Best Young Adult Books 2023 | SLJ Best Books

Readers will find engaging plots and unforgettable characters in these 25 Best YA novels of 2023. They span genre and setting, from a fantasy in alternate Tang dynasty China to a contemporary novel in modern-day NYC, but share common threads of teens coming of age and finding and embracing their truth.


Albertalli, Becky. Imogen, Obviously. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780063045873.
Gr 9 Up–When Imogen spends spring break visiting her best friend Lili at college, a white lie leads Imogen to restlessly question new romantic feelings. Filled with character dynamics that reel readers in, Imogen’s journey is a highly relatable one of introspection, embracing truth, and letting go.

Arnold, Elana K. The Blood Years. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062990853.
Gr 9 Up–Jewish teen Rieke’s happy life in Romania changes in horrible, unimaginable ways during the Holocaust in this compelling novel based on Arnold’s grandmother’s experiences. It’s a heartbreaking, exquisitely written exploration of the bonds of sisterhood, love, and morality amid persecution, illness, and hunger.

Baker, Kylie Lee. The Scarlet Alchemist. Inkyard. ISBN 9781335458018.
Gr 9 Up–In an alternate Tang dynasty China, aspiring royal alchemist Zilan takes the imperial exams—and secretly raises the dead. Pulled into court politics, she connects with the Crown Prince as the Empress seizes power. An inventive, competition-based plot and exceptional worldbuilding will propel readers.

Boulley, Angeline. Warrior Girl Unearthed. Holt. ISBN 9781250766588.
Gr 9 Up–Set 10 years after Firekeeper’s Daughter, this novel follows Perry Firekeeper-Birch during a summer internship, where she discovers a local college is keeping remains and artifacts that belong to her tribe—and decides what she’ll do to get them back. It’s important, thought-provoking, and captivating.

Caletti, Deb. Plan A. Random/Labyrinth Road. ISBN 9780593485545.
Gr 9 Up–A classmate’s unwanted advances lead 16-year-old Ivy on a cross-country road trip to get an abortion. Caletti’s examination of the stigma surrounding abortion, small-town conservative attitudes, and support from sometimes unlikely places make Ivy’s journey a must-read for all young adult readers.

Caprara, Rebecca. Spin. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781665906197.
Gr 8 Up–This novel in verse retells the Greek myth of Arachne from her perspective as she becomes an excellent weaver, develops a crush on a neighborhood girl, and sparks the ire of Athena. With excellent pacing and an enchanting story, it’s sure to engage readers.

Cole, Olivia A. Dear Medusa. Random/Labyrinth Road. ISBN 9780593485736.
Gr 10 Up–It’s been nearly a year since Alicia was first assaulted by her teacher when a note appears in her locker hinting that there may be another victim. This is a brutally beautiful survival story that explores moving forward after horrific tragedy and judgment befalls a young teen.

Eddings, Mazey. Tilly in Technicolor. Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250847065.
Gr 9 Up–Two neurodiverse teens find love together over the course of a summer internship in Europe. Tilly’s spunk, quirky attitude, and search for understanding in this opposites-attract rom-com make this a perfect match for fans of happily-ever-afters and realistic fiction.

Edgmon, H.E. Godly Heathens. Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250853615.
Gr 9 Up–Transmasc Gem moved to small-town Georgia—closer to their Seminole roots—but fears they’re losing their mind, until the new girl informs them they’re both reincarnated gods—and soulmates. Intersectionally diverse with strong Native representation, the inventive mythos features deep, vivid characters and an action-packed plot.

Forrest, Claire. Where You See Yourself. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338813838.
Gr 9 Up–Determined to enjoy all her senior year has to offer, Effie embraces moving out of her comfort zone and speaking up. A fantastic contemporary tale filled with authentic moments about the daily life of a wheelchair user who is finding her voice while navigating an ableist world.

Hatzopoulou, Kika. Threads That Bind. Penguin/Razorbill. ISBN 9780593528716.
Gr 9 Up–In a noir dystopian world where gods’ descendants have their powers, Io uses her abilities as a private investigator, tracking people’s Threads and connections, when she accidentally witnesses a murder. A searing slow-burn romance, complex characters, and propulsive plot make for a vivid page-turner.

Ibañez, Isabel. What the River Knows. Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250803375.
Gr 8 Up–When her parents disappear, Inez abandons her future as a high-society socialite in Argentina to find answers in Egypt and discovers their dangerous expedition to Cleopatra’s Tomb. Magic and an excellent rivals-to-lovers romance add layers to the tightly woven plot and intricate historical worldbuilding.

