Best YA of 2019

These are the top picks for 2019 from the Teen Librarians of the Wite Oak Library District.

Cindy’s Picks

The Lovely War by Julie Berry

Aphrodite has been caught cheating on her husband, Hephaestus, with her lover Ares. She decides to tell Hephaestus about a love story that took place during World War I.  She is going to explain why love and war are attracted to each other. This book uses such lush language and brings you along for the amazing ride.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Prince Rhen has been cursed to repeat his 18th year and become a beast until he is able to get a girl to fall in love with him.  Harper lives in DC with her brother, but one night she is pulled into another world while trying to save a stranger. She and Rhen will have to will work together to save his kingdom. This is a vivid retelling of Beauty and the Beast that I couldn’t put down.

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Ashish Patel has just been dumped by his girlfriend and when his mom offers to make a match for him he accepts. His parents pick Sweetie Nair who is sick of people telling her what she can and cannot do because she is fat. Together they will see where their love connection takes off. This is a super cute romance full of hijinks and fun. If you have read, When Dimple Met Risha you will want to read this book to find out where Risha and Dimple are now.

Maisie’s Picks

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Any teen who has stepped foot NEAR our Lockport Branch has probably heard me talk about this book! Set in a remote all-girls’ boarding school cut off from the world by “the Tox”—a disease that changes you inside and out—this scary novel is a feminist take on classic survival stories like Lord of the Flies. Most of the teachers have died, and the girls have become monsters, growing extra spines or gills and other strange changes, but Hetty knows she’ll be fine as long as she has her friends. Everything changes when her best friend, Byatt, disappears. Now Hetty will do whatever it takes to find her. If you like horror, this is the book for you! If you like female friendships, this is the book for you! If you just want to read something slightly odd and offbeat, this is definitely the book for you!

Shout! By Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson has been a classic teen novel since before I was a teen. It has helped set up so many of the ideas of what good literature for teens can be and should be. Even if you’ve never read (or watched, or read the graphic novel of) Speak, Shout!—Laurie Halse Anderson’s poetry memoir—will move you in its unflinching discussion of sexual assault, identity, and love of words. Telling of the story of Halse Anderson’s youth, the events that inspired Speak, and the reception the book received, it’s a quick read that addresses the discussion around sexual assault in the #MeToo movement.  The messages of Shout! are bold, important, and impossible to ignore. 

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

This was my most anticipated Graphic Novel of 2019 and it lived up to every ounce of hype! Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends, meaning every fall when they work in the World’s Best Pumpkin Patch™, they are inseparable and unstoppable. But now that high school is ending and their last fall and last shift and last goodbye is upon them, they have to make it a night they’ll always remember! This book is nearly as sweet as the snacks on the page, and the art feels cozier than a cup of cocoa! Throw in some great jokes and some awesome characters, and you’ve got the last night at the pumpkin patch of your dreams! Perfect for fans of Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, this is the fall romance we’ve all been waiting for!

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

Told in two voices by two different authors, I’m Not Dying with You Tonight follows two amazingly complex characters. Lena is bold and bright and headed towards a big future alongside her boyfriend (even if he often forgets to return her calls). Campbell is new to the area and feels adrift in her new school and betrayed by her mother (who has moved for a job and left Campbell with her estranged father). When a racially charged fight breaks out at the high school football game, Lena and Campbell find themselves unlikely allies trying to make it through the night. If you loved The Hate U Give, you’ll want to pick this book up for its engaged discussions and vivid character voices!

Nic’s Picks

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Ryn is more comfortable with the dead than most. She’s the gravedigger for the tiny mountainside village where she and her two siblings, long orphaned, eke out a living as times grow even harder. It’s because of her proximity to death that Ryn is one of the few villagers who believe in the old legends of the bone houses —corpses who rise at dusk in the nearby forest, given life by an old curse. In fact, she more than believes it: she’s seen and fought the bone houses herself. When a mapmaker named Ellis, haunted by his own elusive past, appears in her village determined to map the mountain, the dead rise at an alarming rate, and Ryn joins him on a quest that sends them both into a dangerous world filled with ancient magic. With a mix of horror and fantasy, this easily made it onto my list of the top books of the year. And despite the zombies and magic, the book still is able to deliver emotionally to the reader, making the perils the characters face even more exciting.

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to make the most of her pre–senior year summer. Never mind that it’s the last summer open for local amusement park Magic Castle Playland (the one place Lou feels safe and the first place she went to when her mother left). Or that she’s been cast as the park’s wandering hot dog for the second year in a row. Or that Nick Mulholland, the cute diving pirate, is dating the park’s literal princess instead of Lou, even after the moment they shared in a rainstorm the previous summer. Amid it all, Lou persuades her best friend, smart, beautiful Seeley Jendron, to be her fake girlfriend, hoping to spark jealousy in Nick and convince him to date her. And she hopes to get the town to raise money to save the park along the way. Easy, right? Funny, warm, and absorbing, this was a fantastic debut book for Jennifer Dugan. And while you can feel the ending coming before you actually get there, when it does happens it feels just as exciting.

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Aspiring rapper Bri records “On The Come Up ” to protest the racial profiling and assault she endured at the hands of white security guards at her high school. The song goes viral, and Bri seizes the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her late father and lift her family out of poverty, but her loved ones worry, especially when some listeners paint her as an angry black girl inciting violence. Tension mounts as Bri’s mother loses her job, Bri’s relationship with her beloved aunt and musical mentor splinters, and a new manager dangles the prospect of fame and wealth—at a price. This was a great follow up to The Hate U Give. With the story taking place in the same neighborhood, readers get a different experience of life in Garden Heights, letting the characters come to life.

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