The best YA books of 2019

the best ya books of 2019

2019 was a fantastic year for young adult books. It’s amazing to see how and where YA has grown in the last 10 years, and it’s exciting to imagine where the genre will go next and how it will expand. Before we head into 2020, take a trip down memory lane and remember the top-tier YA books of the past year. From fantasy to debuts to best sequels, enjoy this list of the best YA books of 2019.

Fantasy

Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard 

The third book in Dennard’s Witchlands series follows Bloodwitch Aeduan as he teams up with Threadwitch Iseult and magical girl Owl to stop a horde of raiders who are intent on destroying a monastery in a snowy mountain range. However, he must first face his past and his father. 


The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

This epic fantasy follows Queen Sabran the Ninth who must bear a daughter before assassins find her, her lady-in-waiting Ead Duryan who protects Sabran with forbidden magic, and dragon rider Tané whose life is starting to unravel. But chaos is rising between the feuding and divided East and West – something that will impact all three of them.


Nocturna by Maya Motayne

The first in a new trilogy, this debut is set in a Latinx-inspired world and follows face-changing Finn Voy and magic-wielding Prince Alfehr as they reluctantly team up to bring his older brother back from the dead. But the pair accidentally unlocks a powerful ancient power that must be contained or it will devour the world. 

Sci-Fi

Supernova by Marissa Meyer

The final book in the Renegades trilogy tells the story of Nova and Adrian as they struggle to keep their secret identities concealed as war battles against their alter egos. But between secrets, lies and betrayals, Gatlon City just might fall into anarchy after all. 


Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This Sleeping Beauty-inspired sci-fi follows a misfit team of Aurora Academy students. But when the group rescues Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley from interdimensional space who has been cryo-asleep for two centuries, war is on the edge of starting and the squad just might be the galaxy’s last hope. 


Crier’s War by Nina Varela

In a world where the War of Kinds claimed the Automae as rulers over humans, human servant Ayla is determined to assassinate Lady Crier. When Crier’s flawless world falls apart she must decide to carry on her father’s legacy or try something new. But as the girls reluctantly grow closer, they must either team up or separate as evil grows around them.

Contemporary

Just For Clicks by Kara McDowell

Twin sisters Claire and Poppy are social media stars thanks to their mom’s blog going viral years ago. While Poppy embraces fame, Claire wants to be “just Claire.” But when Claire discovers her mom’s old journals that sound nothing like her media persona, Claire wonders what else in her life might be a lie.


The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

Black French Canadian Norris Kaplan is as cynical as he is clever. When he moves to Austin, Texas, he begins to label everyone he meets. Soon these labeled people become friends and when he screws up everything on the night of prom, Norris must learn how to live his life with those he is starting to care about around him.


On the Come Up by Angie Thomas 

Bri has big shoes to fill as the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he made it big. Determined to be one of the greatest rappers of all time and help her mom on the verge of homelessness, Bri has no choice but to make it big even if that means losing herself in the process.


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

Lena knows she’s going to make it big one day while Campbell is just trying to make it through the school year. But when chaos breaks out at the Friday football game, the girls are thrown together. They might not be friends and hardly see each other’s point of view, but if they want to survive the night, they are going to have to learn how to survive together.

Historical Fiction

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Jo Kuan is a lady’s maid for a wealthy family in Atlanta, but at night she writes the advice column “Dear Sweetie.” When the column becomes popular, she addresses some problems in society but doesn’t expect the backlash. Jo is determined to stand up for what is right and to uncover her past before her opponents uncover the identity of Miss Sweetie.


Enchantée by Gita Trelease

This French Revolution fantasy follows Camille Durbonne as she uses petty magic to scrape by for her siblings and herself. But when her brother disappears with her family’s savings, Camille uses her magic to transform herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine,’ determined to steal riches from the upper class who live at Versailles. But magic comes at a cost and the game she plays is growing deadlier each day.


Lovely War by Julie Berry

During the height of World War II, Aphrodite tells the story of four lovers who battle through World War I to her husband, Hephaestus and her lover, Ares, in a Manhattan hotel room. This standalone seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another?


The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

It’s 1969 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Melati Ahmad believes she harbors a djinn inside of her who threatens her with horrific images of her mother if she doesn’t continually count and tap to keep him satisfied. But on May 13, the Malays and Chinese head to war, and Mel and her mother are separated. Mel must battle against time, riots and the strengthening djinn to make it back to her mother.