La Sala, Ryan. Beholder. Scholastic/PUSH. ISBN 9781338745344.
Gr 9 Up–As Athan races through an absolutely unhinged mystery on the hunt for his missing Yia-yia, the spirit that has always followed him through the mirrors is catching up. La Sala invites readers to examine the space between self and other, reality and its distorted reflection.

Levithan, David. Ryan and Avery. Knopf. ISBN 9780399553097.
Gr 7 Up–Over the course of 10 dates, Ryan and Avery fall in love. Fans of Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing will recognize Ryan and Avery and rejoice in learning more about their story. A swoonworthy romance that will have readers reminiscing on their first love.

McBride, Amber. We Are All So Good at Smiling. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250780386.
Gr 9 Up–When Whimsy and Faerry meet during in-patient treatment for clinical depression, they recognize the magic within each other but are unsure what their connection may be. Beautifully written verse and a fairy-tale metaphor give readers a better understanding of the struggles of living with clinical depression.

McCullough, Joy. Enter the Body. Dutton. ISBN 9780593406755.
Gr 7 Up–Under a stage in a theater somewhere, some of Shakespeare’s beloved and betrayed female characters retell their own stories, taking agency over the things they wish could’ve happened differently. McCullough reinvigorates the canon and provides new entry points for modern students with compelling and deeply thinking characters.

Metoui, Meriam. A Guide to the Dark. Holt. ISBN 9781250863218.
Gr 8 Up–Mira experiences visions of her late brother when she and best friend Layla check into a roadside motel after a derailed road trip; they may be connected to the numerous deaths that have occurred in the room. Slow-burn sapphic sweetness and photographs add sparkle to a haunting read.

Oshiro, Mark. Into the Light. Tor Teen. ISBN 9781250812254.
Gr 9 Up–Manny, a queer teen cast out of his devout religious family, is determined to reunite with his younger sister, who is still living with their adoptive parents. Oshiro uses a nonlinear time line to tell a compelling story that explores trauma, abuse, and white saviorism.

Owen, Margaret. Painted Devils. Holt. ISBN 9781250831163.
Gr 9 Up–Vanja’s been a hero and a villain, but when her newest con accidentally wakes a sleeping goddess, she’ll have to work with new and old friends to keep from becoming a martyr. Thoughtful representation of asexuality and consent is woven in as Vanja and Eimeric’s romance evolves.

Park, Patricia. Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim. Crown. ISBN 9780593563373.
Gr 8 Up–Being Korean Argentinian, Alejandra Kim has always felt at odds with her peers, and fitting in becomes more of a hurdle when microaggressions at school pull Alejandra into the spotlight. An excellent teen journey exploring stereotypes, friendship, family dynamics, and what it means to belong.

Shukairy, Ream. The Next New Syrian Girl. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316432634.
Gr 9 Up–Khadija struggles to be the model daughter, but all that changes when Syrian refugees Leene and her mother come to live with Khadija’s family. Told in alternating viewpoints, with an unforgettable connection between two young women and the friendship that blooms through challenges, loss, and hope.

Tison, Ari. Saints of the Household. Farrar. ISBN 9780374389499.
Gr 8 Up–Tison’s debut explores the lives of two Bribri American brothers living with PTSD from their father’s abuse; after they commit an act of violence, each deals with the fallout in different ways. Told via the teens’ dual perspectives, partially in verse, this novel is heartrending and compelling.

Wellington, Joelle. Their Vicious Games. S. & S. ISBN 9781665922425.
Gr 10 Up–Adina loses her Ivy League acceptance due to fighting, but competing in the Finish is a way to regain her future. A rich family with sinister secrets, competitors willing to kill, and a competition that is not what it seems make this a must-read thriller.

White, Andrew Joseph. The Spirit Bares Its Teeth. Peachtree Teen. ISBN 9781 682636114.
Gr 9 Up–Resistance to life as a wife and mother lands Silas a diagnosis of Veil sickness and conscription to a torturous conversion facility masquerading as a boarding school. Horrific fictional violence parallels the real psychological violence of forced conformity, but Silas finds redemption in community.

Zimmermann, Laura. Just Do This One Thing for Me. Dutton. ISBN 9780593530337.
Gr 8 Up–Brimming with humor and absurdity, Zimmermann’s latest follows two sisters desperate to keep what remains of their family intact after their mother tries to abandon them for a Justin Timberlake concert and instead ends up dead in the shed. Witty, unexpectedly emotionally powerful, and unforgettable.

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