The best YA books

From teen romances to epic fantasy, here's our round-up of the best young adult fiction, that adults will love too.

11/05/2022
3 minutes to read
Book covers of Children of Virtue and Vengeance, Opposite of Always, Kick the Moon and I Kissed Shara Wheeler against a blue background

Young adult fiction is still having a moment, with film adaptations of YA smash hits To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Hate U Give as well as boundary-breaking debuts like Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone and Muhammad Khan’s I Am Thunder. Here’s our round-up of the best young adult fiction you should be reading, no matter your age.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler

by Casey McQuiston

Book cover for I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Chloe Green wants to be a winner. Her moms have moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, and she has had to spend four years navigating gossips and the puritans who run Willowgrove Christian Academy. She is determined to win valedictorian, and only prom queen Shara Wheeler stands in her way. But, a month before they graduate, Shara kisses Chloe and disappears. Chloe launches an investigation with some fellow students –  quarterback Smith and bad boy Rory. Could it be there's more to Shara than meets the eye? 

Fangirl

by Rainbow Rowell

Book cover for Fangirl

Rainbow Rowell shares Judy Blume’s deep understanding of how teenagers think and this funny and sweet coming-of-age story reads like Forever for the Internet age.

Cath and Wren are identical twins who, until recently, did absolutely everything together. Now they're off to university and Wren's decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more. It's not so easy for Cath. She's horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes. Without Wren Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. Now Cath must decide whether she's ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences.

We Hunt the Flame

by Hafsah Faizal

Book cover for We Hunt the Flame

Another TikTok sensation, We Hunt the Flame is a brilliant debut about exploration and claiming your own identity. Zafira is a Hunter, who disguises herself as a man to try to provide for her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, a notorious assassin in thrall to his sultan father. Both are reluctant legends, and both are on dangerous missions. As they embark on these perilous tasks, a long buried evil begins to stir.

Mark My Words

by Muhammad Khan

Book cover for Mark My Words

Dua Iqbal has always been open to new stories: she is persuasive and curious, and a job as a journalist seems like a good move for the fifteen year old. When her school merges with another one, Dua seizes the moment and establishes a rival newspaper, packed with stories that some teachers and kids would rather not be told. Dua is digging deep, and as exams draw closer, she has to decide when to just let things lie. But when she discovers that some of the pupils are being falsely accused of selling drugs, it's time to speak up and speak out.


Journey to the River Sea

by Eva Ibbotson

Book cover for Journey to the River Sea

Orphan Maia is on a mission to meet her long-lost relatives a thousand miles up the Amazon. But instead of the warm family she has waited for, she is met by two mean cousins who can't stand the outdoors. The wonders of the rainforest lure Maia outside, where she meets a lone boy on the wild river shore. And a whole new adventure begins. This beautiful 20th anniversary edition of Eva Ibbotson's classic and award winning Amazon adventure story comes with an introduction by prize-winning author of Letters from the Lighthouse Emma Carroll. 

They Both Die at the End

by Adam Silvera

Book cover for They Both Die at the End

This YA novel tells the story of teenage boys Mateo and Rufus, who discover they have just one day to live. These total strangers meet courtesy of the Last Friend app and decide to share End Day, with Last Friend enabling them to experience a lifetime of rich and edgy experiences in just one day. Thanks to the #booktok hashtag, the novel became an international bestselling smash three years after it was first published.

Heartless

by Marissa Meyer

Book cover for Heartless

This is Wonderland remixed, telling the story of the girl who would go on to become the infamous Queen of Hearts. The girl, Catherine Pinkerton, is looking for love, but despite being favoured by the King of Hearts, her own heart lies elsewhere. Her great ambition is to open a bakery with her best friend, a goal considered inappropriate for a future queen. Then Catherine falls for Jest, the good looking and enigmatic court jester. She his determined to find her own path in life and in love, but in a land of magic and madness, fate steps in . . .

Noughts & Crosses

by Malorie Blackman

Book cover for Noughts & Crosses

In the award-winning Noughts and Crosses sequence, of which this book is the first, Malorie Blackman creates a dystopian world in which the white Noughts are treated as an inferior race, while the black Crosses are born into privilege and perceived as superior in every sense.

It follows Sephy and Callum, who, despite the friendship they have shared since they were children, are fated to be bitter enemies. Sephy is a Cross, dark-skinned, beautiful and the daughter of a powerful politician, while Callum is a Nought, white and poor, existing to serve Crosses and nothing more.

But against all odds, star-crossed lovers Sephy and Callum choose each other, and this powerful story, which reverses the traditional racial stereotypes we see in our own world, follows the trials of their relationship.

Tokyo Dreaming

by Emiko Jean

Book cover for Tokyo Dreaming

Japanese-American Izumi Tanaka became a princess overnight, when she realised that her dad was the Crown Prince of Japan. Life as a princess isn't all it's cracked up to be, with plotting cousins, nosy journalists and an imperial scandal. But with her bodyguard turned boyfriend and dog Tamagotchi things seem to be on the up for Izumi, especially when her parents rekindle their college affair and get engaged. Then the Imperial Household Council steps in and tries to stop the marriage, leaving Izumi struggling to keep her newly acquired happiness on track . . .

