Relevant Fiction Reviews: Best YA Books of 2016

Relevant Fiction Reviews

As 2016 comes to a close, I’ve collected reviews of the best Young Adult (YA) fiction I’ve read over the past year. Some of these titles are Christian fiction, some secular, but all are “clean” and appropriate for teens. (And for the enjoyment of old fogeys like me too.)

I did not include The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer here only because that series isn’t in need of more visibility. It’s an excellent series that fans of Star Wars or classic fairy tales will particularly enjoy. Fast-paced and tightly-written, there’s enough adventure, humor, scifi, and romance to please almost any reader.

At the end of this post, you’ll find some other YA favorites of 2016, including other books written by the authors featured below. (I stuck with one book featured per author.)

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I'll Be YoursI’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll Be Yours is so smooth and polished that I found it nearly impossible to put down. Sadly, the small people in my house expect food, clean clothes, fresh diapers, etc., so the reading dragged out for a whole day rather than a single sitting.

I don’t read a lot of young adult novels, but having never had a high school romance, I have a soft spot for this type of story. Every character is vivid and well-drawn. As always, Jenny B. Jones’s wry sense of humor shines through her main character, the strong but scarred Harper O’Malley.

Harper’s past trauma and present drama were skillfully interwoven with handsome football star Ridley’s scars and secrets.

In sum, a heart-warming pleasure to read filled with the hope that only love can create.

Battle for His SoulBattle for His Soul by Theresa Linden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Battle for His Soul has the power to change lives. Even though I’ve always known, intellectually, that we live among angels and demons, I seldom give it much though. Theresa Linden vividly depicts the spiritual beings as they praise, defend, tempt, and deceive. It’s allowed me to see with fresh eyes these forces at work in my own life.

I think this is a spectacular book for teens. First, it introduces them to listening to God’s call in their lives and discerning their vocations. Second, it demonstrates the practical power of prayer. Third, since teens are probably even more susceptible than the rest of us to living in the here and now, its vivid depiction of the unseen spiritual forces surrounding us is eye-opening.

And finally, this book has its place in the Year of Mercy with its sterling examples of showing compassion and mercy to all, regardless of whether they deserve it. It’s that act of mercy, that prayer, that fasting, that may just make all the difference.

IntermissionIntermission by Serena Chase
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Intermission left me breathless in the best way. My internal book-rating system includes a heart-clench level, and this book made that level explode off of the charts. I had to fight off tears while reading in the waiting room of my daughter’s ballet class.

This beautifully-written, gut-wrenching story is not only a touching, tender, and chaste love story, but an examination of obedience, an exploration of faith, and God’s magnificent plans for our lives – which may not follow our plans or our timelines.

The injustice Faith suffers will break your heart. Her growth both in virtue and courage will make you cheer. And God’s tender mercy towards her and Noah will leave you with a song in your heart whether you’re a musical theater buff or not.

The Perfect BlindsideThe Perfect Blindside by Leslea Wahl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Perfect Blindside is a great book for teens! It has a contemporary appeal, likable characters, and a little suspense and romance too. It’s well-written, and includes simple but important faith messages that teens -and adults – often need to be reminded of.

In the course of Jake dealing with his newfound fame and Sophie searching for a big story to break, they discover friendship, attraction, and something suspicious going on around the town’s abandoned mine. Through it all, Sophie learns to trust God and not be so quick to judge others. Jake learns to rely on God and get his priorities in order while keeping his ego in check.

Bottom line: a fun read that I’m eager to hand to my teen.

Unclaimed: The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless OrphanUnclaimed: The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole Cupp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you needed proof that Jane Eyre by Chariotte Bronte is a timeless classic, Unclaimed: The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan—Book 1 is it.

Erin McCole Cupp expertly re-imagines Jane as among America’s least wanted in the near future: an unclaimed embryo brought to life but unloved then laboring anonymously half a world away from home.

Interestingly, Jane’s hidden existence in a quasi school/sweatshop extends beyond merely weaving textiles, but hidden messages as well. Her only solace is the companionship of the ill Aidann, whose backstory is also modernized, and the compassion of her instructor Bhenji Nealingson.

Unclaimed takes the dear reader to Jane’s first encounter with her absentee employer Mr. Thorne in his fortress beneath the American desert.

Jane Eyre has long been a favorite of mine, and I enjoyed the first part of this retelling immensely. While appealing to the modern reader’s ear, it remains faithful to the truth of the original, even retaining the charm and tone of Bronte’s voice.

You do not, however, have to have read Jane Eyre to enjoy Jane_E. Much like the character herself, chin lifted high, it can stand on its own.

6 Dates to Disaster (Bird Face, #3)6 Dates to Disaster by Cynthia T. Toney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third installment of the Bird Face series by Cynthia Toney is another winner for young teens. As Wendy attempts to earn money to fund her Alaska summer trip to visit Mrs. V. (and Sam), she finds herself in over her head tutoring classmates. As the demands of her job spiral out of control, everything she cares about could be jeopardized – running track, school, summer plans, and most worrisome – her deepening relationship with boyfriend David.

An old friendship is revived with Jennifer, who’s also in over her head. And then there’s a little mystery involving a note hidden in an old jewelry box.

6 Dates to Disaster (and the first two books in the series) allow teens to see the ramifications of the small but important choices they make that affect their relationships – with their parents, siblings, friends, and members of the opposite sex. Add a little Cajun spice, and you have the recipe for a great read.

Others worth noting:

Liberation by Corinna Turner (I Am Margaret Book #3)

Bane’s Eyes by Corinna Turner (I Am Margaret Book #4)

Life-Changing Love by Theresa Linden (part of her teen fiction series including Battle for His Soul, above.)

Nameless by Erin McCole Cupp (second in the The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan series)

A Soldier Surrenders by Susan Peek


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