Best YA Books of 2019!

With much fanfare, here it is — CA Library’s Best YA Books of 2019! 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 (check out the spreadsheet here).

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 25 Best Books list sources of 2019…

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 25 lists I drew from, two titles showed up on an amazing 13 of them: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi and Shout: A Poetry Memoir by Laurie Halse Anderson, making them the CA Library Best Books of the Year!

Two books were on 11 best-of lists: Frankly In Love by David Yoon and On The Come Up by Angie Thomas.

Two books appeared on 10 lists: Wilder Girls by Rory Power and With The Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys was on 9 lists.

Six books were on 8 best-of lists: Lovely War by Julie Berry, Laura Ruby’s Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All, Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki, Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, and Stacey Lee’s The Downstairs Girl.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer appeared on 7 lists, and The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake and Rainbow Rowell’s Pumpkinheads were on 6 lists each, rounding out the 16 books that make up the CA Library Best YA Books of 2019 Superlist!

The Best of the Best…

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi — In a near-future society that claims to have gotten rid of all monstrous people, a creature emerges from a painting seventeen-year-old Jam’s mother created, a hunter from another world seeking a real-life monster. “A riveting and important read that couldn’t be more well timed to our society’s struggles with its own monsters” (School Library Journal starred review).

Shout: A Poetry Memoir by Laurie Halse Anderson — Inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak addressed the issue of sexual assault twenty years ago, Anderson’s poetry memoir is as vulnerable as it is rallying, and as timely as it is timeless. “A captivating, powerful read about clawing your way out of trauma, reclaiming your body, and undoing lifetimes of lessons in order to use your voice as the weapon it is” (Booklist starred review).

Frankly In Love by David Yoon — High school senior Frank Li takes a risk to go after a girl his parents would never approve of, but his plans will leave him wondering if he ever really understood love — or himself — at all. “Yoon’s light hand with dialogue and deft use of illustrative anecdotes produce a story that illuminates weighty issues by putting a compassionate human face on struggles both universal and particular to certain identities” (Kirkus starred review).

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas — Sixteen-year-old Bri hopes to become a great rapper, and after her first song goes viral for all the wrong reasons, must decide whether to sell out or face eviction with her widowed mother. “While acknowledging that society is quick to slap labels onto black teens, [Thomas] allows her heroine to stumble and fall before finding her footing and her voice” (School Library Journal starred review).

With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo — Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions — doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. “Acevedo compassionately challenges her readers with a wide variety of topics, including cultural and personal identity and the needs and desires of older women, something that is so often forgotten” (Booklist starred review).

Wilder Girls by Rory Power — Friends Hetty, Byatt, and Reece go to extremes trying to uncover the dark truth about the mysterious disease that has had them quarantined at their boarding school on a Maine island. “Part survival thriller, part post-apocalyptic romance, and part ecocritical feminist manifesto, a staggering gut punch of a book” (Kirkus starred review).

…and The Rest of the Best!

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys — At the Castellana Hilton in 1957 Madrid, eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson connects with Ana Moreno through photography and fate as Daniel discovers the incredibly dark side of the city under Generalissimo Franco’s rule

Lovely War by Julie Berry — The Greek goddess Aphrodite recounts two tales of tragic love during WWI to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II.

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby — When Frankie’s mother died and her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago, it was supposed to be only temporary. That’s why Frankie’s not prepared for the day that he arrives for his weekend visit with a new woman on his arm and out-of-state train tickets in his pocket. Now Frankie and her sister, Toni, are abandoned alongside so many other orphans — two young, unwanted women doing everything they can to survive.

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson — When apprentice librarian Elisabeth is implicated in sabotage that released the library’s most dangerous grimoire, she becomes entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy that could mean the end of everything.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki — Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend. But as their relationship continues to spiral out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay — When seventeen-year-old Jay Reguero learns his Filipino cousin and former best friend, Jun, was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, he flies to the Philippines to learn more.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee — 1890, Atlanta. By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel Caroline Payne, the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for ‘the genteel Southern lady.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer — Eighteen for the three hundred twenty-seventh time, Prince Rhen despairs of breaking the curse that turns him into a beast at the end of each day until feisty Harper enters his life.

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake — Inspired loosely by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, teenaged Violet is shipped off to Maine after her brother’s hospitalization, where she searches for the lost shipwreck that her great-great grandmother survived and for answers about her family’s long struggle with mental illness, all while falling in love.

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell — Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends. Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked at the best pumpkin patch in the world. They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1. But this Halloween is different — Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together — their last goodbye.


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