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Summer Reading is on! We’re having a great summer at BCPL with events ranging from fitness activities to a lab with the Kentucky Science Center to awesome magic shows. But the heart of Summer Reading will always be books and reading.
And we’re so excited with the response we are receiving from the participants in our 2016 Reading Challenges. Here are just a few of the book reviews we’ve received so far; more will be posted here over the month to come. Thanks to all of our guest reviewers for sharing!
How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found by Sara Nickerson Reviewer: Tyler W., Age 10 Tyler’s Rating: 3/5 Stars Genre: Graphic Novel/Mystery Audience: Tween/Teen
Tyler’s Summary & Review: A boy and his mom move into a mansion only to find out weird things keep happening. It’s ok. Kind of a long book.
Quarterback Sneak by Jake Maddox Reviewer: Tyler W., Age 10 Tyler’s Rating: 5/5 Stars Genre: Realistic Fiction/Sports Fiction Audience: Middle Grade/Tween
Tyler’s Summary & Review: A quarterbacks suddenly starts acting very strange, which puts the team in major jeopardy.I enjoyed this book, I can relate to one of the characters because he wants to help his team. I also have a passion for football.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11 Katelynn’s Rating: 5/5 Stars Genre: Realistic Fiction/School Story Audience: Middle Grade/Tween
Katelynn’s Summary & Review: A boy has a facial disease and has a hard time “fitting in” at school and out of school. I am here to tell you that I really think you should read this book. First, the book makes me feel like I’m in the story experiencing what is going on. Next, the book has really good detail to make me imagine everything that is going on. Last, the book has a really good story behind that and it has a good plot. That is why you should read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Enjoy!?
Ten-year-old Auggie was born with extreme facial abnormalities. When he was younger, he used to wear a space helmet all the time just to hide from the stares. Now Auggie—homeschooled all his life—is ready to come out of hiding and is set to begin fifth grade at a private Manhattan middle school. Heartbreaking, funny, and simply wonderful in every way, Wonder is a must-read for book lovers of all ages. Ages 8 and up
Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans by Gary Northfield Reviewer: Katelynn W., Age 11 Katelynn’s Rating: 4.5/5 Stars Genre: Animal Fantasy Audience: Middle Grade
Katelynn’s Summary & Review: A zebra and other animals get captured and have to train to be gladiators. Once they train, they have to fight to earn their freedom.
I think you should read the book Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans by Gary Northfield. First, this book has some great facts about the Romans and other things. Next, the book has really great humor. Last, the book has a lot of feeling in it. That is why I think you should read the book Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans by Gary Northfield.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer Reviewer: Kaylee F., Age 12 Kaylee’s Rating: 5/5 Stars Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal Romance Audience: Teen/Young Adult
Kaylee’s Summary & Review: The storyline is about a girl named Bella Swan and when she moves in with her dad at the town of Forks. I thought this book was a great start to an amazing series.The story itself was great because it explained how Bella felt at all times in amazing words and vocabulary. I loved the characters a lot because they all were a big part of an amazing story. I loved the setting because when the author wrote to explain the setting she made it feel like I was actually looking at it myself. I just enjoyed this book so much I couldn’t even put it down. You should really read this book and fall in love with it just as I did.
EXTRA: Tracy’s Thoughts: As Kaylee says, this book is compulsively readable. I couldn’t put it down and read the entire book (about 500 pages) in a single night. I have a few issues with the book (Edward’s stalker tendencies, for one), but nothing that prevented me from staying up till about 6:00 in the morning until I finished!
Are you interested in submitting a guest review? Use the submission form on our website to share your thoughts (positive, negative, or in between) about your latest read. And remember: eligible BCPL patrons earn an entry in our Summer Reading Grand Prize Drawing for each review they submit!
From dark, twisty fairy tales to stunning realistic fiction with an otherwordly quality, 2014 was a great year for YA literature. Andrew Smith had not one but two top-notch books (although I must admit that I’ve only read one so far) and Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series came to a worthy end (though the final book hints at further Shadowhunter adventures to come). There were excellent titles that just missed making this year’s list including the Smith book I have read (100 Sideways Miles), the latest installment of Maggie Stiefvater’s mind-blowing Raven Cycle (Blue Lily, Lily Blue), and the 2015 Morris Award finalist The Story of Owen. And then there are the promising titles I haven’t read just yet such as Timothée de Fombelle’s Vango, Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar, and that other Andrew Smith book (Grasshopper Jungle).
