YA Friday: Favorite Books 2018

YA Friday Presents Favorite Books 2018 Picked by your San Jose Public Library Staff

For YA books, 2018 has been an incredible year filled with kick-butt zombie fighters, unique coming-of-age tales, lush new fantasy worlds, and some seriously chilling mysteries. There has been no shortage of must-reads and series additions we've been desperate to get our hands on, but debut authors really stole the show this year sharing stories of strong and powerful women.

Some of the staff here at San José Public Library has shared a few of their favorites that were published this year. So if you're like me and are a little bit behind on your reading goal for the year or want to build your TBR pile for 2019, this list is a perfect place to start.


Picture Us In The Light book cover

Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Danny Cheng and his friends attend one of Cupertino's privileged public high schools and future success is almost certain. Danny's artistic talent has been recognized by his dream school, RISD, and no one is more proud of his full scholarship than his first-generation Chinese American parents. When Danny accidentally discovers a box of his father's papers containing copies of names, photos, and public records of a powerful Silicon Valley family, he wonders if his parents are involved in something illegal with ties to their former life in China. On the cusp of adulthood yet under consistent parental watch, Danny is determined to unravel the mystery of his family's painful past while navigating increasingly complicated personal relationships and school life.

Starry Eyes book cover

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Once upon a time, Zorie and Lennon were best friends. Sure, things weren’t great with their families—Lennon’s two moms opened up a sex shop next door to Zorie’s dad and stepmom’s massage and acupuncture wellness clinic, and her dad is convinced that’s why business is dropping—but that never used to matter. Now, for reasons neither one of them really understands, Zorie and Lennon are practically mortal enemies. There’s no sign of things changing anytime soon, until a group camping trip gone wrong ends with Zorie and Lennon stranded in the Northern California wilderness together. Thankfully, Lennon has a few wilderness survival skills up his sleeve, but even here, secrets have a way of coming out—if Lennon and Zorie don’t kill each other, they may just make it out of this alive.

Emergency Contact book cover

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

When Penny Lee heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it's seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can't wait to leave behind. Sam is stuck, literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too; he knows that this is the chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he's a famous movie director but right now life is really testing him. When they cross paths it's a collision of unbearable awkwardness. But they stay in touch via text and share their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.


Hey, Kiddo book cover

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Jarrett’s mother, Leslie, is a heroin addict—though he doesn’t know it until later in his childhood—so Jarrett’s grandparents, Joe and Shirl, step in to raise him. Evoking a great sense of people and place, Krosoczka conveys the joys and complications of his young life in Worcester, Mass.—his childhood nightmares, his relationship with his mother through letters and sporadic visits, his grandparents’ tense relationships with one another and their children, and their great care in fostering Jarrett’s talent for art.

Children of Blood and Bone book cover

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Zélie Adebola, 17, remembers the night of the raid in her village 11 years earlier. Her mama was chained by her neck and lynched with other maji by the forces of ruthless King Saran of Orisha. King Saran hates magic and considers it the source of all evil, so he targets and exterminates the maji, who worship ancestors and practice magic. Now, they live hopelessly as servants, slaves, stockers, and prisoners. Zélie strives to bring back magic in Orisha, so she becomes the main target of King Saran's maji cleansing campaign. She sets out on her spiritual journey with her athletic brother Tzain and pet lioness Nailah. They encounter an unexpected ally. Princess Amari of Orisha escapes from her estate of Lagose after witnessing the murder of Binta, her maji best friend and handmaiden, at her father's merciless hands. Zélie, Tzain, and Amari go on the run to restore magic in Orisha.

Dread Nation book cover

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania-- derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever. Now laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. But it's not a life Jane wants. When families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy... and the restless dead are the least of her problems.


