The Best Young Adult Books of 2018
The Children’s Book Review | January 9, 2019
We know a good book when we see one. In 2018, we saw 18 of them that we’re happy to call the best young adult books of 2018!
Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Publisher’s Synopsis: Subverting convention, award-winning creators M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin pair up for an anarchic, outlandish, and deeply political saga of warring elf and goblin kingdoms.
Uptight elfin historian Brangwain Spurge is on a mission: survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom — from which no elf has returned alive in more than a hundred years. Brangwain’s host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is delighted to show Brangwain around. They should be the best of friends, but a series of extraordinary double crosses, blunders, and cultural misunderstandings throws these two bumbling scholars into the middle of an international crisis that may spell death for them — and war for their nations. Witty mixed media illustrations show Brangwain’s furtive missives back to the elf kingdom, while Werfel’s determinedly unbiased narrative tells an entirely different story. A hilarious and biting social commentary that could only come from the likes of National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson and Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, this tale is rife with thrilling action and visual humor . . . and a comic disparity that suggests the ultimate victor in a war is perhaps not who won the battles, but who gets to write the history.
Read our exclusive interview: M. T. Anderson And Eugene Yelchin Discuss The Assassination Of Brangwain Spurge
Ages 10+ | Publisher: Candlewick | September 25, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0763698225
Written by Adib Khorram
Publisher’s Synopsis: Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.
Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.
Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough—then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Dial Books | August 28, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0525552963
Written by Brigid Kemmerer
Publisher’s Synopsis: With loving adoptive parents by his side, Rev Fletcher has managed to keep the demons of his past at bay. . . until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.
Emma Blue’s parents are constantly fighting, and her only escape is the computer game she built from scratch. But when a cruel online troll’s harassment escalates, she not only loses confidence but starts to fear for her safety.
When Rev and Emma meet, they’re both longing to lift the burden of their secrets. They connect instantly and deeply, promising to help each other no matter what. But soon Rev and Emma’s secrets threaten to crush them, and they’ll need more than a promise to find their way out.
From the author of Letters to the Lost comes a new compulsively readable story for fans of Nicola Yoon.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens | March 6, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-168119014
Written by Elizabeth Acevedo
Publisher’s Synopsis: Fans of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds will fall hard for this astonishing New York Times-bestselling novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet, about an Afro-Latina heroine who tells her story with blazing words and powerful truth.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.
With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
Ages 13+ | Publisher: HarperTeen | March 6, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062662804
Written and Illustrated by Jen Wang
Publisher’s Synopsis: Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:
Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!
Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmakerwill steal your heart.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: First Second | February 13, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1626723634
Written by Laurie Halse Anderson
Illustrated by Emily Carroll
Publisher’s Synopsis: The critically acclaimed, award-winning, modern classic Speak is now a stunning graphic novel.
“Speak up for yourself―we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless―an outcast―because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. With powerful illustrations by Emily Carroll, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak: The Graphic Novel comes alive for new audiences and fans of the classic novel.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux | February 6, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0374300289
Written by Holly Black
Publisher’s Synopsis: By #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, the first book in a stunning new series about a mortal girl who finds herself caught in a web of royal faerie intrigue.
Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
Ages 15+ | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | January 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0316310277
Written by Randy Ribay
Publisher’s Synopsis: Bunny and Nasir have been best friends forever, but when Bunny accepts an athletic scholarship across town, Nasir feels betrayed. While Bunny tries to fit in with his new, privileged peers, Nasir spends more time with his cousin, Wallace, who is being evicted. Nasir can’t help but wonder why the neighborhood is falling over itself to help Bunny when Wallace is in trouble.
When Wallace makes a bet against Bunny, Nasir is faced with an impossible decision—maybe a dangerous one.
Told from alternating perspectives, After the Shot Drops is a heart-pounding story about the responsibilities of great talent and the importance of compassion.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | March 6, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1328702272
Written by Courtney Summers
Publisher’s Synopsis: A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.
Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.
But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.
When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.
Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Wednesday Books | September 4, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1250105714
Written by Christelle Dabos
Translated by Hildegarde Serle
Publisher’s Synopsis: Lose yourself in the fantastic world of the arks and in the company of unforgettable characters in this French runaway hit, Christelle Dabos’ The Mirror Visitor quartet.
Plain-spoken, headstrong Ophelia cares little about appearances. Her ability to read the past of objects is unmatched in all of Anima and, what’s more, she possesses the ability to travel through mirrors, a skill passed down to her from previous generations. Her idyllic life is disrupted, however, when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, a taciturn and influential member of a distant clan. Ophelia must leave all she knows behind and follow her fiancé to Citaceleste, the capital of a cold, icy ark known as the Pole, where danger lurks around every corner and nobody can be trusted. There, in the presence of her inscrutable future husband, Ophelia slowly realizes that she is a pawn in a political game that will have far-reaching ramifications not only for her but for her entire world.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Europa Editions | September 25, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1609454838
Written and Illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu
Publisher’s Synopsis: Throughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit.
