As we near the end of 2019, The Young Folks’ books staff reflected on all the wonderful new books we read this year that moved us both to tears and laughter. While we are always looking forward to what is next (stay tuned for our Most Anticipated of 2020 list!), we can’t help but appreciate what 2019 had to offer.
Without further ado, The Young Folks staff share the 10 best books of 2019. From fantastical adventures to transatlantic romantic comedies, our top 10 is an eclectic mix of genres and voices that we absolutely enjoyed reading this year.
10. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino
Crafting a cohesive, comprehensive collection of essays, culture writer Jia Tolentino examines all of the aspects of our self-obsessed culture that make it near impossible to see ourselves clearly. Tackling topics from faux-feminist corporations, to the rape crisis on college campuses, to her own stint on reality television, Tolentino takes a wild ride through our reality as we know it with her sharp observations and compelling prose. Trick Mirror should be required reading for anyone trying to navigate the chaotic world of nonstop social media noise, unforgiving corporate culture, and the cult of efficiency. — Bri Lockhart
I always say that it’s much easier to set up a great beginning than deliver on a great ending. So many book series start out so strong and build up such an interesting plot and character arcs, but the ending falls flat and the characters do not become who you hoped they’d be. The Queen of Nothing, however, is all that I hoped for from this series. Not only does the plot continue to surprise us with all kinds of unique twists, but I felt that all the characters, particularly our favorite couple, Jude and Cardan, had surprising but satisfying conclusions to their character arcs, which have been building throughout the series. — Abby Petree
I love the fairytale of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses”, so when I discovered that this book was a creepy, murdery retelling with a sea aesthetic, I was instantly in love. House of Salt and Sorrows delivers on everything it promises. I was creeped out, I was gushing over the descriptions of Highmoor, the beautiful manor on that rests on stormy seaside cliffs, I was swept up in the mystery, and I was enchanted by the subtle romance. Also, I love ballroom scenes, and the descriptions of the dresses and the magical nights the sisters spend dancing in swanky ballrooms are to die for! Yet, all the beauty and dancing is equally balanced out with a disturbing murder mystery, which kept me turning the pages. The ending especially just blew my mind. — Meagan Stanley
Don’t Date Rosa Santos puts into words all of the complicated emotions that goes into being a person living within a diaspora. It explores the feeling of longing for a place that has never been your home, but feels inherently yours, like it’s written into your soul. Nina Moreno has masterfully crafted a Latinx story about multi generational trauma, magic, and love. The ending of this book is so cathartic to the soul and full of hope. One of the things I love most about this book is that it speaks us — the children of immigrants — and shows us that we aren’t alone. — Andrea Gomez
6. Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins-Reid
Star crossed lovers with a 1970’s backdrop? Yep, I was sold on this one pretty much from the get go. My dad raised me on Creedence Clearwater and Fleetwood Mac music as a kid, so it’s no surprise how much I loved reading this book. Daisy Jones and the Six is a 70’s inspired nostalgia trip of Los Angeles, the music scene, and love. It’s unique interview format is both fun to read and works like a giant puzzle because it jumps around in between time periods. It features a super angsty love story that leaves readers asking what it more important? Duty or love? — Andrea Gomez
5. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
A story set during Francisco Franco’s dictatorship of Spain is sure to be a difficult read. Navigating difficult histories is not new to Ruta Sepetys who has written novels, like Salt to the Sea, deftly capturing the hardships and triumphs of living and surviving through trying times via fictional characters with authentic voices. The Fountains of Silence is slight departure for Sepetys as it follows Daniel, a wealthy American teenager who travels to Madrid on a family business trip in 1957. Taking an outsider’s perspective lends to the novel’s core motif of silence and the moral implications of keeping silent or speaking up. The novel is both moving and provocative in its exploration of humanity and historical memory. — Gabrielle Bondi
4. The Wicked King by Holly Black
Cardan and Jude. That’s it, that’s the tweet. Honestly, though, these two characters and their relationship make the series for me. In this novel, we see Jude continuing to struggle with navigating life in Faerie, although this time, she finally has access to the power she’s always dreamed of, but how will she use it, and how will she keep it? How will it change her? She also has to deal with Cardan as king, which has made him so much more of an asshole, but also so much more fun. This is also the book where we finally see them get together, even if they still won’t admit they love each other. And that cliffhanger ending… so spectacular, I don’t think any of us saw it coming. — Abby Petree
Slam poet and YA author Elizabeth Acevedo had a banner year in 2018. Her debut novel in verse The Poet X won a National Book Award, a Printz Medal, and heaps of praise and accolades. With all this buzz, the pressure was on for her sophomore novel, With the Fire on High. Switching to prose this time, Acevedo more than meets the challenge as she tells the story of high school senior Emoni Santiago and her dreams of becoming a chef. Balancing caring for her daughter and supporting her grandmother with her school’s new culinary arts program, Emoni learns that sometimes you need to break your own rules to make your dreams come true. Full of heart, dreams, and mouth-watering recipes, With the Fire on High is the feel-good read we severely needed in 2019. — Bri Lockhart
Not only is Red, White and Royal Blue one the best books of the year but it is one of the best books I have ever read. Hilarious and heartwarming, I giggle-snorted and swooned through this gorgeous love story in a way that was truly life-affirming. This book was the perfect balm to how tumultuous the world felt after the 2016 election and felt like a much-needed respite, a breath of fresh air. Alex and Henry’s budding love made me feel better as it unfolded. I felt as brave as Henry, as hopeful as Alex. I cried happy tears that might also have been ugly tears for how much I felt as I finished this book. It was delightfully entertaining but also punched somewhere deep inside me as I realized how much I needed a book like this and as I read through the reviews, I knew that readers were united in the idea that this book made us feel so deeply and it was amazing to not be alone in that. — Brianna Robinson
On its face, Serpent & Dove is bursting with tropes. Enemies-to-lovers, a marriage of convenience, slow burn, the age old battle between witches and religion… and yet, Shelby Mahurin still crafts a fascinating story impossible to put down. The conflict between the witches and the church is interesting and forces you to think about religion and morality in a new way, but what really shines in this novel are the characters. Lou especially is a delight — her high levels of sass and wit make her one of the best main characters I have ever read, and her relationship with the morally uptight Reid is hilarious. Watching them fall in love was incredibly frustrating (because they took so damn long) but so rewarding. — Meagan Stanley