TO START, A NOTE TO ANYONE READING THIS:
I may not have read a lot of important classics or even important fantasy novels. Ok, I also haven’t read Lord of the Rings. Or seen Star Wars. I know – am I even qualified to write this list? But the important thing to remember is that on the 21st year of my life, I spent more time reading brand new young adult fiction (try and keep up with me now, nerdy high schoolers!) than anything else, and this is my list of absolute favorites that I feel I must convince everyone else to read!
I love young adult fiction passionately, because even if real adults think it’s “easy” reading or cheesy stuff, I know in my heart of hearts that YA writers produce quality literature and the best kind of angst. Plus, every time a movie is in production for a YA book (basically every other day, am I right?) I feel like my life is justified and that I made an investment that is greatly paying off…ha-ha-ha, all you non-YA readers who invest time in authors like Kurt Vonnegut instead! I will read him some day, but not this day!
Anyway, so sure am I of this list that if you DON’T agree with my choices, please comment below so we can sort things out and I can bring you to the right side. That being said, here’s the top YOUNG ADULT READS of 2015:
The 15 Best Young Adult Novels of 2015
(In No Certain Order)
#1: SIX OF CROWS, by Leigh Bardugo
Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?” “Knife to the throat?” asked Inej. “Gun to the back?” said Jesper. “Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina. “You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.
I would be remiss if I didn’t begin this list with a bang! In her first series (Shadow and Bone) Leigh Bardugo swept us away in a tale full of unique magic, tragedic orphan love and a setting I imagine is close to tsarist Russia (is it permanently a bitter winter there? It’s not, right? But I mean, if it is, that just makes every struggle and relationship more precious and characters stand out more in a bleak, tough setting).
In Six of Crows, it was like she gave our hearts greatly-needed blood transfusions, ripped them out, then sewed them raggedly back in among a diverse crew of orphans, slaves, enemies, and friends who band together to pull off an epic heist. The real heist, of course, is working together and understanding everyone’s beautifully sad backstories and motivations. Or, another way to summarize, as the author herself put it: “I just wanted to write a magical heist book,” and “I watched a lot of Leverage.”
Six of Crows is thrilling, witty, heartbreaking, funny, and full of achingly conflicted characters. I also will never stop admiring the themes of war, politics, corruption and slavery that dominate the book while making it’s victims and survivors all the more beautiful. The hype around this book is intense because it is that good. Features: Hate-love romance, epic, fantasy, much clever thievery, and a romantic pseudo-tsarist Russian backdrop.
#2: THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, by Renee Ahdieh
“My soul sees its equal in you.”
You can find my rave review here. This book is wonderfully romantic and painful and AMAZING because how great are retellings?! How can you fall in love with a killer if you’ve set out to kill him? Honestly, I think enemy love stories are the best and most passionate, and I’m willing to wager that the tons of fans for this classically lyrical and twisted take on A Thousand and One Arabian Nights would agree. I could read a line with the words “moon, star, Khalid, Shahrzad” and I’d be like “whoa, that is the most romantic line ever,” that’s how entranced I am by this book. Features: Hate-love romance, retelling, and fantasy.
#3: ROOK, by Sharon Cameron
“I think you are very beautiful,” René said, “especially when you are admiring mischief.” “You must think that every time I look at you, then.”
Of all the 2015 books I read, Rook is the one I could not put down because it is so clever, romantic, and full of intrigue (review here!) This book is a showstopper…and it’s inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel. The author herself is terrific and tweeted back at my insignificant self, which is a sure-fire sign of amazing-ness. GET ON THIS! Features: Romance of rivals, heist, historical, escaping off roofs with romantic interest, and hot french bad boys who are totally good.
#4: QUEEN OF SHADOWS, by the one and only Sarah J. Maas
“She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. …She bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.”
Sarah J. Maas, if you are reading this I love you. Celaena is the baddest, fiercest, hottest, awesomest heroine to charge onto the scene in a while and that’s because she is truly F A B U L O U S. There was a drought of good fantasy-romance-jealousy-political intrigue-witty banter YA in 2012, but then I read Throne of Glass and it changed my life. I expected it to be whatever as I had never heard of it, but it turned out to be so good.
Celaena is the GREATEST ASSASSIN ERILEA HAS EVER KNOWN but also a young woman ravaged by tragedy and shrouded in a mysterious past contained behind her locks of glimmering blonde hair and flickering turquoise eyes. Join her as she fights for her life, several kingdoms, all the while looking fabulous and wooing several hot men who love her. I refuse to spoil anything because the second and third book in the series reveal so much that you never see coming. It’s like Sarah J. Maas chuckled to herself, “Let me take all the awesome and best things from all the books and movies and make them into ONE CHARACTER who also looks gorgeous and is sassy and kind and self-sacrificing and clever and badass, sometimes admirably morally ambiguous in a deep way, also, I will add in captivating romances, political thrills and magic, and TEN hot guys, mwahaha!” It also won best YA Fantasy of 2015 on Goodreads. Queen of Shadows is the 4th book in the series that came out this year, but I would highly recommend you start the series if you haven’t already! Features: fantasy, epicness, and romance x 102308310.
