11 Of My Personal Favorite Kidlit Reads of 2022
It’s the end of another year — somehow. It doesn’t feel real, and yet the calendar says it’s mid-December, so who am I to argue with the great all-knowing gods of Google? Given that it’s nearly the end of 2022, I’d love to share some of my favorite books I read this year. I’m pursuing my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, which translates into having read a ton of kidlit this year.
Some of it was actually from this year, some was backlist. I’ll be including both in this article. Also, a caveat: this is not a “best of” list. This is a “my favorites” list. It’s also not comprehensive, because I had to leave off some beloved books. Also, some books I left off because I’m trying to not cross the picket line — the Harper Collins Union has been striking since Nov. 10, 2022 (as of this writing they are still on strike), and has asked readers to hold reviews!
Now, without further ado or caveats, let’s dive right in!
1. "Once Upon a K-Prom" by Kat Cho
This delightful romp of a K-pop romance had so many things I loved, including our idol love interest, Robbie. Elena is a great protagonist whom I identified with as a member of a larger-than-life family where it can be hard to be heard sometimes. I was really rooting for their romance and loved the stylistic choices Cho made to get us through the story and across the finish line!
Get Once Upon A K-Prom at Bookshop or Amazon
2. "She Drives Me Crazy" by Kelly Quindlen
This book is a masterclass in writing romance tinged with mental health issues, as the main character has to heal from some trauma. It’s also delightful and romantic and made me squeal, and there was a scene (nay, a line) indicating parental acceptance of their gay child that made me weep. Cause oh yeah, did I forget to mention? This is a sapphic sports romance. It’s so good, y’all!
Get She Drives Me Crazy at Bookshop or Amazon
3. "Self-Made Boys" by Anna-Marie McLemore
I am simply agog at McLemore’s writing skill and their ability to craft characters that stay with me. This book is a remix of The Great Gatsby, but it’s trans and brown and gay and beautiful in ways I never understood the original to be. The writing sings off the page and I wanted to gather Nicolás Caraveo in my arms and give him a big old hug and tell him how wonderful he is.
Get Self-Made Boys at Bookshop or Amazon
4. "TJ Powar Has Something to Prove" by Jesmeen Kaur Deo
First of all, this book includes a fascinating look at the world of high school debate, a world I was never a part of but always curious about, so I loved that! It’s also got a great character arc, as TJ starts the book feeling like being hairy is unfeminine and unattractive, and ends up — well, I won’t spoil it! Let’s just say the ending is great, and I loved the journey, and I thought TJ’s character arc and her arcs in relationship to the other characters were brilliant.
Get TJ Powar Has Something to Prove at Bookshop or Amazon
5. "Witchlings" by Claribel A. Ortega
Y’all, this book is SO delightful! Three witches get sorted into a “spare” coven and have to go on a quest to save their magic. One thing I loved so much about this book was the family bonds the girls had, and the changes in their relationship to each other over the course of the narrative. I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel, because this was just…so good, and perfect for the young reader in your life!
Get Witchlings at Bookshop or Amazon
6. "And They Lived…" by Steven Salvatore
It’s been nearly 12 months since I finished this book and it still rests on my soul because it’s so good. There were so many relatable parts for me: coming out and body image and therapy, and they were all handled in a way that made me feel like Salvatore really cares about their characters and readers. And the Disney throughline was really well-done and added a nice layer to everything!
Get And They Lived... at Bookshop or Amazon
7. "Some Girls Do" by Jennifer Dugan
Listen, I will follow Jennifer Dugan’s sapphic books anywhere, and this one really meant the world to me. It is both a soft, swoony romance between two high school girls and a story about overcoming tough and traumatic pasts. I felt seen in every way by this book. In my review of it I said reading it made me feel “validated,” and frankly that descriptor stands months later!
Get Some Girls Do at Bookshop or Amazon
8. "Luck of the Titanic" by Stacey Lee
This is another book that has stuck with me for months. I dreamed about it for weeks after finishing it. This story…this story!! Lee is a master crafter when it comes to atmosphere, relationships, tension…and making me sob at a book about the Titanic, given that we know how it ends. This story was inspired by the revelation that there were several Chinese survivors of the Titanic who were turned away from the US, and the book is in conversation with anti-Chinese sentiment throughout. It’s tough and beautiful and heartbreaking. Wow. Read it!
Get Luck of the Titanic at Bookshop or Amazon
9. "Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow" by Jessica Townsend
I read two of the books in this series this year and they are delightful and whimsical— perfect middle grade fantasy. We follow Morrigan Crow as she embarks on a new life in a magical town and the imagination behind this book is glorious. It’s perfect for the middle grade reader in your life!
Get Nevermoor... at Bookshop or Amazon
10. "An Arrow to the Moon" by Emily X.R. Pan
I’m a little speechless thinking about this book. The writing is deft and magical, and Luna and Hunter are just so perfect. It’s Romeo & Juliet mixed with the Chinese tale of Huoyi and Chang’e and it’s absolutely delightful. The writing is natural and gorgeous and I’m in awe of it. I loved the multiple perspectives and the insights we got into various characters. Truly just a masterclass!
Get An Arrow to the Moon at Bookshop or Amazon
11. "Bloodmarked" by Tracy Deonn
I’m still in the middle of this book, but I’m loving it SO much. It takes the stakes and worldbuilding of Legendborn and absolutely throws them into the stratosphere. It’s addicting and heart-racing, and every time I sit down to read it I have my heart in my throat. Bree is a main character whom I love to root for, and I love seeing the expansion of her world, and getting a deeper understanding of the magic and secret orders that run it.
Get Bloodmarked at Bookshop or Amazon
And there you have it! Eleven kidlit books I read and loved this year. Again, there are some HarperCollins titles that I would have loved to feature, but as of this writing HarperCollins has not met the union at the bargaining table. Learn more about the strike here.
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