My absolute favorite so far? It’s a really, really tough contest between I’ll Give You the Sun and We Were Liars. The writing in each simply stunned me. I also found the artwork and text combination of Through the Woods to be both magically creepy and breathtaking. Anyway, of those titles I have read, these are my picks for the best YA books of 2014:
City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
This final installment of the Mortal Instruments series includes plenty of twists and turns and doesn’t overdo the happy ending. When a group of rebellious teens take on evil, consequences are to be expected. Here, though, Clare manages an excellent compromise: a fantastic journey with plenty of action and romance, heartbreaking moments of despair, a satisfactory wrap up for favorite characters, and hints of what is to come in her upcoming series, The Last Hours and The Dark Artifices.
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
So Glory and her sort-of best friend got drunk and ingested the remains of a petrified bat. As weird as that sounds, things get even more bizarre when they begin to see glimpses of the pasts and futures of strangers, family members, and acquaintances. While Glory has lived in a sort of limbo ever since her mother’s suicide, now she is forced to face both the past and the idea of a future, even if the apocalypse may be coming. Trippy, powerful, and full of insights into society and coping with grief, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future is yet another gloriously unique novel from the fantabulous A.S. King.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Stunning and full of passages readers will want to revisit again and again, I’ll Give You the Sun is the story of fraternal twins Noah and Jude. Three years ago, Noah and Jude were so connected that they communicated without words. Now sixteen, they are practically strangers—to each other and even to themselves. Their closeness has been shattered by secrets and lies and tragedy, but perhaps there is a chance to regain what was lost if first each can face what went wrong before. The novel is narrated jointly between the two siblings, weaving in an out of time seamlessly, Noah in the past and Jude in the present. This is an unforgettable novel, kooky and heartbreaking, full of art and love and even a ghost or two.
Noggin by John Corey Whaley
Sixteen-year-old Travis Coates was dying of cancer when he did something drastic. Although his entire body was riddled with cancer cells and beyond saving, a doctor suggested an experimental procedure. So his (cancer-free) head was cryogenically frozen until the day medical science would be able to bring him back. Travis didn’t think it would work, but suddenly he finds himself awakening—no longer sick—to discover that it is five years later and the world has moved on without him. For Travis, it has only been moments, but his friends are college-aged now, and his girlfriend has moved on. Wryly honest, pitch-perfect narration, likable characters, and a surprisingly realistic oddball plot make this a surefire winner.
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki Bittersweet and brilliantly paced, this coming-of-age graphic novel centers on a young teen’s summer vacation, during which she finds herself drawn to an older boy and depressed by the strain in her parents’marriage. Mariko Tamaki’s illustrations wonderfully convey Rose’s frustrations, anxiety, and heartbreaks, and the images are full of life and movement.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll Vivid, glossy illustrations and text along with creepily evocative prose tell psychological horror stories with a decided fairy-tale inspiration. This is a uniquely beautiful and terrifying graphic novel, where the text and images truly become inseparable.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart A story of love, lies, secrets, and deep family dysfunction, We Were Liars is a gorgeously written psychological thriller full of drama and mystery. The tale centers on Cady, a young woman with no memory of the summer that changed her life forever but determined to uncover the secrets her wealthy, Kennedy-like family try to keep hidden.
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Rich yet seemingly effortless world-building and compelling characters make for a dynamic introduction to a promising new trilogy. Kestrel is the daughter of a celebrated, powerful general in a society based on slavery. Soon, according to custom and the expectation of her father, she will have to choose between joining the army and marrying. Although she is an expert strategist, Kestral has no desire to do either. Arin is a slave, far brighter and more cunning and that he appears. Despite their many differences, Kestrel and Arin form a tenuous friendship that promises to become more, but betrayal, conflicting loyalties, and potential war may make peace between them impossible.
