20 of the Most Exciting YA Books of 2018

by Iva-Marie Palmer

This year has delivered on the kind of personal and eye-opening fiction the YA world craves, while also bringing readers new fantasy series, coveted titles from top authors, wicked horror and suspense stories, and new entries in already loved series. This list of must-read YA titles of 2018 is by no means definitive, but it shows that readers have had plenty to talk about and love this year.

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  • People Like Us

    by Dana Mele

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    Mele’s debut sets an eerie, page-turning tone from its first line: “Beneath the silvery moonlight, our skin gleamed like bones.” What follows is a psychological thriller set at a cutthroat girls’ private school where Kay Donovan is a soccer star with a past. Kay’s left her secrets behind — or at least buried — and now pals around with a group of gorgeous, brainy girls, until she finds herself knotted up in a murder investigation.

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  • The Beauty That Remains

    by Ashley Woodfolk

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    A book that is as beautiful inside as its gorgeous cover is outside, The Beauty That Remains has been called a “stunning, heart-wrenching look at grief that will stay with you long after you put it down” by Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give. Woodfolk uses the shifting points-of-view of three music lovers — Autumn, Shay, and Logan — who each lose someone and now wonder what their lives would have been if tragedy never struck. Readers will find instant emotional bonds with the trio of never-bland protagonists in this slowly unfolding story told in lyrical prose.

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  • Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card

    by Sara Saedi

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    This true story of Saedi’s experience growing up in America as an undocumented immigrant from the Middle East is a lesson in empathy. Saedi’s account begins with her discovery, at age 13, that she was breaking the law by living in the U.S. She effortlessly transitions between describing her fear of deportation and efforts to get a green card, and revealing her highly relatable teen anxieties about dating, family, and life in general. This one’s great not only for teens, but for those who grew up in the ’80s or ’90s, thanks to nostalgic references to the time period.

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  • The Belles

    by Dhonielle Clayton

    Camellia Beauregard is a Belle in the world of Orléans, where Belles are revered because they control Beauty, a commodity valued over all others. Camellia wants to be the best Belle, the Queen, but as she gets closer to her goal, she learns the secrets behind her city’s facades are more dangerous than she knew. In her review of this first book in a planned series, award-winning author Roxane Gay said, “Dhonielle Clayton is a whipsmart writer with grand, grand talents and the imaginative world she has created is memorable and intriguing, indeed.”

  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay

    by Adib Khorram

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    Darius Kellner’s life isn’t so great. As a half-Persian teen with clinical depression and self-esteem issues, he struggles to fit in with his classmates and family. On his first ever trip to Iran to visit his grandparents, Darius still feels completely out-of-place. But everything changes when he meets Sohrab, his grandparent’s neighbor, who helps him realize his self-worth. A stunning novel about family, friendship, and coming to terms with who you are.

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  • Seafire

    by Natalie C. Parker

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    Captain Caledonia and her crew of female pirates have had enough of Aric terrorizing the sea and its ships. When a young boy betrays Aric to save Caledonia’s first mate, she wonders if this is her chance to take down the warlord or if she’s stepping right into his trap. Filled with heartwarming heroines and heartbreaking twists, this thrilling and suspenseful novel is a definite must-read.

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  • Layover

    by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer

    In this dual-POV story, stepsiblings Flynn and Amos haven’t seen each other in a while, even though they grew closer-than-close while taking care of their baby sister, Poppy. Then Amos left for boarding school. Now, they’re reunited in the midst of some major family drama, via an unplanned flight layover in Los Angeles. This road-trip saga from Hollywood screenwriters Andelson and Meyer has been hailed as a great fit for fans of “Clueless.”

  • Down and Across

    by Arvin Ahmadi

    Scott Ferdowski has a hard time finishing what he starts — and his giving up isn’t for lack of trying. He just hasn’t found his “grit,” or the thing that makes him tick. To make things worse, he has college applications, among other big decisions to make, hanging over his head. When his parents leave town to care for his ailing grandfather, he finds himself on an unexpected (and unsupervised!) adventure to discover who he really is, exploring D.C. and finding a new friend in a charming crossword-lover named Fiora. This debut is a contemporary coming-of-age that’s perfect for teens, especially those who haven’t yet discovered their own passions.

  • Bridge of Clay

    by Markus Zusak

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    In his first novel since The Book Thief, Markus Zusak tells the story of five Dunbar brothers, living on their own without adult supervision, outside of Sydney. The narrative moves back and forth through time and space, painting a full portrait of a family and its ups and downs. You’ll find yourself really getting to know the boys, their distinct personalities, and their history in this beautiful meditation on love and laughter, and loss and death.

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  • Orphan Monster Spy

    by Matt Killeen

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    When her mother dies at the hands of Nazis, Sarah, a 15-year-old Jewish girl living in World War II Germany, decides to join a secret resistance and take on an extraordinarily dangerous undercover mission to undermine — and destroy — the Third Reich. With its chill-inducing premise, quick-paced plot, and captivating characters, this is a novel that (brave) readers won’t be able to put down. Not for the faint of heart, Killeen has penned a dark, gripping, and intense read with no small amount of violence. But if you’re looking for a page-turning historical thriller featuring a kick-butt heroine, this is it.

