The 5 Best Young Adult Fiction Books of 2020 from A Librarian

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Happy New Year everyone! Did you make a resolution to read more this year? I used to set a reading goal  (a book a month, for example) but that was not a successful project.  So instead, I developed a tradition of looking back at the books I read in the past year and remembering which ones I love. As a WICKED slow reader, I have two tricks to reading a lot: 1) Audiobooks 2) Young Adult fiction. Captivating, powerful and memorable stories packed with STANDOUT writing. Yes, please! I read some of the best YA fiction of 2020 and I can’t wait to share them with you. 

These are my picks for the best Young Adult Fiction Books of 2020:

Book Cover This Light Between US - best YA fiction of 2020This Light Between Us by Andrew Fakuda

This book is the new Book Thief. Part love story and all historical fiction. This epistolary (written in letters) novel tells the story of Alex and Charlie who are oceans apart but deeply connected through their letters. As World War II ravages Europe and imprisons Japanese American citizens at home, their connection endures. Impeccably written and painfully realistic, Alex and Charlie will be forever in your hearts. Just be sure to have tissues on hand! I recommend pairing this with Internment or They Called Us Enemy. 

Be Not Far From Me book cover - best young adult fiction books of 2020Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis. 

Mindy McGinnis writes some intense books but they are SO good! In some of the best YA fiction of 2020, and this book is also an amazing audiobook, Ashley heads out camping in the Smoky Mountains with some of her “friends”. Drunk and heartbroken, Ashley runs away from the camp only to fall down a ravine. When she wakes up – injured, shoeless, and far away from her campsite -wits, grits  and survival skills are all that keep her alive. You’ll sign up for Scouts again after this one. Also, DO NOT MISS her 2019 book, Heroine, a powerful story about a teen athlete who struggles with addiction after a traumatic injury. 

Once and Future Book Cover - standout Young Adult fiction of 2020Once and Future  by Amy Capetta Rose and Cori McCarthy. 

This twist on the Arthurian legend is set far away in space and time. Gender bending, adventurous and witty, this is great for sci-fans. Arthur and Merlin keep getting reincarnated but there are a few wrinkles in this situation. First, Arthur never knows that he has a fate to save the universe so Merlin has to find him, or her, as the case may be.  Second, Merlin is getting reincarnated younger each time and needs to accomplish his mission before he is a baby! A fun sequel for any fantasy, sci-fan readers.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely book coverA Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer.

I love a good fairy tale retelling. I get that it isn’t for everyone but I love the creativity of turning an old familiar story on its head.   In this retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Harper is living on the edge in Washington, D.C. where her only agenda is keeping her dying mom comfortable and surviving.  That is, until a chance encounter pulls her into Prince Rhen’s kingdom in another dimension.  Surviving his own version of hell, Prince Rhen and Harper join forces to break a curse and get back to life as they knew it… 

If you love fairy tale retellings, like I do, also check out The House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin Craig.  It is a fabulous retelling of the lesser known, Twelve Dancing Princesses.

Wilder Girls Book Cover - standout YA fiction of 2020Wilder Girls by Rory Power. 

Fair warning: this might not be the best book to read mid-pandemic, as I did. One of the best young adult fiction books of 2020 — for realistic reasons, eek! Described as “a feminist Lord of the Flies”, this dystopian fiction novel will give you chills. Set at an idyllic girls’ boarding school on an island in Maine, Hetty and her friends are 18 months into  hard quarantine after “the Tox” arrived. The mysterious illness has killed off all the adults and is infecting the girls with a variety of disfigurements. When one of Hetty’s best friends disappears, she sets out on a rescue mission that uncovers secrets, lies, and betrayal. Hang on to your hats, folks. You will be sucked in. 

Six of Crows Book Co verBonus: Six of Crows  by Leigh Bardugo.

Ok, this is an “old” one. Published in 2015, I never got around to reading this one, even though I’ve heard how good it is. Finally, my teen book club convinced me to read it NOW.  And I will say, they were 100% right.  Leigh Bardugo is a masterful writer and I was completely and immediately sucked into her Grishaverse.  Part Oceans Eleven heist, part old European alchemy, the characters are complex, the setting vivid and lush, and the story captivating. I highly recommend reading this series before it comes out on Netflix in 2021! 

Do you agree with my picks for best YA fiction of 2020? How many of them have you read? What else is on your TBR list? Share them with me in the comments!

All links are to Indiebound.org but you can also find many of them at your local Seacoast library

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