Nonfiction & Poetry
Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin Through candid interviews and before, during, and after photos, Kuklin presents the stories of six very different young adults who are transgender, intersex, or gender neutral. The stories are eye-opening and honest, portraying each teen as a complex, real person rather than an idealized “example.” Extensive back matter provide further information,
Eyes Wide Open by Paul Fleischman Sidebars, graphs, images, and lively prose combine perfectly to provide teens a comprehensive yet appealing overview of modern environmental issues. Best of all, the text does not tell readers what to think or believe; instead, Fleischman focus on the underlying principles and provides the tools teens need to evaluate information and come to their own conclusions. For example, although Fleischman’s views on certain topics are pretty clear, he provides references for locating divergent opinions.
The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming This accessible, well-researched history explores the lives, personalities, and relationships of the family Romanov in contrast with the lives of the ordinary workers and peasants of early 20th century Imperial Russia. Fleming does a fantastic job of putting the Romanov story in global context in a way that will not overwhelm teen readers. Glossy photo interests of the family and other personalities enhance the text.
The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell
History readers and true crime aficionados will both find much to appreciate in this extensively researched yet accessible work about the murders of three men in 1964 Mississippi. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—two of them white, the other black—were civil rights workers encouraging African Americans to vote before they mysteriously disappeared and later found murdered. In his depiction of the events during “Freedom Summer” and the lengthy search for justice for the murdered workers, Mitchell provides a clear-eyed, thought-provoking look at social justice, then and now, It will also make an excellent pairing for the older fans of Deborah Wiles’s Revolution.
How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson Through short, free-verse sonnets, the author paints a portrait of coming of age in the Civil Rights era, from the age of five until about 14. The poems reflect the Speaker’s increasing understanding and awareness of the world around her. Though Nelson is reluctant to claim the work as autobiographical, she also describes the work as “personal memoir, a ‘portrait of the artist as a young American Negro Girl'”. Regardless, it is an intimate, nuanced portrait or growing up in 1950s America.
Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann Beautiful, haunting poems turn fairy tale tropes inside out to explore the expectation of society and self-doubts of young women.
Rating: 4/5 Stars Series: Lumatere Chronicles #1 Format: Audiobook/Book on CD Genre: High Fantasy/Epic Fantasy Audience: Young Adult/Adult Crossover
Summary: Exiled from his homeland after the royal family was slaughtered and a dying woman cursed the land, Finnikin is determined to find a new home for his people. He was only a child at the time of the murders of his friend Prince Balthazar and the rest of the royal family, but Finnikin struggles with feelings of guilt related to a cryptic prophecy. Then he meets a young novice who goes by the name of Evanjalin who says the prince lives and there is hope of reclaiming Lumitare from the impostor king who butchered the royal family. Finnikin is skeptical, but Evanjalin remains stubbornly committed to her course and the two set off on a mission that take them across kingdoms, collecting allies and exiles along the way back to Lumitare.
First Line: “When it finally appeared in the distance, Finnikin wondered if it was some phantom half-imagined in this soulless kingdom at the end of the world.”
This novel has been on my to-read list since its publication in 2010, and I’m kicking myself now for not reading it sooner. Of course, having waited, I have the added benefit of not having to wait a year for each of the sequels to be released. So if I look at it that way, perhaps I did myself a favor because now I can’t wait to begin Froi of the Exiles!
I listened to this book on audio, and initially I thought I would never get through it. The novel jumps straight into the action and provides key back story right away, and all of the places, characters, and relationships were a little overwhelming. Unlike with a traditional book, it wasn’t easy to flip back several pages as a reference point. I think this is a recurring issue for me with rich fantasy series like this one or Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, but at least with A Game of Thrones I had the TV showto orient myself(yes, I was late to the game there too). Here I was on my own, but within the first few chapters I was utterly hookedand gradually the pieces came together. Of course, there were still plenty of intentional plot twists and turns to keep me guessing. I usually listen to my audiobooks in the car, and more than once I sat in my driveway listening long after arriving home, absorbed in a particularly well-written passage.
In Finnikin of the Rock, Marchetta introduces a world rich with intrigue and secrets, where characters are far more than they first appear. Most of them are wonderfully complicated, both light and dark. Take the secondary character of Froi, for example. Froi is a young thief with a bad attitude and no outward compassion or loyalty toward his fellow man. He is crude and mocking, and yet he also gradually shows redeeming qualities that make readers care about him even as they are appalled by his actions. Marchetta does an excellent job showing the toll Lumatere’s terrible history (aka the Five Days of the Unspeakable) and subsequent curse has taken on its people, and no one embodies this better than Froi, although the story of Finnikin’s father Trevanion and Lady Beatrice is heartwrenching.
