2017 has been…a year. It’s been a year where I’ve been more thankful than ever to be a reader who can find escape and comfort in books. I read 179 books in 2017. It’s been a really great year for books with a lot of representation that YA really needed. I’m really lucky that part of my job as a Teen Services Librarian is reading and recommending books to teen readers. I’ve read so many amazing books this year and it was really hard to narrow it down to even 20 titles. I didn’t set out to make this a YA only (and one middle grade) list but those books were, above and beyond, the best that I read this year. YA is a magical book haven right now.
(If you’re wondering why The Hate U Give isn’t on this list, I was lucky enough to read an early copy in 2016 and counted it among my favorites then. It’s become an all time favorite and I definitely recommended it A LOT this year)
Here are some of my favorite reads of the year that I know I’ll be recommending even after 2017 is over:
I loved this heart-wrenching contemporary romance about love, struggles with family, and finding your own way. This book also has queer main characters, Grace is a bisexual teen who falls for Eva, a lesbian teen. While the story does follow Grace and Eva’s relationship it also focuses on their complex family struggles. Grace’s mom has never really been there for her the way a mother should and Eva has just lost her mother. This book absolutely pulled my heart out and then mended it.
A Map For Wrecked Girls is one of my favorite books of the year because it not only managed to be a fast-paced thriller but it was also about a complex sister relationship full of twists and turns. I couldn’t put it down and I know I’ll read it again. I also met Jessica Taylor at a book signing event and I loved hearing her talk about her process of writing this book. Here’s my review from earlier this year with 5 more reasons you need to read this book.
This is a beautifully written story with short vignettes about Jade’s life. Jade is a collage artist, a daughter, a friend, a scholarship student, and a teenager trying to figure out where she fits in. This book is about growing up as a black girl and how people try to place you into boxes. Jade uses her art to define herself, even though everyone tries to define her identity for her. Jade has a powerful voice and Watson creates a realistic portrait about loving yourself. Readers of The Hate U Give will love this book.
Geekerella was an absolutely delightful Cinderella retelling about nerdy teens, fandom, a an adorable dog! I loved seeing Elle grow and find her voice through her favorite fandom. She finds friends and belonging through being nerdy and it rang so true. There was also a swoony romance with a teen heartthrob who is in the reboot of Elle’s favorite TV show. It was such a happy book to read in the trash fire of 2017.
Desi was such a fun character to read about. She’s a “late” bloomer, an over-achiever, an athlete, and she hopes to go to Stanford. She has it all–except she’s never had a boyfriend. She sets out to use the rules of K-drama romances to help her land her first relationship. This is a funny romantic comedy with an endearing lead AND a gorgeous cover! This book is perfect for anyone who loves nerdy girl characters and happy endings. My full review is here.
I really appreciated the brutal honesty about what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship as a teen in this YA book that was published in June. It is such a realistic portrayal of how a relationship can spiral into an unhealthy and abusive situation. Demetrios writes about the darkness of abuse but she also writes about the light at the end. This book started a discussion about consent and respect in relationships at one of my teen book clubs and it will remain a book that I will recommend. The main character has incredibly supportive friends and is able to get out. This book is excellent for teaching teens about warning signs or providing comfort to readers who need to know they’re not alone.
You’re Welcome, Universe is full of beautiful sketches and artwork that really bring the main character to life. Julia is an artist who likes to dabble in graffiti and tagging the best spots. She’s also dealing with a best friend break up, a new school, and trying to fit in as the only deaf kid. This book will inspire you to take a second look at the street art you pass by every day and hope that someone like Julia is out there spreading more art!
Starfish was one of those reads that stopped me in my tracks. This debut will blow you away with lyrical writing and descriptions of Kiko’s art. I’ve read several books this year about teen artists and Starfish was another exemplary one that focused on art as an expression of inner thoughts. This book is about a teen artist named Kiko. She uses art as a coping method and a way to express the feelings about her abusive mother and uncle. Starfish is a powerful book about loving yourself and making yourself a priority despite what others are trying to make you believe. My full review is here.
Reading Little Monsters in July was perfect for me because it helped me escape my least favorite season and go somewhere much colder. I loved the creepy, snowy setting of Broken Falls. This book had a lot of different elements, like family secrets, friendship drama, and a ghost story, that all led to a twist ending that I never saw coming. I usually don’t pick up thrillers (because I’m scared of basically everything) but this one was so worth sleeping with the hall light on! My full review is here.
