Aly’s Top Ten YA Books of 2015

Posted December 7, 2015 by Aly in Tea Party // Random Thoughts / 6 Comments

One of the main reasons I joined this purdyful blog is because I get to talk about books. Not just review them, but actually talk about them. Where I can grab my favourites, force you all to sit down, and throw them at you until you throw your hands up in surrender and finally read them.

And now that it’s officially December (YES, MY FAVOURITE MONTH OF ALLLLLLL!) I have a list of kick-ass books that came out this year that you all have to read right this very second. Quit your jobs, quit your families, quit your friends, because these books will ruin you for reality.

  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

23395680This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
(From the Goodreads page)

Illuminae is quite easily the most talked about book of 2015, starting from the very beginning of the year. Marketing forked out a lot of dollars for a staircase at Book Expo America featuring the front cover, and even more money for a gorgeous hardback ARC that were handed out like cookies.

And all the hype, the talk, the pictures, the craze was totally worth it. I was lucky enough to read an ARC of Illuminae (although, sadly, the UK isn’t publishing the hardback so we got the paperback — which was still beautiful) and I could not. Put. It. Down. It is so good, in fact, that I know plenty of readers had preordered multiple copies (UK and US paperbacks, as well as hardbacks and even foreign editions) and other bloggers requested a bunch of early editions.  On Goodreads, the book (without it even being published yet!) had a 4.24 star rating with over 1, 200 ratings, 666 of which are 5* and 300 are 4*.

It probably helps that Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are two fabulous unicorns that love to torture their readers:

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  •  A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

61YJzE2d8QL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

A Darker Shade of Magic came out in February and I repeatedly hit myself over the head with it because I dared wait this long to read it. Truthfully, I had begun salivating when the blurb came out, and then the cover (because look at it, people) and when the reviews began rolling in, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible.

And by God, it hit my favourites list after reading the first 20 pages. That’s it — that’s all it took to hook me in and make me fall in love with the characters, the world, and Schwab herself. I haven’t read any other books by her, but they are all on my to-buy list, whether they sound like my cup of tea or not. (Did I mention she wrote a book about villains? I AM SO EXCITED TO READ IT!)

ADSOM is like nothing you will ever read — it’s dark, it’s brutal, it features two villains that could rival Cersei and Jaime Lannister, and it makes you root for all the right and wrong people. By the end of it, I was confused: my villain-loving side wanted to root for all the bad guys but I was also rooting for the main characters. It was like having to choose between cookies and cake: impossible.

Not to mention that it also features a lady thief and cutthroat that dresses like a man and has one smart mouth. The banter featured between Delilah and Kell was extraordinary. I loved every single moment of it.


  •  A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

16096824When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Sarah J Maas and her Throne of Glass series. I love it as much as I love The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. Why? Because it has all the elements of a fantastic fantasy: kick-ass characters, a fast-paced, heartbreaking plot, characters that make you weep and laugh and beautiful writing. Maas has a gift for showing us both evil and good and giving reasons for every action without boring you to tears.

So when I heard that A Court of Thorns and Roses was actually a thing and it was coming out so, so, so soon, I nearly peed myself with excitement. A Beauty and the Beast retelling with faerie elements? WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

But wait — a Beauty and the Beast retelling with faerie elements and aimed at the older end of YA readers because of hot and sexy scenes? I died. My heart literally stopped for a good ten minutes and I hyperventilated to death. I couldn’t wait. 

AND IT WAS SO GOOD. SO CRAZY GOOD. I am so happy that it isn’t a standalone, because this series is going to be amazing. 

  • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

23848145Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about Queen of Shadows because I will most likely end up spoiling the most of you by accident, and that won’t do. All I’m going to say is that I buddy-read this with Vane @ Books With Chemistry and Faye @ The Social Potato and our conversations went a lot like this:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 16.18.42 Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 16.19.44 Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 16.19.56 Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 16.21.48 Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 16.22.10

Basically, everyone has to read this book right this moment and combust with the rest of us.

  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

18460392Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

All the Bright Places came out in January. I saw it was being marketed as “The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor & Park”, rolled my eyes, closed the page and didn’t think about it until I saw it sitting all lonely on an empty shelf for half the price.

So I picked it up.

And I was blown away.

As one of the few people who didn’t like The Fault in Our Stars, I find it slightly insulting that ATBP is being compared to it. In my opinion, this book is 1000x better than TFiOS and deserves all the praise it has received. If you want a real portrayal of mental illness, of coming to terms with it and grappling with the effects of it, All the Bright Places is the book for you.

But be prepared to have a horrible book-hangover for at least a month. I know I did.

  • The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

11516221A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace – sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals – are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Precepture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

Enter Elián Palnik, the Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Precepture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?

If you want a dystopian story of insta-love, shoddy world-building and TRU WUV WINS ALL, then turn away because The Scorpion Rules is definitely not for you.

THIS BOOK. OH MY LORDY LORD. A mastermind AI ruling the world; royal children held as “hostages”; interracial and f/f romance and a romance that does not take over the entire story; a fast-paced, killer plot and brutal scenes that make your heart pound and your eyes water and your bottom lip quiver like it’s part of a bodily earthquake, The Scorpion Rules has it all.

