Best YA Books of 2023!

It’s been another great year for young adult books! Although overall print book sales were down 2.6% in 2023, sales of YA fiction titles were up 1.8% over 2022, according to Publishers Weekly (I believe the negative change in the chart below is a typo):

(Publishers Weekly, 5 January 2024)

Even more impressive — YA fiction book sales were up an amazing 63% in 2023 compared to 2019 (the last year pre-COVID figures are available)!

So with much fanfare (yay!), here it is — CA Library’s Best YA Books of 2023! With so many outstanding 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, Kirkus Reviews, etc.), then check out other media outlets that have year-end reviews as well. Here are my Top 28 Best Books List sources of 2023:

(Lists published as of 1/2/2024 and are subject to change)

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!)

Warrior girl unearthed This year, of the 28 lists I drew from, one title shows up on 14 of them: the high-stakes mystery Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley, making it the CA Library Best YA Book of the Year!

Becky Albertalli’s LGBTQ rom-com Imogen, Obviously is on 9 best YA book lists this year. The swoon-worthy romance Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood, the tale of intergenerational trauma and love Only This Beautiful Moment by Abdi Nazemian, and Andrew Joseph White’s much-anticipated sophomore novel The Spirit Bares Its Teeth all appear on 8 best-of lists.

Three books are on 7 year-end lists:

  • The Blood Years by Elana K. Arnold
  • Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert
  • One Of Us Is Back by Karen M. McManus

Seven books appear on 6 lists:

  • America Redux: Visual Stories from Our Dynamic History by Ariel Aberg-Riger
  • The Brothers Hawthorne by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • The Davenports by Krystal Marquis
  • For Lamb by Lesa Cline-Ransome
  • Foxglove by Adalyn Grace
  • Their Vicious Games by Joelle Wellington
  • Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest

Nine books are on 5 best-of lists:

  • Accountable: The True Story of A Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed by Dashka Slater
  • Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross
  • Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam by Thien Pham
  • Invisible Son by Kim Johnson
  • Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story by Sarah Myer
  • Painted Devils by Margaret Owen
  • Saints of the Household by Ari Tison
  • The Stolen Heir by Holly Black
  • Thieves’ Gambit by Kayvion Lewis

…rounding out the 24 books that make up the CA Library Best YA Books of 2023 Superlist!

Check out the full list below. Click on the title to see a description in the CA Library catalog. Plus, if there’s an eBook and/or audiobook available in the Sora Digital Reading App, there’s a link to that, too — sign in using ClassLink!

The Best of the Best…

Warrior girl unearthed Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley — Bestselling author of Firekeeper’s Daughter Angeline Boulley takes us back to Sugar Island in this high-stakes thriller about the power of discovering your stolen history. With the rising number of missing Indigenous women, her family’s involvement in a murder investigation, and grave robbers profiting off her Anishinaabe tribe, Perry takes matters into her own hands to solve the mystery and reclaim her people’s inheritance. “A page-turning heist grounded in a nuanced exploration of critical issues of cultural integrity” (Kirkus Reviews). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Imogen, obviously Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli –Pretending to be her queer best friend Lili’s former girlfriend, heterosexual Imogen Scott spends a lot of time with Lili’s friend Tessa and starts to wonder if her truth was ever all that straight to begin with. ” A masterpiece that will be cherished by anyone who has felt they might not belong” (Booklist). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

cover_imageCheck & Mate by Ali Hazelwood — When eighteen-year-old Mallory begrudgingly agrees to return to chess in one last charity tournament, her surprise upset against Nolan Sawyer, the reigning world champ and bad boy of the chess world, sets her on a whirlwind adventure as she rediscovers her passion for the game. “Readers will devour this swoon-worthy romance in one sitting” (Kirkus Reviews). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

cover_imageOnly This Beautiful Moment by Abdi Nazemian — Set against the backdrop of Tehran and Los Angeles, this sweeping intergenerational story, examining queer identity at the end of different decades, follows three boys in the same Iranian family as they each gain a new understanding of their history, culture — and themselves. “This is the kind of story that young-adult literature is made for: a story of the heart, of the very real human struggles young people face and that adults try to — but never truly — forget” (Booklist). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

cover_imageThe Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White — Set in an alternate Victorian England where mediums control the dead, sixteen-year-old autistic transgender boy Silas must expose a power-hungry secret society while confined to a cruel finishing school designed to turn him into the perfect wife. Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

…and The Rest of the Best!

