Holiday Gift List: 17 Bookseller-Loved YA Novels


What a time to be a reader! Every year, just as we think the last year was the best batch of young adult books the world has ever seen, up pops another crop of breathtaking YA reads. It would be impossible to name all our favorites from 2018 in one blog post — you’d have to scroll forever — but here’s a start. If you see any you haven’t read yet, let’s fix that. (And if you have a teen or adult YA-lover in your life, here’s your gift shopping list!)

Our Top 12

These were the young adult novels selected for our ParnassusNext monthly subscription box this year. Every subscriber to our YA book box received an autographed first edition of these books, representing our favorite new releases of each month.

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We can really pick ’em, too. Our 2018 selections went on to earn all sorts of big recognition (see below). Did you miss any? If so, now’s a good time to catch up on that reading:

Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (three starred reviews, a New York Times bestseller, and a School Library Journal, Cosmopolitan, and Bustle best YA book of the year)

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (five starred reviews, a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, and a Kirkus, Paste Magazine, Bustle, PopSugar, CommonSense Media, and Seventeen best YA book of the year)

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (three starred reviews, a New York Times bestseller, and a School Library Journal, Bustle and Paste magazine best YA book of the year)

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert (five starred reviews, and a School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Commonsense Media best YA book of the year)

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson (Bustle and Cosmopolitan best YA book of the year)

Furyborn by Claire Legrand (a starred review, a New York Times bestseller, and a Commonsense Media best YA book of the year)

Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak (a starred review)

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (three starred reviews, and a Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Cosmopolitan best YA book of the year)

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Coletti (four starred reviews, a Commonsense Media best YA book of the year)

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (five starred reviews, plus a New York Times Notable Book and a School Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, NPR, and Commonsense Media best YA book of the year)

The War Outside by Monica Hesse (four starred reviews and a Publishers Weekly best YA book of the year)

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore (three starred reviews and a School Library Journal best YA book of the year)


Speaking of which, you’re coming up on the PERFECT time to give a pre-paid ParnassusNext subscription to a friend or loved one! In a special offer that runs only next Monday, December 10, through Sunday, December 16, purchase a 12-month gift subscription to the ParnassusNext box and get a $20 gift card FREE with your purchase. (And/or: purchase a 12-month gift subscription to our monthly book subscription of adult fiction and nonfiction, the First Editions Club, and get a $30 card.) Bookmark it now and place your order next week, starting Monday!


But wait! There’s more! Our staffers also loved:

Four Three Two One Cover ImageFour Three Two One 

Carla made this her December staff pick and says, “Want a story that will make you laugh, make you cry, and stop you in your tracks? Look no further. At first glance this book appears to be about tragedy, but once you dive in you’ll find that healing and hope are truly the main characters. This beautiful journey will have us all thinking about what it means to fully live every day, to find our truth, and always — always — take that hard leap toward hope.”

A Blade So Black Cover ImageA Blade So Black 

Devin’s latest addition to our staff picks shelf is a novel she describes like so: “This book is like if Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alice in Wonderland became fused together and dropped the characters into modern-day Atlanta.” Yes, PLEASE.

Blood Water Paint Cover ImageBlood Water Paint 

Haunting, unusual, and memorable, this verse novel about Artemisia Gentileschi, a teen girl during the Italian Renaissance who overcame a traumatic event to become one of the greatest artists of her time, is one of the year’s must-reads, says Stephanie: “It is a breathtaking, heart-shattering, and deeply necessary book.”

I'm Not Missing: A Novel Cover ImageI’m Not Missing: A Novel 

Ella, our high school intern, was wild about this one in 2018 — a story of two inseparable teen friends, Syd and Miranda. She explains, “One night, Syd inexplicably vanishes, leaving Miranda to pick up the pieces of her disappearance. This is a wonderful story about family, love, and loss that is perfect for anyone who loved Paper Towns.”

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1) Cover ImageChildren of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1) 

Here’s another favorite from Ella: “This book is perfect in every single way imaginable. It’s a thrilling, action-packed book with superpowers, ancient temples, and a fight for freedom. This is for anyone who loved Leigh Bardugo’s Grishatrilogy and Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer.”

Make sure it gets there! Holiday ordering deadlines for shipped gifts: 

  • Media mail rate: December 13
  • Priority rate: December 19

Want it gift wrapped? We’re happy to wrap any orders FREE — just let us know in the “notes” section at checkout. (Note: All wrapped gifts must be shipped via priority mail. Media mail won’t allow wrapping paper. It’s weird, we know.)

Today’s post is part of our series of holiday gift lists! Coming up next: Our favorite fiction of 2018, including books you might want to keep for yourself and read over your holiday break. Make sure you’re subscribed to Musing, so you’ll get the list delivered straight to your inbox. 


Meanwhile: Do you live in Nashville? Join us here in the store on Sunday, December 9, at 5:30 p.m. for an after-hours event where our book buyers will present their favorite books for young book lovers, plus the hottest gift ideas for book-loving adults. (You’ll also get to take advantage of the special deal on subscription boxes a day before the general public. Sweet!) Our goal is for you to sit back, relax, and leave at the end of the evening having finished your holiday shopping. Reservations are required. Get more details and save your seat here, and we’ll see you then!