The 30 Best Young Adult Books of 2017

Books Lists Best Of 2017
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The 30 Best Young Adult Books of 2017

When you check out the best Young Adult books of 2017 on this list, you’ll discover that the year has yielded some incredible YA fiction. We’ve seen amazing debuts that left us stunned, from Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give to Akemi Dawn Bowman’s Starfish. And we were gifted the first books in fantastic new series, like Want by Cindy Pon and Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao. It’s been month after month of incredible reads, and here are our 30 favorites.

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DRESS_CODES_FOR_SMALL_TOWNS.jpg 30. Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney C. Stevens

Why You’ll Love It: To read a Courtney C. Stevens book is to accept that you will cry. Embrace this inevitability. In Dress Codes for Small Towns, Stevens writes a story about friendship, religion and sexuality—and how they intersect.

For Fans of: Beautiful prose and characters you just want to hug…so books by authors like Jeff Zentner, Sara Zarr and Adam Silvera.

Description: As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty and Janie Lee.

But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

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1LITTLE_AND_LION_BRANDY.jpg 29. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Why You’ll Love It: Brandy Colbert wrote one of the greatest YA novels ever, Pointe. Her second novel, Little & Lion, was one of Paste’s most anticipated YA books of 2017, and now it’s on the best of the year list. A story about mental health and the family complexities, it makes for one of 2017’s most moving reads.

For Fans of: Books about family and mental illness by authors like Stephanie Kuehn, Christa Desir, Emery Lord and Bryan Bliss.

Description: When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself—or worse.

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1CARAVAL_GARBER.jpg 28. Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Why You’ll Love It: There was a lot of hype surrounding Stephanie Garber’s book through most of 2016. Why? Well, when it’s pitched as a YA take on The Night Circus, it’s going to be a hit—especially since it delivers on its magical promise. Caraval proves to be an enchanting, beautiful novel about family and sisterhood.

For Fans of: Perfect for fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, as well as The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore.

Description: Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over and her sister disappears forever.

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1DEAR_MARTIN_NIC_STONE.jpg 27. Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Why You’ll Love It: Nic Stone’s powerful debut novel features a teen writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and this stunner made it onto our list of powerful YA books that tackle racism. From the unique prose that shifts from narrative to letters to a play-like-structure to the timely content, Dear Martin makes for one of the most awe-inspiring reads of the year.

For Fans of: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Description: Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know.

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1LONG_WAY_DOWN_REYNOLDS.jpg 26. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Why You’ll Love It: Jason Reynolds’ latest, beautiful book is written in verse. You can inhale it in a day, which I did, and re-read it right after you’ve finished…which I did. Get. This. Book.

For Fans of: YA books in verse, like titles from Ellen Hopkins and Cordelia Jensen.

Description: A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what 15-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

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1FOREST_OF_A_THOUSAND_LANTERNS.jpg 25. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

Why You’ll Love It: Julie C. Dao’s debut novel, which has been racking up starred reviews, is one of 2017’s big books that you don’t want to miss. A reimagining of “The Evil Queen” legend with an East Asian fantasy spin, it’s a lush fantasy novel that kicks off a thrilling new series.

For Fans of: YA retellings like Cinder by Marisa Meyer and The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine.

Description: Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her.

Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high? Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins—sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

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1NO_SAINTS_IN_KANSAS_AMY.jpg 24. No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear

Why You’ll Love It: A reimagining of In Cold Blood, Amy Brashear’s stunning YA novel is as spectacularly written as it is researched. This is definitely one of the most unique YA novels you’ll read this year.

For Fans of: YA novels centered around history, like books by Stacey Lee, Anne Blankman and Meg Medina.

Description: November is usually quiet in Holcomb, Kansas, but in 1959, the town is shattered by the quadruple murder of the Clutter family. Suspicion falls on Nancy Clutter’s boyfriend, Bobby Rupp, the last one to see them alive.

New Yorker Carly Fleming, new to the small Midwestern town, is an outsider. She tutored Nancy, and (in private, at least) they were close. Carly and Bobby were the only ones who saw that Nancy was always performing, and that she was cracking under the pressure of being Holcomb’s golden girl. The secret connected Carly and Bobby. Now that Bobby is an outsider, too, they’re bound closer than ever.

Determined to clear Bobby’s name, Carly dives into the murder investigation and ends up in trouble with the local authorities. But that’s nothing compared to the wrath she faces from Holcomb once the real perpetrators are caught. When her father is appointed to defend the killers of the Clutter family, the entire town labels the Flemings as traitors. Now Carly must fight for what she knows is right.

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1THE_NOVEMBER_GIRL_LYDIA_KANG.jpg 23. The November Girl by Lydia Kang

Why You’ll Love It: First, can we talk about how Lydia Kang published three books this year? A nonfiction title about bad cures (Quackery), an adult novel (A Beautiful Poison) and now her latest YA novel (The November Girl).

If you read and loved Kang’s Control duology, her dive into magical realism with The November Girl is an exciting genre leap featuring a character who is literally a storm. This book is so unique and utterly captivating.

