The Best Young Adult Books of 2013
Awarding the best young adult novels of 2013 was no easy task, as this year's offerings proved that the genre is stronger than ever: Rainbow Rowell (buoyed by love from mentor John Green) and Sarah Dessen delivered modern, relatable coming-of-age tales, while Andrew Smith and Robin Wasserman got riskier with genre and content. Bestsellers from Holly Black and Rick Yancey proved that vampires and the apocalypse haven't worn out their welcome yet; and David Levithan and Matthew Quick created remarkable characters within real-life controversies. Read on to find out which books we named best hero/heroine, geekiest book, biggest attention-grabber, best sleeper success and much more.
Andrew Smith's realistically crass, painfully awkward high school genius Ryan Dean West is fully realized in this hilarious and brutal coming-of-age tale set at a boarding school. Accompanying Smith's text are wry doodles and comics from illustrator Sam Bosma that make the reader feel as if they've stumbled upon Ryan Dean's journal--and like he wanted them to find it all along.
The vampire and human antagonists in Holly Black's reimagining of vampire lore find that when they challenge heroine Tana, she gives as good as she gets. "I wanted to create a lady protagonist who had some of the kinds of baggage we often give in YA to boy protagonists or boy love interests," Black told us. Tana is at times unapologetically pragmatic when it comes to staying alive, but as the quick-witted, fierce protector, she's the only thing standing between her friends and the hungry vamps who want their blood (or worse).
God bless Rainbow Rowell for not only writing a YA novel about faux-"Harry Potter" fanfiction, but also for giving us a heroine who writes slash fanfiction. Her adorably awkward Cath is an accurate--and not always favorable--reflection of YA readers' creative and obsessive fans and Tumblr peers.
Ten years after the publication of his LGBT love story "Boy Meets Boy," author David Levithan wanted to see what a gay YA love story would look like today. The plot--two boys set a Guinness World Record for longest kiss--is pulled from real life, while the framework grounds this modern tale in history: Watching over the various love stories is the chorus, made up of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS, who comment on everything from hookup apps to how fleeting life is.
Not content with one apocalypse, Rick Yancey brings about the end of the world in five different ways--courtesy of his fearsome alien antagonists. As if destroying all technology with an electromagnetic pulse weren't enough, the invaders also wipe out the human race with a deadly tsunami, avian flu and body snatchers. The ease with which the aliens dispatch nearly 90 percent of the human race makes us glad they exist only in fiction.
All the relationship experts will tell you: You can't love someone else until you can love yourself. As much as it pained readers to watch Lulu and Will separated by time and continents in "Just One Day," their reunion in this sequel was even more satisfying after we witnessed the lengths of self-discovery both reached along the way.
It's always great when an ideal summer read is also set during summertime. That said, while the setting heightens the tension of this uncertain time in a teenager's life, the lessons imparted in Sarah Dessen's latest novel--not settling when it comes to your future, the value of biological vs. chosen family--resonate at any time of year.
Young adult lit lovers know: When John Green gushes about a YA book in the New York Times, you need to get your hands on it immediately. While "Eleanor & Park" could nab several of the accolades on this list, the fact that it lived up to every bit of Green's hype is what makes it truly special. The complex characters, authentic '80s setting and unrelenting, pervasive sadness throughout make for an unforgettable story of first love.
While Robin Wasserman drew from Stephen King's tales of small-town horror for her latest novel, it's the narrative risks she took that made this YA horror novel stand out in 2013. A year after five model citizens became murderers, the sole living killer can't explain what came over them--and a quarantine forces the inhabitants of this small town into even closer quarters. By basing the grisly events on a mix of real psychological experiments and her own dark fears, Wasserman taps into universal fears, allowing "The Waking Dark" to pass over into mainstream horror, as well.
You already know you'll love Leonard from uncool but sweet quirks like his predilection for watching old Humphrey Bogart movies with his elderly neighbor--which will make you even more anxious about his well-being, as he coldly plans a murder-suicide involving his former best friend. But, interspersed between the chapters are letters written from people in Leonard's future, urging him to hang on so he can meet them. Matthew Quick's intricate storytelling will hit you right in the feels.
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