Best of the Last Decade – Nikki Barthelmess

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Today, I’m delighted to have Nikki Barthelmess sharing her favourite indie YA books of the last decade. Nikki is the author of The Quiet You Carry and sequel Quiet No More (Flux). 

Apologies for not adding my own five this week. Unfortunately, it’s a super-busy time for me! Hopefully, normal service will be resumed soon. But for now, over to her. Thanks Nikki!

Title: Quiet No More
Author: Nikki Barthelmess
Publisher:  Flux 
Age range/Genre: YA contemporary

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After surviving sexual assault by her father and six months in foster care, college freshman Victoria Parker is trying to move on with her life. She’s focusing on the positives—attending college, living on her own, repairing old relationships and making new ones, and getting involved with an abuse survivors’ activist group on campus. But everything’s thrown into disarray when a strange woman shows up, claiming to be Victoria’s aunt and asking Victoria to lie about what happened to her. 

With her father’s sentencing in a few months, Victoria’s nervous about having to share the truth of what happened with a judge. She’s not even sure if she has the strength to go through with it. But when her fellow club members begin pressuring her to speak out, Victoria has to decide how to share her story

Nikki: This decade has brought a bounty of amazing YA books. Like any avid reader, I’ve read so many! If I’m still thinking about a story long after I’ve finished reading, that’s when I know it is truly special. The following books are ones that have stayed in my mind months or even years later, set apart by something unique — a character, situation, world, or all of the above. Not to mention beautiful writing! 

Published by Algonquin.

I am such a wimp when it comes to scary books, but I can’t recommend this chilling ghost story enough! It follows Violet, a Julliard-bound ballerina, and Amber, an inmate at a juvenile detention center for girls, during timelines that are a few years apart. With unreliable narrating, the mysteries in this book are hinted at by each girl as they let pieces of events that tie their stories together— including secrets and murder — slip into the narrative. Gorgeous writing and a strong, super-creepy atmosphere make this story a must-read. And then there’s a twist I never saw coming!

Welcome Home edited by Eric Smith

Published by Flux.

As a former foster kid, I am particularly interested in any story that centers someone who grows up within a family that is different from their family of origin. It’s such a unique experience that can come with great joy but also pain. So you can see why I’d be into an adoption-themed anthology! Featuring authors such as Lauren Gibaldi, Nic Stone, C.J. Redwine, Kate Watson, Mindy McGinnis, Eric Smith and more, WELCOME HOME offers stories from contemporary to fantasy, in which being an adoptee, foster kid, birth mother, or adoptive parent, takes center stage.

Published by Charlesbridge.

How many times has a complaint been lodged about a female main character being unlikable? Too many! Real people don’t necessarily go through ridiculously challenging circumstances with a smile on their faces. So it was a pleasure to read Karol Ruth Silverstein’s #OwnVoices novel about 14-year-old Ricky Bloom as she struggles to navigate her chronic illness, family drama, and issues with school, all the while making readers laugh with her sharp sense of humor and yeah, a lot of curse words!


Published by Boyds, Mills and Kane.

Celebrated poet and children’s book author Nikki Grimes shares some of the most painful moments of her childhood in this beautiful, yet hopeful, memoir written in verse. Her story is one of abuse and loss (as well as a stint in foster care), but it is also one of faith, perseverance, and how her passion for writing brought forth healing. As far as I’m concerned, this book is a masterpiece.

Published by Page Street Kids.

If you’re looking for a fresh and highly inclusive world of magic, adventure, and dragons, look no further than Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz. This contemporary fantasy follows Lana Torres as she is given the opportunity of a lifetime, to compete in the Blazewrath Games. It’s been Lana’s lifelong dream to represent Puerto Rico in the sport played on the backs of dragons, but things quickly go sideways when she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy orchestrated by the Sire, a dragon cursed into human form by his rider. Though the action and thrills of this fast-paced story will keep readers turning the page, what drew me to it the most was the strong and hilarious voice of its main character.  

Nikki Barthelmess is the author of several young adult books. Nikki entered foster care in Nevada at twelve and spent the next six years living in six different towns. During this time, she found solace in books, her journal, and the teachers who encouraged her as a writer. A graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, Nikki lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her pride-and-joy Corgi pup. Find her online at, on Twitter @nikkigrey_ and Instagram at nikkibarthelmess.

Thanks again, Nikki! I want to heartily second BLAZEWRATH GAMES, which I recently read and LOVED. The other four – a couple of which are new to me – also look fabulous. If you’ve read any and want to share your opinion on them, leave me a comment!

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