 lists I drew from, one title showed up on an amazing 15 of them: The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon. Two books were on 10 best-of lists: Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys and The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. Three books appeared on 9 lists: Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo and Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree. Two titles were on 7 lists: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo and The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry. A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir and Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s The Smell of Other People’s Houses each appeared on 6 best-of lists. Six titles made it onto 5 best-of YA lists, and four books were on 4. Those 20 books make up the CA Library Best YA Books of 2016 Superlist!

The Best of the Best…

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon — Natasha: “I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him”. Daniel: “I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that”. “Lyrical and sweeping, full of hope, heartbreak, fate…and the universal beating of the human heart” (Booklist starred review).

Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys — For readers of Between Shades of Gray and All the Light We Cannot See, bestselling author Sepetys returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war’s most devastating — yet unknown — tragedies. In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the ill-fated German transport ship Wilhelm Gustloff. “Artfully told and sensitively crafted, Sepetys’s exploration of this little-known piece of history will leave readers weeping” (School Library Journal starred review).

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner — Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace. “Zentner explores difficult themes head on — including the desire to escape the sins of the father and the fragility of happiness — while tempering them with the saving grace of enduring friendship” (Publishers Weekly starred review).

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina — While violence runs rampant throughout New York, a teenage girl faces danger within her own home in Medina’s riveting coming-of-age novel. “A devastatingly intense story, this work is a must-have for all collections, especially where Ruta Sepetys’s books are popular” (School Library Journal starred review).

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo — Amanda Hardy only wants to fit in at her new school, but she is keeping a big secret. When she falls for Grant, guarded Amanda finds herself yearning to share with him everything about herself, including her previous life as Andrew. “Never didactic, this debut is a valuable contribution to the slender but growing body of literature about trans teens” (Booklist).

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge — Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy–a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries. “Hardinge…melds a haunting historical mystery with a sharp observation on the dangers of suppressing the thirst for knowledge” (School Library Journal starred review).

…and the Rest of the Best!

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo — In this sequel to Six of Crows, Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. “Brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam” (Kirkus starred review).

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry — Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too. Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas. When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. “An expertly crafted piece of historical fiction, Berry’s latest is a must for middle and high school libraries” (School Library Journal starred review).

A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir — In this sequel to An Ember In The Ashes, Laia and Elias fight their way north to liberate Laia’s brother from the horrors of Kauf Prison, a mission that is complicated by hunting Empire soldiers, the manipulations of the Commandant, and lingering ghosts from their pasts. “Strong and compelling characters, particularly Helene, who is fleshed out more than in the previous volume, and a number of action-packed sequences help keep things moving” (School Library Journal).

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock — In Alaska in 1970, being a teenager isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. This deeply moving and authentic debut is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. Intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent. “An excellent debut sure to appeal to teens who prefer relationship-based fiction” (School Library Journal).

Exit, Pursued By A Bear by E.K. Johnston — Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team–the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black. “A beautifully written portrait of a young woman facing the unthinkable, this is a must-buy for high school collections” (School Library Journal starred review).

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley — Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him. Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But how can she prove she deserves a spot there? “Chapters alternate between Sol’s and Lisa’s third-person narrations and brim over with warm, witty, authentic dialogue. Readers will easily come to care about these bright, wonderfully nerdy, flawed characters” (Kirkus starred review).

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows — Lady Jane Grey, sixteen, is about to be married to a total stranger–and caught up in an insidious plot to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But that’s the least of Jane’s problems. She’s about to become Queen of England. Like that could go wrong… “Wonky, offbeat, and happily anachronistic this fantasy adventure politely tips its hat to history before joyfully punting it out of the way. An utter delight” (Booklist starred review).

Scythe by Neil Shusterman — A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. “Instead of exploring the ways in which men are monsters, [Shusterman’s latest] deals in what happens to men when there are no monsters” (Booklist starred review).

Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King — Sixteen-year-old Sarah can’t draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has “done the art.” She thinks she’s having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she wanders the urban ruins of Philadelphia. “A deeply moving, frank, and compassionate exploration of trauma and resilience, filled to the brim with incisive, grounded wisdom” (Booklist starred review).

