7 YA Novels That Brilliantly Showcase The Genre

Are you a sucker for bold, brilliant, suspiciously good and scarily bingeable young-adult fiction? Are you sick of the flouncy formulaic romances that have seemingly occupied the genre? Are you dying, begging, and ardently waiting for genuinely good YA fiction? Well then, you’re at the right place, because this list promises to contain at least one, if not all 7, of your next favourite YA reads. Exploring seminal themes of the genre, from run-away-adventures and the critical ‘coming-of-age’ to forays into substance abuse, fractured families and a constantly shifting sense of self, these glittering new voices are here to reaffirm your faith in the genre and its boundless potential.

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez

Transporting readers to the rich and rife realm of Bolivian politics, history and culture, Ibanez’s enchanting coming-of-age follows Ximena, a young nominal Condessa (countess), standing in for the last of the Illustrian royals. Reigning over a people who had long been terrorised by usurper Atoc, a terrifying man armed with spirits who do his bidding, Ximena thirsts for vengeance, as well as access to that fabled artefact that sits at the core of Atoc’s ghostly powers. Taking us through the vivid tapestry of Bolivia, invoking its beauty, revolution and heart, this critically acclaimed debut novel has superbly diversified YA fiction, introducing readers to a feast of culture, as well as a fantastic world replete with great romances, strong heroines, courtly intrigue and a whole lot of magic.

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

When the tap runs out, a teenage Alyssa and her uncle drive down to the nearest Costco, only to find a fearfully long and dreadfully combative line of all affected by the great Californian drought– the Tap-Out. Neal and Jarrod Shusterman’s compelling YA truly stands apart, offering a thought-provoking and urgent ‘what if’ that critiques our flippant attitudes through an extremely possible dystopian scenario. Thrilling, evocative, and unadulterated, this book will leave you parched and rightly anxious as a relaxed suburban threatens to transform into a war zone.

Butter by Erin Lange

Taking the concept of ‘fitting in’ to a whole new level, this brilliant, hilarious and invigorating novel presents a powerful meditation on the effects of bullying and the turmoils of lonely alienations. With a 400-pound protagonist, “Butter”, willing to eat himself to death on the live telecast, Lange’s novel decidedly rejects all restraints in exploring the complex psychology of its characters as well as the dark contemporaries they occupy. A scathing critique of social standards and their exclusionary practices, “Butter” is a marvel in the world of young adult fiction.

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh

Brilliant, evocative and tough, Iloh’s bildungsroman in verse is a non-linear text narrated through the eyes of its protagonist, jumping in and out of time through a series of powerful flashbacks that offer a comprehensive glimpse into the life of a young Nigerian girl navigating her place in the world. Written by a queer first-generation Nigerian-American poet and author, “Every Body Looking” powerfully captures the quintessential experience of coming to age and discovering the many gazes and schemas that threaten to cage the female body and spirit.

Junk by Melvin Burgess

Written in 1996, this accomplishment in children’s literature and literary realism narrates the lives of heroin-addicted teenagers living in mid-80s Bristol. A provocative book that minces no words and stands strong in the face of public outrage, its plot follows runaway teenagers Gemma and Tar as they discover a community of squatters and fall deep into a world of anarchic rebellion and spoonfuls of addiction. A quintessential addition to YA literature, comparable to Requiem For A Dream and Beautiful Boy, “Junk” promises to be a gripping read that, while depressing, continues to be a highly relevant and important book.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Fans of Juno and Little Miss Sunshine unite! Arnold’s brave new novel takes us on a Kerouacian journey into the fevers of adolescence as well as the vast scapes of America. After her parents’ sudden divorce, young Mim Malone is forced to live with her father, in the belly of dull Mississippi. Learning of her mother’s unexpected illness, Mim embarks on a spontaneous adventure, booking a Greyhound bus that’d take her through a thousand miles of quirky characters and deep personal realisations. A book that’s equal part disturbing and delightful, “Mosquitoland” poignantly analyses the troublesome and wonderful parts of young adulthood.

That Way Madness Lies Ed. by Dahlia Adler

An anthology of 15 Shakespearean narratives, reworked and critically retold for a young adult audience, “That Way Madness Lies” is truly a landmark attempt to revive canonised classics to carefully contemplate the nature of their staying power as well as their outmoded systems of thought. Adapted and rewritten by a host of brilliant new-age authors, this compilation revisits all favourites, from Macbeth to Sonnet 147 (‘My love is as a fever, longing still’), proving to be a labour of love that introduces the Bard to a contemporary audience.

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