Okay, so best YA Contemporary is a little subjective and is my best contemporary reads of 2017 for YA and you’ve been a little spoiled if you follow me on Twitter for several of these. That said, I hope you enjoy my list of favorite YA Contemporaries that I read in 2017!
1. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Hello, Molly, my soul sister. I have never related to a main character so much in my life and as I mentioned in my 2017 End of Year Survey, I found it a little terrifying to be as seen as I was by this book. Becky Albertalli writes with a nod to popular culture, which is something several people dislike, but I am definitely not one of those people. I adore the way she writes and I’m pretty sure we would be friends in real life because our senses of humor seem aligned. Anyway, Becky Albertalli murdered me a bit with this book, breaking me completely, and then healing my heart and leaving it a little stronger than when I started the book. It sounds melodramatic, but I assure you, this book means so much to me.
2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
First of all, this book is obviously incredibly important and the fact that it was Angie Thomas’s debut novel is astonishing because it’s absolutely perfection in the way it’s written. Second, and to me more important, the characters in this book feel like real people. And the positive familial relationships are so unique in YA, which has always frustrated me because I have a great relationship with my parents and always have. It was really great to see a similar experience reflected in THUG, even if otherwise, mine and Starr’s lives are quite different. I loved this book and cannot wait to see it on the big screen!
3. Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Summers
Goodness, this book is beautifully written and it examines both gender and sexuality in small town Appalachia and how those identities are affected by faith. As a person from a small town in West Virginia, where conforming to stereotypical expectations of gender identity and being straight are expected and rigidly enforced, it was really nice to read a book about a group of friends who love Jesus AND explore what it really means to be themselves. I feel like no matter what I do, I cannot put into words how great this book is, but I have a whole review where I tried. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend!
4. Bad Romance by Heather DeMetrios
This book meant so much to me, it’s impossible to put into words. As a person who had a not great relationship as a teen, who had a best friend with a not great relationship as a teen, and a person who does domestic and sexual violence work in real life, the fact that this book exists blows me away. It’s the sort of book that I needed as a high schooler and I love it because of how seriously it takes high school relationships. I want to force every adult and teen to read this book so they can all know a few more red flags, warning signs, and that abusive relationships can and do happen to high school students.
5. Done Dirt Cheapby Sarah Nicole Lemon
Clearly YA books set in Appalachia and dealing with violence against women were my kryptonite this year because this list is dominated by books that fit into that. You may not have fully noticed that yet, but uh, don’t worry, you will by the end of this. Anyway, Done Dirt Cheap made it on the list because I really valued the friendship between Tourmaline and Virginia. Female friendship is something that I value in my own life and in media at levels that border on absurd, but shh. It’s fine.
6. I Believe in a Thing Called Loveby Maureen Goo
Alright, time for a light-hearted favorite, which I Believe in a Thing Called Love definitely is. This book was so funny and sent me right back to high school in so many ways. Actually, in a lot of ways this book and The Upside of Unrequited are similar, but where Molly experiences intense anxiety, Desi is just bad at interacting with boys. This book made me laugh so much and I just treasure everything about it. Highly recommend.
7. Far From the Treeby Robin Benway
This book won the National Book Award for YA and it was super well deserved. Benway’s writing is truly excellent and I cannot recommend highly enough this or Emmy & Oliver, which I read last year. What I love about this book was that each character had their own distinct voice, that it deals with very real issues, but still feels authentic to the teenage experience. I loved each of the main three characters and the various side characters. Benway really does write characters so well and once again, the family dynamics were so cool to experience!
8. Exit, Pursued by a Bearby E.K. Johnston
It was so nice to read an idealized version of how things should go when someone is raped, honestly. This book is one of the first that I read in the year and it’s held up because of the hope that it provides, which is a super weird thing to say about a book with a topic this heavy. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who needs some hope with all the #MeToo stuff, but isn’t ready to disconnect from it. This one is the most hopeful that I’ve read and was written because Johnston got really mad at a politician for saying something insensitive the way they do. Highly recommend.
9. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
In contrast, Saints and Misfits is not idealized at all, but provides such a great perspective that is rarely showcased, that of a hijab wearing Muslim teen who was sexually assaulted. Again, I really enjoyed the family dynamics, though there was more conflict in this family than in THUG, but it felt real to me. Overall, I felt like this book was realistic and I appreciated how important Janna’s religion was to her and the role it played in this book. I enjoyed reading about her relationship with various women in her life and was rooting for her to make it through the trauma with her spirit in tact. I highly recommend this book to anyone who can handle the obvious trigger warning for sexual assault.
I could not select just one book to take the final spot here because there were a few too many books that each meant something to me and have stuck with me in various ways. So instead, I’m going to provide quick one sentence reactions to these books. Eliza and Her Monsters was a book that meant so much to me because of it’s depiction of mental health struggles and the importance of fandom and community, while also showing the darker side of those things. Not Otherwise Specified was an amazing story of a girl dealing with recovery from an eating disorder, pursing her dream as a dancer, having a falling out with her friends over being bisexual rather than a lesbian, and making friends with new and unexpected people. Queens of Geek was the first representation of my anxiety I feel like I’ve seen on the page. It meant so much to me and again displayed the importance of fandom and community in a positive light. And finally, we have The Female of the Species, which I just wrapped up, so you know that this book was another perfect for the mood I’ve been in lately with wanting to burn the world down because of every #MeToo story and the ones I know haven’t been spoken. So while I can’t decide which of these books beats out the others to take the tenth spot, just know that I would and do recommend each and every one.
So there you have it! My Top Ten-ish YA Contemporary Novels of 2017. What were some of your favorites? Did any of mine make your list too?