10 Best YA Novels of 2022, Ranked
2022 was a fruitful year for Young Adult (YA) literature and produced many quality works. Each year, the YA genre only becomes more sophisticated and powerful as more diverse voices tell their stories. Many authors seek not to just tell a story with YA literature but to educate the younger generation. More frequently, these stories include much-needed representation, spread awareness of current events, and provide rich and diverse perspectives on a myriad of issues. It is also becoming more important for authors to diversify their characters and ensure that every young reader has the opportunity to see themselves reflected in a book.
Among the books on this list are tales of revolution, survival, trauma, true love, hope, and empowerment. They are all stories that need to be heard to educate, represent, and bring readers perspectives they aren’t often presented. Here are the 10 best YA novels of 2022 ranked to the best.
10. The First To Die at the End by Adam Silvera
The First To Die at the End is a prequel to Adam Silvera’s 2017 novel They Both Die at the End. It takes place on the first day on which “Death-Cast”—a company that can predict people’s deaths—goes live. Two new acquaintances, Orion Pagan and Valentino Prince, learn that one of them will die before the end of the night and the other won’t. Unsure of what to believe or anticipate, the two decide to spend one last magical day together. The First To Die at the End is hurt a little by its rehashing of events from the first novel, but it still proves to be a heartrending, deeply emotional tale on the power of friendship, love, and the nature of mortality.
9. Family of Liars by E. Lockhart
Family of Liars is the long-awaited prequel to E. Lockhart’s 2014 hit novel We Were Liars. Family of Liars is told from the perspective of Carrie Sinclair. While conversing with her deceased son, Johnny, she tells him a story from when she was a girl in 1987. She reveals the beach where the tragedies of We Were Liars took place is home to more than one tragedy. A haunting tale of family secrets, betrayal, grief, and loss follows with an unforeseeable twist. While it falls a little flat in comparison to its brilliant predecessor, Family of Liars is a touching tale that normalizes grief and establishes that family loyalty runs deeper than blood.
8. Inheritance: A Visual Poem by Elizabeth Acevedo
Elizabeth Acevedo has been redefining the nature of YA novels since her unique novel-in-verse book The Poet X. Inheritance: A Visual Poem is a slim book, but the powerful poem paired with stunning visuals makes for one incredible tale. The touching graphical poetry delves into the power of the history behind AfroLatinidad hair and the tale of a narrator who refuses to “fix” her hair for others and instead speaks a revolutionary tale of self-love. Inheritance: A Visual Poem is unique, beautiful, and complex, though it’s difficult to tell if it should be classified as a novel or poem.
7. A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee
A Thousand Steps into Night is a stunning tale inspired by Japanese fantasy and folklore from award-winning author Traci Chee. The novel follows Miuko, the unassuming daughter of an innkeeper, whose life is changed when she is cursed and begins to transform into a demon. However, as she sets off on a perilous and mystical journey to reverse the curse, she begins to find she likes the empowerment her transformation gives her. While A Thousand Steps Into Night sometimes suffers from uneven pacing and poor storytelling devices, it is ultimately a unique and sophisticated tale of power and freedom that reads like a Studio Ghibli project.
6. Anne of Greenville by Mariko Tamaki
Mariko Tamaki’s Anne of Greenville is a delightful reimagining of L. M. Montgomery’s beloved classic Anne of Green Gables. Anne Shirley is the BIPOC queer adoptive daughter of two mothers in this modern reimagining. She finds her imaginative, disco-loving, fashionable spirit challenged when her family moves to the small town of Greenville, which frowns on anyone who is perceived as “different.” However, Anne rises above the challenges to fearlessly tackle high school, find her true love, and assert her presence in Greenville. Anne of Greenville is the perfect reimagining of Anne of Green Gables and is a touching story of friendship, resilience, and self-assurance.
5. The Chosen One: A First-Generation Ivy League Odyssey by Echo Brown
The Chosen One: A First-Generation Ivy League Odyssey by Echo Brown is a poignant autobiographical tale of the triumphs and challenges of being a Black first-generation college student. The book follows Echo, a young woman struggling to get through college amidst racism, broken promises from her college, and haunting memories of the past. Brown’s book is filled with realism and poignancy that delves far deeper than the transition to college. It delves into educational disparities, the impact of trauma, and healing through friendship. Brown masterfully infuses a memoir of her college years with overwhelming emotions and power.
4. As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh
As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow is a heartrending love letter to Syria from Zoulfa Katouh. This stunning tale follows Salama Kassab, a young woman who lost everything when the crisis of the Syrian Revolution broke out. She has now taken on the role of a doctor and, though haunted by the injured victims of the government, she is torn with whether to leave her country or stay. As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow is equal parts hopeful and heartbreaking as it raises awareness for what is happening in Syria and proves that the country’s fight can take place from any part of the world and in any manner.
3. Numb to This by Kindra Neely
Numb to This is Kindra Neely’s heartbreaking yet powerful graphic memoir of her experience surviving a mass shooting. In stunning graphics, Neely captures the painful journey through the trauma she underwent after the Umpqua Community College shooting in 2015 and the hope she found in healing through art and learning to ask for help. Numb to This is an eye-opening, beautiful, and deeply personal look into the impact of gun violence that is embedded with the power to initiate change.
2. All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir
Sabaa Tahir’s All My Rage is a touching and powerful story about love, loss, racism, and drug abuse that transcends generations. The novel follows three stories: Misbah, who chronicles the past, and friends Salahudin and Noor, who chronicle their entwined present. Misbah’s story tracks her trek to the U.S. after suffering a tragedy, while Salahudin and Noor track the tale of two friends struggling to maintain a friendship while buckling under the weight of trauma, family secrets, and prejudice from their hometown. Tahir’s novel is a beautiful masterpiece that reads more like poetry than prose and encompasses a myriad of emotions and thoughtful commentaries in its deeply moving, haunting tale.
1. I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
I Must Betray You is a powerful and masterful work of historical fiction by Ruta Sepetys. The novel takes place in 1989 Romania and follows 17-year-old Cristian Florescu, who dreams of being a writer amidst Nicolae Ceaușescu’s communist tyrannical dictatorship. However, his life takes a different direction when the secret police blackmail him into becoming an informer. Instead of betraying his friends and family, he delves deep into the regime to uncover its evils, undermine its authority, and give Romania its freedom back. I Must Betray You is a bold, thrilling, and heartbreaking dive into a piece of history too often overlooked. It will be an eye-opening experience for any reader as it tackles the cost of freedom.
(featured image: Quill Tree Books, Philomel Books, Christy Ottaviano Books, Delacorte Press)
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