The Barnes & Noble Booksellers’ Best YA Books of 2018

This year’s best YA novels took readers deep into the oppressed magical land of Orïsha, onto the streets of New York for an epic meet-cute, across the American heartland with a girl hellbent on revenge, and over the high seas with an all-female pirating crew. Hand-chosen by our booksellers, these fifteen books are the best of the best novels for young adults released in 2018.

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Ayedemi (March 6)
Zélie Abedola lives in a world where magic is punished and suppressed, but it wasn’t always this way. When she was small, Orïsha hummed with magic, including that of her mother, a Reaper with the ability to command souls. The ascendance of a ruthless king pushed magic underground and left Zélie orphaned. But now, by the side of a runaway princess in revolt against a brutal crown prince, she may have a chance at restoring magic—if she can ignore the wishes of her own renegade heart. This West African–inspired epic fantasy is tipped as being one of the biggest debuts of the year.

Thunderhead, by Neal Shusterman
Former apprentice Scythes Citra and Rowan have parted ways, with Citra picking up the mantle of service and Rowan vanishing, turned into something of a mythic vigilante who hunts corrupt Scythes. The Thunderhead, of course, cannot interfere in any of the goings-on…but perhaps it will do so anyway, by leading a new character down a strange and stumbling path toward saving the deeply endangered world order.

The Cheerleaders, Kara Thomas
Five years ago, the Sunnybrook high school cheerleading squad was decimated. Two girls died in a car crash, two were murdered, and one—Monica’s older sister, Jen—committed suicide. Now sixteen, Monica is convinced there’s more to the deaths than the official story, and her cop stepfather may be the clue that ties her theories together. A thrilling mystery with dual narrators (Monica in present time, and Jen from the past), it’s guaranteed to keep you on edge.

What if it’s Us?, by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
What happens when two YA authors known for their smart, compelling, and realistic characters join forces for a romantic comedy? Everything good and wonderful in this world! Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda; Leah on the Offbeat) and Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not; History is All You Left Me) have collaborated on an emotional and funny dual-POV story that finds two seemingly opposite teenage boys searching for love after they meet and lose track of each other in the crowded depths of New York City. Ben is convinced the Universe is a jerk and won’t bring them back together, while Arthur believes the Universe will come through with a happy ending. Finding out which boy might be right is part of the joy of this feel-good romance.

Dear Evan Hansen, by Val Emmich (with Steven Levenson, Benji Pasek, Justin Paul)
A smash hit on Broadway, winning six Tony awards including Best Musical, Dear Evan Hansen proves equally adept in novel form at conveying the pain of loneliness and anxiety, the lengths we go to in order to belong, and the hard-won rewards of self-acceptance. Singer-songwriter, actor, and writer Val Emmich (The Reminders) has a talent for bringing complex characters to life. The show’s composers provided him with additional, never-before-seen material to guide him, and the resulting book will delight fans of the musical as well as newcomers to the story.

Kingdom of Ashby Sarah J. Maas
“Once upon a time, in a land long since burned to ash, there lived a young princess who loved her kingdom…” It’s lucky number seven for the Throne of Glass series, and the highly anticipated conclusion, so expect Maas to be in excellent form for her finale. Aelin is trapped in an iron coffin at the bottom of the ocean, leaving Aedion and Lysandra to protect Terrasen from war. Will Rowan find Aelin in time? And what does fate hold for Dorian, Chaol, and Manon?

Sadie, by Courtney Summers
Summers’ propulsive bestseller tells a story in two timeframes. In the first, a girl named Sadie goes on a ruthless, reckless, self-destructive quest to track down her little sister’s murderer and make him pay. The second is transcripts of a Serial-esque podcast following the efforts of host West McCray to track down Sadie a year after she went on her quest—and disappeared. The more he digs and the further down the road of revenge Sadie goes, the more heartrending the story becomes.

#MurderTrending, by Gretchen McNeil
Alcatraz 2.0 sits on an island near San Francisco, live-streaming its brutal, Hunger Games-esque death row killings of society’s most heinous criminals. Dee Guerrera, a teenage girl framed for murdering her stepsister, finds herself among the convicts forced to fight off trained killers for viewers’ edification. With names like Cecil B. DeViolent and Gucci Hangman for the assassins, readers are sure to be laughing while they scream. An inventive and hilarious thrill-ride.

Leah on the Offbeat, by Becky Albertalli
In Albertalli’s third book set in the universe of debut bestseller Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (adapted to the big screen as Love, Simon), Simon’s bestie, Leah Burke, takes center stage. Life has been feeling distinctly off to plus-size Leah: it’s senior year, and she’s struggling with outsider feelings even among her group of friends. She’s dealing with issues of classism, racism, self-esteem, post-high school plans, and feeling alienated even her beloved outlet of drumming—so how can she possibly come out as bi (and start to parse her complicated feelings about Abby), too? Expect love, friendship, angst, and wry humor to spare.