For Fans of: The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan and The Vicious Deep trilogy by Zoraida Cordova.

Description: I am Anda, and the lake is my mother. I am the November storms that terrify sailors and sink ships. With their deaths, I keep my little island on Lake Superior alive.

Hector has come here to hide from his family until he turns 18. Isle Royale is shut down for the winter, and there’s no one here but me. And now him.

Hector is running from the violence in his life, but violence runs through my veins. I should send him away, to keep him safe. But I’m half human, too, and Hector makes me want to listen to my foolish, half-human heart. And if I do, I can’t protect him from the storms coming for us.

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1SPEAK_EASY_SPEAK_LOVE.jpg 22. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George

Why You’ll Love It: It’s fascinating when YA contemporary blends with Shakespearian retellings. Not only does McKelle George’s novel do that, but it also throws in a historical setting. The result is an entertaining book that’s an absolute delight from start to finish.

For Fans of: Lauren Morrill’s Meant to Be mashed up with Libba Bray’s The Diviners and sprinkled with a bit of Stephanie Perkins.

Description: After she gets kicked out of boarding school, 17-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer.

Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

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1WARCROSS_MARIE_LU.jpg 21. Warcross by Marie Lu

Why You’ll Love It: Because it’s a book that delivers some serious Ready Player One vibes mashed up with YA reads in virtual worlds, like Epic by Conor Kostick. It’s a sci-fi thriller by the legendary (no pun intended there) Marie Lu, and you are going to devour it.

For Fans of: The Leveler series by Julia Durango and The Eye of Minds by James Dashner.

Description: For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started 10 years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

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1THE_GIRL_RED_BALLOON_LOCKE.jpg 20. The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Why You’ll Love It: Time travel! Magic balloons! Alternate history! There’s so much happening in Katherine Locke’s YA debut, and it blends together in a way that feels effortless. Combine that with a story that shifts point of view and a world that’s spectacularly researched, and you’ve got one of the most memorable reads of 2017.

For Fans of:   Young Adult  novels that blend history and magic, like The Diviners by Libba Bray, or alternate history YA that talks about identity, like Anne Blankman’s beautiful books.

Description: When 16-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via a magical red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

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1SHIP_BEYOND_TIME_HEIDI.jpg 19. The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

Why You’ll Love It: The sequel to The Girl From Everywhere, one of Paste’s best YA books of 2016, is spectacular. Instead of being a mere passenger on her father’s ship, Heidi Heilig’s bold protagonist, Nix, is now in charge. And just as her father battled to save the person dearest to him, Nix discovers she’s fated to do the same. Hello time-traveling pirate ship with family drama; it’s good to see you again.

For Fans of: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken and the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

Description: Nix has spent her whole life journeying to places both real and imagined aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. And now it’s finally time for her to take the helm. Her father has given up his obsession to save her mother—and possibly erase Nix’s existence—and Nix’s future lies bright before her. Until she learns that she is destined to lose Kash, the one she loves.

Desperate to change her fate, Nix takes her crew to a mythical utopia to meet another Navigator who promises to teach her how to manipulate time. But everything in this utopia is constantly changing, and nothing is what it seems—not even her relationship with Kash. Nix must grapple with whether anyone can escape her destiny, her history, her choices.

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1THEY_BOTH_DIE_AT_THE_END_SILVERA.jpg 18. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Why You’ll Love It: Once again, Adam Silvera succeeds in genre-blending, the sort that made us list his debut, More Happy Than Not, as the best YA book of 2015. He blends a bit of sci-fi into this heartbreaking-yet-hopeful YA contemporary novel, creating a stirring tale of love and sadness that’s impossible to put down. You won’t be able to turn away from this story, even though your heart might want a break.

For Fans of: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, mashed up with Denton Little’s Death Date by Lance Rubin.

Description: When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalized father, his best friend, and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.

Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.

Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that their final day on earth would involve falling in love…

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1ITS_NOT_LIKE_ITS_A_SECRET_MISA.jpg 17. It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura

Why You’ll Love It: From the diverse cast of charming characters to the inclusive love story, there’s so much to adore in Misa Sugiura’s wonderful debut. It’s Not Like It’s a Secret isn’t just about the secrets that the main character hides; it’s about feeling out of place, even when you are surrounded by people. The fact that it’s peppered with poetry makes it all the more delightful.

For Fans of: The To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series by Jenny Han, Going Geek by Charlotte Huang, Geekerella by Ashley Poston and This Is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang.

Description: Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California, she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore anymore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy…what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.

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1ELIZA_AND_HER_MONSTERS_ZAPPA.jpg 16. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Why You’ll Love It: Francesca Zappia’s Eliza and Her Monsters is the equivalent of that feeling you get when you discover something precious in the geek universe: a new comic, a movie franchise, a Netflix series worth binge-watching. Zappia’s novel pulls at you with that same level of joy. From her drawings peppered throughout to the fun way the book is structured (showing message boards and the like), you’re going to love this one.

For Fans of: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.

Description: In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy…what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.

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