#5: UNMADE, by Sarah Rees Brennan
“Don’t feel bad, Angela,” Kami said. “You know guys, they only want one thing. Repartee. I can’t count how many times men have admired my well-turned phrases.” – Sarah Rees Brennan
There are no words for how hilarious Sarah Rees Brennan is. If you follow her on twitter, you may have seen her parodies of many great shows and movies, such as “An Unexpected Hotness of Dwarves” about The Hobbit movies. Other reasons why she is amazing beyond compare and I wish she were my friend in real life:
- She loves all the right things, like gothic romances, Veronica Mars, Jessica Jones, The 100, Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf, Dianna Wynne Jones, detective girls who kick-butt, and much more as per her twitter account.
- She co-wrote The Bane Chronicles with YA-Author-best-friend-dream-triad Maureen Johnson and Cassandra Clare and self-admits to cruelly enjoying drinking the tears of her readers.
- When I met her, not only was she extremely funny, relatable and twitter-friendly, but she signed my book with the words, “for Amirah, I saw Richard Armitage shirtless, signed Sarah Rees Brennan,” confirming her status as the greatest person in existence. If an author brags to you that they saw Richard Armitage shirtless, what can you really even say except stare at them starry-eyed for being the best person alive? (Her parody of The Hobbit notes the extreme hotness of Richard Armitage and is perhaps one of the reasons I began watching North and South, which verily changed my life and many of the lives of Silver Petticoat readers, so this was why I asked her if she loved him in that period drama.)
I realize that I have not yet described the synopsis of this book or noted why I have included it in the best of 2015 list…the answer: Witty, hilarious dialogue and entertaining and heartbreaking characters. Unmade is the conclusion to a gothic-romance fantasy story about a determined, extremely amusing and strong-willed journalist heroine named Kami Glass. Though she’s had an imaginary friend she talks to in her head since she was born, her surprise when she discovers he is real, brings drama to her quiet English village in the Cotswolds (this book has now inspired me to visit there). Sorcery, journalism, friendship and general hilarity create the rest of this plot, but one general question in the series is: If you’ve loved someone in your mind, can you love them when they become real? A unique and interesting look at many kinds of love, Unmade is a satisfying, heartbreaking, and heart-making finale to the series. In my honest opinion – the plot does not really matter, as the characters and dialogue make the book. Features: unparalleled wit, brother-love-triangle, and a very awesomely funny heroine.
#6: I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson
“I gave up practically the whole world for you,” I tell him, walking through the front door of my own love story. “The sun, stars, ocean, trees, everything, I gave it all up for you.”
Jandy Nelson (how great is her name?) is by far the most passionate, colorful, intense, and emotional writer on the block. You read a sentence of hers and it’s so electric or jarringly jam-packed with feeling and description that you might have turned gray just from reading it. Her prose is explosively beautiful, and her heartbreaking stories are full of funny, broken characters and families, plus romance that takes swoon to another level. It’s not like dangerously sexy kind of swoon. It’s just good, old-fashioned keeling over on your knees swoon until you are hopelessly in love like the characters are. Give her spectacular writing a read, for I live for the existence of her dreamy novels!
You are bound to sob and love her writing, but what marks her as a top author in my eyes is that I laugh riotously and sob disgustingly in equal amounts as I read her books. I’ll Give You The Sun is the brilliant story of artistic twins, Noah and Jude, finding their way back to each other over the course of three years. While Jude’s point of view and romance was perfection, Noah’s thirteen-year-old narration was so vivid and alive that it really captured my heart. Nelson’s first book, The Sky is Everywhere, is also a stunner and a favorite. Features: beautiful romance, heartbreaking families, and deep writing.
#7: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, by Sabaa Tahir
“But I’m not strong. I’m weak, and I’m sick of pretending I’m not.”
Before I got slammed with the amazing books out this year, this was by far my favorite (review here). Laia, a scholar slave, and Elias, a soldier to the cruel Emperor in this Roman society based world, both undergo significant character growth and are faced with haunting choices to survive in their individual struggles for freedom. Creative, inventive, and somehow combining Hunger-Games-like-tropes with ancient roman social divisions, An Ember is compelling and action-packed. In a world where keeping your friendships mean sacrificing lives and retaining your identity involves spying on your parents’ killer, there is not much to do but eagerly turn the pages. Sabaa Tahir is a great author and I am eagerly awaiting the next installment! Features: dystopia, fantasy, romance, adventure, fights-to-the-death, vicious villains, and brutal societies.
Turn the page to see what other awesome books I included in this list!