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  • A Map of Days

    by Ransom Riggs

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    Jacob and his peculiar friends are back in this fourth installment of Ransom Riggs’s bestselling series. This continuation expands into America where Miss Peregrine and her children are doing their best to fit in to an entirely new world of Peculiars. Then Jacob finds a hidden bunker in his grandfather’s house and the Peculiar Children are quickly swept up in a dangerous mystery around Abe and his life. The secrets that come to the surface will have readers furiously flipping pages.

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  • I Have Lost My Way

    by Gayle Forman

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    Forman, author of YA favorites like If I Stay and Where She Went, is back with another powerful novel about friendship and circumstance. The multi-perspective novel follows three characters as they each hit crisis points in their lives: Freya’s lost her voice recording her first album. Harun wants to run away from home to find the boy he loves. Nathaniel is on his own after a family tragedy. They meet in Central Park and, over the course of a day, help one another in ways big and small.

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  • Neverworld Wake

    by Marisha Pessl

    When Beatrice and her four high school BFFs reunite after their first year of college — one year after Jim, their friend and Beatrice’s boyfriend, mysteriously died — the last thing they expect is for a mysterious person to crash their party. Then he informs them that they are stuck in a time loop ... and getting out might be all but impossible. Pessl has penned an intricate, mind-bending novel that’ll keep you guessing until the very end.

  • Love, Hate and Other Filters

    by Samira Ahmed

    In this story about finding your true place in the world, 17-year-old Maya Aziz is torn. There’s the “right” path, so deemed by her parents: a nearby college and an older Muslim boyfriend hand-picked for her. There’s her dream path: film school and the chance to pursue a crush she’s had for years. Meanwhile, a horrible crime miles away rips apart the community Maya has been part of since birth. Earning rave reviews, Ahmed’s debut tackles common coming-of-age concerns while weaving in a timely story about how fear can breed hate.

  • Dread Nation

    by Justina Ireland

    This highly anticipated release is getting lauded as equal parts exciting, terrifying, and oh-so-relevant. Jane McKeene was born at the same time when the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, derailing the War Between the States. The nation that emerges is one where the safety of all depends on the brave few who are forced to fight the undead, but soon Jane finds herself at the center of a conspiracy plot that’s far bigger than battling zombies. Readers say that this book will appeal to even those who don’t love zombie stories, because it crackles on every page.

  • Sam & llsa’s Last Hurrah

    by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

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    Levithan and Cohn are masterful writing partners who are known for penning up-all-night teen adventures with real heart. In their latest, Sam and Ilsa, twins with a legacy of throwing excellent parties, are hosting their very last bash of high school and inviting three guests each (the identities of whom must remain secret to the other twin ’til party time). With a feeling reminiscent of “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off,” this novel is packed with entertaining sibling rivalry and unforgettable hijinks, and is loads of fun.

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  • American Panda

    by Gloria Chao

    Taiwanese-American Mei is her parents’ dream come to life (because they charted her whole life in advance). After skipping a grade, she’s studying at MIT, bound for doctor-hood and — her mom and dad hope — having a Taiwanese husband and lots of babies. Mei doesn’t quite know how to admit to them that she hates germs and has a crush on a Japanese classmate. This truly funny debut will create instant fans for Chao who is herself a MIT dentistry grad turned writer.

  • LIFEL1K3

    by Jay Kristoff

    This new one from Kristoff (co-author of the bestselling The Illuminae Files series) is being billed as Romeo and Juliet meets “The Terminator.” In other words, it’s a how-could-you-not-pick-it-up read. Eve, a maker of battle robots living in a post-apocalyptic island junkyard, is on the local gangster’s wanted list for money she needs to keep her grandfather alive. Then she discovers Ezekiel, a robot called a “Lifelike” because it resembles humans, and she has reason to wonder if her life is a lie. Traveling with her best friend, Lemon Fresh, and a robotic sidekick, Cricket, Eve takes off on a quest to learn the truth about her existence and protect everyone she cares about.

  • The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air)

    by Holly Black

    The first in a new series from Black (author of The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Modern Faerie Tale series), this fantasy promises to excite fans old and new. Jude, orphaned at age seven with her sisters after their parents were murdered, lives in the High Court of Faerie and wants nothing more than to belong there, except the fey despise humans like her. She must cross Prince Cardan, the wickedest son of the High King, to earn her place and, in doing so, she becomes embroiled in the palace’s many treacheries. Perfect for anyone longing for a compelling literary escape.

  • Meet Cute

    by various authors

    This book of romantic stories by a range of popular YA writers is a sweet read. Jennifer Armentrout imagines teens finding love when a library book goes missing. Nina LaCour writes about two girls meeting via a riled-up customer service tweet. Katie Cotugno throws a couple of teens into hiding together (from police at a busted house party). Nicola Yoon plays around with break-ups and make-ups. This collection is a must for anyone in love, out of love, or in love with love.