These aren’t necessarily books that were published in 2018, they’re just *my* top 10 favorite clean YA reads of 2018, in order of enjoyment. (I reserve the right to add to this list before the end of the year!)
1) The Sweet Evil Trilogy (plus one)
I can’t gush enough about the Sweet Evil trilogy (which is actually four books–so, cheating on the whole “top 10” thing). The genre is essentially paranormal romance, but with a fantastically creative twist. Anna is one of the Nephilim, which the Bible refers to as the offspring of a demon and a human. But Anna is different even from other neph, because her mother was an angel, and her father a demon (both of whom had to possess human bodies in order to bear a child). She’s a “Child of the Prophecy,” as it were, destined to rid the earth of demons and offer the neph a chance at redemption… but then she meets the son of the demon of lust, Kaidan. Will she remain pure enough to accomplish her mission? Seriously, it’s AMAZING. Read my full review of Sweet Evil here, my review of Sweet Peril and Sweet Reckoning here, and my review of Sweet Temptation, the bonus fourth book in the series, here. On the whole “clean” part: there’s almost no cussing at all in the trilogy itself, but Sweet Temptation is full of bad language and innuendos because it’s told from Kaidan’s point of view (whereas the trilogy is told from sweet Anna’s point of view.) Personally, I didn’t mind this a bit, because it was consistent with his character, and it frankly would have been off-putting if it hadn’t been there. But if you want to avoid that, just read the first three.
|I absolutely adore Stephanie Garber’s narrative voice, and took notes: the way she describes her world is like poetry. There almost doesn’t have to be any actual magic, because her description itself feels magical. Her characters are also vibrant, and so creative. Truly, in her imagination, it feels like anything is possible (and many possibilities I’d never have considered, which is fun!)
That said, I felt like certain aspects of the plot were lacking, which is exactly how I felt at the end of Caraval. I didn’t have as many questions at the end of Legendary as I did at the end of Caraval, but a lot of twists felt like they were there just to be there, and weren’t necessarily motivated by the story. Still, her writing is so gorgeous that I could listen to it over and over again in hopes that some of her imagination will rub off on me!
Super creative, with fantasy, history, romance, and great characterization. The story follows Kate, who learns that her grandmother is part of a group known as Chronos: they’re time travelers, and they’re not supposed to change anything in the past, only to observe and document. But Kate’s grandfather Saul decided that the best way for him to obtain power was to use his ability to time travel in order to create his own religion. Now it’s up to Kate to travel back in time and stop him–before she ceases to exist! For the full review, click here.
4) The Gender Game
This one really surprised me! I feel like I’ve tried it a few times and I’m not sure why I stopped reading it then, because it’s pretty fast-paced from beginning to end. It’s a creative take on the dystopian genre in the sense that the male/female division is one I haven’t seen done elsewhere. The story follows Violet, a girl born in the Matrian (female-dominant) city–but she’s a criminal, sentenced to death for her violent crimes. But if she’s willing to stage a daring undercover raid into Patrus (the male-dominant city), she can not only win back her freedom, but earn a reunion with the only person she loves: her indentured little brother, stolen from her when he was eight. I raced through to the end. Totally worth the read! For my full review, click here.
5) To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Trilogy)
Ok, cheating again — three more books in one slot. I almost never read an entire series straight through, but I did this time. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before follows Lara Jean Song Covey. She’s sixteen, and she’s never dated before… but every time she falls in love and realizes it won’t work out, she writes the boy a “goodbye” letter just for her own closure, telling him all the things she never had the courage to say in person. This helps her to let go… and then she keeps the letters in a hat box in her closet that her mother gave her. So you can guess what happens: someone finds and mails the letters–all five of them. It’s a teenage girl’s worst nightmare. But (as it always happens in YA fiction), her worst nightmare turned into the best thing that could possibly have happened to her.
The characters in all three books are wonderfully believable, and the books are very slice-of-life: Lara Jean fights with her sisters, bakes as a means of stress relief, and tries to navigate her way through the experience of growing up… with a boyfriend. (First a fake one, then a real one.) What I love most about this entire series is that it’s surprisingly clean, for a series that’s almost entirely romance: sure, there’s the occasional obligatory reference here and there to indicate the prevailing worldview on certain agendas, but not once in the whole series do our hero and heroine jump in bed together. That’s pretty rare!
- Full review of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
- Full review of P.S. I Still Love You
- Full review of Always and Forever, Lara Jean
6) Tell Me Three Things
Tell Me Three Things was a straight up YA novel, no fantasy or sci fi or anything else, but it hooked me right away with the concept of a secret penpal writing to the new girl in school. I loved the narrative voice, and was intrigued by the secret identity trope mixed with romance. While I had a few issues with some of the messages of the story (it too felt like it was pushing agendas upon the reader), it was overall a compelling and compulsive read, and I finished it in a few days. For my full review, click here.
7) The Body Electric
The futuristic world of The Body Electric actually felt a LOT like my world of Uncanny Valley: Artificial Intelligence, nanobots, retinal access to the internet, cyborg clones of humans, etc… and that was probably why I was so captivated by it. Most of the plot is nonstop action, with twists and turns and revelations that kept me hooked. I also really appreciated how short her chapters were, and (while I keep writing trilogies so I guess I can’t say much), it was actually refreshing that this book was a stand-alone. I didn’t have to get the next book to find out how the story ends. Definitely worth a read. For my full review, click here.
8) Wonder Woman: Warbringer
This was another one that surprised me–particularly because I hated the film version. (Sorry.) Yet in the novel, Diana had a good back story, and a need to prove herself which drove her choices to try to rid the humans of the curse of the Warbringer (carried by a girl named Aliyah, of Helen of Troy’s bloodline). Another surprise was the paucity of romance. There is some, but it’s very minor—and actually, for a novel about a superhuman immortal woman, I liked that. The story was largely a buddy novel. My biggest complaint about the story was the twist at the end—I won’t spoil it, but honestly, I didn’t see it coming because the story didn’t support it. It felt like it happened just because there needed to be a twist. But the story was still very entertaining, far more than I expected it to be… particularly considering the over-saturation of the American entertainment market with comic book retellings. For my full review, click here.
9) Ella Enchanted
I can’t believe I missed Ella Enchanted as a kid! It’s a marvelous, creative retelling of Cinderella with a clever twist: Ella was given the “gift” of obedience upon her birth, and her fairy godmother is unwilling to take it away, as that is considered “big” magic which might upset the balance in the rest of the world. She’s no wilting violet, but she is compelled to obey whenever anyone makes an outright demand of her–which is how she becomes “Cinderella” to her stepsisters and stepmother. Oh, and she actually grew up with the prince, and had to attend the ball masked so that he wouldn’t recognize her! It’s super fun. If you like fairy tale retellings, I definitely recommend it! For my full review, click here.
Yet another Cinderella retelling, but with a totally different spin. I’m a bit of a geek myself, so the idea of a Cinderella obsessed with what essentially amounts to Star Trek (though they call it Starfield here) and whose “ball” is a cosplay festival where everyone is dressed as their favorite characters at a sci fi convention definitely had me intrigued. I expected the execution to be dreadfully cheesy, but I was pleasantly surprised. Geekerella is a very creative and engaging reimagining of an old favorite. You might have to overlook some of the heavy-handed political opinions in there… but if that doesn’t bother you, it’s very entertaining and worth a listen. For my full review, click here.
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