What happens when you put together four YA contemporaries, three historical fictions, one alternate history, one science fiction, and one book that defies genre entirely? Why, my top ten books of the year list, of course!
Yes, it’s that time of year when everyone is releasing their top books of 2018 lists. And here I am adding to the pile! This list is from all the books I read in 2018, not just the new releases from this year. (Although six of these books are 2018 releases…)
These are in the order that I read them because there’s NO WAY I can rank all of these amazing books. So here they are: my top 10 books of 2018!
Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
“People tell you that what happens to you is a direct result of the choices you make, but that’s not fair. Half the time, you don’t even realize that the choice you’re about to make is significant.”
Jane’s aunt always told her to go to an isolated mansion called Tu Reviens if she got the chance. Now, her aunt is dead and Jane has been invited by an old friend to attend a gala there. At Tu Reviens, though, nothing is quite as it seems. Jane is offered a choice, and her decision will lead to five different stories with vastly different yet interwoven outcomes.
This book is…near impossible to explain. Somehow, it manages to tell five stories of different genres which overlap and intersect and build off each other. This whole book is a mystery with each section a puzzle piece creating the final picture. It’s one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read. While reading, I had to put the book down several times and scream because it went in a direction that I did not expect yet worked so perfectly.
Kristin Cashore has a way of writing complex women that I rarely find in books, and this one is no exception. I can understand why this book is not for everyone, but if you’re looking for something wholly unique and mind-blowing, this is it.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
“Sometimes I think we’re the same person…but we just got accidentally split into two before we were born.”
Frances Janvier is a good student. Head girl, top of her class, on track to get into any university she wants. But when she’s alone, she turns into a fangirl who loves creating fanart for her favorite podcast, Universe City. When she befriends lonely, brilliant Aled Last, she feels able to show this part of herself for the first time.
This book came to me in precisely the right moment of my life, reminding me that academic achievement is not the most important thing in the world. It also gave me two beloved characters. Frances, of course, is just about the most relatable character I’ve ever read, and Aled is a precious bean who I want to wrap up in blankets and protect forever. The friendship between them is definitely the highlight of this book, giving my heart all the warm-fuzzies. They clearly love and care for each other even if it’s not in a romantic way.
Alice Oseman writes teenage characters and internal thoughts in a way that feels so real. Also, the examinations of online fandom and culture was incredibly realistic. This book will forever be one of my all-time favorites.
Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
“That has to be the best part of being in love – the feeling of having a home in some else’s brain.”
This sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda follows Leah Burke as their friend group reaches the end of their senior year of high school. Navigating changing relationships and an era coming to an end, Leah has to face feelings she’s tried to push down and find the courage to be herself authentically.
I loved being able to return to the characters from Simon vs., which I already fell in love with in that book and got to know even better in this one. The highlight of this book is definitely Leah as a narrator. In Simon, it’s clear that she has depths to her that even her closest friends don’t understand, and here we finally get a glimpse into her mind. Leah comes across as tough and unbreakable, but inside she’s just as vulnerable as any teenager. It was a joy to get to know her as a character.
This series never fails to put a smile on my face; even now, I get so happy thinking about what happens in this book. Becky Albertalli is another author that writes teenagers with such authenticity. I’m so happy this book exists in the world.
Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich
“I wish that everything was different. I wish that I was a part of something. I wish that anything I said mattered, to anyone. I mean, let’s face it: would anybody even notice if I disappeared tomorrow?”
Based on the Broadway musical, this book follows Evan Hansen, an anxiety-ridden high school student who feels like he doesn’t matter to anyone. When a classmate commits suicide and Evan is mistaken as his best friend, Evan finally starts getting attention from the people around him. But as the lie grows bigger, it moves beyond Evan’s control.
When I learned that one of my favorite musicals was being turned into a YA novel, I was so excited. And this book absolutely lived up to my expectations! The story is already one that means a lot to me, so experiencing it in the course of these pages was so special. You don’t have to be familiar with the musical to appreciate this book, though. The story of Evan and Connor and Zoe and Jared is beautiful and touching in any medium.
Most of all, this book is a reminder that no matter how alone you feel, there are always going to be people whose lives are touched by your presence. Evan is a character that is relatable to so many readers, and I’m so happy that this book exists so that lots of people can experience its beauty!
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
“Maybe I still haven’t become me. I don’t know how you tell for sure when you finally have.”
In 1990s rural Montana, Cameron Post is raised by her conservative aunt after her parents’ sudden deaths. Amid hiding her attraction to girls and various teenage shenanigans, Cameron grows up and deals with her loss, until the day that her aunt discovers her secret and sends her to a religious conversion camp.
Heartbreaking yet hopeful, slow-moving yet captivating, this book took me absolutely by surprise. This is, first and foremost, a coming-of-age novel about a girl who doesn’t quite fit into her world, for whom being herself is dangerous. Despite the pain that comes through in every page, there’s also a sense of nostalgia and fondness for this place that she grew up. Even though she lost her parents and had to hide parts of herself, she also had so many beautiful memories growing up in Montana. Nothing about this book is simplified or easy. It packed an emotional, bittersweet punch that will stick with me for a long time.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
“It’s a cruel, cruel world. And the people are the worst part.”