The Reader by Traci Chee — Set in a world where reading is unheard-of, Sefia makes use of a mysterious object to track down who kidnapped her aunt Nin and what really happened the night her father was murdered. “With evocative language, fascinating world building, multifaceted characters, and a compelling plot, this is a series fantasy lovers will want to sink their teeth into” (Booklist starred review).

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova — Alex is a bruja and the most powerful witch in her family. But she’s hated magic ever since it made her father disappear into thin air. When a curse she performs to rid herself of magic backfires and her family vanishes, she must travel to Los Lagos, a land in-between as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland, to get her family back. “Córdova’s realistic world-building is the backbone of this engaging read. She spins a fantasy tale based in Latin American culture, with original mythology that rings true” (School Library Journal).

The Raven King by Magge Stiefvater — All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore. “This is a series that is destined for greatness and The Raven King is a crowning achievement” (School Library Journal starred review).

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab — There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. “First in a planned duo, this taut creation about the nature of humanity lingers long after its disquieting finale” (Booklist starred review).

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson — Abducted by aliens periodically throughout his youth, Henry Denton is informed by his erstwhile captors that they will end the world in 144 days unless he stops them by deciding that humanity is worth saving. “Hutchinson has crafted an unflinching portrait of the pain and confusion of young love and loss, thoughtfully exploring topics like dementia, abuse, sexuality, and suicide as they entwine with the messy work of growing up” (Publishers Weekly).

2016 Best Books Lists


via Flickr: Kydriashka

It’s Best Books season again, and we will be tracking the lists over the next few weeks to see which titles have been selected as exemplary books for teens and young adults!

My goal — 30 Best Books lists from diverse and reputable sources across media — journals, magazines, newspapers, libraries, blogs, book sites, etc. Challenge: accepted!

Over the holiday break I will be aggregating them into my final best books lists, similar to this post from December 2015: Best YA Books of 2015.

School Library Journal – Best Books 2016

Library JournalBest Books 2016: Top 10 (Adult Fiction / Nonfiction)

Booklist Editors’ Choice 2016: Adult Books / Adult Books for Young Adults / Books For Youth

Kirkus Reviews – Best of 2016: Fiction / Nonfiction / Teen

Horn Book – Horn Book Fanfare 2016

Publishers WeeklyBest Books 2016

New York Public LibraryBest Books for Teens 2016

Chicago Public Library – CPL Best of the Best Books 2016

TimeTop 10 YA and Children’s Books / Top 10 Novels / Top 10 Nonfiction

Entertainment WeeklyThe 20 Best Books of 2016

New York TimesThe 10 Best Books of 2016100 Notable Books of 2016 and Notable Children’s Books of 2016

The Boston GlobeThe Best Books of 2016

The Washington PostThe 10 Best Books of 2016 and Best Children’s and YA Books of 2016

The Wall Street JournalThe 20 Books The Defined Our YearThe Best Children’s Books of 2016

The Seattle TimesCritics’ Best Books of 2016 (Adult Fiction / Nonfiction)

The Los Angeles Times – Holiday books: 170 titles to give and to get / Hottest Books for Young Adults

The GuardianBest Books of 2016 / Best Children’s Books of 2016

The TelegraphThe Best YA Books of 2016

AmazonThe Best Books of 2016 / Best Books of the Year: Young Adult

Barnes & Noble10 Must-Read Novels of 2016Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2016

BNTeen BlogThe Best Young Adult Books of 2016 / The B&N Teen Bloggers’ Favorite Books of 2016

NPR’s Book ConciergeBest Books of 2016 / Staff Picks / Young Adult

GoodreadsBest Books of 2016 / YA Fiction / YA Fantasy & Science Fiction (Goodreads Choice Awards)

The Slate Book Review – Laura Miller’s 10 Favorite Books of 2016 and Katy Waldman’s 10 Favorite Books of 2016

Forever Young Adult – FYA Faves: Best Books of 2016 (30 Titles)

Book RiotBest of 2016 (Biography / Comics / Fantasy / Fiction / Nonfiction / Science Fiction / Mystery & Thriller / Young Adult)

BookPage – Best Books of 2016

Buzzfeed24 Best Fiction Books of 2016 | 19 Of The Best YA Books of 2016

The Huffington PostThe 18 Best Fiction Books of 2016 | Top 10 YA Books of 2015

PopCrush10 Best YA Books of 2016

Brooklyn MagazineBest of the Best Books Lists

SLJ’s Best Books for Teens 2016

best-books-2016The editors of School Library Journal have announced their picks for the Best Books of 2016, including YA Fiction, Nonfiction and Adult Books 4 Teens. Check out the lists below for featured titles — books already in the library collection link to our catalog; the others are on their way!


