Best Young Adult Literature of 2021, According to 23 Lists

Kimberly Johnson
2 min readJan 2, 2022

For a couple years now, I’ve been scraping dozens of lists each year to see what bubbles to the top of various publications’ “Best Fiction of the Year” lists (here’s 2021's).

Earlier this year, some friends and I started a podcast where we all read a YA book and then they talk about it for awhile and I edit them down to something listenable. Find it here: Literary Connections on Spotify.

So, naturally, we’ve all been doing a fair bit of YA recon to determine what books we should read each episode. I figured, as long as I’m scraping the web for Best Fiction, why not look for Best YA, too?

Getting into the fourth and fifth page of Google results, variations on the search queries [best young adult 2021] [top teen books 2021] [best ya 2021], I compiled all the lists I could find, skipping a few that largely didn’t list books published this year, or were behind a paywall, or were hard to scrape for some reason. I probably missed a bunch. I’ll try again next year.

But, for the 23 lists I found! Here are the books that were listed most often:

Wondering who’s got their finger on the pulse for Top YA? Here are three measures of how accurate the lists are:

  1. Precision: which lists have entries most likely to be in the Top 19? (# of Top 19 entries divided by list length)
    Short lists have an advantage in precision: if you just named your favorite book and it happens to be on the Top 19, you have 100% precision!
  2. Recall: which lists mentioned the most Top 19 books? (# of Top 19 entries divided by 19.)
    Long lists have a similar advantage in recall: if you listed all books published in 2021, you would have 100% recall but very low precision.
  3. Accuracy: so, how to combine precision and recall? Something called the F-score. I’ll let wikipedia explain the math.
    Here we see lists somewhere in the middle, length-wise. School Library Journal was at the top of both lists (!) so it’s at the top here, too.

Finally, if you have a vendetta against any of these lists, never fear: in the widget below, you can delete lists or categories of lists to your heart’s content.

The end! Happy New Year! See you next year!