December 21, 2016

Alexa's Best of 2016: Young Adult & Middle Grade Books

As this year draws to a close, I thought it'd be fun to share some of my favorite things with all of you, both bookish and non-bookish. Beginning today, you'll have a chance to hear me gush all about the things that I've loved in 2016, and I'm so pumped to be able to talk up all of my beloved new favorites! Be sure to keep an eye out for all five posts in this series!

Confession: It was truly difficult to whittle down my favorites, so I may have cheated just a little bit. But here are sixteen(ish) young adult and middle grade reads that I loved this year. From fluffy and lovely contemporary romances to exciting science fiction tales, from cleverly written retellings to epic fantasy adventures, there were so many stories that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. (Note: The books are in no particular order, as I found it impossible to rank them since I loved them for all different reasons.)

Shuffle, Repeat / Jen Klein
I am so glad that Rachel recommended this one to me! I think I said it best in my review: "Honestly, sometimes, you just need a story that will bring a smile to your face. The kind of book that will have you turning the last page, closing the cover, clutching the book to your chest and saying, “That was so good.” And seriously, it was so good. It was fun, and adorable, and there were moments that made me laugh, and moments I saw my own high school self in the characters and moments I swooned. I totally recommend checking this book out!

This Adventure Ends / Emma Mills
When a book is able to capture a part of my character essence so that it resonates deeply with me as I read, I just know it's a winner. That was certainly the case with this book! I related so much to Sloane and to her experiences with her new friends; I loved her relationships with the members of her family; I enjoyed the story. It's just a wonderful, thoughtful, clever young adult contemporary read, and I would definitely say Emma Mills is an author to look out for.

When We Collided / Emery Lord
I seriously love all of Emery Lord's novels, and her latest one was a bit different from her previous work (in spite of having a couple of similarities in writing style and details). What I've always admired about her books is her ability to write teens to be the messy and wonderfully complex people they are, and she definitely does it again here. I truly enjoyed the time I spent with Vivi and Jonah, and I feel like it was another compelling, thought-provoking read from Emery.

The Secret of a Heart Note / Stacey Lee
This one is technically not out until next week, but I had to mention it because I loved it so darn much! It's got the perfect romantic comedy set-up, combined with a touch of magical realism, and it was just the type of the story that I'm always looking for in YA. I fell in love with Mimosa, her life as an aromateur and the shenanigans that ensue when she makes a mistake with one of their clients. It's seriously a book I'd recommend checking out if you like funny, interesting, sweet contemporaries!

The Diabolic / S.J. Kincaid
Holy moly, y'all, I did not see the love I have for this novel coming at all! I'm not much for science fiction, but if it plays out in a way as complex and compelling as it does in this novel, then give me more. I really liked the concept of this novel - a genetically engineered girl who is set to love and protect her owner, and in order to do so, gets sent to pretend to be said owner in a hostage situation - and the way it plays out was really exciting to read. (I am so happy there will be more books!)

Starflight / Melissa Landers
I read one other book from Landers previously, and while I thought it was cute, it didn't really leave too much of an impression on me. This book, however, is one that I absolutely adored! I really loved the romantic relationship in this story, because it's hate to love and so well done. But even more than that, I loved the other parts of the plot and the characters. It was one fun ride of a read, and I'm so looking forward to checking out the sequel in 2017!

Nevernight / Jay Kristoff
Again, this was another book that I didn't expect to love as much as I did! It's got one hell of a kickass main female lead, who takes no shit, uses her brain and actually shows off her murderous skills a time or two. Apart from that, I loved the story and how it unfolded - Mia's journey of revenge, and her time at the Red Church, and the way it ends. And I think, as always, that Jay Kristoff is so, so good at character and world-building; this novel is really well-built and interesting!

