Reviews for Young Adults – December 2019

With the end of the year quickly approaching, we've been looking back at what we read this year. From new releases to books of years past, here are some of the stand-out Young Adult reads for library staff in 2019.

2019 - Reviews

Graphic novel fans should check out Malcom from Shirley Library's booklist of Award Winning Comics of 2019. It's a collection of great graphic novels for children, teens, and audults. Some of my favourite graphic novels snagged prizes including the beautifully drawn Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up With Me. It tackles unhealthy relationships and finding your place. 

The Clockill and the Thief by Gareth Ward

The Clockill and the Thief

Have you ever eagerly awaited the sequel to a book, or maybe a movie, only to find yourself thoroughly disappointed when it finally comes out? Well believe me, The Clockill and the Thief by Gareth Ward is NOT one of those sequels! It is just as exciting, funny, and unusual as The Traitor and the Thief, or even a smidgerooney more!  

Sin, the hero of this steampunk adventure series, is a fourteen-year-old orphan and former pick-pocket recruited as a spy-in-training by the Covert Operations Group. The Clockill and the Thief picks up right where Traitor left off. Once again, Sin isn't sure who he can trust, or who to believe, as he learns to fight sky pirates aboard a fantastical steam-powered zeppelin. Basically, he's just trying not to end up dead, or take his friends (and frenemies) down with him, while saving the world from the next world war. Exciting? Absolutemon!

Bronwen - Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre

Cold Storage by David Koepp

Cold Storage

A devastating space fungus threatens to destroy the world and the only people who can stop it are a loveable hoodlum who talks too much, the girl he's crushing on, hard, and a 'retired' special agent. It was just the right amount of weird, creepy, scientific and hilarious and written by the guy who wrote the screenplays for Jurassic Park and Mission Impossible.

Monique - Fendalton Library

The Missing of Clairedelune by Christelle Dabos

The Missing of Clairdelune

The sequel to A Winter's Promise. We learn more in depth about Ophelia's adopted world, the history and secrets surrounding the somewhat distant fiancé Thorn and his family. Thorn and Ophelia become closer as together they investigate the disappearance of the courtiers.

A dash of romance, a little intrigue and adventure with lots of plot twists keeps the pages turning and readers wanting more

Looking forward to the next in the series.

Ann - Spreydon Library

The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods by Emily Barr

The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods

Features a strong central character - Arty - who is born into a small matriarchal community in a south Indian forest.

Arty has never left the forest or had any interactions with the outside world until disaster strikes the small community and she has to venture out into the world with just her 4 year old community brother.The story follows her adventures and how she navigates the modern world.

Very well written with a sympathetic main character.

Ann - Spreydon Library

There's Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

There's Something About Sweetie

Book 3 of Sandhya Menon's best-selling Dimple and Rishi series.

Teenagers navigate romance and life while trying to keep their traditional Indian families happy. A contemporary novel featuring tradition versus modern life. Funny, charming, and romantic. 

The first in the series -  When Dimple Met Rishi - was a staff pick when it came out in 2017.

Ann - Spreydon Library

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Descendant of the Crane

We are often told to not judge a book by its cover. However, in the case of Descendant of the Crane, I would encourage it! You see, the cover art on this book is just as excellent as the story between its pages.

Descendant of the Crane is packed full of political plotting, twists, treacheries and triumphs. This is a tale that begins with treason, follows up with murder and just keeps raising the stakes from there.

Our leading lady, Princess Hesina, is both reluctant and determined, headstrong and thoughtful. Being in charge of a kingdom comes with a whole bunch of existing issues and Hesina’s philosophical approach to combatting these really brings the character to life.

Culturally rich, cunningly plotted and masterfully wrapped up, Descendant of the Crane takes pride of place as my favourite YA read of 2019.

Christopher - New Brighton Library

Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks


So the topic of teenage pregnancy is not new, but the way this unwanted teenage pregnancy ending in abortion is written was new to me. It was a funny, heart warming, far-fetched and adventurous story of a journey one teenage girl has to go through with her ex-best friend from years ago.

It follows the “perfect” Veronica as she has to face her fears and who she is. She has to take a 1600 mile round trip to get to a clinic where she can legally abort her baby. The person to take her is the “weird” ex-best friend that finds out her secret.

Their journey is tumultuous to say the least, desperate at times yet always written in a hilarious light hearted way. This fun, fast paced easy to read book will provide you with a great way to spend a hot sunny afternoon sitting poolside.

Katie - Outreach 

Navigating The Stars by Maria V. Snyder

Navigating The Stars

Lyra is forced to travel with her parents (interplanetary archaeologists), which in theory is fine, except high speed space travel has a number of drawbacks: namely, the death of her social-life. Also, there's these dangerous shadowy blobs that only she can see, that may or may not have to do with a mystery surrounding the Terracotta warriors that are popping up all over the galaxy.

Why is this my pick of the year? There's action, there's adventure, there's a sprinkling of romance (not overwhelming, I promise), and a mystery that only our plucky protagonist with a penchant for delinquency can solve. Snyder has a delightful turn of phrase and always has incredibly enjoyable main and side characters.

