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The best LoveOzYA books of 2022
Here are my top ten LoveOzYA novels for 2022
There were so many incredible new Australian young adult fiction novels released in the past year. I read as many as I possibly could but there are still so many patiently sitting on my shelves!
These are the top ten LoveOzYA novels that I loved reading this year. I have mostly stuck to 2022 releases but there is one sneaky December 2021 release on this list.
I also want to acknowledge that I’m disappointed that almost every single author on this list is white. Going into 2023, I’m planning to make more of a conscious effort to read LoveOzYA books written by people of colour.
I do also think there needs to be more LoveOzYA books by people of colour published in the first place, but that is a whole topic for another day.
Dancing Barefoot by Alice Boyle
Patch Smith feels out of place at her prestigious high school Mountford College in Melbourne as she harbours a secret long-term crush on the beautiful Evie Vanhoutte. When they are brought together by an accident involving a bottle of ink and Patch’s school uniform, Patch has to figure out how to navigate her new friendship with Evie, supporting her best friend Edwin through his transition and getting through high school.
This book captured my attention from the very first paragraph and I fell in love with Patch immediately. It’s no wonder that this charming queer coming of age story won the 2021 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing. Patch is a fantastic protagonist and the supporting cast of characters are equally compelling and complicated.
Completely Normal (and Other Lies) by Biffy James
Stella Wilde is secretly in love with Isaac Calder, despite the fact that he already has a girlfriend, Grace Reyes. When Isaac is killed in a car accident, Grace is able to mourn publicly while Stella is left with only unresolved and complicated feelings that she and Isaac were becoming more than friends.
I didn’t have this book on my radar until I edited Alice Boer-Endacott’s interview with the author for LoveOzYA (which you can watch here). By the time I’d finished listening to James speak about the novel, I knew that I had to read it. It’s a refreshing take on teen love and grief, two themes I never tire of reading about.
The Midnight Girls by Alicia Jasinska
In the kingdom of Lechija, rivals Zosia and Marynka are in a bitter competition to steal the hearts of princes as they grant the eater immeasurable power. Everything is put to the test when they both pursue Lechija’s pure-hearted prince. But while the two enchantresses compete for the prince’s heart, they discover that they might be falling for each other instead.
I picked up this book when I found out that I was going to be seeing Alicia Jasinska on a panel at Sydney Writers’ Festival in May. The premise is incredible – a witchy sapphic enemies to lovers romance – and the book lives up to it. I fell absolutely in love with Zosia and Marynka and I want more of them! Also, I think this story would suit a screen adaptation really well. Somebody call Netflix!
Unnecessary Drama by Nina Kenwood
Eighteen-year-old organised and responsible Brooke has just moved into her first sharehouse to mark the start of university. It just has one rule: no unnecessary drama. No fights, tension or romance between housemates. Brooke has absolutely no problems with this until she discovers that one of her new housemates is her high school ex-friend Jesse.
Nina Kenwood is just so good. Unnecessary Drama is a great follow up to her fantastic debut It Sounded Better in My Head. Her writing is a wonderful mix of funny, heartfelt and emotional. Brooke and Jesse’s enemies to lovers arc is gripping and I found myself rooting for them from the very beginning.
Only a Monster by Vanessa Len
Sixteen-year-old Joan Chang-Hunt enjoys spending each summer with her late mother’s eccentric family in London. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House and starts growing closer to her super cute co-worker Nick. But when she learns that her family are actually monsters who steal time from people’s lives and Nick is a legendary monster slayer, things get a lot more complicated. Joan will have to embrace her own monstrousness and come to terms with the fact that she is not the hero of this story.
Only a Monster is a fantastic fantasy debut from Vanessa Len, an Australian author of Chinese-Malaysian and Maltese heritage. I particularly related to Joan’s struggle between being half-human half-monster and half-Malaysian half-Caucasian (being half-Asian half-Caucasian myself!) and how at times she felt stuck between the two worlds.
