Best of 2021 YA Reads Including Mystery, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Horror

5 YA Books That Will Keep You Glued to Its Pages
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Best of 2021 YA Reads Including Mystery, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Horror

Best of 2021 YA Reads Including Mystery, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Horror

The year has come to an end, and what a year 2021 has been! While the pandemic is definitely challenging for all of us, one good thing to come of it is more indoor time which also means more reading! What better way to start the new year than with some gripping, exciting, un-put-down-able novels. If you are looking to add variety to the young adult novels you’ve been reading, look no further, we have our best of 2021 YA reads below!

1. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (416 pages)

Best of 2021 YA Reads

Image via Maiya Alismaili

Ellingham Academy is a posh, elite boarding school in Vermont that was built in the early 20th century by Albert Ellingham. He designed it to educate the brightest and most innovative high schoolers who possess unique interests and skills. Stevie Bell, a modern day true crime buff, is accepted to the school, with the goal of solving the crime that shook America – the kidnapping of Albert’s wife and daughter. While trying to juggle her new curriculum and solve the case, tragedy strikes when a fellow student is murdered. Life on campus is about to change. 

Why You Should Read It

If a YA murder mystery novel can be described as perfect in every way, this is it. It has everything you could want in a mystery: suspense, hidden clues, quirky characters, and a case that is almost impossible to solve. The protagonist is perfectly imperfect, and you cannot help but root for her. She is essentially the modern day Sherlock Holmes. This is where I give author Maureen Johnson major credit – her ability to describe the diverse set of characters in her novel to make them dimensional and authentic is incredible. 

This is the ultimate “whodunit” novel to dissect with a reading group. If you have a morbid fascination with true crime, or are simply looking to read a book that will keep you chanting “just one more chapter!”, then Truly Devious is the one. The best part? It’s a trilogy!

Brookie Scale

5/5 Brookie Stars 

2. Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (368 pages)

Best of 2021 YA Reads

Image via Maiya Alismaili

Seventeen-year-old Maverick grows up in Garden Heights, a town notoriously known for its gangs and drugs. As the son of a former gang leader, Maverick understands the lifestyle and knows that in order to provide for himself and his mother, dealing is the only way to go. It is a lifestyle that runs through his blood, literally. That is, until he finds out he is a father too. With this added responsibility, Maverick needs to find a way to care for his son and keep his family safe, while also being loyal to the streets. When an opportunity allows him to leave the dangerous lifestyle, he takes it. However, he discovers 1alking away is never that easy.

Why You Should Read It

This prequel to The Hate U Give (THUG) can be read as a stand alone, and if you enjoyed that novel you will love this one. While it is definitely quieter than THUG, it has the perfect pace to keep you reading. At this point, Angie Thomas could write about how paint dries and I would read it. She sets the tone and the atmosphere so well that even when scenes aren’t dramatic, they are still very much engaging. While this is a work of fiction it feels very real, especially because the dialogue is on point. This kind of writing requires a special type of talent, which Thomas certainly has. If you are looking for a contemporary novel that paints a realistic picture of what life is like for a young Black man “from the hood”, this is it. 

Brookie Scale

4/5 Brookie Stars

3. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (358 pages)

Best of 2021 YA Reads

Image via Maiya Alismaili

Alina Starkov is a seemingly average girl who lives in the nation of Ravka. Once known as a great country, it has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a stretch of darkness inhabited by creatures who feast on humans. When Alina’s regiment is attacked and her best friend is severely injured, she unleashes a power within her she never knew she possessed. Swept away by The Darkling, she is taken away to receive further training. She is seen as the light at the end of a very dark tunnel for Ravka, literally. With the weight of the world on her shoulders, Alina must quickly learn how to save her people, whom she can trust, while also dealing with matters of the heart. 

Why You Should Read It

If you are like me and have been reluctant to step into the world of YA fantasy, allow me to open that door for you with Shadow And Bone. Leigh Bardugo does such an incredible job at world building that it makes it easy to follow even for fantasy newbies. Bardugo introduces Ravka, the Grisha society and all the magic that comes with it at a steady pace. Just as our protagonist becomes acquitted with the new elements outside of her realm of understanding, so does the reader. While you find yourself rooting for the heroine, the villain is going down as one of the most loved and well written evil powers in fantasy history.

If you are craving something dark, magical, with sprinkles of the friends-to-lovers and enemies-to-lovers trope, the Grisha Verse trilogy is a must read.

Brookie Scale

5/5 Brookie Stars

4. All These Bodies by Kendare Blake (304 pages)

Best of 2021 YA Reads

Image via Maiya Alismaili

In 1958 midwest USA, a series of “ bloodless” murders has left the country stumped. Victims are found without a single drop of blood in their bodies, and no trace of it anywhere else. Fifteen-year-old Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene of the crime, alive, and covered from head to toe in blood that is not hers. She refuses to tell her story to anyone except Michael Jensen, the son of the local sheriff. An aspiring journalist, Michael seizes the opportunity and begins to meet with Marie. As he gets to know her, the nature of their relationship begins to shift and the truth is never as transparent as it seems.

Why You Should Read It

Creepy, eerie, and totally spooky are just a few words I can use to describe the feelings I got while reading this blend of horror, mystery, and thriller all in one. The last page leaves you craving more, while also questioning what you thought this story was all about. Kendare Blake sets the tone in this small town so well. Everything from the dialect spoken, the mannerisms of people from the 1950s, all the way down to the way women were viewed and treated. She weaves in paranormal elements to the story, all the while making you question what the truth means to you. The major cliffhanger and ending leaves something to be desired for some readers, which makes it absolutely the best type of book to dissect at a book club.

Brookie Scale

3.5/5 Brookie Stars

5. Love From A to Z by S.K.Ali (384 pages)

Best of 2021 YA Reads

Image via Maiya Alismaili

Zayneb, an American high school senior, finds herself face to face with a blatant Islamophobic teacher. She gets suspended for confronting him, and is sent to Qatar by her parents to visit her aunt during spring break. The hope is that she can find a calmer version of herself while away. As fate would have it, Adam is on the same flight to Qatar from London. His recent diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, the same illness that took his mother’s life, is news he will have to break to his family and friends. Meeting Zayneb on his journey is not something he was expecting, and neither was she. Their worlds collide in ways neither one of them imagined. 

Why You Should Read It

S.K.Ali paints a very authentic picture of young Muslim teenagers without any cliches or stereotypes. She normalizes their lives, as they have hopes and aspirations just like any other teen, only with extra hurdles. As a Muslim reader, it is quite refreshing to see myself so accurately represented in literature. The novel has the perfect meet-cute story between Adam and Zayneb. If the opposites attract trope is your thing, look no further than Love From A to Z.  

Brookie Scale

4.5/5 Brookie Stars

Love our end of the year roundup? Don’t forget to pick up one of the reads for 2022! Let us know what you thought of our best of 2021 YA reads by emailing us here

Maiya Alismaili is a 34 year old bookacholic who currently resides in Ottawa. With a background in Human Resources and Psychology, you will often find her people watching. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she will likely be exploring the town for new bookstores, rewatching Gilmore Girls, or cleaning to 80s music.

Favorite Book: A Fine Balance By Rohinton Mistry

Favorite Brunch Spot: Cafe Cristal

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