The time has come to wrap up my 2017 reading! YA saw some fantastic new releases this year and I can’t quite bring myself to choose a #1 favourite. So here, in publication order, are my top 7 YA books of 2017. Check out the full reviews for more details.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard
A quiet love story about the slow build of a relationship between Steffi, who has social anxiety and selective mutism, and Rhys, who is deaf. It is well-researched, gives as much weight to friendship as it does to romantic relationships and avoids putting rose-tinted glasses on the love interest. As I said in my review, ‘Steffi and Rhys’ romance is very realistic. It has problems, they say things they shouldn’t and they learn from their mistakes. It is a relationship that blossoms from an initial friendship, rather than an immediate in-your-face attraction, and there’s a shyness on both sides when they first get together.’ See my full review here.
We Come Apart – Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan
I read three of Sarah Crossan’s books this year. My love for her writing began when I devoured the entirety of One when I couldn’t sleep one night. However, We Come Apart, her collaboration with Brian Conaghan, is the standout title for me. Written entirely in verse and with a dual narrative, it tackles domestic abuse, gang violence and prejudices against the Roma community. It had a real impact on me: ‘I felt sick with fear, panicked and devastated all in the space of fifty pages, but I am so pleased this book exists. It’s a testament to where we are with YA today and the power it can have.’ See my full review here.
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
I was thrilled when Angie Thomas’ debut novel was chosen for our work book club earlier this year. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, it tells the story of sixteen-year-old Starr, who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Khalil was unarmed and, as some begin to paint a picture of him as a thug and a drug dealer, protesters take to the street in his name. It is a hugely important and well-written book.
Truth Or Dare – Non Pratt
After loving all of Non Pratt’s previous books, I had high expectations of Truth Or Dare and it appeared on my list of most anticipated YA reads of 2017. It tells the story of Sef and Claire, who meet when Claire starts volunteering at the clinic where Sef’s brother, Kam, has been staying since an accident left him with severe neurological disabilities. This book did not disappoint and I loved the creative use of dual narrative. We first read the story from Claire’s perspective, then again from Sef’s. See my full review here.
Freshers – Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison
Freshers did something I had been wanting to see in YA for a long time. It looked at the experience of starting university in the UK and the madness that is Freshers’ Week. Set over the first term, it perfectly encapsulates the highs and lows of being a fresher. It doesn’t shy away from engaging with the darker side of university – such as excessive drinking and power play in society initiations – but also manages to be absolutely hilarious. The missing condom fiasco will stay with me for a long time! See my full review here.
It Only Happens in the Movies – Holly Bourne
Holly Bourne’s It Only Happens in the Movies is one of those books that I devoured so quickly that I forgot to have enough thoughts to form a coherent review that didn’t just say: ‘I LOVE THIS BOOK. BUY IT NOW.’ It is a brilliant takedown of the clichéd, and often misogynist, portrayals of love in film and looks at what real love looks and feels like for teenagers. I really do urge you all to go out and get it, especially if you enjoy YA contemporary and Holly’s Spinster Club series.
Turtles All the Way Down – John Green
The realistic depiction of OCD in Turtles All the Way Down meant that it quickly soared into first place in a list of my favourite John Green novels. After a five-year wait, it was a delight to read something new from John and I was addicted to Aza’s voice. As I said in my review, ‘[Aza] is so clearly written by someone who understands OCD and how debilitating seemingly endless thought spirals can be. Rather than taking an outside perspective and only representing external compulsions (and a narrow view of what those external compulsions may be), John Green draws on his own experience of OCD to show how it feels from the inside. […] It is a triumph.’ See my full review here.
I also need to give a special shout out to Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, which only just missed making this list, and to A Change is Gonna Come, Little Tiger Press’ anthology of short stories and poetry written by authors from BAME backgrounds. It’s harder to include an anthology in a list like this, as you will never love every contribution equally, but I was a particular fan of Nikesh Shukla’s We Who? and Aisha Bushby’s Marionette Girl. I’m delighted to hear Aisha now has an agent and I will be looking out for her work in the future!
What were your favourite books of 2017? Did you read any of the above? Let me know in the comments below.