The Best YA Shows of 2023

From teen romance to demigods, this year had it all

Gavin Casalegno and Lola Tung in "The Summer I Turned Pretty" (Prime Video)
Gavin Casalegno and Lola Tung in "The Summer I Turned Pretty" (Prime Video)

Another year has passed, and the YA TV genre remains stronger than ever with a combination of original content, spinoff series and book adaptations. Jenny Han had a banner year with two different shows landing in May (“XO, Kitty”) and July (“The Summer I Turned Pretty” Season 2). And authors Ali Novak, Edith Wharton and Rick Riordan rounded out the genre with adaptations of their beloved books.

Other worlds, like the “Bridgerton” universe and the “To All the Boys” book series made way for spinoff series — prequel show “Queen Charlotte” and sequel “XO, Kitty.” Solid soundtracks back the immersive series that capture the full gamut of teenage emotions and experiences. 

Read on as we count down the best YA shows of 2023.

“Ginny & Georgia” Season 2 (Netflix)

Felix Mallard and Antonia Gentry in "Ginny & Georgia" Season 2 on Netflix

After a cliffhanger of an ending in 2021 when the first season of “Ginny & Georgia” debuted on Netflix, the sophomore season of Sarah Lampert’s young adult series picked up right where the suspense left off. Virginia “Ginny” Miller (Antonia Gentry) ran away from her mother Georgia (Brianne Howey) after learning of the ugly things Georgia has done in her past, including poisoning one of her ex-husbands. Ginny settles her issues through therapy in a very raw and honest portrayal of teenage mental health. The show does not shy away from the darker parts of emotional well-being and paints a sex positive message for young adults.

The show scored a double renewal for Season 3 and Season 4, so the adventures will continue. Adrenaline-filled ups and downs guarantee that there is never a dull moment in the young adult drama. New showrunner Sarah Glinski (“Degrassi”) will spearhead the next two seasons after Debra J. Fisher saw the first two to the finish line.

“XO, Kitty” (Netflix)

Anna Cathcart in "XO, Kitty"

Jenny Han’s third onscreen project, “XO, Kitty,” took viewers right back to the world of the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” book trilogy and corresponding three films, but this time, Katherine Song Covey (Anna Cathcart) is in charge. Movie fans will remember that Kitty met Dae (Minyeong Choi) while visiting Korea with her older sister Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and their father Dan (John Corbett), which sparked their long distance relationship at the end of Lara Jean’s story. Enter Kitty’s point of view, where she takes matters — and maybe even fate — into her own hands by applying to the Korean International School of Seoul where her mom studied abroad and where Dae now goes to school.

The Netflix series captures the themes of hopeless romanticism and self-discovery as well as the anticipation and hopefulness of travel and exploration. Terrific K-drama elements and flourishes as well as a K-pop heavy soundtrack make “XO, Kitty” extra special. Season 2 is on its way, and certain ship-ers need answers!

“Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” (Netflix)

The “Bridgerton” spinoff created by Shonda Rhimes focuses on a young Queen Charlotte (India Amarteifio) when she first arrives in England from Germany to marry young King George (Corey Mylchreest). Intercut with perspectives from the older Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) who rules in the “Bridgerton” shows as well as the older Lady Agatha Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) in conjunction with Lady Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmel), the Queen’s backstory oscillates between heartwarming romance and harrowing hardship, especially with the onset of George’s mysterious illness. Charlotte’s resilience pulls at heartstrings as she fights hard for her relationship with the King.

Their hard-earned love and strong bond through challenges can be relatable to many viewers, whether it be blocks in communication or external pressures and responsibilities. All the classical string covers of modern music come from Black women such as Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, SZA and Whitney Houston. The prequel series filled in some gaps in the “Bridgerton” universe as expanded by Rhimes from Julia Quinn’s novels, and it made way for Season 3 of “Bridgerton,” which arrives in May 2024.

“The Summer I Turned Pretty” Season 2 (Prime Video)

Christopher Briney and Gavin Casalegno in “The Summer I Turned Pretty.” (Prime Video)

“The Summer I Turned Pretty” Season 2 made the biggest splash of the summer by far. Featuring nine different songs from Taylor Swift, the sophomore season of the Prime Video television adaptation of Jenny Han’s other famous young adult trilogy shifted in tone, but it still hits all the teenage emotions as it deals with the grief of losing Rachel Blanchard’s Susannah. The love triangle also took a turn, which left fans eager for the third and final season.

