Best YA Books of 2014!

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Best-Books-of-2014-2’tis the season for ‘Best Of’ lists with plenty of suggestions for the best books of 2014! 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 picks for best YA books of the year were Rainbow Rowell’s novel Eleanor & Park and Gene Yuen Lang’s pair of graphic novels Boxers and Saints.

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 15 Best YA Books lists of 2014…

Amazon.comBest Books of 2014 > Teen and Young Adult
Barnes & NobleThe Best New Books of 2014 For Teens
Buzzfeed BooksThe 17 Best YA Books of 2014
The Boston GlobeBest Young Adult Novels of 2014
Booklist2014 Editors’ Choice > Books For Youth
GoodreadsBest Young Adult Fiction of 2014
Horn BookFanfare: Our Choices for the Best Books of 2014
Kirkus ReviewsBest Teen Books of 2014
MashableThe 10 Best YA Books of 2014
National Public RadioNPR’s Book Concierge: Our Guide to 2014’s Great Reads > Young Adult
New York Public LibraryBest Books For Teens 2014!
The New York TimesNotable Children’s Books of 2014
Publishers WeeklyBest Books of 2014: Young Adult
School Library JournalBest Books 2014 > Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction
TIME Magazine Top 10 YA Books of 2014

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 teen and young adults (again, it’s a daunting task!)

This year, from the 15 lists I drew from, 1 title showed up on 13 of them: E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars (a YA novel about greed and secrets). Another book was on 10 lists (Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun), one was on 9 (Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer), and one appeared on 8 (Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory). Two books showed up on 7 best of lists (Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King and Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming). One title made it onto 6 best of lists, four books were on 5, and six were on 4. Those 17 books make up the CA Library Best YA Books of 2014 Superlist!

The Best of the Best…

  • #1: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart — Spending the summers on her family’s private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her cousins and a special boy named Gat, teenaged Cadence struggles to remember what happened during her fifteenth summer. “Surprising, thrilling, and beautifully executed in spare, precise, and lyrical prose, Lockhart spins a tragic family drama, the roots of which go back generations. And the ending? Shhhh. Not telling. (But it’s a doozy).” — Booklist starred review
  • #2: I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson — A story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal told from different points in time, and in separate voices, by artists Jude and her twin brother Noah. “Readers are meant to feel big things, and they will — Nelson’s novel brims with emotion (grief, longing, and love in particular) as Noah, Jude, and the broken individuals in their lives find ways to heal.” — Publishers Weekly
  • #3: This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki — Rose and her parents go on vacation to Awago Beach like they do every year, but this year Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting and she turns to her friend Windy for help dealing with her troubled family life. “This captivating graphic novel presents a fully realized picture of a particular time in a young girl’s life, an in-between summer filled with yearning and a sense of ephemerality. The story resolves with imperfect hope and will linger in readers’ mind through changing seasons.” — School Library Journal
  • #4: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson — Hayley Kincaid and her father move back to their hometown to try a ‘normal’ life, but the horrors he saw in the Iraq War threaten to destroy their lives. “A characteristically honest and deeply felt exploration of the lingering scars of war.” — Kirkus Reviews
  • #5 (tie): Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King — As her high school graduation draws near, Glory O’Brien begins having powerful and terrifying visions of the future as she struggles with her long-buried grief over her mother’s suicide. “Imbuing Glory’s narrative with a graceful, sometimes dissonant combination of anger, ambivalence, and hopefulness that resists tidy resolution, award-winning King presents another powerful, moving, and compellingly complex coming-of-age story.” — Booklist starred review
  • #5 (tie): Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson — National Book Award-winner Woodson shares her childhood memories and reveals the first sparks that ignited her writing career in free-verse poems about growing up in the North and South. “With exquisite metaphorical verse, Woodson weaves a patchwork of her life experience…that covers readers with a warmth and sensitivity no child should miss. This should be on every library shelf.” — School Library Journal