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this bad boy and the moment I started it, I could not put it down. It was absolutely glorious and I unceremoniously shoved it down everyones throats before publication because YOU NEED THIS BOOK IN YOUR LIFE. Definitely one of the best books of 2015, and one I will happily reread a thousand times over.

  • What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

20922826Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

This story—inspired by real events—from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It’s a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

What We Saw is inspired by real events, and Aaron Hartzler did a fantastic job at portraying small town mentalities when it comes to scandals you can’t sweep under the rug. This book talks about slut-shaming, victim-blaming, the consequences of hiding things that are better left unhidden and the influences of social media in todays society and it gripped me from page one.

I sat down in the morning with it and did not put it down until I finished the last page. By the end of it, I was an emotional mess, unable to compute and, quite frankly, swollen-eyed from all the tears I desperately wanted to cry. The worst part was knowing that the events of the book happened in real life and happen every day.

It might be fictional YA, but it deals with very real, very non-fictional problems with characters that weave a wonderful tale of discovery, honesty and loss. You have been warned.

  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

17185496With a harrowing poetic voice, this contemporary page-turner is perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Julie Berry’s All The Truth That’s in Me, and the works of Ellen Hopkins.

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in oneself.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly starts with an incredibly powerful line:

I am a blood soaked girl.

And from there, I was completely and utterly hooked. This isn’t your typical YA trope-filled story. It’s new, fresh, unique and a wonderful, perfect retelling of my favourite Brother Grimm story The Girl Without Hands. It’s a gruesome book, brutally honest in its depravity, and sometimes it got so dark that I had to put it down and play Skyrim so I didn’t completely lose it.

This was easily one of the most talked about books of 2015 prior to publication (right alongside Illuminae) and I was not disappointed. The hype was all worth it, and Minnow Bly rips out your heart, stomps on it, sets it on fire and shoves you into a ditch with no remorse.

It was totally worth it.

  • The Light That Gets Lots by Natasha Carthew

20617991A small boy hiding in a cupboard witnesses something no child should ever see. He tries not to look but he still hears it. And when he comes out, there’s no mistaking. His mum and dad have been killed. And though he’s only small, he swears that he’ll get revenge one day.

Years later, Trey enters a strange camp that is meant to save troubled teenagers. It’s packed with crazies, god-botherers, devoted felons and broken kids. Trey’s been in and out of trouble ever since the day the bad thing happened, but he’s he not here for saving: this is where he’ll find the man who did it. Revenge and healing, salvation and hell are a boiling, dangerous mix, and Trey finds himself drawn to a girl, a dream and the offer of friendship in the dark.

The Light That Gets Lost doesn’t come out until November 2015, but I had the opportunity to read an ARC of it and it blew my mind. It’s ridiculously addictive and unique, with storytelling you don’t see in your average YA book — but this isn’t your average YA book. It’s heart-wrenching and spectacular and it takes you on multiple journeys.

It’s being marketed for fans of Siobhan Dowd, Meg Rosoff and Patrick Ness and I couldn’t agree more. The Light that Gets Lost deals with a teenage boy trying to find the right path to walk, how to befriend two people when he previously had no friends at all and learning to live with the consequences of his (and others’) choices. This is definitely a book worth preordering!

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

23437156Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

You hear that? It’s the sound of my inner baddie screaming, “HELL YES!” A heist? Amoral characters? People you know you’re supposed to dislike but will, ultimately, end up loving? Six of Crows is, quite literally, one of the BEST. BOOKS. EVER. A heist! A leader with a limp who has the attitude of a not-very-nice person! Diverse characters! Kick-ass action! It has it all. Although it was quite slow in the beginning, it totally paid off by the end. There is romantic tension, friendly tension, dangerous tension, just so much tension that had my nerves screaming and my eyes popping every five minutes. I can’t sing its praises enough: This book is THE book of the year!

What about you? Have you read any mind-blowing, awesome books this year? Share them in the comments!

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6 responses to “Aly’s Top Ten YA Books of 2015

  1. Ooh I LOVE your list. I haven’t read much YA this year, but I want to start off next year with some awesome recommendations like all the lovelies you have here.

  2. A few of these have been my favorite books of the year too! Illuminae, Queen of Shadows and Six of Crows! I recently bought an ebook of The Scorpian Rules, I’ll have to read it! There are a few on this list I haven’t read yet. But I’m glad for the recs. Awesome post! I loved the Twitter convo and text messages. Great post!!!!

    • Aly

      Thanks so much, Sarah! I’m glad you enjoyed it. 😀

      I feel like 2015 was such a great year for books. SO MANY GORGEOUS PRETTIES CAME OUT. I hope you enjoy The Scorpion Rules — it’s one of my favourites. In case you hadn’t noticed… hahaha.

      Thanks again! <3

  3. I haven’t read any of these books excepting All the Bright Places which I positively adored! I have all of these on my TBR as well though, with the exception of the one called The Love that gets Lost. I hadn’t even heard of that one until now so I am definitely going to have to check it out!

    • Aly

      OH DO! The Light That Gets Lost is truly a favourite. It’s by a British author and I *think* it’s only being published in the UK at the moment, but it’s so so so so good.

      oH GOD ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES. My heart still stutters whenever I think of it. T_T

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

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