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The Best Books of 2023: Teenage & Young Adult

Posted on 18th October 2023 by Mark Skinner

Constantly pushing boundaries both in imagination and subject matter, we've been treated to a wonderful array of books for teenagers and young adults this year. Whether you're a fan of fantasy, thrillers or romance, let us guide you through our hand-picked selection of 2023's very best.   


With the fifth volume of Alice Oseman's graphic novel classic Heartstopper very much in the vanguard, romantic YA fiction reached a whole other level this year. From queer love stories by Becky Albertalli, Tess Sharpe and Erik J. Brown to riotous romcoms from Priyanka Taslim and Michelle Quach, indulge your passions with our pick of the best.    

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The phenomenally popular graphic novel series returns with Nick and Charlie very much in love but Nick's planned move to university hanging over their lasting future.
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This unputdownable, hilarious historical romp from the author of Reputation and Infamous sees a whip-smart princess and a duke-to-be who hate each other join forces as their best-kept secrets are at risk of exploding into the open.
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The bestselling author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda delivers a typically heartwarming and inclusive romantic comedy, as hopelessly heterosexual Imogen finds herself strangely drawn to her best friend's college buddy.
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From the author of The Girls I've Been comes a brilliantly constructed slow-burn queer romance about two girls who are definitely not friends but can't avoid the urge to smooch.
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Sweet, inclusive and uplifting, Deaver's love story of a nonbinary student finding romance with a charismatic schoolmate is a quietly groundbreaking gem.
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With a ringing endorsement from Alice Oseman, all fans of the Heartstopper series will love this endearing queer graphic novel centred on an unlikely relationship that springs up from a meet-cute.
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From the author of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize nominated All That's Left in the World comes the tender-hearted romance between culinary school aspirant Tommy and his old crush Gabe who he is forced to train up.
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Staggeringly ambitious, emotionally transcendent and perfect for fans of Adam Silvera, Arnold's moving exploration of the history of love features a celestial bird that brings lovelorn strangers together through time.
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The author of the former Waterstones Children's Book Prize shortlisted Not Here To Be Liked comes another sweet-natured and engaging romcom, as Francine seeks to appease her traditionally-minded grandfather with a madcap plan for a male heir.
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Wonderfully evocative of first love and endless summers, the sequel to Stamper's beloved Golden Boys finds the four friends facing college life miles apart from each other.
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A gloriously entertaining LGBTQ+ romcom, Never Trust a Gemini finds zodiac-obsessed Cat embroiled in a vexing love triangle that might just be written in the stars.
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Packed with puns, love and laughs, Jaigirdar's endearing romantic comedy centres on a steamy love triangle amidst a televised junior baking competition.
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Intensely powerful and achingly moving, Bourne's novel of pre-ordained death and emotional connection forges raw romance from the relationship of two lost souls.
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The bestselling author of the beloved Only Mostly Devastated delivers another sizzling romantic comedy, as a reality dating show offers Maya the perfect shot at revenge on her cheating ex.
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Debut author Taslim delivers an irresistible romantic comedy featuring a Bangladeshi princess with money woes, the aloof boy her parents want her to marry and the humble tea shop dishwasher who gets her like nobody else.
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Perfect reading for fans of Red, White and Royal Blue and The King is Dead, Carter's deliciously dark romcom finds the illegitimate daughter of the King of England accused of murdering a journalist's son.
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The second volume of Pillainayagam’s brilliant YA series, Ellie Pillai Is (Almost) in Love finds the inimitable titular heroine in the midst of a heavy summer romance which does not quite go as planned.
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A tender-hearted LGBTQ+ romance about music, fame and second chances, Darkhearts focuses on former band member David and his unexpected reunion with his rock god ex-bandmate Chance.
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Tackling Greek mythology with Bea Fitzgerald's electrifying Persephone retelling Girl, Goddess, Queen, Arthurian legend through Laura Bates' and Alexandra Bracken's explosive stories and Asian folklore courtesy of Elizabeth Lim and Clara Kumagai, alongside exquisitely crafted invented worlds, explore our selection of the best YA fantasy and horror books of 2023.  

