Best YA Books of 2018

With much fanfare, here it is — CA Library’s Best YA Books of 2018! 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 JournalBooklist, etc.), then check out a few other media outlets that have year-end reviews as well. Here are my Top 26 Best Books list sources of 2018…

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, of the 26 lists I drew from, two titles showed up on an amazing 17 of them: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

One book was on 13 best-of lists: Sadie by Courtney Summers.

Three books appeared on 12 lists: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka and The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert was on 10 lists, and Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation and Tahereh Mafi’s A Very Large Expanse of Sea each appeared on 9 lists.

Four books were on 8 best-of lists: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, and Pride by Ibi Zoboi.

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCollough and The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang both appeared on 7 lists, rounding out the 15 books that make up the CA Library Best YA Books of 2018 Superlist!

The Best of the Best…

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo — When Xiomara Batista, who pours all her frustrations and passion into poetry, is invited to join the school slam poetry club, she struggles with her mother’s expectations and her need to be heard. “Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s name: ‘one who is ready for war'” (Kirkus starred review).

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi — Seventeen-year-old Zélie, her older brother Tzain, and rogue princess Amari fight to restore magic to the land and activate a new generation of magi, but they are ruthlessly pursued by the crown prince, who believes the return of magic will mean the end of the monarchy. “Adeyemi’s devastating debut is a brutal, beautiful tale of revolution, faith, and star-crossed love” (Publishers Weekly starred review).

Sadie by Courtney Summers — Told from the alternating perspectives of nineteen-year-old Sadie who runs away from her isolated small Colorado town to find her younger sister’s killer, and a true crime podcast exploring Sadie’s disappearance. “The fresh, nuanced, and fast-moving narrative will appeal to a range of YA and new adult readers, and serves as a larger examination on the way society interacts with true crime…A heartrending must-have” (School Library Journal starred review).

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera — Told in two voices, when Arthur, a summer intern from Georgia, and Ben, a native New Yorker, meet it seems like fate, but after three attempts at dating fail they wonder if the universe is pushing them together or apart. “Albertalli and Silvera balance cynicism and starry-eyed optimism to paint an honest, compelling picture of adolescent romance. Part feel-good, part star-crossed, this seamless blend of the authors’ styles will appeal to fans old and new alike” (School Library Journal starred review).

Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka — A profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive. “A compelling, sometimes raw look at how addiction can affect families. A must-have, this book will empower readers, especially those who feel alone in difficult situations” (School Library Journal starred review).

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan — After her mother’s suicide, grief-stricken Leigh Sanders travels to Taiwan to stay with grandparents she never met, determined to find her mother who she believes turned into a bird. “An evocative novel that captures the uncertain, unmoored feeling of existing between worlds—culturally, linguistically, ethnically, romantically, and existentially—it is also about seeking hope and finding beauty even in one’s darkest hours” (Kirkus).

…and the Rest of the Best!

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert — When the scary, magical world in her grandmother’s book of dark feminist fairy tales becomes real, seventeen-year-old Alice, partnered with Ellery, an obsessed fan of the fairy tales, must enter the world to rescue Alice’s kidnapped mother.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland — Jane McKeene is born two days before the dead begin to walk the battlefields of Civil War-era America—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever. Years later, Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do from the restless dead.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi — It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped. Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. But then she meets Ocean James, the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know her.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black — Jude, seventeen and mortal, gets tangled in palace intrigues while trying to win a place in the treacherous High Court of Faerie, where she and her sisters have lived for a decade.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton — In a world where beauty is a commodity only a few control, beautiful Camellia learns the dark secrets behind her powers and is asked to choose between saving herself or changing her world forever.

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram — Clinically-depressed Darius Kellner, a high school sophomore, travels to Iran to meet his grandparents, but it is their next-door neighbor, Sohrab, who changes his life.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi — Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color. Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCollough — In Renaissance Italy, Artemisia Gentileschi endures the subjugation of women that allows her father to take credit for her extraordinary paintings, rape and the ensuing trial, and torture, buoyed by her deceased mother’s stories of strong women of the Bible.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang — When Prince Sebastian confides in his dressmaker friend Frances that he loves to masquerade at night as the fashionable Lady Crystallia, Frances must decide if Sebastian’s secret is worth a lifetime of living in the shadows.

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