The Best Young Adult Books of 2013

Here are our top ten picks for best young adult fiction from the past year, voted for and loved by Readings staff. (Displayed in no particular order).


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is a misfit with a dysfunctional family. Park doesn’t quite fit in but has a warm, loving home life. One day the odd girl sits next to the comic book fan on the bus and slowly and sweetly they fall in love. The sensuality of young love is beautifully explored here and fans of John Green will love this book.

– Alexa Dretzke


Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

This debut is contemporary YA at its best. The main character is a responsible girl and brilliant pianist who, for the first time in her life, lets herself make mistakes and then picks herself back up in a way that will resonate strongly as well as inspire. The writing is sharp and playful, and the romance is schmaltz-free. I can’t wait to see what this author does next. One to watch!

– Emily Gale


More Than This by Patrick Ness

In the first chapter of More Than This, Seth dies dramatically in rough sea but then wakes up in a deserted, crumbling suburban landscape. The reader, along with a teenage Seth, must piece together exactly what is going on. Is he dead? In hell? Or is this just a dream? Carnegie Medal-winning writer Patrick Ness has crafted a disconcerting and brilliant novel that keeps you guessing.

– Angela Crocombe


Vango by Timothée de Fombelle

This is an adventure story, a murder mystery and an orphan’s search for parentage, set during the rise of Hitler in Europe and the awe-inspiring flight of the Zeppelin. Written by a French author in translation, this novel – with a large and eccentric cast – is thrilling reading for lovers of action-packed adventure.

– Angela Crocombe


The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

As a young girl growing up in 1890s Malaya, it is Li Lan’s duty to marry, but her family’s dwindling fortunes haven’t exactly provided her with a lot of matches. So when a wealthy family approaches Li Lan and asks her to marry their recently deceased son, her father is forced to consider the offer. Li Lan, however, has other ideas, and will have to fight off demons and explore the ghostly afterlife in order to regain control over her life. This is not your typical romance; the vibrant exploration of Chinese mythology makes for a fascinating read.

– Holly Harper


Shine by Candy Gourlay

Shine is an eerie story set on an island where superstitions linger like the dark clouds. Rosa is a teenager living with a rare medical condition and as the book progresses she discovers truths about her family and the strange events that have occurred throughout her life. This is a cleverly addictive and mysterious novel filled with warm characters and moments that do ultimately shine over menacing presences.

– Kim Gruschow


Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

At first glance, Boy is a typical teenage geek, happiest creating code or chatting online. But look again: he’s the son of Frankenstein’s Monster. Rebelling against his dad’s plans for his future, Boy embarks on an exciting cross-country adventure with Jekyll and Hyde’s granddaughters! Man Made Boy is hilariously funny and incredibly inventive, drawing inspiration from fiction and mythology. A marvellously original coming-of-age tale.

– Athina Clarke


Girl Defective by Simmone Howell

It’s summer in St Kilda and Sky is expecting it to be the same as usual: working in her dad’s failing record shop while he drinks too many beers and continues to be miserable. Instead, it’s a summer full of mystery, friendship and love. I called it early that this would be my book of the year and that hasn’t changed. Quirky, creative and original … what more could you ask for? For ages 15 and up.

– Katherine Dretzke


How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Reena and Sawyer fall into a complicated and messy relationship, made harder when Sawyer suddenly leaves without a goodbye and Reena finds herself pregnant. How to Love is a captivating and addictive love story that tackles what can be a taboo subject for parents – teen sex – in a realistic and mature manner. I absolutely loved this. For ages 14 and up.

– Katherine Dretzke


Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Wildlife, set in a bushland outdoor education camp with shared accommodation, is an absorbing novel of teenage life. I loved the authenticity of setting and voice, the drama of shifting friendships and portrayal of kids under pressure. The alternating and very different narrators, Lou and Sibylla, are likeable and strong. A compelling and enlightening read.

– Kathy Kozlowski