Books

The Best Books of 2016: Young Adult

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10. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Yoon’s debut, Everything, Everything, was one of Best YA Novels of 2015. I wasn’t expecting her to write another equally stunning book so soon, but here we are.
In The Sun Is Also a Star, Yoon spins a tired trope—the meet-cute of two characters in a big city—into a heartfelt and lovely narrative. It’s the story of Natasha, a facts-oriented teen who doesn’t cling to ideas of destiny, and Daniel, a jaded teen who doesn’t really dream outside of what his family wants for him. A National Book Award finalist that’s soon to be adapted for film, you don’t want to miss this book.

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9. The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

What happens when you mix Back to the Future with pirates and mythology? You get The Girl From Everywhere, a delicious genre-blend of a novel. Heilig invites readers onto a pirate ship that travels the globe, traversing through time and imagination. And on that ship is the bold, brave Nix and her father, who seeks a map that will lead him to a place where he can save Nix’s mother. The catch? It could erase Nix from the world. After reading this powerful novel, you’ll be dying to check out the sequel, The Ship Beyond Time, due out next year.

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8. The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding

Spalding’s The New Guy is hands down the funniest YA novel of the year. It’s a hilarious, contemporary book that tackles an unusual topic for Young Adult fiction: the battle between print and digital media. Set at a school for the wealthy and famous, it follows a teen girl trying to save her school newspaper and the cute, boy band singer who has aligned himself with the video news service taking the school by storm. From the passive-aggressive dog-walking scenes to the war between the media-types, it’s a riot from cover to cover.

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7. The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

An exciting LGBTQ+ novel that blends elements of sci-fi and fantasy, The Abyss Surrounds Us takes place in a world where a teen girl’s family raises monstrous beasts that defend ships from pirates. Like, Pacific Rim-sized monsters. Unfortunately for our young protagonist, she’s captured by pirates on her first mission and is forced to raise a monster for them. You’ll devour this novel, and the good news is that its sequel is scheduled for a 2017 release.

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6. Meet Me Here by Bryan Bliss

Probably the most underrated novel of 2016, Meet Me Here is also one of the best Young Adult books about PTSD. Bryan Bliss’ sophomore tale follows Thomas, a teen preparing to join the army, as that’s what he’s been told his entire life that he should do. But that’s not what Thomas wants, especially after what happened to his brother. And as he plans his escape, he reconnects with an old friend for a final hurrah that’s as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

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5. Autofocus by Lauren Gibaldi

I also have a blurb on the back of this book, and Autofocus was one of Paste’s most anticipated Young Adult novels of 2016. This fantastic novel tackles a subject that isn’t explored nearly enough in YA fiction: adoption. Autofocus introduces readers to a teen girl on a quest to investigate her deceased birth mother’s history, and the resulting journey leads her down a path of self-discovery, friendship, and sweet, swoony romance. Gibaldi’s novel isn’t just about adoption and the many “what ifs” that come with it; it’s also about finding your place in the world when you’re unsure of your past and confused about your future.

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4. A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

There’s a reason two more books in Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series are coming our way in 2017 and 2018: the stories she weaves are amazing. Full of political intrigue in a setting that’s as awe-inspiring as it is brutal, the series is one that digs into you and doesn’t let go. And with the second book, A Torch Against the Night, Tahir doesn’t simply bring us back to Elias and Laia’s world… she let’s us explore it with Helene, offering yet another point of view in the dark novel. It’s a fast-paced ride through a realm you definitely don’t want to live in—but can’t resist reading about.

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3. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Yet another one of Paste’s most anticipated YA novels, The Serpent King delivers a stunning narrative set in the American South. Told in shifting points of view from three very different teenagers, it’s a story of close friendships and toxic families, of rising dreams and crushed hopes. At the heart of the story is Dill, a kid haunted by his minister father’s fall from grace. How his story connects with his friends, one a famous fashion blogger and the other a staff-wielding geek, is as devastating as it is beautiful. Expect the characters to linger in your mind long after you’ve closed the book.

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2. Timekeeper by Tara Sim

Sim’s Timekeeper might be the biggest surprise of the year. The novel drops readers into a reimagined Victorian world where giant, magic clock towers don’t just show the time—they control it. One freezes an entire town when it breaks down, leaving the young protagonist with a frozen father and a mission: save his father, free the town. Mix imaginative steampunk elements with some swoon-filled paranormal romance, and you’ve got one of the best books released in 2016. Here’s to waiting for the rest in the series.

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1. Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

What happens when you combine More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera with Far From You by Tess Sharpe?

You get the best YA novel of the year.

In his astonishing debut, Roehrig introduces readers to Flynn, a teen whose girlfriend, January, goes missing. What unravels as Flynn and the entire town seek to solve her disappearance makes for an incredible thriller. See, while the world has its eyes set on Flynn, eager to blame him for January’s disappearance and possible murder, he’s wrestling with the fact that January has never been right for him…because he’s gay.

And no, I didn’t just drop a massive spoiler on you, Paste readers. You learn these details in the synopsis, and the story’s surprises don’t let up. Pick up Last Seen Leaving for a book with LGBTQ+ themes, memorable characters, and shocking twists from a talented new author.


For more “Best of 2016” reading recommendations, check out our best nonfiction books and best novels lists.

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