Historical fiction is an amazing genre that brings truth from the past to us today. It can be heartbreaking and heartfelt — and sometimes it includes a smidgen of magic. There is so much to learn from through the lens of history and we can’t help but be grateful for these great reads. These are the top 10 best young adult historical fiction—and fantasy—books of 2019.
Across a Broken Shore by Amy Trueblood
Willa is a determined girl who is willing to look for change when her family is set in tradition. In 1936, Willa has no interest in becoming a nun. Instead she is interested in sneaking to work at a medical clinic San Francisco’s Richmond District. She is not afraid to go after her dreams which is why we can’t help but love her. When she agrees to work at a hospital near the new bridge being built over the Golden Gate, things become more complicated — especially as she starts falling for a young ironworker. This story set around the building of the bridge we know as the Golden Gate Bridge is profound and full of feels.
Among the Fallen by Virginia Frances Schwartz
This book follows Orpha who is hopeful as she learns how to stand on her own feet again thanks to the help of the women who surround her. Orpha is a young girl in jail for a crime she doesn’t understand in 1857 London. When she is picked as a potential student at Charles Dickens’ Urania Cottage, she takes the chance in hopes of finding her voice. This book is written in 20 chapters, much like Dickens’ books, and you may cry as you learn of everything Orpha goes through.
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
If you enjoyed Stacey Lee’s Outrun The Moon, you will enjoy this story. Jo Kuan seeks change when it comes to the American South and race and gender ideas. In post-Civil War Atlanta, Jo works as a lady’s maid by day and writes under the pseudonym “Miss Sweetie” for a newspaper advice column at night. When she decides to use the outlet to point out some of society’s problems, she is faced with backlash about the fixed ideas about race and gender. Jo must battle those threatening to reveal her identity as she races against time to find the truth of her past. She uses her voice and writing for a better future which makes her a favorite character of 2019.
Enchantée by Gita Trelease
This historical fantasy has everything a reader loves: magic, revolutions, and a scene set at Paris’ glittering Versailles. It’s 1789, and Paris is under threat of a revolution, Camille is focused on helping her older brother and younger sister survive by using magic to get by. But when their brother steals Camille’s savings, she must turn to darker magic to enter the Palace of Versailles in order to save her sister and herself. This story is so much bigger than Camille’s plight to save her family as Paris threatens to be engulfed in flames.
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Author Ruta Septys is a historical fiction genius, and her fourth published book makes this list with no surprise. This lyrical book peels back the layers of dictatorship as seen in Spain during the 1950s. In 1957 Madrid, Spain is led by a facist dictator that promises tourists a welcoming atmosphere. When Daniel Matheson visits to learn more about his mother’s country, his camera leads him to Ana and her family who reveal what lingers from the Spanish Civil War.
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
This historical fantasy is more than just an intriguing first book of a new series. This heist book is about taking back what has long been taken thanks due to colonialism. This story explores the ideas of diverse, marginalized characters who are determined to take back what is rightly theirs. In 1889 Paris, hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is met with a mission: assist the powerful Order of Babel and receive his true inheritance. With a group of diverse experts, the team is determined to pull off the heist of the century—before dark magic gets them first.
Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden
After the Civil War, Essie, as a young black girl, dreams of a better life in 1880s Savannah. When she meets fashionable and rich black woman Dorcas Vashon, Essie becomes Victoria and enters Washington D.C.’s elite black society. Bolden delivers in this standalone where we follow Essie as she enters a new layer of black history rarely talked about in books.
Lovely War by Julie Berry
This historical fantasy comes from the author of The Passion of Dolssa. In a hotel in Manhattan during World War II, Aphrodite tells a story of four young people who pursued love in the height of World War I thirty years prior to her husband Hephaestus and her lover Ares. With a fascinating setup of Greek gods and goddesses debating over war and love to the flashbacks from World War II to World War I, this multilayered novel truly delivers a unique story that will leave you satisfied.
The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
This standalone takes place during the 1969 race riots of Kuala Lumpur and follows Melati Ahmad as she battles OCD in the form of a djinn who demands her to tap and count in order to protect her mother. But when the Chinese and Malays go to war with one another, Melati has a clock to beat and find her mother. The novel is clever and imaginative in how it addresses real problems in a heartfelt manner.
Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill
This romance addresses the Japanese internment camps that appeared after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and loved ones fighting against it that can be relatable today. Italian-American Evalina Cassano and Japanese-American Taichi Hamasaki are in love. But inter-racial marriage is illegal in 1940s California. When Taichi is sent to an internment camp following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Taichi fights for his freedom as Evalina speaks out against the camps. You will love this challenging story as it makes you think about the past and the present.