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A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can't keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated--scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone book cover

You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Fraternal twins, Adina and Tovah, are driven young women with very definite plans for the future. Adina is a viola prodigy with a dream of becoming a soloist. Tovah's heavy AP class load for the last four years is about to pay off with her early acceptance to Johns Hopkins University, the first step in her path to becoming a surgeon. But there's a darkness looming that threatens to destroy those bright futures. On the eve of their 18th birthday, Adina wants Tovah to release her from the promise she made years ago—the promise to take the genetic test for Huntington's Disease. But Tovah insists—especially since she believes that Adina still owes her for past transgressions. The twins know firsthand what Huntington's does to a person's mind and body. They have been living with the specter of the disease since their Israeli mother was diagnosed four years earlier, and they have a 50–50 chance of developing it. When the results come in, one of them has tested positive.

Meet the Sky book cover

Meet The Sky by McCall Hoyle

The accident caused Sophie's dad to walk out of her life, and left her older sister, Meredith, barely able to walk at all. Sophie is trying to keep the family business running, get accepted to veterinary school, and protect her mom and sister from another disaster. But when a hurricane forms off the coast of North Carolina's Outer Banks and heads right toward their island, Sophie realizes nature is one thing she can't control. Separated from her family during the evacuation, Sophie finds herself trapped on the island with the last person she'd have chosen-- reckless Finn Sanders, who broke her heart freshman year. He's the kind of guy who goes surfing in the eye of the hurricane, and he may be the perfect person to remind Sophie how to embrace life again-- if they survive the storm.


The Poet X book cover

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Sophomore Xiomara ("See-oh-MAH-ruh," as she constantly instructs teachers on the first day of school) Batista is simultaneously invisible and hyper visible at home, at school, and in her largely Dominican community in Harlem—her body is "unhide-able" she tells readers early on, and she bristles at how others project their desires, insecurities, failures, and patriarchal attitudes toward her. Though she is quick to battle and defend herself and her twin brother Xavier, Xiomara's inner life sensitively grapples with these projections and the expectations of her strict, religious mother.

Brazen : Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World book cover

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

This French graphic novel offers a satisfying collection of minibiographies about bold women—some contemporary, others from centuries ago—who overcame fearsome odds to achieve a variety of goals, becoming the first black woman in space, a rapper in Afghanistan, a pioneering volcanologist, and more. The lives of 33 women of varying geographical, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds are highlighted in about 10 pages each of colorful, expressive, and often humorous cartoon panels—enough to serve as a catalyst for learning more. Some names are relatively recognizable, such as Temple Grandin and Nellie Bly, while others may be less so, such as Las Mariposas, Dominican sisters who became revolutionaries and human rights activists; Naziq al-Abid, a Syrian humanitarian and feminist; Agnodice, a fourth-century B.C.E. Athenian who disguised herself as a man in order to practice gynecology; and Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian social worker who escaped an abusive marriage and assisted other female survivors of violence, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

Sadie book cover

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated Colorado town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. When Mattie is found dead, and the police investigation is botched, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice. She hits the road following a few meager clues. When West McCray, a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America, hears Sadie's story, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.


Smoke Thieves book cover

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

A stolen bottle of demon smoke causes the lives of five young adults to intersect: Tash, a streetwise demon hunter; Catherine, a shrewd princess whose father is plotting against her; Ambrose, an idealistic soldier turned traitor; March, a servant on a quest to avenge his family; and Edyon, a charming thief with no clue about his true identity. As war approaches, they must navigate a tangled web of political intrigue, shifting alliances, and forbidden love in order to uncover the dangerous truth about the strangely powerful smoke that intertwines their fates.

The Belles book cover

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

On their joint 16th birthday, Camellia and her five sisters are sent out to restore beauty to Orléans, where everybody is born gray and ugly. They've been training for this their whole lives. As Belles, the sisters can use their magic to transform the citizens of Orléans from their original states. For the right price, Belles can grant any desired look. When Camellia secures the coveted spot of Her Majesty's favorite, it seems as if her dreams have come true. As the most powerful, sought-out Belle, she is in charge of the royal family's looks. However, the princess is insatiable in her quest for beauty and will do anything to get it—even if it means endangering the Belles and the kingdom—and Camellia may be the only one who can stop her. Not only that, but Camellia finds herself slowly uncovering the secrets of the Belles' origin, and it's not as pretty as she was taught.