The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

Book cover for The Hunger Games

In the remains of what was North America lies the nation of Panem, with its twelve outlying districts. Each district must send one boy and one girl each year to compete in the Hunger Games, a live televised fight to the death. For sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen the call up seems like a death sentence. But she has faced death and won before. As battle commences, Katniss must choose between survival and her own humanity.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance

by Tomi Adeyemi

Book cover for Children of Virtue and Vengeance

Children of Blood and Bone was one of the most talked-about fantasy books of 2018, and at last Tomi Adeyemi is back with this thrilling sequel. After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji but also some nobles with magic ancestry. With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must find a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart. Children of Virtue and Vengeance is one of the best fantasy books of 2020 for young adult readers.

Deeplight

by Frances Hardinge

Book cover for Deeplight

Deeplight is a mystical fantasy book from the author Sarah Perry described as ‘one of our finest storytellers’: Frances Hardinge. For centuries, the gods of the Undersea have ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart. Now, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold. But something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.

Fierce Fragile Hearts

Book cover for Fierce Fragile Hearts

Two years after the events of Beautiful Broken Things – the bestseller that was chosen for the inaugural Zoella’s Book Club – Suzanne is starting her life over. Her two best friends, Caddy and Rosie, helped to see her through a downward spiral that brought her as low as you can possibly go, but now they’re leaving for university. When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you're the one left behind?

Opposite of Always

by Justin A. Reynolds

Book cover for Opposite of Always

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, Jack knows he’s found someone he could share the rest of his life with. Just months later, Kate dies – but their story doesn’t end there. Kate’s death sends Jack back in time to the moment they first met, giving him multiple chances to change their destiny, and save Kate’s life.

Kick the Moon

by Muhammad Khan

Book cover for Kick the Moon

Fifteen-year-old Ilyas is under pressure from everyone in his life: his dad wants him to join the family business, GCSEs are looming, and nobody seems to care that Ilyas just wants to draw comic books. Nobody, that is, except his new best friend Kelly, the school good girl who’s the first person to actually understand him. But when local bad boy Imran decides to seduce Kelly for a bet, Ilyas has to choose between a confrontation that could endanger his family and losing the person who’s most important to him.

Archenemies

by Marissa Meyer

Book cover for Archenemies

This is the action-packed sequel to Marissa Meyer’s fantastic Renegades, which takes place in a world ruled by the Renegades, superheroes who represent a symbol of hope and justice to everyone – except for the Anarchists, the villains they once overthrew. Nova is one of these Anarchists, but her quest for vengeance is complicated by her growing feelings for Renegade, Adrian. In the sequel, this unlikely pair are thrown together once again, and Adrian is about to reveal some dark secrets of his own.

Field Notes on Love

by Jennifer E. Smith

Book cover for Field Notes on Love

Hugo and his girlfriend have the perfect romantic trip planned together – travelling across America by train. But then she dumps him. She leaves him the tickets as a parting gift, the only problem is that they’re in her name, and they’re non-transferable. Desperate to get away, Hugo advertises for a replacement Margaret Campbell, which is where Mae comes in. After getting rejected from film school, she’s looking for a new adventure and a cross-country trip with a stranger will prove to be just that.

The Kingdom

by Jess Rothenberg

Book cover for The Kingdom

The Kingdom is a fantasy theme park where technology helps dreams come to life. Formerly extinct species roam the park, and twelve beautiful 'Fantasists' – half-human, half-android princesses – entertain visitors and make wishes come true. But this fairytale ends in murder, and now Ana, one of the twelve Fantasists, is in the dock.

Told through court testimony, interrogation records and fragmented flashbacks, The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg has the futuristic appeal of Westworld and the twists and turns of a true crime thriller.

What She Found in the Woods

by Josephine Angelini

Book cover for What She Found in the Woods

World-weary New York teen Magda is on her last chance. After setting off a scandal in the elite New York City private school scene, she’s been shipped off to her grandparents’ sleepy Pacific Northwest town to spend a summer under the radar. Over-medicated and uninspired, she finds her only solace in the beautiful hiking trails behind her grandparents’ cottage. But all that is about to change, when she meets the steadfast and strong, but curiously unsophisticated Bo, who gives her hope that there might be a second chapter to her life story. But when a series of crimes start breaking out across the region, and a body is found in the woods near Bo’s encampment, it’s clear that Magda’s nightmare is just beginning. And she's no longer sure who she can trust.

No Big Deal

by Bethany Rutter

Book cover for No Big Deal

This is the debut novel from body positive influencer, Bethany Rutter, and it follows Emily Daly, a stylish, cute, intelligent and hilarious seventeen-year-old about to start her last year at school. Emily is also fat. She likes herself and her body. When she meets Joe at a house party, he instantly becomes The Crush of Her Life. But, as they spend more time together, doubts start to creep in. With her mum trying new fad diets every week and increasing pressure to change, Emily faces a constant battle to stay strong, be her true self and not change for anyone.

Five Dark Fates

by Kendare Blake

Book cover for Five Dark Fates

At last, the epic conclusion to Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series. On the island of Fennbirn, three sisters must fight to the death to win the throne, each using their own unique magical abilities. The war has been waged throughout the series, and now, in the final novel, the fate of the island lies in the hands of its queens.

 

Watch Kevin from Irish Reader talk about even more fantastic YA books you should read

The best YA books of 2019