17 Top YA Books of 2017

On Twitter, I saw that the amazing Amanda MacGregor (@citesomething) created a list of her top 17 YA books of 2017. I immediately wanted to do my own post, trying to squeeze 17 good things out of a dumpster fire year.

Thankfully, YA did not disappoint me. It's so hard to choose just 17, and I can't wait until next year when I can list all of the fabulous 2018 books I've already read. Oh, the perils of reading ARCs!

Generally, when I do "best of" lists, I try not to rank books. This is for two reasons: one, I am often spectacularly lazy and simply don't want to sit down and argue with myself about which book I loved the most. Two, I feel unqualified to award merit to books. As a librarian, I celebrate the books I adore as well as the ones I know will be important to the population I serve. But the majority of my work is providing access to these materials, not judging and ranking them. I truly believe that there is someone out there who is a perfect match for every book. Additionally, my reviews are not always particularly empirical; I rely on my emotional reaction to a book to set the overall tone for a review. A book may swim along in spectacular prose, or present multifaceted characters, but I still may not enjoy it.

However, this year, there is one book so magnificent that there was no question in my mind when I started writing this post that it would be the top book of the year. Number one. The foam finger book. The pinnacle.

And obviously, that's Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give. 

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

When a book shakes you to your core, it's hard to write about it. At least for me. Starr and her family were so real to me. I recognized Starr and Khalid because their voices reflected and amplified those of teens that I know and that I've interacted with at the library. Reading The Hate U Give was profoundly sobering. It showed me all of the things I don't know and can't know because I am white, and because of my whiteness, I have privilege that means I'm not going to get shot in a car for looking like a "thug" and I'm not going to be denigrated if I use government assistance to buy food. I am not proud of that. I am conscious of it and do my best to check it.

But it's more than those big things--it's the everyday microaggressions that white people use, consciously or unconsciously, to reinforce the idea that black people are not good enough. That they are less: less deserving, less worthy, less human. Which is a lie so repulsive that it makes me want to throw up. And the fact that this not just happening in society, but that it's being lauded by leaders and promoted by people with large platforms and even louder voices, makes me sick.

My mom's review of this book is actually my favorite, because it's so accurate: "This book showed me that I know nothing." It's very humbling. I needed that. Thank you, thank you, Angie Thomas.

(and now, in no particular order, the rest of the list)

2. Dear Martin by Nic Stone. Some people felt that Dear Martin and THUG were basically the same book because they both deal with the unjust murder of black men and #BlackLivesMatter. I see so many people asking "Which one should I read?" as if you only need to read one. Ah, no. (I am not making this up--I have seen this question pop up several times on library Facebook). Anyway, read them both. Justyce's story will both infuriate you and motivate you to do better. Be better.

3. A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge. When I first started this book, I had to take a break because some of the death/ghost scenes were so intense(ly moving!). I'm a bit concerned that Hardinge manages to top herself with each successive book--will my mind just explode one day after finishing the newest from her?

4. This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis. This is a love-it-or-hate-it book. A lot of my friends hated it; I loved it. I love books that feature unreliable, morally bankrupt characters, and McGinnis goes pedal to the metal with this one.

5. Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza. Generally, I don't go for adorable when it comes to reading matter. But this is completely and utterly adorable AND an extremely nuanced and sensitive portrayal of anxiety and OCD. My favorite negative review of this book was that it was "too Canadian." How is that even possible?

6. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore. This is a genre-defying, time-slipping puzzler of a novel, and I adored every single moment of it. It also has the best dog character in recent memory who does not suffer Manchee's fate. #Mancheeforever

7. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee. This is the funniest book I read over the course of the year. I'm not kidding. Also, I got an autograph (!!!) at NYCC. #nerdachievementunlocked

8. Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson. The older I get, the more I find myself drawn to weird-yet-lyrical books. Midnight at the Electric ticks all my boxes: multiple POV, shifting time periods, unresolved endings... it's heart-breakingly stunning.

9. Want by Cindy Pon. Ummm ... hot Taiwanese guy and his rebel friends take down an evil corporation? Yes please! Bonus: amazing food descriptions, naturally diverse friendships, and flying motorcycles.

10. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. I can haz fandom? Oh, yes. Tumbl into a world of fanart, online serials, web comics, and Extreme Feels. Apart from the pitch-perfect ode to fans, the main character's anxiety issues are spot-on and made me feel less alone.

11. What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold. You know my love for this book. This National Book Award Finalist book! It's the kind of story that hurts because it contains so much truth.

12. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. The title does not lie. This is Silvera doing what he does best, and that's ripping up your heart and stomping on it with combat boots.

13. Berserker by Emmy Laybourne. Many people left Europe in the 19th century to come to America for a better life, dreaming of streets paved with gold (nope) or jobs for all (also nope). But Hanne and her family come to America because she has inherited an ancient Viking ability that turns her into a killing machine if anyone she loves is threatened. Do not push her buttons.

14. Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson. This is even more depressing than Feed, and I loved every moment of it. Also, that's exactly what I wrote on my shelf-talker for this at the library.

15. Warcross by Marie Lu. First of all, Warcross has such an amazing cover that it renders me incoherent. Secondly, it's a ridiculously fun techno-thriller with hackers and the dark web and interesting power dynamics in relationships.

16. The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. My coworker left this on my desk with a note: "I read through three lunches and cried in the break room to finish this. YOU HAVE TO READ IT." So I did. And I get it. I don't remember the incident in the book, but Slater has taken real life events and humanized both sides of the story. It's a wonderful exercise in empathy.

17. When I Am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn. If Adam Silvera is the crusher of my heart, Stephanie Kuehn is the dynamiter of my mind. This twisted story of teens on a camping trip gone horribly wrong is a nail-biting examination of the human psyche.



  1. Sob! I haven't read any of them. But on your recommendation I will try The Hate U Give and also that one about fandom - is it anything like Fangirl?

    When I was growing up, fannish activity was all done on paper. Fanzines, both mainstream and media, and comics. Fan fiction was mostly in the media zines. We didn't HAVE the Internet. But we did do costuming at conventions. And fanzines were likely to be better quality, because there was the filter of the editor.

    1. I have not read Fangirl, actually. Some of my friends who read it didn't really like how it portrayed fandom, but Eliza and her Monsters was very positive.

    2. Not sure what your friends said, but I've been in fandom since before you were born, and I loved it. The heroine is a very good writer, who ends up doing well at university, better than some who don't write fan fiction. She is never sneered at by the author for being a fan writer. In fact, I could relate, though in my own years of writing fan fiction I was read by a few hundred(no Internet!), not the thousands who read this girl's work. I learned a lot from my fan writing, that eventually led to my becoming a professional writer, and so did a lot of others. And so does the heroine of Fangirl. Most of the book's issues are that Cat has always hung out with her sister and now her sister wants to go her own way, and \cat has to make new friends at university.

      I do recommend the book. Give it a go!


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