Julie Murphy is one of my favorite authors and I was so happy to have a new Murphy book to read this year. I really loved that Ramona Blue was about a poor girl in the south just trying to take care of everyone around her. I really connected to Ramona and her struggle to do what she wants while still taking care of her family. I also really loved the representation of a bisexual teen who is already out and accepted by her family.
I Never is all about growing up. Janey experiences a lot of firsts in the year that this novel follows. Not only do her parents separate but she gets her first boyfriend, has her first big clashes with her friends, and loses her virginity. I loved how honest this book is about growing up and the changes that happen with friends, family, and yourself in high school. My full review of I Never is here.
I try to always read some middle grade books throughout the year as well and The First Rule of Punk pretty much blew every other middle grade out of the water. Malú is a dynamite girl interested in punk music, zines, records, and trying to figure out how to be “Mexican enough.” Malú is one of my favorite characters ever. She was so bold, determined, and unapologetic for knowing what she wants. This book also has really cool zines made by the author and it will inspire you to make your own zines!
You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone doesn’t come out until 2018 but I read it a few weeks ago and knew I needed to add it to this list. This debut about twin sisters will break your heart. It’s about trying to repair relationships while trying to figure out your identity and how you can fit within a changing family. I got so attached to Tovah and Adina and just want them to be happy. Go pre-order it now so you can love this book as much as I do.
I think I stood in line for at least an hour and a half at YallWest to get an ARC of When Dimplet Met Rishi and meet Sandhya Menon. I was second in line and it was so worth it since it became one of my favorite books of the year! Dimple is a fierce, determined, unapologetic feminist who knows what she wants. I was obsessed with the representation of a smart girl with goals who also has an adorable romance. Seriously SO CUTE.
Love and Other Alien Experiences is a romantic comedy about a girl who’s afraid to go outside. It has a really cute romance, best friends, and geeky main characters. I really loved that this book also wove in discussion of mental health and anxiety. Mallory is afraid to leave her house and hasn’t left her house in 67 days. Winfrey writes so realistically about the overwhelming nature of anxiety and finding your own inner strength. This is one I’ll read again and again.
Will I ever stop talking about this book? I really doubt it. This book, that I stood in an hour line for at YallWest became an instant all time favorite book within the first three chapters. Janna is a book nerd, funny, a photographer, and a complex realistic teenage girl who is trying to find her own identity. Janna is one of my favorite characters because she’s just so real. Saints and Misfits also deals with sexual assault and how Janna must deal with it in the Muslim community. This gorgeous cover caused an audible squeal at one of my teen book clubs and I will be recommending it to teens until…forever. My full review is here.
I don’t think it’s possible to have read Allegedly this year and not have it on your favorite reads of the year list. This was a page-turning thriller that I was hooked on from the very first line. I don’t want to give too much away about this one, because it’s better if you go in not knowing much. But I really loved how this book highlighted the way that race, class, and gender determine so much about sentencing and treatment of youth in detention facilities. Read this one when you’re ready for a book that will totally surprise you!
The Education of Margot Sanchez was my favorite angsty teen read this year. Margot is angsty, privileged, and self-conscious–but she admits being all of those things. She knows she shouldn’t steal from her parents and that she has it much better than the rest of the employees at her father’s store but she’s still wrapped up in the image she’s trying to portray to her classmates–that of a rich, carefree girl. Margot has such an authentic voice of a teenager who feels different. She’s a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx at a mostly white school, and just wants to fit in. This book has stayed checked out since February at my library! My full review is here.
It was hard to choose just one quote for Moxie because it was the feminist book of my dreams. Every chapter was full of feminist quotes, scenes, and awesomeness. I’m so happy this book exists. While fighting the patriarchy, Mathieu also added in an adorably, swoon worthy high school romance that will make you feel those first date jitters. It also had a compelling family storyline AND one about best friends and changes in high school. Seriously, one of my favorite YA novels EVER. My full review is here.
Girl out of Water was funny, moving, and sweet. Set in the summer, it’s about a surfer who has to spend a few months in Nebraska. Away from the waves, Anise has to find something else to occupy her time and she finds the ultra-cool and suave Lincoln and a passion for skateboarding. I really loved this book about a girl athlete learning to excel at another sport and a love interest who isn’t threatened by her athletic ability but rather encourages her to keep working. This book also focused on family relationships and how to move on from loss. I will continue to happily recommend this book to teen readers long after 2017!