There are so many truly outstanding books for young people published these days that it gets more and more difficult to chose our favorites at the end of the year. These ten, selected by the Teen Services Librarians at Seattle Public Library, stood out for their strength of writing, quality of characters, and stories that made us question the world around us.
It was an exceptionally good year for realistic fiction, especially stories that explore issues highly relevant to today’s youth. A young Latinx woman searches for an outlet for her poetry while dealing with unwanted male attention in The Poet X, the 2018 National Book Award winner for Young People’s Literature. Adib Khorram’s debut novel, Darius the Great is Not Okay, takes an unflinching look at clinical depression as Darius spends a summer in Iran with relatives and is transformed through a new friendship with a neighbor. In A Very Large Expanse of the Sea, Tahereh Mafi’s latest novel, Islamophobia runs rampant in the years following 9/11, but might love conquer all in a suburban American high school?
Historical fiction made a strong showing this year as well, with stories set in eras ranging from the Renaissance to the 1980s. In the spare but powerful Blood Water Paint, debut author Joy McCullough traces the path from betrayal and rape to master artist in this fictionalized biography of Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi. In Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker, a young, poor seamstress rises to prominence as the talented dressmaker for the fabulous Lady Crystallia in 19th Century Paris. This lavishly illustrated graphic novel is a celebratory genderqueer fairytale with the best possible message. Carson and Maggi, two teens living on the Tuscarora Reservation in 1980, struggle with increasing tension between the Indigenous and White communities after an act of racially-motivated violence in Eric Gansworth’s Give Me Some Truth, a follow-up to his 2013 title, If I Ever Get Out of Here.
Readers of other genres also get some gems this year! Veteran author Maureen Johnson kicks off a stellar new mystery series with Truly Devious, in which 16-year-old Stevie Bell, a new student at the prestigious Ellingham Academy, becomes obsessed with solving two crimes committed nearly 90 years apart. Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood, another debut novel on our list, is a deliciously creepy, horror-tinged fantasy that turns traditional notions of fairy tales and storytelling inside out. Horror fans won’t be able to get enough of the action-packed Dread Nation, Justina Ireland’s alternate history in which zombies begin to rise from the battlefields of the Civil War. While fast-paced and exciting, it is at its core a deceptively complex exploration of enslavement and oppression.
Can’t decide what you are in the mood for? All Out: the No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Through the Ages has got you covered with this collection of fictional short stories from all genres. With 18 different offerings from YA authors new and familiar, there is something for everyone in these LGBTQIA stories.
~ Posted by Summer H.