Sunday, December 29, 2019

Best YA Fiction Read in 2019

I always enjoy looking back over the books I read in a year and grouping them into genre categories, and then ranking them. I use the star ratings on Goodreads for each individual review, but when it comes to picking my favorites, I typically just go for the ones that stuck out in my mind. Too often I hear a title or see a cover and try to remember if I read it or not, because it seems vaguely familiar but I have no clue what the story was about. Well, these are not those books. These are the books that I loved reading and that I have recommended to many others as soon as I finished the last page, and now I'm recommending them to you.

I'm including publication years because I am not one of those hip book bloggers who limits "Best of 2019" to books that were actually published in 2019 - I'm not sure I read enough of those. These are just books I happened to read in 2019. They're fairly recent, with 4/5 being from 2018 and one (already timeless story) from 2017. In YA, I know that might be a little "old", but I think these books are amazing and worth reading.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (2017). Viv is sick of the way boys in her high school seem to get away with everything, but she doesn't know how she can push back against it, since it's so ingrained in her small town. Inspired by her mom's Riot Grrrl history, Viv creates and anonymously distributes a feminist zine that starts a buzz in her high school.
     I cannot rave about this book enough. I keep thinking “I wish I had this when I was in high school” but honestly, it seems just as important to me as an adult. It’s inspirational, moving, and will make you feel empowered. Beautiful writing, wonderful story. Highly recommend for EVERYONE to read.
     I was thrilled to meet Mathieu at the YALSA Symposium in November. I got a signed copy of Moxie and raved about her book to her and how much it meant to me, even as an adult.

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding (2018). This was recommended to me because I loved What If It’s Us so much, and I loved Jordi Perez even more! The story was very interesting and unique - a girl with a fashion blog and a photographer are sharing an internship at a local fashion boutique. Everything was pretty happy, even when there were problems, so I’d say it’s more of a fluff read, but it’s so easy to get into and obviously it's stuck with me since I read it, so I think it's a really good book. I thought the stuff with the sister could have been developed a bit more, and the ending felt pretty rushed, but I enjoyed it and definitely recommend it as a fun read.

The Alcatraz Escape (Book Scavenger #3) by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (2018). My history with these books goes back to reading the first one in 2016 and it blowing me away. I was heavily engrossed in in children's and YA lit from my MLS and my public library job, and this just hit me as fresh and intriguing and engaging. I've re-read it each time a new book comes out, so I've read the first one thrice, the second one twice, and Alcatraz just once - but I can't wait to re-read the entire series (so far???) in 2020. This was seriously my go-to recommendation for kids in the public library who wanted adventure or mystery, and they always came back to tell me they loved it. I used Book Scavenger as the pick for the Upper Elementary Family Book Club this April, and everyone loved it - students and parents! I created a library scavenger hunt and the winner got a copy of book two, but I think we need to add two and three to our school library. But I digress!
     I absolutely loved this third book. Sometimes sequels and trilogies can get tired, or you can tell the author is running out of ideas. Not the case with Bertman. This book was AMAZING, and might even be my favorite of the Book Scavenger trilogy yet! I love the Alcatraz history and that twist, my goodness! PERFECTION. The best part is, the delight and satisfaction of a good book has stuck with me, but I don't remember exactly what happened, so I can't wait to read it again.

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (2018). Arthur and Ben meet randomly at the post office, but neither is sure if the other is flirting, and neither thinks to get contact information so they can try to find out. When they find each other again, it's got to be "meant to be", right? Except each date seems to be a disaster in a different way, and they can't seem to get on the same page.
     I loved this story about chance meetings and finding again. I loved how distinct each character was - it can be hard to remember who’s who in multiple viewpoint books, but this worked great. I’m adding the other books by these authors to my TBR, and you should too.
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (2018). Mara and Owen are twins and best friends who understand each other better than anyone else. But when Owen is accused of raping his girlfriend, who also happens to be one of Mara's closest friends, Mara feels ripped apart. How could her brother do that? How could she turn her back on him because of it? Because she believes her friend - she has to - but everyone seems to expect something different from her, and she can't seem to win. But she has to stay true to herself and find out what really happened.
     I wanted to read this book because it was nominated as a YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten title, and I’m so glad I did. This book is important and powerful and emotional. I was totally weeping by the end of it. I wish I had books like this when I was a preteen and teenager, but I’m so glad they’re available for teens now. I think everyone should read this to understand things that are going on, and know they can speak up and have empathy for others.

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