Best Young Adult Books 2020: From Dystopian Fiction to Adventure Stories


YA is the abbreviation for “young adult” but the genre is increasingly read by adults. You’re almost as likely to spot an adult commuter browsing the pages of a YA novel as you were as a teenager.

The term YA was originally coined in the 1960s as the official way of describing books intended for 12-18 year olds.

In the years that followed, YA was used to define a wide range of books – ranging from The foreigners by SE Hinton and Suzanne Collins The hunger Games trilogy at The hate you give by Angie Thomas, zeros and crosses by Malorie Blackman and The fault of our stars by John Green.

Today’s YA literary titles include a plethora of beautifully written novels by authors who are not afraid to tackle hard-hitting subjects.

We’ve picked some of the best YA novels that have been published over the past 12 months or so, judging them on their subject matter, originality, and readability.

The themes they cover are impressively diverse. The stories include a pair of teenage brothers who traverse the Yorkshire moors in frigid conditions, a young albino boy struggling to earn a spot on the Zimbabwe National Swim Team, and a homeless girl who befriends her. friendship with an old woman with dementia.

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‘The Great Godden’ by Meg Rosoff, published by Bloomsbury

When Meg Rosoff won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Prize, the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature, in 2016, the jury members were rave. “Meg Rosoff’s young adult novels speak to the emotions as well as to the intellect,” they said. “She leaves no reader indifferent.”

They were absolutely right. Now the author of the classic How i live now is back with a new novel from YA – a coming-of-age story of two families whose lives collide in a seaside vacation home. When the two Godden brothers, the charismatic and golden boy Kit and the surly and vigilant Hugo, arrive in their midst, there are bound to be devastating consequences – and of course, by the end of the summer, everyone’s lives have been turned upside down. Rosoff’s dazzling and timeless novel is a delight.

“The colors that blind” by Rutendo Tavengerwei, published by Hot Key Books

Tumi is a 14 year old albino boy who lives with his older brother. Desperate to earn a spot on the Zimbabwe national swim team, he sees the pool as a place to escape the hatred and exclusion he encounters on a daily basis. But when he and his fiery young niece Noku are sent to Ambuya, Tumi’s grandmother, a traumatic incident from his childhood comes back to haunt him.

However, Ambuya has her own heartbreaking past and as she tells Tumi about her horrific experiences of racial hatred in war-torn Rhodesia, he begins to understand her family history. Tavengerwei lived and studied in Zimbabwe until the age of 18, and his second novel is a compassionate and eye-opening read.

‘The Premier of Miss Jean Brodie’ by Muriel Spark, published by Barrington Stoke

Publisher Barrington Stoke prides itself on its inclusiveness and specializes in producing books in a format suitable for dyslexia. Teens today will appreciate the story of Muriel Spark, an outspoken teacher whose unconventional ideas put her at odds with staff at an Edinburgh school.

This new edition is printed in two colors, using black text and pale yellow pages “to help relieve the effects of visual stress” and the typeface has been specially designed to be easier to read. That aside, the book is a classic that still resonates today – and adults will appreciate it, too.

Anthony McGowan’s ‘Alouette’, published by Barrington Stoke

When Anthony McGowan started to write Brock, his gritty tale of two teenage brothers whose dad starts drinking when their mom leaves, he never considered producing three more sibling books. “But every time I typed ‘The End’ I felt like Nicky and Kenny’s story was unfinished,” he says. Lark is the fourth in the series and sees the duo trek through the Yorkshire moors in freezing conditions.

As with McGowan’s previous books, Brock, Pike and Tower, it’s a powerful and heart-wrenching story and the well-deserved winner of the 2020 Carnegie Medal. The truth of things, a collected edition of the four short stories in one volume, is also available.

‘Toffee’ by Sarah Crossan, published by Bloomsbury

Written in free verse, Toffee tells the story of Allison, who ran away from her abusive father. Homeless and broke, she hides in the shed of what she assumes is an abandoned house.

But it actually belongs to Marla, a lonely old woman with dementia. Marla mistakes Allison for Toffee, a friend from the past, and invites her in – so Allison reinvents herself as Toffee and stays. This insightful novel was published in paperback in February and is an outstanding YA read.

‘Dear Evan Hansen’ by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, posted by Penguin

Dear Evan Hansen started life as an award-winning Broadway musical and later moved to London. The show was so successful that Val Emmich and the show’s creators, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul decided to make it into a novel.

Teenager Evan Hansen feels lonely and invisible, so his therapist encourages him to write positive notes. When a struggling classmate commits suicide, Evan claims the boy was his secret best friend – a lie that gets more and more complicated. It’s an insightful story that touches on grief, authenticity, and the struggle to be and belong.

“The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods” by Emily Barr, published by Penguin

Emily Barr’s third teenage thriller is a gripping novel that will turn pages until the wee hours of the morning. Arty enjoys his idyllic life and nature deep in an Indian forest.

But when her community is struck by a terrible disease, she is propelled into the outside world, where people follow her with every move, strangers post photos of her on Instagram and she discovers a family thousands of miles away. that she didn’t know she had. Look for Barr’s new YA book, Things to do before the end of the world, which will be released next year (2021).

“Furious Thing” by Jenny Downham, published by David Fickling Books

Jenny Downham’s first tearful novel, Before i die, was made into a blockbuster movie starring Dakota Fanning. In her latest book, 15-year-old Lexi is strong-willed and tough at home and at school.

She adores her mother and her little sister but disagrees with her future manipulative stepfather. This compelling tale was shortlisted for the 2019 Costa Children’s Book Award and the 2020 YA Book Award, with one reviewer describing it as “The catcher in the rye for 2020, a burning look at the anger, frustration and apathy of adolescents ”.

‘Hawk’ by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet, published by Young Arrow

Fans of dystopian fiction will enjoy this thrilling new YA novel from bestselling author James Patterson. Co-written with Gabrielle Charbonnet, falcon is the tenth story in the Maximum Ride series and follows the adventures of Hawk, Max and Fang’s 15-year-old daughter, as she struggles to survive in post-apocalyptic New York City.

Hawk doesn’t know her real name or who her parents were, but every day at 5 p.m. she waits around the same corner for them to come back – just like they asked her to do when she was little. Patterson is second to none when it comes to writing fast-paced thrillers and this one has it all – an intriguing plot, gripping action, and a gripping main character.

You don’t need to have read the previous tales to enjoy them, but if you’re captivated, you can go back to the beginning and read all 10.

‘Wonderland’ by Juno Dawson, published by Quercus

Juno Dawson won this year’s YA Book Prize for Meat market, an exposition of the dark side of the fashion industry. Wonderland, his latest, is an uncompromising 21st century tale of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice. Adventures in Wonderland. Teenage Alice Dodgson (Dodgson was Lewis Carroll’s real name) lives a life of luxury in London, but when her troubled friend Bunny goes missing, she becomes obsessed with finding her.

But instead of ending up at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, Alice discovers a mysterious invitation to Wonderland – a three-day party of hedonistic excess where only the elite are welcome. A sleek, clever, and self-explanatory story about sanity, gender, privilege, and ending up in toxic times.

The verdict: books for young adults

For a book that will stand the test of time and that we will come back to time and time again, Meg Rosoff The Great Godden gets our vote. But Anthony McGowan’s Lark is a close finalist and not to be missed.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions we earn income if you click the links and purchase the products, but we never allow this to distort our coverage. Reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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