Romance

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh 

Celine Rousseau has fled Paris to New Orleans in 1872 where she is taken in by an Ursuline convent. Soon she becomes entranced by the underground world of La Cour des Lions and its leader, Sébastien Saint Germain. But when dead bodies are found across the city, Celine must take matters into her own hands, even if that means she must suspect Sébastien first.


A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer 

Prince Rhen of Emberfall is cursed to turn into a beast but the spell will be broken only if a girl falls for him. Harper tries to survive on the streets of Washington, D.C., and it doesn’t help when her brother underestimates her because she has cerebral palsy. But when Harper is taken to the magical land of Emberfall, she just might be able to help break the curse.


The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg

Max and Jordan might seem like total opposites. When a 1980s-era food truck is thrown in along with debates on what is considered locally sourced and organic in the middle of the summer in Mesa, Arizona, these two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they’re willing to risk to get what they want most.

LGBTQ+

All of Us with Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil 

Seventeen-year-old Xochi becomes 12-year-old Pallas’ live-in governess in 1980s San Francisco after running away from the mother who abandoned her and the man who betrayed her. But when the girls accidentally summon a pair of ancient beings who want to avenge the wrongs of Xochi’s past, no one is safe – not even the family she has chosen.


Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry

Raya is obsessed with myths and in love with her best friend, Sarah. But when they are discovered, they are sent to a conversion therapy camp where they are subjects of abusive “treatment” from the staff. Raya is determined to leave like Orpheus and take Sarah and as many campers with her as possible.


Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon 

In 1973, Jonathan Collins relies on the safe haven of his imagination where he is guided by his hero David Bowie and dead relatives (including his mother), overcome his anxiety and his treatments to become “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. He doesn’t want to be attracted to the brooding Web, who has secrets of his own, but Web is the first one to see him as he is.

Horror

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Annaleigh lives in a sheltered manor by the sea with her father and sisters. There once had been 12 sisters but that was before four of the girls suddenly passed away. Some say their family is cursed, and Annaleigh starts to wonder if the deaths were truly accidental while her sisters seem to be more interested in sneaking out and going to glittery balls dancing until dawn. But who exactly are the sisters dancing with?


The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring

When Mavi escapes Buenos Aires and its military regime, she does not look at the isolated finishing school where she teaches as cursed; rather, it’s a safe haven. But when one of her students goes missing, Mavi must fight for the lives of those around her – and then for her own.


The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

After Ryn’s parents die, she and her siblings focus on working as gravediggers in their family’s cemetery under a mountain that was once home to the fae. But the dead in Colbren don’t always stay dead, rising from their graves due to an old curse. When they start attacking, Ryn must go on a journey to the mountain to find the truth.

Mystery/Thriller

Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman

When Aidan tries to hook up with someone new, he finds himself waking up next to a dead guy. A case of mistaken identity puts Aidan on the run and the only way to stop the chase is to deliver the object everyone wants before he gets caught or killed.


Wilder Girls by Rory Power 

The Raxter School for Girls is under quarantine since the Tox hit. The teachers died off before the students became infected. No one dares to leave the school’s fence, but when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her.


Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

Echo Ridge is a small town with many secrets and where many girls have gone missing, including Ellery’s aunt when she was 17. Now Ellery must move to the town to live with her grandmother. But when homecoming is deemed “open season” and another girl goes missing, Ellery must try to not be next.

Retellings

The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

Fangirl Imogen Lovelace is determined to save her favorite character from being killed off her favorite franchise. Actress Jessica Stone wants to leave it. When the two look-alikes are thrown together, they instantly hate each other. But when a script of the sequel is released and makes it look like it’s Jessica’s fault, the pair must switch places to find the script-leaker.


Romanov by Nadine Brandes 

Anastasia must smuggle an ancient spell with her as she’s exiled to Siberia as it might be her family’s last hope. With the leader of the Bolshevik army after them and her growing feelings for one of his soldiers, the pressure to release the spell to save her family is growing direr each day.


Sea Witch Rising by Sarah Henning 

The sequel of Sea Witch follows Runa who will do anything to prevent her twin sister from dying – a girl traded her voice for a shot at happiness with a prince who does not love her. Evie wants freedom but the trade from her role as Sea Witch might be too great for her to sacrifice.


Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Maia dreams of becoming the best tailor in the land, so when her family is given the chance to compete to be deemed court tailor, she takes the chance by dressing up as a boy. When she is tasked to create three magic gowns, she embarks on a journey across the country. 