Princess Jellyfish 09 book cover

Princess Jellyfish Volume 09 by Akiko Higashimura

Tsukimi Kurashita has a strange fascination with jellyfish. She's loved them from a young age and has carried that love with her to her new life in the big city of Tokyo. There, she resides in Amamizukan, a safe-haven for girl geeks who regularly gush over a range of things from trains to Japanese dolls. However, a chance meeting at a pet shop has Tsukimi crossing paths with one of the things that the residents of Amamizukan have been desperately trying to avoid—a beautiful and fashionable woman! But there's much more to this woman than her trendy clothes! This odd encounter is only the beginning of a new and unexpected path for Tsukimi and her friends. In this final volume, these beloved otaku girls and eccentric boys struggle and fumble their way to their happy endings!


A Reaper at the Gates book cover

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

The epic adventure continues where A Torch against the Night left off. Elias, now the Soul Catcher and urgently needing to heighten his powers, is up to his eyebrows in despairing ghosts and angry jinn. Laia, who loves him, is desperate to foil the world-destroying machinations of the Nightbringer while also saving her people, the Scholars, from destruction. And the Blood Shrike is at sword’s point with the consummately evil Commandant and determined to save her sister from the brutality of the sadistic, increasingly irrational emperor Marcus. Meanwhile, wars (and rumors of wars) threaten to bring the empire to its knees. Treachery abounds and courage seems no match for it.

The Bird and the Blade book cover

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

Enslaved in Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom... until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father across the vast Mongol Empire.On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks' exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into an impossible love.Jinghua's already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand--and if they fail, they die. Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf's kingdom--and his very life--on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she's capable of... even if it means losing him to the girl who'd sooner take his life than his heart.


Giant Days Volume 7 book cover

Giant Days Volume Seven by John Allison; illustrated by Max Sarin; inks by Liz Fleming; colors by Whitney Cogar; letters by Jim Campbell

Fast friends Susan, Daisy, and Esther continue their second year at Sheffield University, and these are formative times, indeed. Education and looking ahead to the future isn’t all that college holds in-store for these ladies; grocery store protests, family reunions, and even an MMORPG wedding are all on this semester’s docket.


Darius the Great is not Okay book cover

Darius the Great is not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He's a Fractional Persian -- half, his mom's side -- and his first ever trip to Iran is about to change his life. Darius has never really fit in at home, and he's sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn't exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they're spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city's skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush -- the original Farsi version of his name -- and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he's Darioush to Sohrab.

American Panda book cover

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Mei Lu is out of place at MIT and everywhere else in her life. At 17, she is younger than all of the other college freshmen. In her Taiwanese family, she is struggling against her parents' expectations of med school and an approved marriage. Mei is a dancer at heart with a lifelong dream of opening a dance studio, and her fear of germs is another strike against her future as a doctor. As she fights to create her own place in the world, she must also restore her relationship with her exiled brother and figure out how her crush on a Japanese fellow student fits into her traditional family's expectations.

What If It's Us book cover

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

When Ben and Arthur cross paths at a post office but fail to exchange contact information, they both regret the missed connection. Through mutual efforts and a healthy dose of coincidence, the boys find each other again. A rocky series of do-over first dates proves that they are different in many ways—Arthur is a white, Jewish, show tune-loving, Southern boy with ADHD who has never been kissed and dreams of attending Yale. Ben, on the other hand, is a Puerto Rican, Catholic, native New Yorker recovering from a recent breakup who is self-conscious about attending summer school and writes a novel in his spare time. However, the boys have one important thing in common—they're both willing to believe in the universe's bringing them together.