Accountable : the true story of a racist social media account and the teenagers whose lives it changed Accountable: The True Story Of A Racist Social Media Account And The Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed by Dashka Slater — From the bestselling author of The 57 Bus comes a propulsive and thought-provoking true story about the revelation of a racist social media account that changes everything for a group of high school students and begs the question: What does it mean to be held accountable for harm that takes place behind a screen? “A compelling and contemporary cautionary tale that should be required reading for any teen before they create, comment, or even like a media post” (Booklist). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

America redux : visual stories from our dynamic history America Redux: Visual Stories From Our Dynamic History by Ariel Aberg-Riger — In this immersive experience, 21 visual stories reveal the extraordinary, unexpected, sometimes darker sides of history that reverberate in our society today, exploring themes that create our shared sense of American identity and questioning the myths we’ve been telling ourselves for centuries. “While the themes encompass difficult topics, Aberg-Riger concludes many chapters with ways activists have changed and continue to change the course of these ongoing issues in America. An essential resource to promote richer perspectives and dialogue around American identity” (Booklist). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

The blood years The Blood Years by Elana K. Arnold — Based on the author’s grandmother’s true experiences during the Holocaust in Romania, this harrowing story follows Rieke Teitler as she must decide whether holding on to her life might mean letting go of everything that has ever mattered to her. “Arnold’s wrenching tale of two sisters surviving the Holocaust in Romania is a must-read” (School Library Journal). Get the eBook

The brothers Hawthorne The Brothers Hawthorne (The Inheritance Games, Book 4) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes –Jameson and Grayson Hawthorne are each pulled into a different high-stakes game, where they must decide who they want to be and what they will sacrifice to win. Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

The Davenports The Davenports by Krystal Marquis –The Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in 1910 Chicago, and the two daughters, Olivia and Helen, are finding their way and finding love — even where they are not supposed to. “The perfect read for fans of escapist historical fiction” (NBC’s TODAY). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Divine rivals : a novel Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross –When 18-year-old journalist Iris Winnow’s personal letters fall into the hands of her rival at the paper, she forges a magical connection that follows her into the battle for her family, the fate of humankind, and love. “An ardent romance and a harrowing exploration of war’s horrors and heartbreaks” (Publishers Weekly). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Family style : memories of an American from Vietnam Family Style: Memories of An American From Vietnam by Thien Pham — Told through the lens of meaningful food and meals, this graphic memoir chronicles the author’s [life], beginning with his childhood immigration to America, where food takes on new meaning as he and his family search for belonging, for happiness and for the American dream. “Pham’s detailed artwork and expert use of the graphic novel format will doubtlessly transport readers into each compelling memory. A delicious series of memories full of hope and human connections despite the hardships of immigrating to a new home” (School Library Journal). Get the eBook

