Here's the content you've been waiting for . . . my favorite young adult reads of 2019! As a reminder, these aren't all books that were published in 2019; they're books that I read this year. I also recommend that you follow me on Instagram, where I post a book rec every Friday.
Let's jump in, shall we?
Birthday by Meredith Russo (2019)
I really looked forward to this book's release, and it didn't disappoint! It's super beautiful and touching and I didn't want to put it down. It's about two best friends, Eric and Morgan, who were born on the same day and always celebrate their birthdays together. The story alternates narrators and checks in on them on their birthday every year from when they turn 13 to 18. Morgan is trans and figuring out how to tell people, especially Eric, and both characters are figuring out who they are. The story takes place in rural Tennessee and I really appreciated that - the setting plays a big part, and Meredith Russo addresses class more than a lot of YA authors do. Plus, there are so many feelings!
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (2019)
The Downstairs Girl is about Jo, an Asian-American teenager living in Atlanta following Reconstruction, who starts secretly writing an advice column for her local newspaper. And by "local," I mean that Jo and her guardian, Old Gin, live hidden beneath the printshop. Jo has a lot of secrets! I love Stacey Lee's writing and spunky characters, and Jo is no exception. She's clever, resourceful and radical, especially for the time. I love her relationship with Old Gin, and how the stories that Jo overhears from the newspaper staff upstairs helped raise her. She's a super memorable character, and an inspiration in how she finds ways to get ahead even though almost everything around her tries to keep her down. This book also contains a lot of interesting info about Atlanta society, hats, horses and about what it was like to live in Atlanta and not be white.
The Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (2017)
I chose this one for the Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt of "A book that takes place in less than a day." The story takes place over an elevator ride to the first floor, as Will decides whether to go after the man who shot his brother. As he rides, he's visited by the ghosts of several friends who were killed by guns. I listened to the audiobook, so I didn't realize initially that this book was written in verse. I did notice several lines that were beautiful and poetic, so learning that it was written in verse made a lot of sense. It seems like Jason Reynolds spent a lot of time choosing his words and picking just the right ones. It's a short book with a lot of emotion, tension and meaning. I recommend it highly!
Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard (2016)
This one was on my TBR list for a while, and I finally read it this year. I'm glad I did! It's a really sweet, super feminist story about Pen, a teenage girl in Canada who doesn't want to be feminine. She and her best friend Colby have a routine where Pen helps Colby get girls, but things start to change when Pen wants to get to know one of Colby's crushes for herself. She also befriends one of Colby's exes and learns more about how her best friend treats the girls he dates. I loved Pen's relationship with her older brother Johnny, and I really liked reading her journey to accept herself. I love books that remind us that there are lots of ways to be a woman. (note: I've seen some reviews criticize this book for promoting the "not like other girls" trope, like that Pen is superior for not being feminine, or that the book maligns femininity. I didn't feel that way, but I know it's a hard line to walk - how do you express that these things don't feel right for you without criticizing people for whom they do feel right? So just a heads up before you dive in, and I'd love to know what you think!)
Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle (2015)
I read this one for my Young Adult Book Club. It's about a future where the Church of America runs most things in daily life, like commerce and TV, as well as religion. The Church of America also predicts that rapture is coming, and that true believers will be taken to Heaven. Vivian Apple doesn't believe this, but when she comes home and finds her parents gone and two parent-sized holes in the roof of their house, she's not sure what to think. In the chaos following the disappearance of so many people, Vivian, her BFF Harpreet and cute boy Peter head out on a cross-country road trip to find some answers. I thought Katie Coyle did a great job of setting up the world and the religion, and there were a lot of really exciting twists in the last half of the book. I also liked the diversity of the characters. After I finished this book, I went right on to the sequel, Vivian Apple Needs a Miracle, which I also recommend!
I like cats, feminism, queers, making things and writing, apparently.