2018 has been a crazy long, stressful, exciting, and life-changing year. I made an effort this year to read as many books as I could about characters living lives unlike mine – as windows into other people’s lives, and I think that comes across in the books that ended up being my favorites in 2018. Take a look our list below and let us know what made yours!
Check, Please!: #Hockey, Vol. 1 by Ngozi Ukazu
I hesitated including Check, Please on this list since it has previously been published online and in a self-publishing format but Check, Please! brought me so much joy this year as I read and re-read it that I just couldn’t not include it. The story follows college student Eric “Bitty” Bittle as he vlogs and bakes his way through his first two years of college, with a large focus on his college hockey team and his identity as a gay man. It is one of the sweetest stories I’ve read in a long time and it stands out as a strong favorite.
Obsidio by Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff
The wrap-up to one of my all-time favorite series, Obsidio is a heartbreakingly satisfying end to the Illuminae Files trilogy. Obsidio picks up right where Gemina ends, with Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik not yet recovered from the events of book two and alongside introducing new characters, Kauffman and Kristoff manage to wrap up the story in a spectacular manner.
Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
The companion to Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Leah on the Offbeat is a fun, emotional, humorous, and sweet return to Creekwood High.
A relatable look at senior year of high school, when friend groups begin to struggle and the stress of prom and college starts to add up, Albertalli doesn’t beat around the bush. As Leah deals with the things that make her different from her peers – having a young single mom, being bisexual (but not yet out, even to her gay BFF, Simon), and being less privileged – she struggles to find herself and her place in the world. And when she begins to fall for one of her friends, all kind of new challenges surface.
Featuring wonderful LGBTQ+ relationships, Leah on the Offbeat is a must-read for fans of contemporary YA.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
A fictional story of a Muslim girl’s experiences after 9/11 (though inspired by the author’s own experiences), A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a beautifully-written and far too timely story of Islamophobia, racism, and differences, and a teenage girl wanting to just be herself. A must-read book of 2018.
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
The highly-anticipated follow-up to Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, the Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is Felicity’s story as she tries to pursue medicine and ends up on a multi-country road/boat trip with plenty of shenanigans to be had. An enjoyable companion novel for those who, like me, loved Felicity, Monty, and Percy so much, you just had to have more.
Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens, edited by Marieke Nijkamp
Perhaps one of the most important books I read this year, Unbroken is an anthology of short stories about teens with disabilities and mental illness written by authors with the same (or similar) condition as their character. While publishing has done some great work to be more inclusive with stories about race and sexuality in YA, for example, representation of disability is one area that I find is still very sparse, which makes Unbroken an important contribution. The stories range genres from contemporary to sci-fi to paranormal. If you haven’t already, please take the time to pick up Unbroken in 2019!
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
The first novel published by the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, which lifts up under-represented voices to tell stories inspired by their own backgrounds. Though the style of the story is Percy Jackson-esque, Chokshi has taken the mythology-inspired quest style and put her own spin on it. The style will feel familiar to fans of Riordan’s work, with the fun chapter titles and humor woven throughout, but thanks to the Hindu mythology effortlessly woven throughout the story, it’s clear that this novel was meant to be written by Chokshi. An enjoyable middle grade adventure and a necessary addition to a diverse bookshelf.
The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken
Alexandra Bracken returned to the world of The Darkest Minds in her newest book, The Darkest Legacy. Set five years after the end of In The Afterlight, this novel follows fan-favorite Zu as the main character. While The Darkest Legacy is very clearly Zu’s story, it does feature many characters from the original Darkest Minds series, including Ruby, Liam, Chubs, Vida, and more. Bracken’s world-building has only grown since and if you’re a fan of the original Darkest Minds books, you’re going to enjoy the newest addition to the series.
Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
Set in a world where women have no rights, Grace and Fury follows two sisters who end up in situations that neither one expects. While Serina and Nomi spend much of the book separated from each other, the driving force in this book is their love for each and their desire to get back to each other. Fast-paced and exciting, Grace and Fury is the girl-powered book that I so desperately needed in 2018.
American Panda by Gloria Chao
Mei is a Taiwanese-American teen in her freshman year at MIT, where she’s struggling with her parents’ desire for her to be a doctor, her fear of germs, and her love of dance. When she reconnects with her estranged brother, she begins to reckon with everything she’s grown up to know.
I loved American Panda. It’s sweet, funny, and heartbreaking. Mei’s story is relatable and diverse and so important. One of the rare YA books in a college setting (though you’ll notice there are two on this list!), I can’t recommend American Panda enough.
What were your favorite books of 2018? What are you anticipating in 2019?