Claire - Hapori | Community, Tūranga 

Heartstopper 2 by Alice Oseman


A gorgeous follow-up to the first volume, Heartstopper 2 is a sweet, warm, and accessible story about two high-school boys navigating a romance between them. I loved this even more than the first one, largely because we got to see more of the relationships between the boys and their wonderful families. I’ve never been much of a reader of graphic novels, but the Heartstopper series has certainly inspired me to explore more!

Heartstopper 3 is due out next year.

Ray - Hapori | Community, Tūranga 

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High

A rare example of a book being as wonderful as its cover! With the Fire on High tells the story of Emoni, a young high school student with a passion for cooking and an uncertain future after the birth of her daughter Emma. I loved that the story didn’t fall on any clichés that we often read about when we read about young mums – it was a fresh, interesting, funny, and sometimes emotional story. Make sure you read with a snack handy – the descriptions of food are so good that you’ll be left feeling very hungry!

Ray - Hapori | Community, Tūranga 

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Amy from Linwood Library picked Truly Devious as her top Murder Mystery read of 2019.

Truly Devious

This detective series has been immensely popular! Stevie Bell has got herself admitted to Ellingham Academy - an exclusive boarding school for the gifted - with the hope of survival the historical kidnapping of the founder's wife and daughter. Death revisits Ellingham Academy in Truly Devious and the 2019 sequel The Vanishing Stair brings Stevie so much closer to solving the mystery. The final book - The Hand on the Wall -  is due out next year and will bring all the threads of murder, intrigue, and mystery together. There's sure to be a few twists on the way!

Past Years

Of course, we don't exclusively read new releases! Here are some books from past years that library staff read this year and loved. 

Amy from Linwood Library couldn't chose between Final Six and One Giant Leap as her favourite sci-fi read of 2019. They both came out last year. Check them out below:

The Final Six 

One Giant Leap

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also A Star

Fiery “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist” Natasha is fighting her family’s deportation from the US. Daniel dreams of shedding the future his parents have set out for him and live his life with some meaning. One day, they run into each other. And then, again. To be clear, I hate romance novels probably as much Natasha does, but this one took hold of me with both hands and had me fully gripped from start to finish. Because it’s not really about the romance. Yoon manages to deal with a great number of heavy topics like racism (including between marginalised groups themselves), deportation and the American dream, and fate and interconnectedness vs reason and science, but does so in a way that is somehow gritty and real but still a really fun read.

Possibly my favourite part of this book was the sense of sonder that resulted from the short vignettes into seemingly minor characters’ lives. Sonder is described as “the profound feeling of realising that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one's own, which they are constantly living despite one's personal lack of awareness of it.” Seemingly inconsequential moments between peripheral characters actually have huge effects on the lives of others, which gives you a lot to think about in the debate between interconnectedness and chaos. All in all a 5 star read (written by POC, featuring POC!), and the voice acting in the audiobook was absolutely superb so pick up a physical copy in your local library or download a digital copy on the free Libby app!

Zoe - Papanui Library

Everything, Everything (Film) 

Everything, Everything

Nicola Yoon was also a stand-out pick for Stacey from Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre but she picked up the film adaptation of Everything, Everything.

Maddy has an immune disorder which prevents her from leaving the confinements of her own home. Only a handful of people are allowed to be near her, but it all changes when her new neighbour Olly moves in and notices her through the window… Maddy has to choose between being healthy and safe in her home, or experiencing the world which she has always longed to do. This forbidden romance pulls at the heartstrings of the watcher, much like the book it is based off does. This film is full of hope, shock, sadness and joy with a surprising twist at the end!

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer


Monique from Fendalton Library picked up Annihilation, the first book of the Southern Reach Trilogy. She found it "twisted and creepy and oh so wonderful!". Annihilation was mentioned in last month's blog as a great read for fans of Wilder Girls by Rory Power. If you're feeling brave, you can watch Annihilation on Netflix or grab a DVD copy of Annihilation from us.

Spotlight on Jessica Day George

Meanwhile, Bonnie from Aranui Library went on a fairytale retelling binge this year. 

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

In my romp through YA retellings of fairy tales, I have been reading a selection of books by Jessica Day George and have been enjoying them thoroughly. The one I liked best is called Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I was unfamiliar with the original fairy tale and was impressed by how closely the author stuck to the tale and how my she was able to flesh it out. I think it's on par with Robin McKinley's Beauty which is one of my all time favourites.


The next three eBooks are part of a loosely-linked series that starts with a retelling of one of my favourite fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I always saw the tale as a story of 12 sisters subverting their strict parents to sneak out and have fun. However, the author has a more sinister interpretation of the story and follows it quite convincingly in Princess of the Midnight Ball.

Princess Of The Midnight Ball

Princess of Glass was an interesting retelling of Cinderella that explores the question of just why the fairy godmother is so nice to Cinderella. Does she have an ulterior motive? Exploring the motivations of the fairy godmother, who is an all-powerful side character in the fairy tale, casts a shadow that darkens an already-bleak story.

Princess of Glass

Jessica Day George next takes on Little Red Riding Hood in Princess of the Silver Woods. In this story she veers the furthest away from the traditional fairy tale; still it's a fun read.

Princess of the Silver Woods


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