Debut


We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Zafira is known as the Hunter, dressing like a man and scavenging for food in the cursed forest of the Arz to feed those around her. Nasir is the Prince of Death, an assassin who takes orders from his father, the king. But when each goes after a lost artifact, they must team up to stop an emerging evil. 


Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan 

A girl who can speak to the gods, a prince in danger and a boy with a monstrous secret must assassinate a king and stop the war. But not everything is as it seems, and a romance just might be the most dangerous threat of all in Wicked Saints.


Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Two years ago, Louise Le Blanc fled her coven to a town where witches are hunted. Reid Diggory is sworn to the Church as a Chasseur who hunts witches. When an impossible situation forces the pair into holy matrimony, Lou and Reid find themselves at the center of an ancient war between the witches and the Church. 


Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

Elouise “Lou” Parker is determined to have the best summer ever but that was before she took on a job as a dancing hot dog at Magic Castle Playland. When it’s announced that this is the park’s last summer, Lou must team up with her best friend, crush and fellow worker to keep it from closing.

Sequels

The Wicked King by Holly Black

The second book in The Folk of the Air trilogy, Jude is determined to keep her younger brother, Oak, the heir to Faerie, safe. She has bound Cardan to her while she has made herself the power behind the throne. When someone close to Jude is set on betraying her, she must find the traitor before it’s too late. 


Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell 

The second book in the Simon Snow series follows Simon after he beat the villain, won the war and fell in love. When it’s decided that Simon needs a change of scenery, Simon, Baz and Penny find themselves in a vintage convertible crossing the American West – and finding trouble along the way.


The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

Just when Stevie is close to putting the Ellingham mystery and death of a fellow classmate together, her parents pull her out of the academy. When Edward King, despised politician and father of David, offers her a deal to return to school but be nice to David, Stevie must decide if moving forward with the case is the right thing to do in this second book of the Truly Devious series.


Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian

The second book in the Ash Princess trilogy follows Theo as she is determined to raise an army even if that means she must take a husband, something an Astrean Queen has never done. Theo must decide if saving her people is worth losing herself.

Series Finale

Five ​Dark Fates by Kendare Blake

The final book in the Three Dark Crowns series follows Jules and Arsinoe, who are determined to find a cure. Simultaneously, Mirabella has left them to try to reason with Katherine. Ultimately, the fate of the island is left in the hands of its queens in the finale to Kendare Blake’s New York Times bestselling series. 


Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco

In the fourth book of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, Audrey Rose and Thomas find themselves in Chicago determined to investigate the string of murders surrounding the World’s Fair. But this serial killer might be more dangerous than any murderer they have fought before and captured; catching him in the midst of his Murder Hotel streak just might be the most perilous. 


Finale by Stephanie Garber 

In the last book of the Caraval series, Tella must decide if she should trust Legend or a former enemy. Scarlet must do the impossible after she discovers a secret that could upend her life. Legend will have to make a decision that will forever change and define him. This game is coming to an end.

Standalone Novels

Internment by Samira Ahmed

In a horrifying near-future of the United States, Layla Amin and her parents are sent to an internment camp for Muslim Americans. Layla is determined to fight for her freedom as she leads a revolution against the camp director and his guards.


With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo 

Emoni Santiago has to make tough decisions to support her daughter and her abuela so she shouldn’t be dreaming of working in a real kitchen. But the kitchen is where she can let go and be herself, and she must learn that in order to be herself, she may need to break a rule or two.


Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Elisabeth has been raised by one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries and with the idea that all sorcerers are evil. But when one of the library’s most dangerous magical books commits murder, Elisabeth is accused of the crime. She must team up with sorcerer Nathanial Thorn to find the true murderer before he strikes next.


A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause

Emmaline Watkins has feared that her future held nothing, but when an admired fashion house opens a design competition for all to compete in, Emmy is determined to take the chance. As she starts to navigate the fashion world, Emmy must decide if she will lose herself in the process.

(Feature image courtesy of @EpicReads)

*Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links. These picks are editorially selected, but if you purchase, She Reads may get something in return. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

Marena Galluccio

Marena Galluccio is a freelance copywriter and journalist and lover of all things YA. She reviews fantasy, historical fiction, and historical fantasy YA books on her website’s blog, #MediaGalReads. When she is not writing creatively, Marena can be found planning her next trip to a Disney park, watching the latest movie in theatres, or visiting a history museum. She is currently based in Georgia.

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