Holiday Reads: YA Edition

By the number of book contests on this blog, you’ve probably deduced that I like to read, almost as much as I like to give books as gifts. As a matter of fact, I participated in not one, but two books-only gift exchanges this year (and it’s not even Christmas yet!) With that in mind, I’ve pulled together three lists of my favourite choices not only to read, but give this holiday season. I also strongly recommend you check out my mid-year must-reads posts from this summer to get a full library’s worth of bookish ideas. Today, we start with YA fiction – a hot commodity with the rise of series like The Hunger Games, and chockful of amazing, talented writers. Don’t let the age of the protagonists fool you, these are well worth picking up!

FinaleFinale by Becca Fitzpatrick – $22.99 List / $17.49 Online
Hmm if I had to wager, I’d say this was one of THE most hotly-anticipated YA books of the year, as the final entry into Becca Fitzpatrick’s supernatural love story about a human (/ newborn Nephilim) girl named Norah and her fallen angel boyfriend Patch. The plot twists come fast and furious at you in this latest twisty turny installment – never mind all the dangling storylines from the previous book (will Norah side with the Nephilim or protect the fallen angels? will Marnie figure out it was Norah who murdered her father? what will happen now that Cheshvan is finally on the horizon? can Norah avoid swearing fealty?), Fitzpatrcik throws in a half-dozen more to really complicate things – including addictive but power-boosting ‘devilcraft’, Norah exploring her newfound powers, a threatening archangel named Pepper, the slinky return of Dabria, and even Vee has something hidden up her sleeve. While all the plotlines make for an absolutely page-turning read, I’ll admit, I felt like some of the fun relationships built up in the past books were a tiny bit downplayed – which is a shame for all those Patch/Norah diehards out there. Still, it proved to be a relatively satisfying and literal finale to a fun, frothy series that took itself FAR less seriously than say, Twilight, despite the many similarities between the stories. And if you’re shopping for a Twilight fan? Consider the entire Hush, Hush saga box set.

Croak Gina Damico

Croak by Gina Damico – $10
Bad girl Lex’s parents are finally done with her – so much so, they’ve shipped her off to her Uncle Mort in upstate New York. The catch? Uncle Mort just happens to be the Grim Reaper, and he’s inducting her into his cadre of apprentices to learn the family business. The book takes a Dexter-esque spin when Lex is tasked with ‘killing’ murder victims, a job she finds hideously unfair, especially when she knows she has the power to track down and end the lives of the murderers. Before she can jump on the anti-murderer train however, bodies of the very folks Lex would like to see dead start piling up. She starts investigating the source of the vengeful murders – but in doing so, must face the question as to whether or not she’ll stop the unforeseen murders or join up with the at-large killer.

every day david levithan

Every Day by David Levithan – $19.99 List / $15.19 Online
As a coauthor of much lighter fare like Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green) and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn), it’s a bit of a leap for David Levithan to have produced such an existentialist, mind-bending book…but he’s done it, and done it well. Our unnamed protagonist who goes simply by ‘A’ has been waking up in a different body for ‘his’ entire lifetime. As A floats through life, somewhat at peace with his unusual situation, he’s suddenly shocked awake when he meets and falls in love with a girl named Rhiannon. Suddenly A will do anything to get to Rhiannon – but of course, things become complicated, particularly when situations arise like A waking up in Rhiannon’s own body. This book is so incredibly filled with longing, even from the opening pages, it’ll have you wincing like a lovestruck teenager in no time – a definite winner for the YA literati.

The Diviners Libba Bray

The Diviners by Libba Bray – $21.99 List / $16.71 Online
Author Libba Bray is known for her irreverent humour, as demonstrated in her popular and witty satires Beauty Queens and Going Bovine. Here, she tries her hand at launching a brand new series set in 1920s New York, through the eyes of small-town girl Evie. Life’s not all fun and games – despite the dazzling allure of the city that never sleeps – Edie’s got a pesky supernatural power (I don’t want to spoil what it is!) that she’s trying to hide from her Occult-addicted, conspiracy theorist uncle. When a rash of murders starts plaguing the town, Edie realizes she might be able to help thanks to her powers, but little does she know doing so actually puts her at risk to be the next victim. Despite being punctuated with Bray’s trademark punchy, effervescent style, this book is actually pretty bone-chilling. Good luck putting it down…and not having nightmares!

