Discover more from Young at Heart
My favorite YA and MG books of 2021
in which I am, in a way, surprised by my 5-star reads
Happy new year! I hope you all had a great (and safe) holiday season. We’ve been living at my parents’ house for a few weeks as we wait on a reconstruction project from a kitchen leak we found right after Thanksgiving. Thankful for their hospitality and trying not to be too impatient with the contractor.
As we open the book on a new year, I thought I’d share my favorite kidlit/YA reads of last year. As I looked back through my reading stats, I was unsurprised to see that a large portion of my reading was in the YA and middle grade categories (and it would probably be even larger if I hadn’t gone down a romance rabbit hole in 2021 too; that trend will most likely continue 😉). But there were some surprises as you’ll see below. I’m also excited to share that I have become an affiliate with Bookshop.org. Any books you buy through my links will not only kick back a small bit to me, but they will also support local bookshops. Here’s my “shop” which I will update with favorites moving forward.
So first, some stats for the stat-curious.
Total books read: 100 (my goal was 90)
Middle Grade: 16
I started using The StoryGraph this year along with GoodReads and one of the things I love about it is that you can give partial stars. It also is amazing with stats if you’re into that. It’s really fun to look at them all, and I’m looking forward to doing even more with The StoryGraph in 2022. I plan to still use GR to keep track of my reads but I will do all my star ratings on SG.
Let’s take a look at some of my star ratings (for number of stars that include YA & MG books).
3 stars: 2 books— 1 YA
3.5 stars: 7 books— 2 YA
4 stars: 37 books— 18 either YA or MG
5 stars: 34 books—17 either YA or MG
What may be a first for me, is that I gave 5 stars to far more middle grade books than YA this year.
For YA, I re-read a few faves that remain 5-star reads: The Scorpio Races, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, and Fable, but only gave 3 new books the highest rating.
That was Namesake (Fable’s sequel), A Pho Love Story, which I wrote a whole newsletter post about, and One Way or Another, which I read right after Christmas. My favorite things about it were that it had a pretty unpredictable (in some ways) plot line, and that it described and dealt with anxiety in what I felt was a very real, raw, and delicate way. Plus it reminded me of Sliding Doors, an old favorite movie.
Middle Grade 5-star reads
Here are my favorite middle grade books of the year. Many were backlist, and only one was actually published in 2021.
Absolutely Truly- recommended to me by my 14yo daughter who loves everything HVF writes. You had me at cozy and bookish, with a charming small-town community.
A Kind of Paradise- also recommended to me by my daughter. This book is a love letter to libraries, a story of second chances and found family.
When Stars are Scattered- touching and eye-opening, a story about two refugee boys (in very pleasing graphic novel form) that all my kids and I loved.
The Mysterious Benedict Society- late to the game on this one but I had to read it before we watched the show. Such a fun, clever story made better because I read & discussed it with friends.
The Storm Keeper’s Island- a magical tale of friendship, home, and family heritage, I definitely want to read the rest of the series.
Nevermoor- there’s a reason this book took the internet by storm. It’s simply fantastic. I’m reading book 2 now and so happy to be back in this quirky, magical world again. Morrigan is a heroine for anyone who’s ever felt completely unheroic, and who doesn’t love Jupiter North?
Frindle- a backlist fave that never fails to delight young readers. I read this with my daughter’s 5th grade book club and we all had so much fun reading it. And yes, I too have a dictionary collection like a certain teacher.
The Black Stallion- even more backlist and for me, even more fave. This was another book club read with the 5th graders, and I was shocked by how much I loved it. I listened to it on audio and was riveted. Such a beautiful story of friendship!
City Spies Golden Gate- I really liked the first City Spies book, but this one was even better. It jumped right into the action! I’ve grown attached to this rag-tag group of child spies and can’t wait to read the next one in 2022. Major found family vibes and all the adventure and hijinks.
The Next Great Jane- in my opinion, a completely underrated gem that was published in 2020. My daughter and I loved this bookish tale of unlikely friendship, adventure, family dynamics, and small-town vibes.
Re-read that I still loved and gave 5 stars to: Adam of the Road, which is a Newbery-winning classic about a boy minstrel forging his own path across England to find his father and beloved pup during the middle ages.
So there you have it! Maybe in 2022 I will find myself enjoying more 5-star YA reads again, and maybe I will shoot to read more new and current titles. Maybe. I’m very much a mood reader so only time will tell. 😉
Please, by all means, reply or leave a comment with your favorite YA and/or middle grade reads of 2021. My ever-growing TBR thanks you in advanced. Oh, and if you’re using The StoryGraph, too, let’s be friends!
Finally, I hope my next newsletter to you is an update about how querying is going as I will be sending out my first batch of queries for my most-recently finished project later this month. (Read the pitch here.) I entered Pitch Wars again in 2021 and while I didn’t get chosen as a mentee, I received some incredibly thoughtful and helpful feedback from one mentor I subbed to. Hoping for good news in 2022!!
Thanks for reading!