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Tearing up the Greek myth of Persephone with irresistible exuberance, rising TikTok star Fitzgerald crafts an irreverent romcom retelling where Demeter's headstrong daughter feels the heat with a seriously smoking Hades.
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Following up the bestselling YA fantasy Twin Crowns, Doyle and Webber's sweeping saga finds the two monarchs set off on their own separate missions in an attempt to save Eana.
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The Last Hours reaches its pulsating conclusion as an emotionally broken Cordelia must rally herself one more time after receiving the shocking news that Tatiana Blackthorn has escaped the Adamant Citadel and the Prince of Hell is heading to London.
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From the author of Eragon comes a spellbinding new fantasy set a year after the events of the Inheritance Cycle, as Dragon Rider Murtagh and his beast Thorn find themselves exiled and on an epic journey trying to outwit a mysterious witch.
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Recasting the Knights of the Round Table in an empowering feminist light, the author of Everyday Sexism and Fix the System, Not the Women delivers the thrilling and inspiring tale of the Sisterhood of the Silk Knights.
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The bestselling author of The Book of Night returns to Elfhame - one of her most magnificently realised fictional worlds - with the first exhilarating instalment of a duology focusing on a changeling queen and a deadly quest.
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Perfect reading for fans of Madeline Miller and Jennifer Saint, Underwood's utterly immersive debut novel delivers a sweeping Sapphic epic of sacrifice, revenge and female courage inspired by Greek mythology.
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From the award-winning author of The Lie Tree and Unraveller comes a haunting gothic coming-of-age tale about a young Ferryman tasked with transporting the lingering Dead across the dark sea to the Island of the Broken Tower.
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Gloriously gothic and bewitchingly seductive, the blistering sequel to Grace's bestselling Belladonna finds the complex relationship between Signa and Death is tested to its limit.
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Once more mixing fantasy and folklore in a heady brew of betrayal, sisterhood and intrigue, the author of Six Crimson Cranes delivers the spellbinding story of a cursed girl's fight to save her sister.
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The bestselling YA titan delivers a spellbinding sequel to This Woven Kingdom, as Alizeh and Kamran’s story continues in another unputdownable tale of destiny, danger and vengeance.
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Arthurian legend meets The Lord of the Rings as a pair of rival crypt-robbers face deadly danger trying to retrieve an enchanted ring in this compelling dark fantasy from the author of Lore.
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The third swashbuckling instalment in the Daughter of the Pirate King series pitches Sorinda into an enthralling adventure with underwater kings, over-attentive helmsmen and lethal sea creatures.
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Return to the thrilling world of the bestselling Serpent and Dove series as Celie fights to prove herself as the Chasseurs' first huntswoman and a new evil rises to threaten Belterra.
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Concluding the duology that began with The Rise of the School for Good and Evil, Chainani's blistering slice of dark academia brings the twin schoolmasters to the brink of war.
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Perfect reading for fans of Suzanne Collins and Chloe Gong, Lewis' propulsive romantic fantasy pitches seventeen-year-old Rosalyn Quest into a deadly competition to save her mother - as long as she can resist the charms of an alluring fellow player.
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Inviting the reader back to the world of The Luminaries, this second spellbinding instalment in Dennard's gorgeous fantasy series finds Winnie Wednesday on a mission to prove the innocence of a persecuted werewolf.
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Mining philosophy, science fiction and Japanese mythology to craft a mature, compelling story of loss and tragedy, Kumagai spins the tale of a Japan fractured in time by an earthquake caused by an infamous monster.
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The co-author of the Illuminae Files takes to the high seas for this high-spirited fantasy romance as a headstrong girl is forced to set sail with an entitled - but devilishly handsome - prince.
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Continuing the pulsating and seductive story of Isla Crown, Aster's compelling sequel to the bestselling Lightlark finds the new queen fighting off rivals and trying to keep the yearning in her heart at bay.
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From the author of the Battalion of the Dead series comes a thrilling dark fantasy steeped in sorcery and ancient curses, as a duke's daughter offers herself up to a monstrous witch.
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A bewitching story of magic and revenge from the author of Dorothy Must Die, Wish of the Wicked spins the Fairy Godmother's delicious origin story in a terrific slice of folklore inspired fantasy.
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The chilling figure of the Housekeeper returns in the enthralling conclusion to O'Donoghue's tarot-inspired dark fantasy series, All Our Hidden Gifts.
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A mesmeric tale of destiny, power and betrayal, Chaos and Flame follows the ferocious Darling as she sets out to avenge the murder of her family, crossing paths with the powerful war general determined to capture her – alive.
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An intensely powerful coming-of-age story steeped in African tradition and mythology, Alexander's lyrical novel centres on eleven-year-old Kofi and the harrowing event that separates him from his family and village and sends him on an epic journey across the sea.
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Battling a range of foes in a desperate attempt to save the timeline, Joan must choose between the world of monsters and the pull of love and happiness in Len's thrilling sequel to Only a Monster.
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A deliciously sly retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray for the TikTok generation, Steven's seductive thriller finds the students at an elite drama school being picked off one by one through their enchanted likenesses.
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From the bestselling author of Cinderella is Dead comes a gripping slasher thriller perfect for fans of Hollywood horror movies, as a 'final girl' in a live-action terror game discovers that the danger has become all too real.
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Revolving around the genius concept of a small town where all the adults transform into werewolves one night a month, Wills' electrifying chiller is a rollercoaster ride of fun, frights and gore.
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Tackling the legacy of colonialism and the strife of generational discord in the form of a perfectly chilling queer ghost story, this unputdownable debut finds feisty Jade at the mercy of a haunted house in Vietnam.
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With echoes of The Blair Witch Project, this spine-chilling volume from an exciting fresh voice in YA horror brims with tales of danger, love triangles and fatal obessions.
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Heartpounding thrills and deadly mysteries were never far away from the bookshelves this year, with Karen M. McManus returning readers to the lethal stomping grounds of Bayview, Jennifer Lynn Barnes playing more Inheritance Games and Benjamin Dean serving up a nerve-jangling takedown of celebrity culture.  