The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert
Alice has never met her grandmother Althea, the cult author of an out of print collection of dark fairy tales, but the woman and her book cast a long shadow. Alice’s itinerant life with her mother, Ella, is marked by the sinister bad luck that chases them from place to place—and when Ella is taken by a shadowy figure of impossible origins, she leaves her daughter with a desperate warning: stay away from Althea’s isolated estate, the Hazel Wood. To retrieve her mother, Alice pairs with a classmate and fairy-tale superfan to travel to the Hazel Wood and beyond, into the ruthless magical world where her grandmother’s stories began.

Seafire, by Natalie C. Parker
Sea captain Caledonia Styx commands an all-female crew, each of whom has lost the things and people they love to vicious warlord Aric Athair and his gang of Bullets. Now, they’re working together to take Athair and his fleet down. But when a Bullet saves her best friend’s life and seeks to join their crew, Caledonia must decide whether letting a boy from across enemy lines aboard is too dangerous, or exactly what it’ll take to destroy their enemy at last.

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik, by David Arnold
Arnold’s brainy and singular third novel centers on an observant high school swimmer with odd rabbithole fascinations. Noah loves his BFFs, writes concise histories of the things that fascinate him, and keeps up the fiction that it’s an injury that has been endangering his chances at a swim scholarship. At a party he meets Circuit, the eccentric son of a dead inventor; after revealing more truths than he intended, he allows Circuit to hypnotize him. When he comes to, his world has changed in subtle, inexplicable ways: his DC-loving BFF has turned to Marvel. His mother has an inexplicable scar on her face. His ancient dog is suddenly unnervingly spry. All that has stayed the same are his strange fascinations, the seemingly unlinked strangers he’s mysteriously compelled by.

Dry, by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
Dystopian fantasy and sci-fi powerhouse Shusterman (Challenger Deep, Unwind) is joined by his son, debut novelist Jarrod, for this near-future tale about a California suburb’s descent into survivalist hell. The so-called Tap-Out has friends and family members turning against one another in their quest to navigate the worst drought in the state’s history. In the middle of it all is sixteen-year-old Alyssa, whose parents have vanished and whose little brother is depending on her.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, by Lauren James
Orphaned aboard the Infinity, a spaceship her late parents were piloting, Romy Silvers is completely alone on a mission to colonize Earth 2. Hope arrives in the form of the Eternity, a second ship that plans to join forces with the Infinity. Awaiting rescue, Romy corresponds with young Captain J, and the two form a bond that may blossom into a deep and abiding love. But then Romy is given reason to wonder if J’s mission and hers are truly the same, or whether his heralds something far more sinister.

The Hate U Give Collector’s Edition, by Angie Thomas
Thomas’s Black Lives Matter–inspired debut remains atop the bestseller list almost two years after its release, has gained fans around the world, and recently hit the big screen. At the heart of the hype is the wonderful story of Starr Carter, sole witness to her childhood friend’s killing by a white cop during a traffic stop. THUG is a breathless, topical, and heartbreaking take on an issue that trends with horrifying frequency, but it’s also a warm, hilarious look at the life of a family and a neighborhood, rendered with vivid, loving specificity. Thomas’s eye for telling detail is true, her dialogue is perfect, and her characters are so concisely drawn you can see every one of them with stunning clarity. Among the extras included in the B&N exclusive collector’s edition are a letter from the author, an excerpt from the stories that inspired the novel, a map of Garden Heights, fan art, and a sneak peek at On the Come Up, Thomas’s next novel.

A Map of Days, by Ransom Riggs
The adventures of Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children continue in their fourth book together, the first in a new story arc. This time,Jacob Portman has brought his peculiar pals across the pond (and through time) to modern-day Florida. While the peculiars attempt to fit in with beachgoing normals from another century, Jacob finds a bunker that reveals as many questions as answers about the secret life of his grandfather, Abe. The atmospherically eerie photographs that serve as a hallmark for this series are still here, but this time, they’re in color.

Bridge of Clay, by Markus Zusak
Internationally renowned author Zusak returns for the first time in thirteen years with a multigenerational saga about five brothers tasked with raising each other after their father disappears. Chronicling their parents’ histories, their lives on their own, and how their lives changed yet again when the father who abandoned them returns, this is a story of secrets, grief, murder, guilt, and kinship.

Queen of Air and Darkness, by Cassandra Clare
The closing installment of Clare’s Dark Artifices trilogy takes place immediately after the wrenching death that ended Lord of Shadows. Magnus is mysteriously, perhaps fatally, ill, a rift is forming among the Clave, and Emma and Julian, parabatai who’ve fallen irrevocably into forbidden love, have passed into Faerie in pursuit of the Black Volume of the Dead. But even more potentially devastating than their personal tragedies is the secret they discover, with the power to transform the Shadow World for good.

War Storm, by Victoria Aveyard
The final book in the bestselling Red Queen series sees Mare still reeling from betrayal, and determined to finally overthrow the kingdom of Norta in the name of the Reds and newbloods. But hurt as she may be, Mare knows alliances are everything, and she doesn’t have much choice in hers. War is coming, and Mare, Cal, and Maven are throwing in with everything they have. But who will actually survive it?

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