Meet the Young Adults, the B&N Teen Blog’s swat team of awesome teenaged bloggers. YA literature is a strange and wonderful landscape of books that should be read by everybody, but each month we highlight the perspective of the teens reading the best of the best books written for and about them. Check back monthly to see what they’re recommending next, and read previous installments here.
Crown Of Midnight (Throne of Glass series #2), by Sarah J. Maas
The second book in the Throne of Glass series has everything a sequel should have: magnificent character development and expansive world building. Celaena has just been crowned the King’s Champion and struggles to balance his agenda with hers. It would have been easy (for the author) to separate these two, but that’s what I loved about this book: Celaena’s real life drama was woven in with her own projects. We also finally see Celaena in focused, deadly, no-nonsense assassin mode. She brings ice to the term cold and calculating, yet even when she goes berserk, she’s in control of everything. But these moments where she goes dark plague her conscience, and this lends a depth to her that ultimately makes her compelling. The other two narrators, Dorian and Chaol from the last book, are way less annoying and more engaging throughout this book, and I’m happy to announce that the handling of the love triangle was perfect. They’re each a bit selfish and a bit selfless too—a nice balance to Celaena. Crown of Midnight is sneakiness, emotional tension, politics, and mystery rolled up with a wonderful narrator, cast of supporting characters, and world history that is intricate and intriguing. It seems I have catching up to do in this series!
–Kelvin L., 17, is a figure skater, audiobook lover, and the world’s biggest fan of Vampire Academy and Miss Peregrine. He’s currently reading in order to avoid working on college apps.
Mirror in the Sky, by Aditi Khorana
Mirror in the Sky is a great mix of young adult, science fiction, and romance genres. The plot takes place following the discovery of Terra Nova, a planet that seems to be an almost identical mirror of Earth. Tara Krishnan is a junior, where she is trying to navigate her all-white prep school after recently losing her only friend to Argentina for a year. This book has so many messages about important teen (and adult!) issues of love, secrets, diversity, and genuine friendships, while also providing an intriguing subplot about Terra Nova. Since this mirror planet cannot yet be contacted, Tara is left to wonder about the other version of herself that might be up there, making different decisions, and perhaps, ultimately, living the life she wants to be living. I found this book very special from the way Khorana weaves many stories together and allows you to dive into the characters’ lives while still leaving an element of mystery around all of them.
–Naomi N. is a 15-year-old author, blogger, candy-eater, movie-watcher, and NaNoWriMo participant. She loves books by Nicola Yoon, Rainbow Rowell, and Andrea Portes.
Midnight Star, by Marie Lu
One of my favorite types of characters is the antihero. These heroes are not conventional heroes; they fight with darkness and anger even if they have good intentions. Adelina is, by far, one of my favorite antiheroes. She has good intentions at first, but these are slowly blackened, and her life becomes darker and darker. The entire Young Elites series shows her transformation into an antihero. I loved the alliance; like many, it was formed out of necessity. The stakes are higher in this book than any other, and you can tell Adelina is under a lot of pressure. Being queen isn’t easy, you know. My favorite part was the ending. It was heartwrenching, and I was crying. You can see the love she has for her sister, and that is something that can never be broken. For all her sacrifices, Adelina tries the best to make life better for her sister.
–Hiya, I’m Wren L., the weirdo who watches anime and obsesses over fictional characters. Currently hiding in my hoodie.
Tiny Pretty Things, by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
This was by far the best book I read in December. I put off reading this book for the longest time—”Ballerinas aren’t my thing” was my thought. But this past month, I decided to pick it up, and I’m so glad I did. Each of the three POVs in the story is a girl going to an incredibly competitive ballet school, where they will do anything to get the roles they want. The girls are unique and interesting, and each one has her own reasons for desiring those important roles. This book is darker than you would expect, and I had to keep turning the pages, needing to find out what was happening—and what would happen next. It is haunting and magnificent, and will leave you with only one coherent thought when you finish: “I need to buy the second book.” Oh, and one more thing: It’s also very diverse, and I loved it even more for that.
–Ava M. is a teenage book blogger, reader, and writer of YA. She is an intersectional feminist and advocate for diversity, and drinks a lot of tea. She likes organized bookshelves and reads too many fantasy novels.
Lies We Tell Ourselves, by Robin Talley
As one of the first African American students to enroll in Jefferson High School, Sarah Dunbar has been the object of constant humiliation. Among her peers is Linda Hairston, the daughter of an outspoken and tenacious segregationist. They’re two girls from two different social spheres raised to despise each other for institutional reasons. Thus, when Sarah and Linda are forced to work on a project together, neither is excited about the task. However, through their constant bickering, they move past stereotypes and misconceptions to connect on a human level. As teenagers involved in a conflict much larger than themselves, they question how much of a voice they really have, especially when it’s being drowned out by the chaos around them. Set in 1959, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a devastatingly beautiful novel about the true meaning of sacrifice, the consequences of our decisions, and the struggle to find your voice.