Though Jenny Han has forever connected the summer series to Taylor Swift’s music, there were plenty of memorable musical moments featuring other artists, such as The Head and the Heart, Beyoncé and more. All of the songs amplified the heightened feelings of first love, young love, big family changes, loss and coming of age that permeate this emotional drama. It will all come down to one last summer for the love triangle between Belly Conklin (Lola Tung), Conrad Fisher (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah Fisher (Gavin Casalegno) to resolve itself.

“The Buccaneers” (Apple TV+)

Jinny (Imogen Waterhouse) and Nan St. George (Kristine Froseth) in finale episode of “The Buccaneers” (Apple TV+)

Apple TV+’s period drama series “The Buccaneers,” loosely inspired by Edith Wharton’s final, unfinished novel puts women’s stories and women’s music front and center for the eight episodes of its first season. Annabelle “Nan” St. George finds herself fully caught up in a love triangle between two childhood best friends‚ Guy Thwarte (Matthew Broome) and Theo (Guy Remmers) — even though she has absolutely no mind for marriage at the start of the series. Conchitta Closson (Alisha Boe) sets the tone for the series with her chaotic wedding in the first episode, and the Elmsworth sisters Lizzy (Aubri Ibrag) and Mabel (Josie Totah) discover their own paths to love and romance.

Headstrong, independent and brainy young women who also happen to be beautiful dominate the story of fierce friendship, young love, big decisions and adventure. They are not afraid to be themselves in a stuffy society that restrains itself from any kind of fun or expression. We could all use the five main women as examples to embody when we feel we don’t fit in somewhere, and Season 2 cannot come fast enough. The finale’s final scenes, set to “Long Live (Taylor’s Version),” pack a gut punch.

“My Life with the Walter Boys” (Netflix)

L to R) Nikki Rodriguez as Jackie, Ashby Gentry as Alex and Noah LaLonde as Cole in “My Life with the Walter Boys” Cr. Chris Large/© 2023 Netflix, Inc.

Talk about another show with a juicy triangle at its heart that just got renewed for a second season! Based on the Wattpad sensation by Ali Novak, “My Life with the Walter Boys” stars Nikki Rodriguez as Jackie Howard and Sarah Rafferty (“Suits”) as Katherine Walter. Katherine, who was best friends with Jackie’s mother starting in college, takes Jackie in after Jackie’s parents and sister die in a tragic freak accident. Adding 10 siblings to her daily routine in a new home on a ranch in Colorado challenges Jackie, who grew up in New York City and wants to go to Princeton.

Rafferty imbues Katherine with her “Suits” character Donna’s spidey senses to play the ultimate onscreen mom with killer intuition in a story of found family, support, young love and self-discovery along with grief and the idea of starting over after a tragic life event. “My Life With the Walter Boys” also boasts a packed soundtrack of songs that accompany youth and popular culture these days.

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” (Disney+)

Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” (Disney+)

Demigod Percy Jackson gets a new adaptation, this time as a television series with author Rick Riordan heavily involved in the Disney+ original “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” Walker Scobell brings the titular character — who discovers his father is Poseidon and is whisked away to a summer camp for other children of the gods — to life, as does Aryan Simhadri with Grover the satyr and Leah Sava Jeffries with Annabeth Chase. Guest stars Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jason Mantzoukas bring gods Hermes and Dionysus to life as each episode of the first season’s eight corresponds to a chapter in Riordan’s first book, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.”

The show imbues summer camp nostalgia with a very distinct pre-teen vibe as the main characters are all played by 13 and 14-year-olds in this adaptation, bringing an authenticity to the story of adolescence. Combined with the adrenaline and action of adventures, Riordan’s beloved novels lay the foundation for a show that closely adapts the text and covers complex Greek mythology along the way.

The first episode of the series is available to stream on Hulu while the rest of the episodes drop on Disney+ weekly until the finale on Jan. 31.


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