Crooked Kingdom / Leigh Bardugo
Holy. Crap. Okay, so I absolutely loved Six of Crows (it was my favorite book of 2015). But this book. THIS. BOOK. This book just blew that one out of the water, which is saying a lot since I thought I would never love another book the way I loved that one. Once again, Bardugo really shows off her mastery of storytelling - there's a plot filled with twists and turns that are so unpredictable that I just let myself be taken along for the ride and a set of characters that you grow to love more than ever. If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and get your hands on this duology because it is fricking amazing and you deserve to fall in love with it like I did.

A Court of Mist and Fury and Empire of Storms / Sarah J. Maas
Here's my little cheat section, mostly because I wanted to feature both of these Maas novels. I just love Sarah J. Maas, okay? I really enjoyed Empire of Storms, because it continued moving Aelin's story forward and because I got to spend time with my squad. But I personally feel like A Court of Mist and Fury beat it just the teensiest bit in the spot for the Maas novel that had majority of my heart this year. It's just so well-done! Sarah really turns a lot of things we learned of in the first book on their heads, and she manages to do it in a way that felt really organic. Plus, the characters in that one are just the absolute best and I can't wait to get my hands on the third book next year!

The Shadow Queen / C.J. Redwine
It's been months and months since I've read this one, but I still love it so, so much. It's one of the best fairytale-inspired stories (inspired by Snow White) I have ever read! I loved how exciting this story was, and how real these characters became to me, and how fun it was to discover nods to the original source material throughout the book. I honestly didn't expect to fall head over heels in love with this book, but I did and I am so not complaining about having a new series to love. Can't wait for the companion novel!

The Crown's Game / Evelyn Skye
I really, really, really enjoyed this book (so much so that I book pushed it on Danica and she loved it too). It combines Russian elements, intriguing magic and a structured plot into a story that is whimsical and wonderful and also just a little bit dark. I honestly was impressed by how much thought went into building the world and the magical system, and I like how the author allowed the story to play out. I'm also very much looking forward to the sequel of this book!

The Forbidden Wish / Jessica Khoury
Here's another fairytale-inspired story that I thought was wonderful, only this time it's inspired by Aladdin. With nods to recognizable elements, Khoury also manages to tell a tale that's all her own. I love that she chose to shift the focus onto the djinni instead of Aladdin. It definitely gave this story an interesting approach, one that I happened to absolutely love. The story unfolds perfectly from start to finish, and I loved it!

Heartless / Marissa Meyer
I already had full confidence that this book would be sensational before I went into it, simply because Marissa proved she could put her own spin on classic stories with her series. And I was right! This cleverly plotted tale, set in the whimsical and wonderful Wonderland universe, is all about the Queen of Hearts before she becomes queen, and I definitely feel like you could consider this the real deal. I loved the characters, loved the world and definitely thought the story was compelling.

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls / Claire LeGrand
I finally read my first ever LeGrand novel, and I adored it! This creepy middle grade isn't actually something I would have picked up if I didn't really admire Claire, but I'm so glad I did. It was imaginative and interesting and all sorts of fun to read. I liked the basic premise of the story, but I had no idea where Claire was going to take it - but that definitely worked in its favor.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles / Patricia C. Wrede
Oh man, I'm so, so happy that Macky recommended this series (and even bought the box set for me). I would have spent another year of my life not knowing about these stories, and that would have been totally tragic! I fell hard for this story, because the characters are so funny and so smart, because the situations that occur are both excellent scenarios in middle grade fantasy and also just really hilarious and the sheer amount of sass sprinkled in this series is amazing. Plus, Wrede turns quite a few fairytale tropes on their head and I liked that a lot. Would highly recommend checking this out!

The Amulet series / Kazu Kibuishi
I'm pretty obsessed with this middle grade graphic novel series. It's got adventure, it's got interesting technology and magic, and it's got so many characters that I loved. Not only did I find the volumes addicting to read (and devoured them super fast), I also really liked the art style too! I'm definitely a big fan of the entirety of this series, and certainly think it's worth checking out whether you're young or young at heart.

What were your favorite young adult and middle grade reads in 2016?
Don't forget to check back for another "Best Of" post tomorrow!


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