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. LarsenThe Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen – $19.99 List / $15.19 Online
Bullying and mental health is SUCH a hot button issue right now, and Canadian author Susin Nielsen’s award-winning book tackles the issue head-on. Told through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy named Henry, the book is a series journal entries. The reluctance comes from the fact it’s Henry’s therapist that encourages him to start exploring his thoughts, after his older brother brought a shotgun to school, forcing the family to hit a dramatic reset button. It’s a slim, easy volume that packs a powerful emotional wallop. The daily musings of Henry may start off as relatively placid and guarded, but as the book wears on, he becomes more outright emotional and angry – not just at his brother, but his parents, his friends, and the unfairness of life.

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Rebel Heart by Moira Young – $19.95 list / $15.16 Online
YA dystopian trilogies are THE thing right now, and last year’s well-received Blood Red Road (out in paperback this past summer) is among the literal hottest. In the last book we met Saba, a world-weary girl with a serious chip on her shoulder thanks to her family barely scraping by in a scorched earth vision of our society. Her brother captured, Saba set out on a quest to rescue him – the consequences of which are explored in this second volume. In some ways, this book exceeds the quality of the first one – if primarily because the language is a lot easier to digest once you’ve got the style down from the first book. Fans of the Jack will also delight in the opening chapter told from his point-of-view, along with the overall focus on him as a major plot point this time around…and with that, I hope I’ve tantalized you enough to pick it up (granted if you read Blood Red Road you’ve probably already got this one on order!)

Yesterday by CK Kelly MartinYesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin – $19.95 List / $15.16 Online
Truthfully it’s rare to read a YA dystopian society book by a Canadian author, never mind a YA dystopian society book set in Canada. The ‘Yesterday’ refers to 1985, when Freya Kallas is a teenage girl who has moved across the planet (from New Zealand to Canada) and is navigating the typical social and dating strata of high school life. That is, until two key things happen – she meets a strangely familiar boy named Garren, one she can’t shake the feeling she knows. Said boy triggers happening number two – haunting dreams of a place that feels both surreal and memorable. Freya begins to unravel her own story, and the possibility she might not actually be a teenager in the 1980s, but somehow sent back from 2063, when the planet was in near-shambles. The only problem? Someone really doesn’t want Freya to figure things out – putting her and Garren’s lives in mortal peril.

Mariko Tamaki(You) Set Me On Fire by Mariko Tamaki – $16 List / $12 Online
Despite the fiery premise of this book, I found it to be a breath of fresh air in the YA literary sphere. For one, it’s set at a college, in protagonist Allison’s freshman year. Two, it’s got a really smart voice. Instead of flowering up the pages with lots of literary, descriptive language, Tamaki writes how people think and act and observe. What’s there to observe? Well, the life of a girl that’s ready to bloom into a fresh new identity after a lackluster high school experience, and being on fire not once, but twice. Unfortunately university doesn’t seem to be all its cracked up to be – she still feels like the odd one out amongst her new, shiny, ever-happy classmates. That is, until she meets Shar; impossibly pretty and sociable, and somehow she’s taken a liking to Allison. That’s not to say this is the healthiest of friendships – the book dances around Allison’s view of finally finding a loving friendship, and the realities of who Shar is as a person. Salacious and incredibly well-written, this is a total must-read.

