Five of the best young adult books of 2023

<span>Composite: Guardian</span>
Composite: Guardian

Pedro Martin (Guppy)
It’s not easy growing up in a big Mexican-American family – especially when setting out on a road trip in the family motorhome, bringing your legendary Abuelito (Grandpa) back from Mexico to live with you in the States. For 11+ readers, this graphic memoir is full of superb, multilayered storytelling, exploring nuances of identity via the intersection of image and word. Hilarious, wide-ranging and unforgettably evocative, Mexikid chronicles horrific haircuts, dangerous toys, cataclysmic reactions to raw milk and how it feels to be not quite at home on either side of the border.

Only This Beautiful Moment
Abdi Nazemian (Little Tiger)
Set in 1939, 1978 and 2019, this stirring queer saga follows members of three generations of one family as they move between the US and Iran, discovering who they are. In LA, Bobby is burdened with an ambitious Hollywood stage mom and a career-blighting secret; in Tehran, studious Saeed is drawn into rebellion; back in LA, Moud, son of Saeed and grandson of Bobby, prepares to visit his grandfather for the last time. Thought-provoking, poignant and defiant, assuredly interweaving three complex stories, timelines and characters, it’s an arresting celebration of activism, forbidden love and fragile but enduring family bonds.

Island of Whispers
Frances Hardinge, illustrated by Emily Gravett (Two Hoots)
On Merlank Island, the Dead are dangerous; if they aren’t carried away by the Ferryman, their ghosts may linger, blighting the land and killing the living. Milo has never made the journey himself, but when his father, the Ferryman, dies suddenly, he must take his first cargo of souls to the Island of the Broken Tower, all the while pursued by the angry parent of a dead girl. Heightened by Gravett’s blue-white expanses and stark black bricks and timbers, Hardinge’s spare coming-of-age parable is laced with her trademark wisdom and subtlety. A grownup gothic fairytale, somewhere between short story and novella, this is ideal for 11+ readers who enjoy highly illustrated storytelling.

Thieves’ Gambit
Kayvion Lewis (Simon & Schuster)
The youngest member of the legendary Quest family, 17-year-old Rosalyn has no intention of joining the Thieves’ Gambit, an ultra-secret, no-holds-barred competition to determine the world’s greatest thief. When her mother is kidnapped, though, Ross has no choice but to enter – and to play to win, against both an old enemy and a fascinating new flame. For the grand prize of the Gambit is a single wish – and without it, she has no hope of saving her mother’s life. Hugely readable, with Imax-worthy action, this full-tilt, heart-pounding YA heist thriller is the ultimate holiday treat.

Catch Your Death
Ravena Guron (Usborne)
From the author of This Book Kills, a chilling murder mystery set in a secluded mansion in the midst of winter. When outsiders Devi, Jayne and Lizzie find themselves snowbound on the Bramble Estate, they are forced to accept the hospitality of the affluent Vanfortes, some of whom don’t seem too pleased about their presence. But the sudden death of matriarch Emily Vanforte poses some impossible questions – especially for the girls trapped in the house with a family of liars and a murderer. A crisp, Christie-esque detective story told in lively multiple voices, perfect for Holly Jackson fans.

To browse all young adult books included in the Guardian and Observer’s best books of 2023 visit Delivery charges may apply.