The best Australian YA books for teens from 2015

A sack full of brilliant young adult Australian fiction is just what your book-loving teen needs.
A sack full of brilliant young adult Australian fiction is just what your book-loving teen needs. Photo: Supplied

Buying books for teenagers can be tricky. But if you get it right, you'll be their favourite for months to come. Get it wrong and it's another story.

Given that it's so hard to pick a book winner, this is a how to guide to lead you in the right direction. And on the back of the grassroots #Love OzYA campaign that was launched earlier this year to encourage more of us to read local young adult books instead of always turning to international titles, this a list of 2015 Australian YA novels to suit every reader. Many of these books are kicking huge goals overseas, including a couple of New York Times bestsellers, so it's great to be able to say you read them when!

For the Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan:

If you have a teen that loves fantasy, don't just go down the big American path. Try these local books instead.

1. Illuminae: The Illuminae Files #1

This book has to be pretty high on a Christmas wish list, particularly after the news last week that Brad Pitt's production company has optioned it with plans to adapt it to the big screen. Written by local writers, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, not only has it rocketed to #3 on the NYT bestseller list, it's the first in a new series. So that's Christmas sorted for the next three years.

2. Zeroes

Another NYT bestseller, Zeroes is written by three extraordinary YA writers – Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti. If your teen is into superhero stories, this is essential reading. It is also the first in a new series.  

3. The Red Queen

Any fantasy fan that hasn't already discovered Isobelle Carmody's post-apocalyptic series - The Obernewtyn Chronicles - must. This is the long-awaited final chapter, and the seventh book in the series about Elspeth Gordie.

For the fan of the romantic:

1. Green Valentine

Astrid is a committed environmental activist who wants to change the world. Then she meets Hiro who is just trying to survive it. From Lili Wilkinson, comes a warm and funny novel about love and trying to make the world a better place.

2. The Flywheel

Winner of Hardie Grant's Ampersand Prize, this is a heart-warming debut. Seventeen-year old Delilah has a crush on Rosa, but how will she ever tell her? A smart, funny and insightful look at love, honesty and how to be yourself.

3. Afterlight

From author Rebecca Lim who has just been nominated for a Prime Minister's Literary Award, comes this dark, otherworldly and dangerous love story.

For the crime fan:

1. Every Move

The final in Ellie Marney's Sherlock-inspired teen detective series, this book is not only a page turner, it has one of the best romantic match-ups around. And if your teen hasn't read the first two books in the series – Every Breath and Every Word, then splash out and buy them the series.

2. Risk

Written by former police officer, Fleur Ferris, Risk is a chilling look at online predators. It's compelling, terrifying and all too real.

3. The Guy, the Girl, the Artist and his Ex

A clever multiple character story with the theft of Picasso's Weeping Woman at its heart. This is a twisty, snappy caper novel written by Gabrielle Williams.

For the contemporary fan:

1. Cloudwish

From 2014 CBCA Winner, Fiona Wood, comes this beautiful contemporary novel about Vân U'oc Phan, the smart, shy daughter of Vietnamese refugees, whose name translates to Cloudwish.

2. One True Thing

Winner of the Children's Peace Literature Award for 2015, Nicole Hayes's novel examines how to cope with the public life of being the daughter of a politician. It's great seeing local politics being explored in a YA novel.

3. Pieces of Sky

When competitive swimmer Lucy's brother dies in a surfing accident, she develops a fear of water. This debut novel from Trinity Doyle, tackles some big issues like grief and tragedy in a beautifully handled way.

For the fan of history and books based on real events:

1. Becoming Kirrali Lewis

A coming-of-age story about Kirrali Lewis, an aboriginal girl who goes to Melbourne University in 1985. Written by award-winning playwright, Jane Harrison, this book is a compelling look at the treatment of aboriginal people in Australia.

2. Freedom Ride

Based on the series of protests in Sydney highlighting racism in 1965, Freedom Ride is a powerful look at Australian history from author Sue Lawson.

3. Sister Heart

Written as a verse novel, Sister Heart tells the story of a young aboriginal girl who is taken from the north of Australia and sent to an institution in the south. Written by Sally Morgan this is a poignant book about family and belonging.

Of course, if you don't have a teen to buy for, these books are all excellent reading no matter what age you are. Happy reading!

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