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor – $19.99 List / $15.19 Online
One of 2011’s most hotly-touted new YA series’ was Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. I read it, and immediately fell in love with Taylor’s absolutely beautiful, imaginative writing style. The story of Karou, a girl who’s hair grew blue right from her scalp, a girl who was studying Art in Prague but kept company with Chimeras, and a girl who collected human teeth on a mysterious mission for monstrous-looking guardian, was absolutely riveting (although admittedly, dragged the tiniest bit when the big, long reveal was played out). If nothing else, it’s a book that has LONG stayed with me, in anticipation for the second, equally-if-not-better-written tale of warring angels and demons, and the love story at the centre of it all. I reallllly don’t want to say too much if you haven’t read the first book (or if you have), but I can promise this one was worth the wait, as will the third chapter in the series be! Look forward to more stunning storytelling and writing, Taylor’s signature everchanging-in-length chapters, and an edge-of-your-seat middle entry into one of the best new series out there.

Chris Colfer Struck By LightningStruck By Lighting: The Carson Phillips Journal by Chris Colfer – $19.99 List / $15.19 Online
Glee star Chris Colfer is a busy beaver. I read and adored his children’s book, The Book of Stories, a few month’s ago, and now he’s also launched a YA title WITH a movie adaptation co-starring Colfer and Bridesmaids star Rebel Wilson due out in January. You catch all that? As for the story, it’s about a guy (dare I say, a ‘loser’) who is quite literally struck by lightning – but not before he blackmails seventeen of his fellow classmates into helping him with the school’s lit mag. Much like the other ‘journal’-style book highlighted in this post, Colfer’s book tackles bullying, but not without a smart look at the high school social strata. It’s still fun for the most part – kids with an ear for gossip will get the vibe right away – but it also tries to accomplish something, and I have to say, it does a pretty good job. Another cool book on this list in part because it features a rarely seen – in YA fiction anyway – a male protagonist.

Reached by Ally CondieReached by Ally Condie – $19.00 List / $14.44 Online
As one of the first major players in the YA market after the explosion of The Hunger Games and Twilight, Ally Condie’s Matched series is also one of the first to conclude, in this final, powerful chapter. I read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World earlier this year and was struck by the similarities between that book and the everything-in-its-place world created by Condie. Of course, like most of these dystopian trilogies, the society is ripe for a revolution – and Cassia finds herself at the crux of it, hoping for the ability to choose, and the ability to experience art and joy and love the way she’s been able to outside of the walls of her former life. And no matter WHERE you land on the Cassia-Ky-Xander triangle, know that not only is there a resolution within this book, but a devastating heartbreaking ending to accompany it. Grab the tissues, curl up, and when you’re done, know a movie series is on the way!

Tilt by Ellen Hopkins

Tilt by Ellen Hopkins – $21.99 List / $16.79 Online
If nothing else, this book shines for the way it’s written – that is, in poetic verse. Endless short ‘chapters’ tell the intertwining stories of three teenagers – all of which happen to be inspired by characters in Hopkins’ adult novel Triangles. Mikayla has seen her parents fall out of love, and she’s sure she’s found the antidote for herself in the form of a possible love interest – but when her expectations are shattered, she starts questioning everything. Shane has newly come out, but it hasn’t made his life as easy as he thought it might be. And Harley, a genuinely sweet girl, finds herself changing for the worse when trying to define who she is. This is a great story for any teen that’s got a passion for writing – it’s unlike nothing they’ll have encountered before, and once you get the hang of the unique style, you’ll find yourself engrossed in these three tender-yet-real stories.

Beautiful Redemption

Beautiful Redemption – $20.99 List / $15.95 Online
Like the aforementioned Hush, Hush series, the four-book Beautiful Creatures series has drawn some comparisons to Twilight for its paranormal romance theme. Interestingly the book actually has two protagonists – innocent Ethan Wate, a resident of the small town of Gatlin, which he couldn’t wait to leave…that is, until he met Lena in book one, a girl with a supernatural curse. Over the course of four stories their love has been tested, their lives have been threatened, and their sanity has been questioned – and now that the two of them are apart, they’ll do anything to claw their way back to one another.

