2022 Standout Young Adult Books (Australian Edition)

Since I complied Picture Books lists for 2021 and 2022, and a Middle Grade list for 2022, I thought I’d do the same for Young Adult books.

Once again, this list is showcasing Australian YA, a job which is done with aplomb by the dedicated folks over at LoveOzYA. That group is an Australia-wide group which champions young adult literature by and for Australians. They use the hashtag #LoveOzYA .

There is a wealth of Australian talent out there, that is often eclipsed by bestselling overseas titles.

So I’ve asked early career creators to tell me their favourite #LoveOzYA titles from 2022.

We’d love you to share the post on social media or with teacher/parent/librarian friends.

And use the #LoveOzYA hashtag! That way, interested people can find #AustralianStories for young people.

Hayley Jackson

Hayley Jackson (@hayleymjackson) grew up in a haunted farmhouse which instilled a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Stephen King. As a result, her YA novels dwell in the dark and twisty, and focus on the hope that can be found in even the darkest of places. She still sleeps with the lights on. She is a founding member of the YA writers group Carpe Magicae, and an active member of Write Links Children’s Writers Group. She regularly attends workshops offered by Queensland Writer’s Centre. She recommends THE UPWELLING by Lystra Rose (Black & Write! writing fellowship winner):

I shamelessly admit that I picked up this book purely based on its gorgeous cover. Boy, am I glad I did! Three misfits. Two warring spirits. One chance to save the world. Kirra, a First Nations short-sighted teen surfer, time slips into the past where she teams up with fellow misfits, Narn – laidback dolphin caller, and Tarni – feisty language un-weaver, to help save their tribe from an evil spirit. This story blew me away. The story telling was so engaging, and the setting so established I could almost taste the sea-salted air on my tongue. At its heart, THE UPWELLING is a tale of belonging and identity, with themes that focus on family, community, friendship and loyalty. The strong character voices, Kirra’s Aussie-speak and the authentic indigenous language, melded together to form a bridge between past and present, certain to engage readers of any age. Ms Rose seamlessly interwove ancient lore with contemporary and, as a reader, I was more than happy to lose myself in the rich culture and traditions of the Yugambeh people, and ride with Kirra on this magical wave of self-discovery and adventure. I can honestly say, this was the coolest book I read in 2022 and I can’t wait to read more from this debut author.

Sarah Armstrong

Sarah Armstrong (@saraharmstrongwriter) is a seasoned pro in adult fiction (SALT RAIN, PROMISE and HIS OTHER HOUSE), but she is an early career middle grade author whose book, BIG MAGIC, came out in 2022. She recommends THE BOY FROM THE MISH by Gary Lonesborough (okay, so it was a 2021 release, but I had trouble getting nominations for this category! If you have a fave, please let us know in the comments.):

A powerful and heart-warming queer love story and coming-out story set in the languid days around Christmas and New Year.  It explores racism against First Nations people, and the tenderness and loyalty of family and community. Powerful and deserving of all the accolades. 

Carla Fitzgerald

Carla Fitzgerald (@carlafitzgeraldauthor), author of 2022 titles, KEEPING UP WITH THE DACHSHUNDS and HOW TO BE PRIME MINISTER AND SURVIVE GRADE FIVE recommends UNNECESSARY DRAMA by Nina Kenwood (Text):

I adored Nina Kenwood’s first book and her follow-up, which sits at the upper end of YA, could be even better. This ‘enemies to lovers’ romantic comedy is everything I want in a book. Authentic characters, relatable moments, laugh-out-loud funny and full of heart.

She also recommends SADIE STARR’S GUIDE TO STARTING OVER by Miranda Luby (Text):

For a slightly younger YA readership, I really enjoyed Sadie’s story about moving interstate and starting over. Miranda nails the teenage voice and I especially liked the way she tackles the nuances and messiness of life in an entertaining way.