And the Rest of the Best…

  • The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming — Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs—at once an intimate portrait of Russia’s last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing. “For readers who regard history as dull, Fleming’s extraordinary book is proof positive that, on the contrary, it is endlessly fascinating, absorbing as any novel, and the stuff of an altogether memorable reading experience.” — Booklist starred review
  • Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer — Jam Gallahue, fifteen, unable to cope with the loss of her boyfriend Reeve, is sent to a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont, where a journal-writing assignment for an exclusive, mysterious English class transports her to the magical realm of Belzhar, where she and Reeve can be together. “Older teen readers, especially rabid Sylvia Plath fans, will relish Wolitzer’s deeply respectful treatment of Jam’s realistic emotional struggle.” — Booklist
  • Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire — Impoverished Russian country girl Elena Rudina and the aristocratic Ekatrina meet and set in motion an escapade that includes mistaken identity, a monk locked in a tower, a prince traveling incognito, and the witch Baba Yaga. “An ambitious, Scheherazade-ian novel, rather like a nesting-doll set of stories, that succeeds in capturing some of the complexities of both Russia and life itself.” — Kirkus starred review
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith — Austin Szerba narrates the end of humanity as he and his best friend Robby accidentally unleash an army of giant, unstoppable bugs and uncover the secrets of a decades-old experiment gone terribly wrong. ” This novel is proof that when an author creates solely for himself…the result is an original, honest, and extraordinary work that speaks directly to teens as it pushes the boundaries of young adult literature.” — School Library Journal
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton —  Ava Lavender tells the story of her young life starting with her birth in 1944 Seattle, Washington; she was born with wings. “Readers should prepare themselves for a tale where myth and reality, lust and love, the corporal and the ghostly, are interchangeable and surprising.” — Booklist
  • 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith — Finn Easton, sixteen and epileptic, struggles to feel like more than just a character in his father’s cult-classic novels with the help of his best friend, Cade Hernandez, and first love, Julia, until Julia moves away. “A wickedly witty and offbeat novel involving (among many other things) best friends, first love, and classroom behavior outrageous enough to bring about a teacher’s aneurysm.” — Kirkus starred review
  • Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho — Althea and Oliver, who have been friends since age six and are now high school juniors, find their friendship changing because he has contracted Kleine-Levin Syndrome. “Moracho’s coming-of-age story carries rare insight and a keen understanding of those verging on adulthood: fierce emotions and crippling insecurity mixed with a heady sense of limitless possibility.” — Booklist starred review
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero — Sixteen-year-old Gabi Hernandez chronicles her senior year in high school as she copes with her friend Cindy’s pregnancy, her friend Sebastian’s coming out, her father’s meth habit, her own cravings for food and cute boys, and especially, the poetry that helps forge her identity. “A refreshing take on slut- and fat-shaming, Quintero’s work ranks with Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and Junot Diaz’s Drown as a coming-of-age novel with Latino protagonists.” — School Library Journal
  • Half Bad by Sally Green —  In modern-day England, where witches live alongside humans, Nathan, son of a White witch and the most powerful Black witch, must escape captivity before his seventeenth birthday and receive the gifts that will determine his future. “With its unresolved ending, fans of survival stories, in particular those that involve paranormal beings, will enjoy this first book of a planned trilogy.” — Library Media Connection
  • Noggin by John Corey Whaley — After dying at age sixteen, Travis Coates’ head was removed and frozen for five years before being attached to another body, and now the old Travis and the new must find a way to coexist while figuring out changes in his relationships. “Whaley has written a tour de force of imagination and empathy, creating a boy for whom past, present, and future come together in an implied invitation to readers to wonder about the very nature of being.” — Booklist starred review
  • The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave Series, Book 2) by Rick Yancey — Cassie Sullivan and her companions lived through the Others’ four waves of destruction. Now, with the human race nearly exterminated and the 5th Wave rolling across the landscape, they face a choice: brace for winter and hope for Evan Walker’s return, or set out in search of other survivors before the enemy closes in. “Culminates in a 180-degree reversal that turns the series’ cosmos on its end and will no doubt have readers impatiently screaming for the third. A roller-coaster ride of a sequel.” — Kirkus Reviews

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