Grave MercyGrave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – $19.99 List / $15.19 Online
Fantasy has some street cred these days thanks to popular series like Game of Thrones, and new movies like The Hobbit. Robin LaFevers is tipping her toe into the pond with this new medieval / supernatural story about a teenage girl who’s escaped an arranged marriage, only to be plunged into a literal deal with the devil (or at least, death). Trained as an assassin, Isame is given a target: infiltrate the high court of Brittany and get ready to kill. Only…she falls in love….or at least she thinks she does. And suddenly Ismae is trapped in a lose/lose situation to either protect someone she loves at the risk of her own life, or vice versa – neither of which will net the unhappy couple a happy ending. A different spin on the ever-popular YA series, and one worth giving your Thrones-loving or even Katniss-adoring teen.

The Kill Order by James Dashner

The Kill Order by James Dashner – $20.99 List / $15.95 Online
Have you read James Dashner’s thrilling ‘Maze Runner’ trilogy? If no, a brief synopsis would be that it involves a boy named Thomas with a blanked-out memory that arrives in a mysterious place called ‘The Glade’; a maze that’s as unfamiliar to its existing residents as to Thomas when he first appears – and the girl that follows shortly after. The other two series are further evolutions of Thomas using a combination of wits and will to get out of the crazy world he so desperately wants to be free from (or does he), but the prequel is about what exactly caused the Glade to be set up in the first place, and how humanity crumbled. Another good choice for The Hunger Games fans out there, particularly because this series IS wrapped up…none of that pesky waiting about for the next entry!

Stay tuned for more great gifts for readers in the coming weeks – but for now, kick back, relax, and open a good book, namely I’ve got five copies of Rebel Heart + two copies of Struck By Lightning to give away. If you’re interested in being one of the seven lucky winners, here’s how to enter:

1) Leave a comment by December 27th with the title you’d most like to read from this list.

2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around December 28th to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.

3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible to participate in this promotion.

4) Bonus Entry: If you’re on GoodReads, score a bonus entry for every single book from this list you add to your to-read list. Just post a link back to your to-read page so I can credit you the entries!

67 Responses to “Holiday Reads: YA Edition”
  1. Evan says:

    (You) Set Me On Fire by Mariko Tamaki sounds like a very good read. Thank you.

  2. Hannah says:

    Oh I’ve read Libba Bray before. I’d love to read The Diviners, sounds spooky. Thanks for this amazing list.

  3. Julie G. says:

    I’d be interested in reading Grave Mercy.

  4. Marlene J says:

    The Kill Order by James Dashner – $20.99 List / $15.95 Online

  5. Hayden says:

    I’ve been reading the Matched and the Hush Hush series since the beginning so both of those. I didn’t even know there was a fourth Finale book!

  6. Ashley says:

    Tilt sounds really interesting. I’m not usually a poetry reader but I’d be fascinated to see how that book works.

  7. Laura says:

    I’d really would like to read Rebel Heart aswell as the Diviners.

  8. Victoria Ess says:

    I’d really like ot read Every Day by David Levithan.

  9. Lindsey says:

    Would LOVE to read Yesterday by Kelly Martin! Canadian authors rule!

  10. Yesterday by Kelly Martin! Go Canadian authors go!

  11. Laura says:

    I would love to read rebel heart and the diviners.

  12. Lynn says:

    Would love to read Grave Mercy.

  13. Bex says:

    I heard about Every Day in Entertainment Weekly so that would be my top choice. I’m not usually a YA reader but it sounds sophisticated.

  14. debra says:


  15. Susan says:

    The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen would be my choice after hearing about it on CBC Radio yesterday.

  16. Andrea Williams says:

    I can’t choose between Rebel Heart, Yesterday, Reached and The Kill Order. These all sound fun and some I have read previous books in the series. Thanks for the list!

    I added these four books to my To Read list –

  17. Alison Braidwood says:

    These all sound good, but I’d read Yesterday first. I love a good twisty sci-fi tale. And it’s nice to read books set in Canada. Eh.

  18. Elaan says:

    I’d like to read Struck by Lightning!

