The best young adult books of 2019
Every year our staff vote for their favourite books, albums, films and TV shows of the past 12 months. Here are our top 10 young adult books of the year, voted for by Readings’ staff, and displayed in no particular order.
(You can find all our best picks for books, music & DVDs of 2019 here.)
It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood
This warm and intelligent novel depicts an Australian teen teetering on the cusp of adulthood and new experiences that are both attractive and terrifying. Narrated by the vulnerable and very funny Natalie, debut author Nina Kenwood demonstrates great empathy for her young characters and a real knack for tragi-comedy. For ages 13+.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
The compelling second novel from The Hate U Give author Angie Thomas demonstrates once more her clarion voice and deep insight into the lives of contemporary teens. Young rapper Brianna’s struggles for creative and personal freedoms are given full focus and respect, while Thomas highlights larger frameworks of racism, sexism and structural inequality. For ages 13+.
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
A dazzling, entertaining and highly skilful space adventure from co-authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Aurora Rising takes a diverse cast of loveable rogues and puts them in a series of impossibly dangerous situations. With whip-smart dialogue, high-stakes action and moments of heartrending friendship, this is science fiction of the highest quality. For ages 13+.
Promise Me Happy by Robert Newton
Robert Newton conjures landscape and character with economy and beauty in this story about a young man recently released from juvenile detention finding hope and a new sense of family in a small coastal town. Promise Me Happy packs a gentle and insistent power, and its quietly observational tone is full of humour and understanding. For ages 13+.
This is How We Change the Ending by Vikki Wakefield
After a violent incident at the local youth centre, his only haven from a stressful home life, sixteen-year-old Nate does battle with his own apathy. Vikki Wakefield has captured the vulnerability and potential of youth with an authentic and witty first-person narration, and a deep commitment to exploring violence, toxic masculinity and class disparity. For ages 15+.
I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall
Jess is pitted against the Canadian wilderness and her father’s murderers in this taut thriller that shifts deftly between two timelines to create unbearable tension. Kate Alice Marshall’s ability to immerse the reader in the detailed reality of an extreme survival situation makes for an utterly gripping story of youthful endurance. For ages 12+.
Angel Mage by Garth Nix
Fantasy master Garth Nix has created a stunningly realised alternate seventeenth century world in Angel Mage, a universe where select humans use icons to summon and control angels. With a nod to Dumas’s classic The Three Musketeers, this masterful story presents a diverse and complex range of characters grappling with a unique magic system. For ages 13+.
Monuments by Will Kostakis
Ancient gods and contemporary Sydney teens collide in this fast-paced and highly entertaining fantasy adventure. Will Kostakis has tailored an original mythology and effortlessly married it to a cast of well-developed characters. Romance, one-liners and intrigue round out this unforgettable fantasy novel firmly located in recognisable Australian urban locations. For ages 12+.
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
This sensitive portrayal of a loving immigrant Chinese-Australian family struggling to manage the mother’s untreated mental illness is crafted with sophistication and empathy. Wai Chim immerses the reader in the fraught everyday life of sixteen-year-old Anna and her siblings to explore the unspoken truths within families, trust, cross-cultural relationships, first love and forgiveness. For ages 13+.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
A grieving teen embarks on a road trip of vengeance, looking to destroy the man who has murdered her sister. Braiding together first-person narrative and a true crime podcast transcript, Sadie is an intense thriller imbued with a raw emotional power. Courtney Summers is one of YA’s finest and most uncompromising voices. For ages 14+.