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Irresistibly twisty and smartly constructed, The Brothers Hawthorne returns readers to the world of Barnes' bestselling Inheritance Games series as two daring siblings play to win big.
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The Bayview crew just can't catch a break as the deadly games resume in the latest addition to McManus' groundbreaking YA thriller series.
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The sinister cult of brainwashed children causes more problems for teen spy Alex Rider as a deadly plot involving augmented reality rears its head in this pulsating sequel to the bestselling Nightshade.
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Both a searing YA thriller and a timely takedown of the pitfalls of instant fame, this page-turner from the author of The King is Dead sees an undercover journalist take a Hollywood role to investigate the suspicious death of his brother.
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Agatha Christie meets Karen M. McManus in this whip-smart and stylish whodunit, which finds a group of high school friends embroiled in a murder mystery during a 1920s themed party in an island's stately home.
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The author of The Yearbook returns with a blazing YA dystopia that melds The Handmaid's Tale to Uglies, as Belle and Joni must choose whether to become Pretty or Objectionable.
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A barnstorming mix of wire-taut crime thriller and penetrating social comment, Brooks' explosive YA novel finds three students at a brutally strict prep school investigated for the murder of the institution's principal.
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Five strangers find themselves trapped within a deadly virtual reality game in this nerve-shredding mix of Squid Game and Agatha Christie.
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Gibson's twist-laden psychological thriller pitches a school student into a dangerous virtual reality world where recreating real life can be a deadly mistake.
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The breathtaking debut from an exciting new voice in Young Adult thrillers, A Game of Life or Death finds Asha drawn into a dangerous world of virtual reality and corporate greed as she investigates her sister's mysterious demise.
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The incandescent sequel to Firekeeper's Daughter finds Daunis' strong-willed niece Perry plot a daring heist in order to bring her Native American ancestor's bones home.
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Christmas at Waterstones

Best Books of 2023

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