–Nicole S., 15, loves books, people, and Italian food. Her life goal is to reach 5 feet in height.
Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake
It has been said that good things come in threes, and Three Dark Crowns confirms that statement. The book tells the story of triplet queens, cursed to kill each other in a dark tradition. Each girl is born with a unique gift: Arsinoe is a loyal naturalist, Mirabella is a fiery elemental, and Katherine a frail poisoner, and each fights her own unique demons throughout the course of the novel. Blake crafts her malevolent world from the perspective of all three queens, inviting the reader into their minds and humanizing them through honest relationships, wants, and flaws. Her words make the queens come alive, causing the reader to have a stake in each doomed life, in each morally questionable outcome. The story’s pacing is like a firecracker; beginning in a rich, slow burn and ending in a marvelous explosion that will leave you wanting more. One of my favorite aspects of Three Dark Crowns is its myriad strong ladies and female friendships, which, when partnered with themes of perseverance, courage, and fighting for yourself no matter the odds, leads to a fantastic fantasy novel worthy of any shelf. Three Dark Crowns, three gifted queens, three beautifully haunting stories.
–Maddie M., 17, enjoys Jane Austen, waffles, and watching the movie Anastasia on repeat. Her favorite character is Hermione Granger and 80% of the time she can be found either in rehearsal or curled up with a book.
What Light, by Jay Asher
Every year, Sierra and her parents move from Oregon to California for one month to sell Christmas trees on their family-owned lot. While sad to leave friends behind for the holidays, Sierra loves the time she spends in California with other friends. But with the threat of this being her last year on the lot, Sierra tries to make her month in California memorable. What better way to do that than falling in love? Sierra meets Caleb, a boy with a haunted past, and decides to give him a chance, despite others’ disapproval. Sierra and Caleb quickly fall for each other and have to figure out if their love will overcome the obstacles of distance and a troubled past. This book was heartwarming and sad at the same time. It was a perfect book to read around the holiday season to get in the Christmas spirit! It was a quick read and the different relationships in this book were written in ways that made them emotional and realistic. Jay Asher created a little Christmas world of hope and good cheer that I never wanted to leave.
–Ellie T., 17, spends the majority of her time doing homework, or reading and buying YA books. When she is not doing that you can find her binge-watching Netflix or singing off-key to Hamilton.
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
On a scale of Fiji to Florida, this book is a fanciful read. Set during a dazzling New York winter, strangers Dash and Lily, follow a red Moleskine notebook across the city completing dares and having fun. I’d like to congratulate both Rachel Cohn and David Levithan on their diverse word choice. There were so many eccentric words in this novel that made me seriously consider procuring myself an OED unabridged. I love this book! Not because Lily is crazy relatable; not because Dash made me cry beautiful happy tears; but because I love the sense of adventure this book brought me over the holidays. Taking New York Dash and Lily–style is something I can only dream of, and reading this book made my staycation exciting. I recommend it to anyone and everyone. It’s capable of softening even the hardest teenage heart. There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a warm wintry novel about finding love in New York.
–Kaitlin D., 14, professional procrastinator and self-proclaimed bibliophile. Lives in the pantry. May have taken a bite out of the moon.
Ever the Hunted, by Erin Summerill
In Ever the Hunted, Erin Summerill builds an intriguing universe around a beautiful story of magic and secrets. Britta, a clever and strong heroine who knows her way around a bow and arrow, goes on a heart-pounding journey in search of her father’s murderer, and the adventures that entails are full of love, betrayal, pain, and bravery, made even better with mysterious companions along for the ride. The novel is as beautifully written as it is intensely engaging, filled with great characters and magical abilities. With twists and turns in every chapter, the novel keeps the reader engaged from start to finish.
–Katelyn L., 15, loves all genres of books, has too many unread ones on her shelf, and desperately wishes for more time to read.
Wink, Poppy, Midnight, by April Genevieve Tucholke
I’ve been reading a lot of stories recently with endings where everything is tied up in a nice little bow and everyone lives happily ever after. I love those kind of books, the ones that leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling inside, but a book doesn’t have to have that sort of ending to be a good one.
Wink, Poppy, Midnight is more of a shivers down the spine story. It might not be a nice book, but it’s certainly a good one. The writing is incredibly real and truthful, chock full of complex and haunting imagery. The story forces you to look at a situation from more than one perspective, and reminds you that every person has their own story, and often times they intertwine. You might be the hero in your own story, and the villain in another. Sometimes it can be hard to tell who’s who.
–Evalyn H., 15, loves fantasy novels, Disney movies, and snickerdoodle cookies. She is currently working on the third draft of a middle grade fantasy novel cowritten with her father.
Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley
One summer in a small Arkansas town, a woodpecker the world thought was extinct reappears just as Cullen Witter’s brother Gabriel suddenly disappears. Far away, a young missionary is losing his family and his faith. Two seemingly unconnected stories unravel together until they collide in a shocking way. I was left heartbroken over and over again from Cullen’s grief and confusion as his whole life shifts around him. He repeatedly retreats from what is happening and speaks in third person as he imagines insane scenes of his brother returning, making the reader feel just as lost as Cullen does. Once I started reading this book, I never wanted to stop. It is full of mysteries: where is Gabriel? How are these stories connected? What is the deal with this woodpecker? At the moment when everything came together, I found that the wait for answers was completely worth it. Where Things Come Back is full of pain, humor, and, more than anything, uncertainty, and is sure to leave you feeling every emotion.
–Eileen M., 17, has many hobbies, which include playing clarinet, watching funny videos of cats, drinking tea, and reading (duh!).
Wayfarer (Passenger series #2), by Alexandra Bracken
Opening Wayfarer, I expected a story in the same vein as its predecessor, Passenger. What I got instead was five times better. Now separated by space and time, Etta and Nicholas must travel through the centuries in search of the astrolabe, a mythical device of mysterious origins that can create new passages in time, and ensure that it doesn’t fall into the hands of Cyrus Ironwood, who would use it to render his control over history absolute. But there are other, older forces at work, and they have more of a stake in the fate of the astrolabe than anyone knows.
The plot of Passenger, while engaging, was fairly straightforward, with Nicholas and Etta’s journey at the front and center. Wayfarer, on the other hand, is one curveball after another. Though the narration still switches between Etta and Nicholas, there are far more elements at play, as each of them discovers the truth behind time travel, alternate timelines, the mysterious Thorns, the nature of the astrolabe, and their own pasts. The clock is ticking, and with victory in sight, no one is letting up, resulting in an astounding climax where lives are lost, deals are made, and debts are paid as the war over history itself reaches an explosive end.
–Assaf, 17, sci-fi and fantasy addict, would kill a man for cake. Fledgling writer of a fantasy series about a young genius witch and her robotic dragon.
Roseblood, by A.G.Howard
Gorgeous, seductive, thrilling and bittersweet. These would be the adjectives I would use to describe one of my favourite tales ever, The Phantom of the Opera, and that’s exactly what I would like to say about its retelling, Roseblood. Following A.G. Howard’s trademark of a twisted take on classic tales, Roseblood spins a story around a modern gothic boarding school where main character Rune learns to embrace her gift of opera singing—a gift that has also been a curse all her life. With enigmatic characters including the tragically adorable and swoony love interest, Thorn, who with his violin music and beautiful soul will capture your heart; Erik, an interesting gray take on the Phantom himself; and Rune, whose journey becomes your own, Roseblood is a beautifully written story that is vivid, gothic, creepy, romantic, thrilling, and intriguing, and will entice you like seductive and haunting music, slowly, gradually, and passionately.
–Mishma N., die-hard fan of Victoria Schwab, lover of villains and antiheroes, old movies and a capella covers, dreams of working in publishing and opening a bookstore in the future.
We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson
Aliens have kidnapped you, and they now place a decision before you. With one press of a button, you can avert a disaster that will kill all of mankind. Would you press the button? Is humanity worth saving, or would we be better off with a fresh start? Henry grapples with these questions and more in We Are the Ants. At first, he’s not entirely sure if he should save everyone. After all, what’s the point to life when, in the grand scheme of things, we are only ants? Yet, as his life marches on, he goes through all kinds of experiences and realizes how incredibly messy, complicated, and unique life is. Although our lives may not be so important, each life holds an extraordinary beauty that nothing else can create. We Are the Ants is all too relevant in 2017 as, surrounded by seemingly endless violence and harmful isms, we must realize that the fight for our humanity is worth it.
–Abigail L., 14. Slightly obsessed with Hamilton, Steven Universe, Sherlock, Gravity Falls, and YA books (of course!).
The Black Key (Lone City trilogy #3), by Amy Ewing
The third book in a nail-biting trilogy, just released, almost made me explode from absolute joy. Violet and her journey to reform The Jewel and revert back to a time without the elites is captivating, exciting, and heartbreaking all at once. The entire Lone City trilogy is amazingly written with a unique narrative that brings you into Violet’s life and allows you to share her magic. With perseverance and inspiring character, Violet models an exemplary YA protagonist. The Black Key not only wraps up her enticing plot perfectly, but makes sure there are no loose ends. Nothing is left uncovered, and every moment of beginning, middle, and end grip to the reader and will never let go, even after you close the book.
–Madison O., 16, is a Gryffindor/Thunderbird, and a lover of puns, Disney movies, and chicken strips. She once accidentally spit in Kiera Cass’s hair during a Selection book signing.