YA book gift ideas

A school librarian friend was looking for book recommendations for middle-school kids, so I thought I might share some of the YA titles that I liked this year here, too. For the most part, my tastes run to mystery and fantasy/horror, so these might skew a little on the dark/strange/older side. Give them a looksee to see what the kids in your life might like–or pick up a few for yourself!

First, several folks that I know came out with books this year: Marti Dumas’s Wildseed Witch series is fantastic. Linda Williams Jackson’s latest, The Lucky Ones, is gorgeous. David W. Walker’s Max Series is a fun, old-school fantasy-adventure in the vein of the Knights of the Round Table or Lord of the Rings. The third book is out now!

As for books by folks that I don’t know, I really enjoyed Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything by Justine Pucella Winans. It’s a Rear-Window-style mystery with a very funny, nonbinary protagonist. The author also has some middle-grade books, which I haven’t read yet but am interested in checking out. Their writing style is engaging, fast-paced, and big-hearted.

For older kids, The Scapegracers and its sequels by H.A. Clark is an exciting series about a group of teenage witches discovering their powers and trying to stop witchhunters. It’s a little bit gritty, but funny and sweet in an off-kilter way. Which might be what I want on my headstone, now that I think about it.

My younger son and I both enjoyed Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, which isn’t specifically for kids, but I don’t remember anything objectionable other than violence. Atticus, the last Druid on Earth, and his cool telepathic dog must defend themselves and their friends from a variety of baddies: vampires, evil witches, a really unpleasant version of Thor. Hearne plays around with mythology in fun ways, and the series has cool new covers this year. I am looking forward to checking out his other series (his email newsletter is delightful too).

As for some books that came out a few years ago, Nimona by N.D. Stevenson is a delightful graphic novel about a wacky little monster and the archvillan who doesn’t want her help. I picked this up after enjoying the movie on Netflix, and it is different enough from the movie to warrant a read.

Heist Society by Ally Carter: This came out several years ago, but I think there are recent sequels that I haven’t checked out yet. It’s an exciting heist with an enjoyable cast and a good heart. Good twists, funny too.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray: A fast-paced sci-fi adventure/romance with lots of twists. It has a sequel or two that I haven’t read, and the author has other series that sound like fun. Maybe geared toward older kids.

I loved Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland; lots of magic and mystery and romance mixed with Mexican-American lore. She has two other books out now too, plus books of poetry, which all sound wonderful.

A few years ago I very much enjoyed Margaret Owen’s Merciful Crow series, and then Little Thieves. Painted Devils–the sequel to Little Thieves–came out this year and is on my list.

I just love quirky fantasies that play around with mythology and monsters. These are a few of my favorite things…hope they lead you to yours. Happy reading!