  19. Kristen says:

    Great list! Looking forward to reading Struck By Lightening

  20. Joan G says:

    I’d like to read Croak.

  21. mousecat says:

    I’d most like to read “The Kill Order” by James Dashner

  22. Adina H. says:

    I’d like to read Yesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin.

  23. mousecat says:

    I’ve added “The Kill Order” to my goodreads to-read list! (#37 on my list)

  24. linnett says:

    Croak sounds like a good read, thanks

  25. Wanda Washington says:

    Croak sounds kooky, like Dexter!

  26. Sadie says:

    Days Of Blood And Starlight

  27. jackie says:

    Wow, what a great list…so many good reads to look forward to.

  28. alison k says:

    The title I’d most like to read from this list is “Croak by Gina Damico – $10” ‘cos it’s such an unusual premise.

    Bonus Entry: link to my GoodReads to-read page with all 15 books

    Thank you

  29. The book I am wanting to read the most is Tilt – by Ellen Hopkins, my daughter and I are avid readers and have been following Hopkins books for years and have enjoyed every single one of them !

  30. Donnas says:

    I’d want to read Every Day by David Levithan. It sounds very interesting.

  31. Beverly says:

    I want to read (You) Set Me On Fire by Mariko Tamaki.

  32. Xin says:

    I want to read Every Day by David Levithan

  33. Kamarra says:

    Tilt – by Ellen Hopkins. I’ve read pretty much all of her book and this is next on my list

  34. Chloe says:

    Reached for sure. I love Matched!

  35. Taps says:

    Croak and Every day

  36. Andrea says:

    Stuck by Lightning!

  37. intensev5 says:

    Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick

  38. Sean Pynaert says:

    tilt sounds like a good read

  39. Andrea Amy says:

    I’m going to say Yesterday, but they all look interesting.

  40. darci says:

    The KILL Order

  41. I have been waiting to read Beautiful Redemption .

  42. prim says:

    Yesterday. Yay Canada!

  43. Shanilee says:

    the FINALE looks interesting

  44. lucy says:


  45. darringleannedleanne says:

    i would like to read beautiful redemption

  46. lashly says:

    That’s cool that struck by lightning has a movie coming out so close to the book coming out. Now I don’t have to wait yeras!

  47. Sadie says:

    (You Set Me) On Fire sounds intriguing. I wonder how she got on fire in the first place?

  48. Cindy says:

    The Diviners looks like it would be very interesting!

  49. Wanda Washington says:

    Grave Mercy for me!

  50. Linda Chaput says:

    Croak would be my favourite.

  51. rhansen says:

    I’d like to read Yesterday.

  52. Bex says:

    The Kill Order. I read the otehr James Dashner books and loved them!

  53. Chloe says:


  54. meggers41 says:

    The Diviners is on my to read list

  55. Patricia says:

    Finale. My sister introduced me to Becca Fitzpatrick after Twilight and I love them so much.

  56. angela mitchell says:

    I’m most interested in Grave Mercy.

  57. Reading is my favourite past time. Ever. There is nothing better than getting lost in a good book. My mother is a hardcore reader, and I am glad this is something I have passed on to my daughter. My nieces (one with a learning disability) are also avid readers. We are a family of book nerds ! Some times I get frustrated that there just is not enough time for all these great books out there !! In high school I read the top 100 books as my new years resolution ! Took me 3 months ! Lolita, The Great Gatsby and Crabbe are my all time favourite books.

    Here is my to read list on Goodreads !

  58. Trinity says:

    Bullying is so big right now. either Struck by Lightning or the Reluctant Journal sound like good reads.

  59. Tobey says:

    Grave mercy

  60. Juliee F says:

    I would really like to read – Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

  61. Brook says:

    Grave mercy sounds good…

  62. stacey h says:

    ‘struck by lightning’ looks good

  63. raven says:

    grave mercy sounds good

  64. Edward says:

    The Diviners sounds interesting.

  65. Teresa Komorski says:


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