1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is undoubtedly VE Schwab’s most hyped-up book. While most of her other books took a little while to gain traction within the YA community, this book took no time shooting up to the top of the NY Times Best Seller List and remained there for at least five weeks from the time of writing. This book is worth every bit of press it has gotten. It is a gem, the fragments of a human being laid out in some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read. Reading this book, I often found myself sitting there in amazement at one brilliant line or another. This book is an astonishing and beautiful example of prose and although I have not yet finished it, I cannot help but put it at the top of my list.
2. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
It is no surprise that Six of Crows is on this list. It’s on a lot of my lists. However, if I had to name one of the staples of the YA reading community, it would absolutely be Leigh Bardugo. Six of Crows and its sequel, Crooked Kingdom have been praised by nearly every booktuber and official reviewer out there, from “A Clockwork Reader” to Kirkus Reviews. It almost makes you wonder if the books are worth the pedestal they lay upon. I can say undoubtedly that these books are worth the hype. With a cast full of misfits that still manage to be individual, three-dimensional characters and with a world that sucks readers in from the first page, Six of Crows is the perfect fantasy heist book to introduce readers to YA. To this day, I have not been able to find a book like it, not a single fantasy heist book that rises to its level of mastery. I could not help but recommend this popular novel.
3. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Holly Black has been a part of the YA community for as long as I can remember, but of all of her books, The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air #1) has to be her most hyped book. A year and a half ago, I had the opportunity to meet Holly Black at BookCon for a book signing, and when I tell you her line was long, I am making a criminal understatement. The line wrapped three times around her booth, and that was the part outside of the designated standing space. I waited at least an hour just to get to the amazing author. (It was completely worth it by the way. She was a delight!) This book is definitely worth the tireless efforts of its readers. The characters draw the reader in instantly with tales of courtly intrigue and captivating romance; the love interest is one of my favorite people of all time; and it includes a variety of different aspects of faerie lore. I highly recommend this book to a reader who loves a taste of the fae and the magical.
4. Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas
I was admittedly skeptical when picking up Sarah J. Maas’s newest release. I knew of her controversial fame within the YA sphere and was reluctant to pick up a book of hers, especially one as anticipated as this one. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the novel and sped through it. The characters were to die for, with three-dimensional personalities and flawless chemistry. I liked that it was a fantasy with characters like elves and demons, but it still maintained a level of the modern and of humanity. The world-building was beyond artful, pulling me into a city I did not recognize and showing me the inner workings of a new world. The main character was everything I ever could have wanted: sarcastic, confident, and full of wonderful character development. I could not recommend this book enough to the avid fantasy reader.
5. Anna K by Jenny Lee
I remember when I first learned about this book, six months before the release date on another author’s Instagram. I could not dip my toe in the waters of the YA world without hearing whispers of this mysterious retelling of the Russian novel, Anna Karenina. However, I knew from the moment I first heard about it that I had to pick it up. This book has since become a staple in my collection and one of my favorite books of all time. It was refreshing and beautiful and biting with the decadent flare of New York’s high society teens. Anna K surprised me in ways I cannot explain in a short space and left me sobbing at the end, which is quite difficult for a book to do. I recommend this book to lovers of contemporary literature and retellings.
6. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
I, along with a massive fandom, love this book with my whole heart. When I first heard about it, I was incredibly skeptical. I had read the book that inspired it, Fangirl, and knew that Carry On was technically based on fictional fanfiction. I had never really been a fanfiction reader and expected the book to fall flat. I was sorely mistaken. The characters of Carry On are loveable individuals that made me both laugh and cry during my reading. They are dramatic and oblivious and eerily reminiscent of the characters of Harry Potter while also becoming their own individuals. I ate every word of this book and often consider re-reading it just to experience the story again. Not to mention, the romance is perfectly written. I am not usually a romance fan, but Carry On wrote a romance that could soften even the toughest and most stubborn of readers.
7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Although it is not as “over-hyped” as my other choices, I do believe that The Night Circus has more recently gained an insane amount of traction in the past couple of years, all rightfully deserved. As of now, I have read The Night Circus twice, and, in the words of waaaay too many TikToks, “And I’ll do it again…bap bap.” This book engulfs the reader immediately, pulling them into a world of red, black, and white full of decadent and mystical magic reminiscent of childhood dreams. The romance is the usual “star-crossed lovers” trope but the author rewrites it in a way that is both modern and skillful. Erin Morgenstern has a way of blending the old with beautiful and magical all at once. I highly recommend this book to really anybody, even if you aren’t particularly interested in romance.
8. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
I HAD to include Morgenstern twice on this list. I had no choice. I remember the day I discovered The Starless Sea. It was years before the release date, but only a little bit less than a decade after the release of The Night Circus. The bookish internet went wild, building as much publicity as possible for the new release. I was lucky to meet the author when I got the book and began reading it soon after. This book is worth every bit of hype it got. The Starless Sea is everything I could ever want in a book, a combination of folklore, storytelling, bees, and stunning prose that I simply could not put down. Like The Night Circus, this book flawlessly meshed the old with the new, creating an atmosphere similar to the storybooks of our youth while also turning them into something entirely new and unique. I highly recommend this book to fanatics of mythology and libraries.
9. Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Caraval is a fantastic book, full of puzzles, intrigue, romance, and playing cards. I loved the characters, particularly one of the main girls and her mysterious love interest. This book has an entirely different feel from what I expected, pulling the reader into a circus-like world similar to the country of Italy and the city of Amsterdam. I greatly enjoyed Caraval’s unique twist on the classic circus story, expanding the narrative into something much larger than the characters themselves. I highly recommend this book to the romantic and the dreamer in your life.
10. The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
This story of the forgotten Mozart sibling was publicized incredibly early, building anticipation long before the book’s release. I, for one, bought my copy in advance, excited for the book the world was buzzing about. Marie Lu’s story did not disappoint. I greatly enjoyed learning about the life and tragedy of Nannerl Mozart, but I was most intrigued by the way Lu melded the historical with the fantastical, combining the story of Nannerl with elements of the fae. In hindsight, the story vaguely reminds me of Pan’s Labyrinth, melding dark fairy tales with well-known historical periods. When I read this book, I could not put it down. It was worth every bit of hype it received. I recommend The Kingdom of Back to music lovers, history buffs, and lovers of fairy tales.