With her characteristic wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: First Second | March 6, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1626728691
Written by Tomi Adeyemi
Publisher’s Synopsis: With four starred reviews, Tomi Adeyemi’s West African-inspired fantasy debut, and instant #1 New York Times Bestseller, conjures a world of magic and danger, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir.
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | March 6, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1250170972
Written by Preston Norton
Publisher’s Synopsis: Perfect for fans of John Green and Becky Albertalli, Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universeis a “sneakily thought-provoking” and “utterly unforgettable” must-read for every fan of contemporary YA.
Ages 13+ | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | June 5, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1484790625
Written by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson
Publisher’s Synopsis: Archie, a snarky genderqueer artist, is tired of people not understanding gender neutral pronouns. Tristan, a cisgender dude, is looking for an easy way to introduce gender neutral pronouns to his increasingly diverse workplace. The longtime best friends team up in this short and fun comic guide that explains what pronouns are, why they matter, and how to use them. They also include what to do if you make a mistake, and some tips-and-tricks for those who identify outside of the binary to keep themselves safe in this binary-centric world. A quick and easy resource for people who use they/them pronouns, and people who want to learn more!
Ages 13+ | Publisher: Limerence Press | June 12, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1620104996
Written by Carrie Arcos
Publisher’s Synopsis: Two lives. Two worlds apart. One deeply compelling story set in both Bosnia and the United States, spanning decades and generations, about the brutality of war and the trauma of everyday life after war, about hope and the ties that bind us together.
Zara and her mother, Nadja, have a strained relationship. Nadja just doesn’t understand Zara’s creative passion for, and self-expression through, photography. And Zara doesn’t know how to reach beyond their differences and connect to a closed-off mother who refuses to speak about her past in Bosnia. But when a bomb explodes as they’re shopping in their local farmers’ market in Rhode Island, Zara is left with PTSD–and her mother is left in a coma. Without the opportunity to get to know her mother, Zara is left with questions–not just about her mother, but about faith, religion, history, and her own path forward.
As Zara tries to sort through her confusion, she meets Joseph, whose grandmother is also in the hospital, and whose exploration of religion and philosophy offer comfort and insight into Zara’s own line of thinking.
Told in chapters that alternate between Zara’s present-day Providence, RI, and Nadja’s own childhood in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, We Are All That’s Left shows the ways in which, no matter the time and place, struggle and tragedy can give way to connection, healing and love.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Philomel Books | May 15, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0399175541
Written by Ashley Herring Blake
Publisher’s Synopsis:For readers of Girl in Pieces and The Way I Used to Be comes an emotionally gripping story about facing hard truths in the aftermath of sexual assault.
Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | May 15, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1328778239
Written by Elizabeth Partridge
Publisher’s Synopsis: America’s war in Vietnam. In over a decade of bitter fighting, it claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American soldiers and beleaguered four US presidents. More than forty years after America left Vietnam in defeat in 1975, the war remains controversial and divisive both in the United States and abroad.
The history of this era is complex; the cultural impact extraordinary. But it’s the personal stories of eight people—six American soldiers, one American military nurse, and one Vietnamese refugee—that create the heartbeat of Boots on the Ground. From dense jungles and terrifying firefights to chaotic helicopter rescues and harrowing escapes, each individual experience reveals a different facet of the war and moves us forward in time. Alternating with these chapters are profiles of key American leaders and events, reminding us of all that was happening at home during the war, including peace protests, presidential scandals, and veterans’ struggles to acclimate to life after Vietnam.
With more than one hundred photographs, award-winning author Elizabeth Partridge’s unflinching book captures the intensity, frustration, and lasting impacts of one of the most tumultuous periods of American history.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | April 10, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0670785063
Written by Jason Reynolds
Publisher’s Synopsis: Originally performed at the Kennedy Center for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and later as a tribute to Walter Dean Myers, this stirring and inspirational poem is New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds’s rallying cry to the dreamers of the world.
For Every One is just that: for every one. For every one person. For every one dream. But especially for every one kid. The kids who dream of being better than they are. Kids who dream of doing more than they almost dare to dream. Kids who are like Jason Reynolds, a self-professed dreamer. Jason does not claim to know how to make dreams come true; he has, in fact, been fighting on the front line of his own battle to make his own dreams a reality. He expected to make it when he was sixteen. Then eighteen. Then twenty-five. Now, some of those expectations have been realized. But others, the most important ones, lay ahead, and a lot of them involve kids, how to inspire them. All the kids who are scared to dream, or don’t know how to dream, or don’t dare to dream because they’ve NEVER seen a dream come true. Jason wants kids to know that dreams take time. They involve countless struggles. But no matter how many times a dreamer gets beat down, the drive and the passion and the hope never fully extinguish—because just having the dream is the start you need, or you won’t get anywhere anyway, and that is when you have to take a leap of faith.
A pitch perfect graduation, baby, or love my kid gift.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books | April 10, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1481486248
The Best Young Adult Books of 2018: For more of the best new young adult books for teens, follow along with our articles tagged with New Books for Kids, Best Young Adult Books, and Books for Teens and Young Adults.