YA Friday: Favorite Books of 2019

For YA books, 2019 has been an incredible year filled with sweeping historical fiction, lush new fantasy worlds, and emotionally complicated romance. Among the sparkling debuts this year, we were gifted sequels we've been desperate to get our hands on and additions that returned us to worlds from series past.

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 2020, this list is a perfect place to start.

Everyone's Favorites

Lovely War, book cover

Lovely War by Julie Berry

It's 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She's a shy and talented pianist; he's a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it's immediate and deep--and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields. Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who's played Carnegie Hall, he's a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that's before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who's already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans. Thirty years after these four lovers' fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, book cover

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki

Frederica Riley's tall, confident, and effortlessly cool girlfriend Laura Dean is the most popular girl in school. Laura breaks Freddy's heart over and over again, but Freddy still takes her back each time. Doodle, Freddy's BFF, introduces her to Seek-Her, a mysterious medium who echoes what Freddy's friends have been saying: stay away from Laura. But Freddy continues to sacrifice friendships for the sake of a destructive relationship, and consulting advice columnist Anna Vice may be the teen's last chance to listen to reason.


Shout, book cover

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she's never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society's failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #MeToo and #TimesUp, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice-- and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.


There's Something About Sweetie, book cover

There's Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Seventeen-year-old, swoonworthy Ashish Patel is the basketball star of Richmond Academy. Bummed after being dumped by his college girlfriend, he challenges his parents to make good on their constant threat to find him an Indian American girl to date. Their choice is Sweetie Nair, Piedmont High’s track star. When Ashish’s mother proposes the match, Sweetie’s mother adamantly insists that their children aren’t compatible—namely because Sweetie is fat. Furious with her mother’s constant ragging about her weight, Sweetie takes matters into her own hands and agrees to the Patels’ four-date contract without telling her parents. Ashish and Sweetie accept the arrangement, each feeling they have something to prove, wondering if this arranged match will work, and not knowing what will happen when Sweetie’s parents find out. With each date they realize there's an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?

With the Fire on High, book cover

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Slayer, book cover

Slayer by Kiersten White

In this paranormal novel set in the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" universe, raven-haired twin sisters Athena "Nina" and Artemis live at the Watchers Academy, an Irish castle, training as Watchers. Nina hates Buffy because her father was Buffy's first Watcher and the slayer caused his death. Two months previously, another dimension was close to taking over Earth's. Watchers and many potential new Slayers were killed. Buffy destroyed magic and all interdimenstional portals and then disappeared. Now there's no Slayer. Her whole life, Nina's considered herself inferior to Artemis. Artemis trained as a Watcher and Nina was relegated to medic. Ever since magic was destroyed, Nina's felt stronger. After effortlessly killing a hellhound, Nina realizes that she's a Slayer — possibly the last one.


Belly Up, book cover

Belly Up by Eva Darrows

Know what's more fun than being the new girl for your senior year? Being the pregnant new girl. It isn't awesome. There is one upside, though--a boy named Leaf Leon. He's cute, an amazing cook and he's flirting me up, hard-core. Too bad I'm knocked up with a stranger's baby. I should probably mention that to him at some point. But how?


Squad, book cover

Squad by Mariah MacCarthy

High-school junior Jenna's life has always centered around cheerleading. She's an A student and a little sister, living with her older brother and single mom, but first and foremost she's an athlete. She's hoping for a cheerleading scholarship for college, and most of her social life revolves around the squad. And that's why it's so shattering when her teammates suddenly start treating her differently. Jenna finds herself increasingly out of the loop: she's the butt of every joke, she's excluded from plans, and her longtime best friend, Raelynn, alternates between putting Jenna down or icing her out entirely. As Jenna, confused and hurt, balances the collapse of her social life with her love of the sport, she reconnects with her older brother and his friends, including trans boy James. As she joins their live-action role-playing group, settles into a new kind of camaraderie, and develops feelings for James, Jenna finds herself discovering—and trying out—new identities.

