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BEST OF 2019

The Best Books of 2019: Young Adult Fiction

Once & Future,” Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (Jimmy Patterson) When Ari Helix crash lands on “Old Earth” and grabs a magical sword, she reveals herself to be the 42nd incarnation of King Arthur in this playful and inclusive retelling of T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King.”

Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday,” Natalie C. Anderson (Putnam) A harrowing tale of a Somali teen who infiltrates the Al Shabaab militia in an attempt to save his beloved brother, taken for a child soldier years before.

Juliet Takes a Breath,” Gabby Rivera (Dial Books) Puerto Rican “baby dyke” Juliet Palante manages to come out to her traditional family, but when she leaves the Bronx for an internship with a superstar white feminist she discovers that acceptance, like love, is complicated.


Four Dead Queens,” Astrid Scholte (Putnam) A talented young thief and the young man she steals from are drawn together by their feelings for each other as well as by a murder conspiracy in this fast-paced debut fantasy.

Kiss Number 8," Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw (illustrator) (First Second) Mads has tried kissing and she doesn’t get what the fuss is about. It’s all tongue and slobber, until she tries kissing a girl in this smart, funny graphic novel.

Birthday,” Meredith Russo (Flatiron Books) Best friends Eric and Morgan share a birthday, which they always celebrate together. But as they navigate the teen years, can Morgan share that they’re transgender?

Descendant of the Crane,” Joan He (Whitman) As Princess Hesina searches for the assassins who killed her father, she learns the truth about her realm and the nature of ruling in this engaging and expansive Asian-inspired fantasy.

Hot Dog Girl,” Jennifer Dugan (Putnam) It’s Magic Castle Playland’s last summer ever and even though Lou is stuck in the role of “hot dog girl,” she’s determined to save the park — and break up local heartthrob Nick and Seeley, his all-too-perfect girl.


On the Come Up,” Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray) The author of “The Hate You Give” takes up the tale of Bri, who hopes to become a rapper like her late father, despite the stigma and struggles of a career in hip-hop.

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight,” Gilly Segal and Kimberley Jones (Sourcebooks) Lena and Campbell are not friends, but when a violent race riot breaks out at a high school football game the two teens must learn to work together if they are going to survive.

Clea Simon’s most recent novel is “A Spell of Murder.” She can be reached at