The American Civil War was derailed by an outbreak of zombies, an epidemic that only seems to be growing worse. Jane McKeene is one of the many young black women conscripted to schools where they learn to fight the “shambler” threat, but Jane intends to find her way back to her old home. That is, of course, until she gets entangled in a strange conspiracy and must fight for her life and her freedom.
Who knew that a book combining already amazing elements could be even more amazing than expected?? Shocking, I know. Nonetheless, I was surprised by how much I adored every minute of this book. Not only was it a fun, fast-paced action story with badass girls killing zombies, but it was a nuanced examination of race and colorism in late-nineteenth century America. Even though Jane’s training gives her the ability to defend herself, she is forced into her role and questions whether this system is any better than slavery.
In addition, Jane herself is easily one of my new favorite female characters. Clever and snarky, as well as fearless and ruthless, she pushed her way into my heart and won’t let me go.
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
“You deserve to be here. You deserve to exist. You deserve to take up space in this world of men.”
This sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue follows Monty’s sister Felicity, who dreams of being a doctor during a time that women were forbidden from the practice. Discouraged and angry, Felicity sets off across Europe with a mysterious new companion, hoping to find a doctor she idolizes and convince him to teach her everything he knows.
This book may take place in the 1700s, but so much of it connects disturbingly to today’s world. Felicity’s desire to become a doctor in a world that refuses her parallels the struggles of so many women even today who are refused and told they’re asking for too much. But Felicity shows us that we’re allowed to want and wish and ask for things. She was already a favorite thanks to Gentleman’s Guide, but this book brought my love for her to new heights. She doesn’t fit into this world that doesn’t believe in her capabilities, so she sets out to prove her strength and worth and courage. It’s truly inspiring to behold.
This book has all of Mackenzi Lee’s usual wit and adventure, along with memorable characters and an exciting story – basically the perfect book, ngl.
What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
“I don’t know if we’re in a love story or a story about love.”
When Arthur and Ben have a meet-cute in a post office, Arthur is sure the universe is telling them to stay together, while Ben is a little more cynical after a recent breakup. They end up finding each other again, but Arthur is only in New York for the summer, and making a relationship work isn’t as easy as Broadway musicals have always led him to believe.
Not only was this book absolutely charming, heartfluttery, nerdy, and adorable, but it managed to tell a wonderful story with interesting characters and flip some rom com tropes on their head. Ben and Arthur may have a meet-cute, but their love story doesn’t work itself out perfectly. It’s something that they have to work for and constantly readjust their expectations. Somehow, it’s both realistic and really cute.
This is another book that just fills my heart with happiness when I think of it. I couldn’t stop smiling for much of the time that I was reading. Full of musical and Harry Potter references, it combines Becky and Adam’s writing styles perfectly to create a delightful love story that I can’t stop thinking about.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
“The power that each of us has over complete strangers to make them feel terrible and frightened and weak is amazing.”
One night in New York City, April May stumbles across a huge robotic statue on the sidewalk. After the video she makes with her best friend Andy goes viral, April learns that these statues – which she named “Carl” – have appeared all over the world without explanation. As the world struggles to understand what all of this means, April deals with her newfound fame and the platform that she suddenly has to use her voice.
This book took me by surprise at every turn. I knew the basic premise going in, but it went in directions that I was not expecting at all, and I could not be happier. It creates this strange mix of sci-fi and contemporary and mystery, written in an irreverent and millennial voice, and I flew through it.
One of the best aspects of this book was April May herself. She is undoubtedly an unlikeable character – she makes many mistakes, but she feels so realistic and human through them. As much as this was a book about first contact, it was even more a book about humans, the good, the bad, and everything in between. It far exceeded my expectations and I need the next book asap.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
“Sometimes reality comes crashing down on you. Other times reality simply waits, patiently, for you to run out of the energy it takes to deny it.”
Evelyn Hugo is a golden-age Hollywood icon, so Monique Grant doesn’t know why Evelyn has chosen her – a little known journalist – to tell her life story. As Evelyn tells of her rise to fame, and the seven husbands she had along the way, long-held secrets come uncovered and Monique learns of her own part to play in this story.
It’s hard to even express how incredible this book was to me. Going in, I had no idea how strongly I would be affected by this book – and how many tears I would shed over it. (Spoiler alert: there were a lot of tears.)
Maybe what really got me was how honestly this book told the story of one woman’s life, all the way from childhood to the end of her life. All of the heartbreaks and hardships, every triumph and wrong decision. We saw everything that Evelyn sacrificed for her fame, and we saw her relationships growing and changing and occasionally breaking throughout time. The characters are lifelike and flawed and develop so much over the course of the book. This story is truly beautiful and memorable, not one that I will forget anytime soon.
What were some of your favorite reads of 2018? Have you read any of the books on my list?