You Owe Me A Murder, book cover

You Owe Me A Murder by Eileen Cook

A modern-day teen twist on the Patricia Highsmith's classic Strangers on a Train. When 17-year-old Kim is forced to go on a school trip to London with her ex-boyfriend Connor and his new girlfriend, she seethes. The idea of having to spend months touring around with them is enough to make her want to kill someone. Of course, she would never actually consider that, despite how callously Connor recently ended things. While waiting at the airport for their delayed flight to board, Kim meets Nicki—British, daring, and sophisticated. On the plane ride, Nicki listens to Kim vent about her ex and shares her own troubles with a controlling, alcoholic mother she wishes would disappear. Nicki even jokes that she could kill Connor, in exchange for Kim killing her mother. But when Connor is killed by a train a few days later, Kim wonders if it was an accident or if Nicki could have been serious. Now Kim owes Nicki a murder, or else Nicki will use Kim's list to have her take the fall for Connor's murder. Will she be able to outsmart Nicki or will she have to commit a crime?


Rebel, book cover

Rebel by Marie Lu

Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother.

A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe―even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life.

As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them. Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own...


The Wicked King, book cover

The Wicked King by Holly Black

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished. When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.


Kiss Number 8, book cover

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen A. F. Venable

On the surface, Amanda’s life seems ideal. She has good friends at church and school, a great relationship with her dad, and her only real problems are a nagging mom and unwanted attention from the boy next door. Overhearing her father talking to another woman changes everything in an instant. To make matters worse, Amanda is beginning to realize that she has romantic feelings for Cat, her best friend. Trying to cope with the confusion, Amanda makes some rash, poor decisions and digs herself into a heap of trouble, but help comes from a couple of unexpected sources.


Capturing the Devil, book cover

Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London they knew. But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World's Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they've heard of before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him---and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device---is another.

Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end---together and in love---or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?

King of Scars, book cover

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Following the events in in both the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, King Nikolai struggles to keep his kingdom afloat in a destabilized, rapidly changing world. Though Ravka's civil war ended three years ago, Ravka still faces threats both domestic—pretenders to the throne, policies that are popular with commoners but anger nobility—and external—old enemies like Fjerda, debts owed to Kerch. Worse, for the past 6 months Nikolai has been struggling with an enemy inside himself: The monstrous curse thought ended by the death of the Darkling re-emerges when he sleeps, posing a danger to his people, crown, and soul. With traveling becoming too risky given his secrets, Nikolai and his inner circle hatch a display of strength that will bring the other powers to him for diplomacy, using the cover of his seeking a queen. Meanwhile, in the months since the end of Crooked Kingdom, grieving Nina has returned to Fjerda on a mission to rescue and recruit Grisha. Following the call of her changed abilities, she's drawn to an area with poisoned waters and a mysterious factory holding dark secrets.

Serpent & Dove, book cover

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Two years ago Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic. Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived by one principle: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Then a wicked stunt forces the two into holy matrimony. Lou is unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is. A choice must be made... and love makes fools of us all.


The Downstairs Girl, book cover

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Jo Kuan knows that because she's Chinese, she does not fit anyone's expectations in 1890 Atlanta, but she doesn't mind. She's happy to be unobtrusive, making hats for the fashionable women in town and staying out of trouble with her adoptive father, Old Gin. But when she loses her job at the hat shop, Jo must find work elsewhere, returning to the household of one of the most important families in town to serve as a lady's maid for their daughter. Saddled with an ungrateful mistress, Jo must face the inequalities in her city. Frustrated, she begins penning an anonymous advice column as "Miss Sweetie," dispensing opinions on everything from fashion to suffragettes. Jo is happy with anonymity, but soon Atlanta is abuzz with curiosity about Miss Sweetie, leading Jo to wonder if remaining quiet and safe is the most important thing or if there are reasons to speak up.

Dig, book cover

Dig by A. S. King

The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family's maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being simple Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a seven-figure bank account, wealth they've declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grand children.

"Because we want them to thrive," Marla always says.

What does thriving look like? Like carrying a snow shovel everywhere. Like selling pot at the Arby's drive-thru window. Like a first class ticket to Jamiaca between cancer treatments. Like a flea-circus in a doublewide. Like the GPS coordinates to a mound of dirt in a New Jersey forest. As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings precious white suburban respectability begins to spread, the far flung grand children gradually find their ways back to each other, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.

The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel, book cover

The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel by Renee Nault

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships. She serves in the household of the Commander and his wife, and under the new social order she has only one purpose: once a month, she must lie on her back and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if they are fertile. But Offred remembers the years before Gilead, when she was an independent woman who had a job, a family, and a name of her own. Now, her memories and her will to survive are acts of rebellion.

Renee Nault adds beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations to an abbreviated retelling of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Nault's visuals add to the depth of Atwood's poetic world building and all the feels of the modern classic.