I love that the world and magic of Only a Monster is set within our own world. I enjoyed the references to present and past London. I read Only a Monster while on a series of long haul flights between Osaka, Taipei and Melbourne which only enhanced the time travel scenes and distortion of place.
Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell by Tobias Madden
Seventeen-year-old Noah Mitchell is falling in love with his only friend: the wonderful, funny, strictly online MagePants69. When Noah discovers that MagePants69 is performing in their local Ballarat production of Chicago, non-theatrical Noah jumps at the chance to sign up for the musical in order to meet his crush in person. Except when they do meet, his crush has no idea that Noah is the same person he’s been playing RPGs with online.
Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell was the epitome of ‘right book, right time’ for me. I read Tobias Madden’s second novel at a time when I was looking for a feel-good book with no big character deaths and it delivered exactly what I wanted. I thought it was a sweet, funny and charming story.
Libby Lawrence is Good at Pretending by Jodi McAlister
Nineteen-year-old Libby Lawrence is good at pretending not only while she’s on stage performing in university theatre but in her personal life as well. In her second year of university, everything starts to happen all at once: she loses her virginity to the too-charming director of her uni theatre group (just before he runs off with all their money), lands the lead role of Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, gets to know her brooding co-star Roarke and her nerdy-but-sweet new director Will. She must discover who she wants to be, who she wants to be with and how to stop pretending.
I loved reading Libby Lawrence is Good at Pretending so much. I may be a little bit biased as I strongly related to Libby, from being an Arts/Law student and a die hard Much Ado About Nothing fan to studying in a town that sounded suspiciously similar to Canberra, but I thought this book was phenomenal. There were moments in the book that made me genuinely gasp with heartbreak.
We Who Hunt the Hollow by Kate Murray
Seventeen-year-old Priscilla Daalman’s entire family are Hollow Warriors – legendary monster hunters charged with killing evil beasts from beyond our universe. Unsatisfied with her particular power, Priscilla attempts a desperate ritual to enhance her abilities and she accidentally triggers a frightening new power: the power to summon monsters from the Hollow itself. Now, Priscilla must protect her loved ones – her heartbroken ex-girlfriend, her mysterious new boyfriend, even her fierce warrior family – from supernatural monsters, and also from herself. Because if her power gets out, all hell will break loose and Priscilla will risk losing everything.
Shortlisted for the Ampersand Prize, Kate Murray’s debut is an exciting fantasy story. I absolutely love Priscilla and her large family of warriors each with their own animal familiar. Murray has crafted a great world that I want to know more about. My only complaint is that I have to wait to read the sequel.
Triple Threat by Katy Warner
Edie Emerson is a triple threat: she can sing, dance and act. But despite getting the lead in every musical at her prestigious performing arts school, she knows that the rest of her future is going to be uncertain. At least until the infamous director Toby Swan agrees to stage Romeo and Juliet at her school. This show could launch Edie’s career. Except she’s already agreed to star in a new musical written by her best friend Will. So when Toby casts the annoying-but-hot Noah Winters as Romeo, and he insists on Edie for Juliet, it sets the stage for drama.
I had a feeling that I would love this book (I love theatre!) but it was such a pleasant surprise in several ways. It has a much more serious tone that I expected and deals with some really important themes. Warner writes about the things we should already be talking about and I hope this book starts a conversation.
It also contains by far the best and most compelling love triangle romance that I have read in a long time. Edie is a fierce and strong-willed protagonist and I felt just as torn as she was over her relationships, not just romantic but familial as well.
Where You Left Us by Rhiannon Wilde
Sisters Cinnamon and Scarlett Prince both return home to live with their rockstar father after his latest breakdown in their family’s gothic home by the sea. Cinnamon is trying to figure things out with her ex-boyfriend-now-best-friend Will when she finds herself really starting to care about her co-worker Daisy while Scarlett investigates the mysterious disappearance of their Great Aunt Sadie. Can solving the mystery fix their broken family?
Yes, I’ve put this book on yet another list! It’s fantastic! Go read it right now!