For Lamb For Lamb by Lesa Cline-Ransome — In 1930s Jackson, Mississippi, quiet, studious and naive girl Lamb tentatively accepts the friendly overtures of a white girl, which sets in motion a series of events that end in tragedy. “Told with nuance and subtlety, this is a powerful story of striving to succeed in the face of nearly impossible odds” (Booklist). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Foxglove Foxglove (Belladonna, Book 2) by Adalyn Grace –Navigating their futures in high society, Signa and her cousin Blythe are forced to entertain Fate, who is determined to have Signa for himself, and the two must play Fate’s unexpected games with their destinies hanging in the balance. “Complex, rich, and full of unexpected consequences” (Paste). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Highly suspicious and unfairly cute Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert –To win the grand prize at the end of their survival course, ex-best friends Claire and Bradley trudge through mud, dirt and their messy past to find the adventure bringing them closer together, sparking a whole new kind of relationship. “A zippy rom-com with strong characterization” (Kirkus Reviews). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Invisible son Invisible Son by Kim Johnson — After spending two months in a juvenile detention center for a crime he did not commit, seventeen-year-old Andre Jackson returns home and tries to adapt to a Covid-19 world and find his missing best friend. “Tackles in a nuanced way topics such as the erasure of Black history, the disproportionate negative impact of the pandemic on communities of color, and entrenched racial bias in the justice system. A powerful, emotional, and insightful read” (Kirkus Reviews). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Monstrous : a transracial adoption story Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story by Sarah Myer — Bullied by her classmates, Sarah, a Korean American girl growing up in a rural community with few Asian neighbors, channels her rage into her art and cosplay until it threatens to explode. “Myer’s powerful memoir is an empathic gift, presented in full technicolor with never-static panels, showcasing raw energy. “This story doesn’t just belong to me,” she adds in her author’s note, “it is for all who feel or have felt like an outsider” (Booklist). Get the eBook

One of us is back One Of Us Is Back (One Of Us Is Lying, Book 3) by Karen M. McManus – A member of the Bayview Crew disappears and everyone feels like they could be next, but the situation suddenly worsens when someone unexpectedly returns to Bayview. “A soulful, high-stakes thrill ride” (Publishers Weekly). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Painted devils Painted Devils (Little Thieves, Book 2) by Margaret Owen — “Reformed” jewel thief and scam artist Vanja accidentally starts a cult around a Low God, the Scarlet Maiden, who claims Emeric as her virgin sacrifice, and desperate to save the only man she’s ever cared for, Vanja seeks a dangerous alternative. ” fresh, high-stakes adventure about the power of stories-particularly the ones we tell ourselves” (School Library Journal). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Saints of the household Saints of the Household by Ari Tison — A haunting contemporary novel about an act of violence in a small-town — beautifully told by a debut Indigenous Costa Rican-American writer — that will take your breath away. When brothers Max and Jay help a classmate in trouble, they struggle with the consequences of their violent actions and worry they may be more like their abusive father than they thought. “This vulnerable and magnetic tale of brotherhood belongs on every shelf” (School Library Journal). Get the Audiobook

The stolen heir : a novel of Elfhame The Stolen Heir: A Novel of Elfhame by Holly Black –Hiding in the human world, Suren, the tormented child queen of the Court of Teeth, must guard her heart against a manipulative prince whom she cannot trust when she agrees to join him on a mysterious quest. “Even Black’s most experienced readers are in for a surprise . . . flawlessly executed” (School Library Journal). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

cover_imageTheir Vicious Games by Joelle Wellington — Eighteen-year-old Adina Walker, a scholarship student at a prestigious academy, faces the consequences of a single mistake and competes in a high-stakes contest hosted by the wealthy Remington family, where she uncovers unsettling truths about the sponsors and the contest’s high stakes. “Anyone desperate for a Hunger Games–esque adventure will devour this debut” (Booklist). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Thieves' gambit Thieves’ Gambit by Kayvion Lewis –Seventeen-year-old Ross Quest, a master thief, enters the Thieves’ Gambit, a competition consisting of dangerous, international heists, in order to save her mother’s life. “A fast-paced roller coaster of a read” (Kirkus Reviews). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Where you see yourself Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest — Effie Galanos’ goals for her senior year include her navigating her way through her high school that is not really wheelchair-friendly, getting into the perfect college, and getting her crush Wilder to accompany her to the prom — but by spring she is beginning to see herself entirely differently. “A refreshing upstander story that buoys realistic disability advocacy with humor, grit, and a witty protagonist worth rooting for” (School Library Journal). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

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