2018 was full of brilliant standalone YA novels that we couldn’t put down until they were finished, but here are our favorites, including books by Claire Legrand, Shea Ernshaw, and Kiersten White.
From Frankenstein retellings that delve deep into the misogyny of the past, to tales of sisters seeking revenge hundreds of years after their deaths, and three girls standing against the patriarchy, 2018 was full of amazing, page turning standalone YA novels.
There were so many standalone YA novels out this year that I had to make a list of them. I usually am more of a fan of book series in general, the longer the better, but something about these books really stood out to me as I reflected back on my Goodreads Challenge for this year. With so many books full of companionship, smashing the patriarchy, and getting revenge for wrongs done, these books will remain on my mind for years to come.
These are in no particular order because, let’s be real, all of them are number one in our hearts for different reasons.
Best Standalone YA Novels of 2018
‘To Kill a Kingdom’ by Alexandra Christo
Not only is To Kill a Kingdom a Little Mermaid retelling, with sirens instead of mermaids, but it’s the enemies to lovers trope that is so well done that I will continue shouting about it for years to come. A siren who kills princes and steals their hearts and a prince who kills sirens sounds so simple and yet? I want more of it. It’s wrapped up perfectly with an amazing emotional build that I look for in YA and this didn’t disappoint me at all. If anything, I’ll be using the build between Lira and Elian as a basis for future YA relationships in regards to enemies to lovers is concerned.
‘The Wicked Deep’ by Shea Ernshaw
With a tone reminiscent of Hocus Pocus and Practical MagicThe Wicked Deep highlights the impact that rumors have on lives and the deep seeded need for retribution for wrongs done. Eerie and fulfilling in a way that not many YA books are, the journey of not only Penny, but of the three sisters who were accused of witchcraft and drowned, thus seeking revenge by each of them possessing a girl in town, luring boys to their deaths brings about a visceral reaction while reading. I for one can’t wait to read more novels by Shea Ernshaw.
‘An Enchantment of Ravens’ by Margaret Rogerson
I’ve never been a fan of books revolving around fairies, but An Enchantment of Ravens reminded me that never is a strong word that I shouldn’t use because there will always be an exception. Rook and Isobel start of with apathy towards each other, but quickly come to rely on each other as Isobel is brought to the dangerous fairy world to stand trial. The haunting imagery mixed with a twist on the star-crossed lovers trope sucked me in whole heartedly. Beautifully written, Isobel’s journey through the seasons will be hard to beat out in my mind for best fairy related YA novel for 2018.
‘Sky in the Deep’ by Adrienne Young
At first glance Sky in the Deep’s plotline feels like other Viking centric novels, but the way that Adrienne Young handles Eelyn’s capture and eventual change of belief in regards to her clan’s enemies really resonated with me. I read it in one session, unable to put it down as I read about Eelyn and Rikki. There is something about reading about woman warriors who remain themselves throughout a story as they fall for someone. You don’t have to change you are in order to fall in love and Sky in the Deep shows this masked by clan wars and prejudices where people forget that everyone is living full lives, that underneath we are all the same.
‘Beneath the Citadel’ by Destiny Soria
Of all the books I’ve read this year, Beneath the Citadel wins for the best over all cast of characters. Not only are there multiple POC, but there is bi, gay, and asexual representation in this YA fantasy novel that cannot be ignored. Not only that, but one of the main characters is plus sized, a rarity as well considering her plotline has nothing to do with her size. There needs to be more diversity in YA and Beneath the Citadel handled it seamlessly while also telling a compelling story that had me holding my breath until the end.
‘Sawkill Girls’ by Claire Legrand
When I think of strong female driven novels, Sawkill Girls comes to the forefront of my mind. Not only does it have LGBT+ and POC representation, but shows that a novel can be full of feminism and smashing the patriarchy with a side of the fantastical without being over the top about it. After reading it, I felt like I could accomplish anything with my friends by my side, that if we don’t stop toxicity and evil then who will?
‘The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein’ by Kiersten White
A re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s groundbreaking sci-fi novel Frankenstein, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein showcases a manipulative, emotional abusive, psychopathic Victor and his family’s ward, Elizabeth, and her attachment and denial of his spiral into the infamous character. Kirsten expertly weaves a tale of woe in regards to how women had no autonomy and weren’t believed, of gas lighting, and how hard it is to break an abusive cycle. Dark and haunting, I’m left with a shadow of Elizabeth’s turmoil.
‘White Rabbit’ by Caleb Roehrig
An LGBT mystery thriller? Sign me up. Sign me up again and again. After Last Seen Leaving I couldn’t wait to get my hands on White Rabbit. I’m absolutely terrible at guessing killers and the like, so reading thrillers always keep me at the edge of my seat until the end when I scream “WHAT?” really loudly because I didn’t see the reveal coming. Add in the fact that it’s LGBT and I’m sold. Caleb doesn’t disappoint in his descriptions of life as a teen, the intrapersonal relationships of friends, and the drama that feels realistic to a fault. It’s believable, how the plotline progresses and things spiral out of control for Rufus and Sebastian. What would you do if a friend came to you because someone died in their house?
‘Emergency Contact’ by Mary H.K. Choi
Emergency Conact is such an addictive novel that I couldn’t help but read it in a single sitting. The two main characters, Penny and Sam, are unlike any other contemporary YA figures I’ve met before. They’re openly flawed, yes, but they’re self-aware about their shortcomings and work really hard to better themselves. Their personalities and vulnerabilities really come through in their text conversations which, unlike other novels that try to use a similar style and fail, are really well-done. This novel had my stomach doing somersaults and my heart pounding and it’s a ride I’d recommend to anyone and everyone.
‘Flight Season’ by Marie Marquardt
Flight Season is nothing short of beautiful. The three main characters in this novel are so lifelike that I had to keep reminding myself that they weren’t real (even though it felt like they were sitting right next to me). Each character is dealing with more than their fair share of suffering and grief but they don’t hesitate to help each other and take on a bit of what each other is carrying. Between illness, death, politics, and interpersonal relationships, I felt like my heart was being tugged in so many different directions while going through this novel, but I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. Flight Season is a fantastic piece of literature that I’ll be thinking about for a long, long time.
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