Karen Comer

Karen Comer (@karen_comer) is a freelance editor and presents writing workshops to children and adults. Earlier in her career, she worked in educational publishing and was the editor for the children’s art magazine BIG. She lives in Melbourne. GRACE NOTES, a YA verse novel, was published in February 2023 with Hachette. Her MG verse novel, SUNSHINE ON VINEGAR STREET, will be published in June 2023 with Allen & Unwin. She recommends SADIE STARR’S GUIDE TO STARTING OVER by Miranda Luby (Text):

Sixteen-year-old Sadie Starr is beginning a new life, one which doesn’t have any mistakes or awkwardness or history. She can be anyone, including her best self. But her new school in Melbourne has complications – a divisive feminist group, a reclusive boy with a story he can’t get past, a girl on the fringes with a secret and then there’s the sports star who might help her move on from her old crush – also her best friend. This is a must-read for any teenager navigating the nuances of discovering their own self as well as those around them.

Australian cover 2021

Marianna Shek

Marianna Shek (@rockonkitty1) was shortlisted for The 2022 Times/Chicken House Fiction Competition for her manuscript, The Apprentice Guide to Fairyside. She recommends HENRY HAMLET’S HEART (a 2021 title, but I’ll allow it because it was published in the US in 2022, and it was one of my favourites too! – see my review on Instagram and StoryLinks):

What draws me into this story is the author’s voice. Author Rhiannon Wilde captures with raw emotional honesty that year of being seventeen and on the cusp of the rest of your life.

US Cover 2022

Samantha-Ellen Bound

Samantha-Ellen Bound (@samellenb) is the author of the SEVEN WHEREWITHAL WAY and SILVER SHOES series, as well as WHAT THE RAVEN SAW. She is also the host of the ‘Kidlit Classics’ podcast, where guests talk about the children’s books that made them. She recommends WHAT WE ALL SAW by Mike Lucas:

Reads like a YA Stephen King, and the witchy folklore vibes mixed with the coming-of-age story played out through horror and friendship dynamics is just so right up my alley.

Sandy Bigna

Sandy Bigna (@aussie_kids_books) is a writer, reader, former children’s librarian, and kidlit book reviewer and blogger over at @aussie_kids_books on Instagram. She recommends COMPLETELY NORMAL (AND OTHER LIES) by Biffy James:

COMPLETELY NORMAL (AND OTHER LIES) is fresh, funny, smart and insightful. I love that the narrator, 16-year-old Stella, is presented as a flawed and vulnerable character, and I really enjoyed her character development as she comes to understand that lying to yourself and others means you can’t be the most authentic version of yourself. Themes of grief, mental health, fractured families, body image, consent, and friendship are handled with honesty and sensitivity.  

Zewlan Moor

Zewlan Moor‘s (@byronbiblio) debut picture books, NOTHING ALIKE (Bright Light | Hardie Grant) and THE BILL DUP (Windy Hollow) are coming out in 2023. She also recommends COMPLETELY NORMAL (AND OTHER LIES) by Biffy James:

This is the best YA novel I’ve read in a long time. It shortlisted for the 2020 Ampersand Prize & thank goodness they decided to publish it. The voice was honest and real. There were a few times when I thought it was going to veer off somewhere, but it didn’t and that was good. Read-Alike Novel Prescriptions: if you liked COMPLETELY NORMAL, you might also like SHADES OF SCARLETT by Anne Fine (a bit younger) & IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU, CALMA! by Barry Jonsberg.

Finally, Zewlan’s 13-year-old daughter also recommends SADIE STARR’S GUIDE TO STARTING OVER by Miranda Luby (see above), and A WALK IN THE DARK by Jane Godwin:

A WALK IN THE DARK was super entertaining and I couldn’t put it down.

And that’s the bloomin’ lot. I hope you enjoyed this 2022 wrap-up of #LoveOzYA titles, picked by emerging and early career creatives (as well as some seasoned pros and a random teenager for good measure).

If you’d like to support the Australian book industry, look out for these books and other new releases as you buy gifts throughout the year. Try to support independent bookstores if you can.

Keep an eye out for the published and forthcoming titles from our curators as well. Many of them are rising stars! 

And remember, reading is for everyone, so if money’s tight, get a free library card. If you don’t see the book you want in your local public or school library catalogue, request a library purchase. Librarians are keen to buy books patrons want.

And authors and illustrators are paid a stipend for books held in libraries as well. Win-win!

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