Ashes (The Seeds of America Trilogy, Book 3) by Laurie Halse Anderson — As the Revolutionary War rages on, Isabel and Curzon are reported as runaways, and the awful Bellingham is determined to track them down.

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry — In mid-thirteenth century Provence, Dolssa de Stigata is a fervently religious girl who feels the call to preach, condemned by the Inquisition as an “unnatural woman,” and hunted by the Dominican Friar Lucien who fears a resurgence of the Albigensian heresy.

The Reader by Traci Chee — Set in a world where reading is unheard of, Sefia makes use of a mysterious object to track down who kidnapped her aunt Nin and what really happened the night her father was murdered.

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle — Teenaged Quinn, an aspiring screenwriter, copes with his sister’s death while his best friend forces him back out into the world to face his reality.

The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge — On an island off the south coast of Victorian England, fourteen-year-old Faith investigates the mysterious death of her father, who was involved in a scandal, and discovers a tree that feeds upon lies and gives those who eat its fruit visions of truth.

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson — Abducted by aliens periodically throughout his youth, Henry Denton is informed by his erstwhile captors that they will end the world in 144 days unless he stops them by deciding that humanity is worth saving.

Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King — A talented 16-year-old artist slowly discovers the history of domestic violence behind why her brother left the family years earlier and why she suddenly cannot make art.

Character, Driven by David Lubar — In his last year of high school, seventeen-year-old virgin Cliff Sparks has to figure out what to do with his life, including how to meet new girl Jillian and how to deal with old issues with his unemployed father.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis — Three years after her sister’s murderer walked free and Alex Craft skillfully achieves her vengeance without detection, she begins to form a friendship with the preacher’s daughter and draws the attention of popular Jack Fisher, until the dark side of Alex finds its way out.

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina — During the summer of 1977 when New York City is besieged by arson, a massive blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam, seventeen-year-old Nora must also face her family’s financial woes, her father’s absence, and her brother’s growing violence.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill —  A powerful story about the devastating effects of rape and public shaming, told through the awful experience of a young woman whose life is changed forever by an act of violence.

Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys — As World War II draws to a close, refugees try to escape the war’s final dangers, only to find themselves aboard a ship with a target on its hull

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, Book 1) by Neil Shusterman — In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed by professional reapers called scythes. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, Book 4) by Maggie Stiefvater — Not believing in true love, Blue never thought the warning that she will cause her true love’s death would be a problem, but as her life is entangled in the world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley — Agoraphobic sixteen-year-old Solomon has not left his house in three years, but Lisa is determined to change that–and to write a scholarship-winning essay based on the results.


Sabotage: The Mission To Destroy Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb — Bascomb delivers another nail-biting work of nonfiction for young adults in this incredible true story of spies and survival.

Vietnam: A History of the War by Russell Freedman — An account of the Vietnam War describing how it began, why it was so difficult to end, and how its tragic legacy endures today.

Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America by Gail Jarrow — Acclaimed author and scientific expert Gail Jarrow brings the history of a medical mystery to life in vivid and exciting detail for young readers, including photographs and drawings, a glossary, a timeline, further resources, an author’s note, and source notes.

March: Book Three by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin with art by Nate Powell — In this stunning conclusion to the March trilogy, Congressman John Lewis, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world.

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller — In a compelling, linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4, 1892 murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden.

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner — This real-life saga reads like a novel, but is the true story of Minamoto Yoshitsune, the greatest samurai in Japanese history, whose daring feats and impossible bravery earned him immortality.

Adult Books 4 Teens