Sure, 2016 has been pretty crappy. But there have been some amazing books! Turns out, I read a lot of epic fantasy and quite a bit of non-fiction this year, and I wasn't as excited about some of the new additions to ongoing series as I expected to be, so I don't have a mega long list of 2016 YA releases to recommend. But I read some great standalones, especially in contemporary YA, so if you haven't read them, be sure to check them out!
The Imposter Queen by Sarah Fine
Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic.
Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by magical priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.
But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.
Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.
I was absolutely obsessed with this book, and I can't believe how little buzz it seems to have gotten. Amazing world-building, a fantastic main character, really fun magic, great shippiness, a bisexual protagonist, tons of danger and feminism and adventure. This is such a great fantasy novel, and everyone should read it.
Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden; all bonfires, barbecues, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?
But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past….
Oh my god, this was such a gorgeous feminist contemporary novel. I read Jessica Spotswood's fantasy trilogy last year, and loved it, and she brought all that magic and emotion to her contemporary debut. Just... gah, this is such a beautiful book. It punched me right in the heart, but in a wonderful way.
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Andie has a plan. And she always sticks to her plan.
Future? A top-tier medical school. Dad? Avoid him as much as possible (which isn’t that hard considering he’s a Congressman and he’s never around). Friends? Palmer, Bri, and Toby—pretty much the most awesome people on the planet, who needs anyone else? Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks.
So it’s no surprise that Andie’s got her summer all planned out too.
Until a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all—working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she expected. Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control?
I loved this book so much. It's pretty long for a contemporary novel, and I have to admit, it was a bit slow at the start. But once all the story threads got moving, it was amazing. Romance! Fantasy novels! Puppies! The perfect summer novel, and just thinking about it is making me want to reread it again right now.
This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens.
Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines and ever deeper into the twins' lives.
Finally, a fandom novel that captures what fandom really feels like. This is such a beautiful, low-key book, with a wonderful friendship at its core. The characters feel so real, and just... this is wonderful. Read it!