Though the novel is published as YA and does not have any particularly graphic scenes, it has a very adult sensibility in that it deals frankly with issues like violence, rape, and sex. The violence of war is neither glossed over nor glorified, and the characters act like real people rather than one-dimensional archetypes. Marchetta’s world-building is well done and the various kingdoms and their history have me intrigued to learn more. Like A Song of Ice and Fire, the series has a historical-style setting with hints of magic, but this is a fantasy series that will appeal even to readers who generally don’t like fantasy. The magic here is more mystical than fantastical, and the storytelling is wonderfully compelling.
For readers like me, it may take a bit of patience to become acclimated to the world of Finnikin and Evanjalin—not to mention sorting out all the different characters. But the effort is well worth it. I can’t wait to visit Lumitare and its inhabitants once again and am looking forward to discovering more about the treacherous kingdom of Charyn, which, like Marchetta’s characters, will likely be far more nuanced and surprising than we might expect.
Alyssa grew up knowing that she is a descendant of Alice Liddell—the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s classic—and that the women in her family all eventually go crazy. Case in point: Alyssa’s mother is in a mental ward, and her grandmother killed herself by jumping out a window in a misguided attempt to fly. She’s the target of jokes at school and secretly terrified she will end up just like her mom; given her strange dreams and those pesky voices she hears, it’s no wonder. After all, teenage girls aren’t supposed to hear the constant, dire whisperings of plants and insects. At sixteen, Alyssa’s not ready to end up in a padded cell of her own, so she keeps the voices to herself and chooses to ignore them.
Then everything Alyssa ever believed about herself and her family is flipped upside down. Turns out, Alice’s adventures were (more or less) true. And now, because of the havoc Alice caused in Wonderland over a century ago, Alyssa’s family is cursed. At least, that is what she is told by Morpheus, a darkly seductive, otherworldly boy who seems eerily familiar. Prodded by the mysterious boy, Alyssa finds her way to Wonderland, where she must navigate a world far more dangerous than Carroll’s tale let on and undo the damage Alice left in her wake. Jeb, Alyssa’s childhood friend and secret crush, also comes along for the ride.
“I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten; it’s the only way I can stop their whispers. Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.”
First, I want to say that the covers for this series are gorgeous and perfectly suited to the stories. Bold and vibrant with a creepy edge, they reflect the cinematic, almost Tim Burtonesque quality that makes Howard’s Splintered novels so appealing. Here, Wonderland and its characters are familiar and yet darker, topsy-turvy in a completely new way. The reimagining of the Caterpillar, in particular, was a stroke of brilliance. Also, the faerie-like characters seem so naturally suited to Wonderland it is easy to forget they were not a part of Carroll’s original story. Howard’s Wonderland has a twisted, more mature vibe, but the surreal whimsy of the original tale remains in full effect. There is a gleeful madness here, but always the reader is aware that the madness could turn deadly.
As is expected in a YA fantasy novel, there is a love triangle between Alyssa, Morpheus, and Jeb. Morpheus, with his less-than-forthcoming instructions to Alyssa, his hidden agendas, and his constant air of flirtation, is a fascinating character. Like Wonderland, he repulses Alyssa even as she is drawn to him. Jeb, on the other hand, remains Alyssa’s tie to the love, comfort, and relative sanity of the human world. But Jeb isn’t all lightness and perfection either; frankly, his early reactions to Alyssa’s obvious feelings seemed oblivious at best and almost cruel at times. But boy oh boy, does he make up for it! The book strongly
reminds me of Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey
series and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely books—and not just because of the romantic triangle.
My favorite part, though, it that the focus is not on Alyssa’s romantic tangles. Instead, Splintered is a novel about a fish-out-of-water girl who discovers her true self and must then choose what self she wishes to be in the future. It is all about choice and self-discovery—all with the awesomely vivid, creeptastic backdrop of Wonderland.
FYI: Unhinged, the sequel to Splintered, was published in January 2014 (review to come soon!) and just happens to be one of the titles up for grabs in our latest giveaway event! The giveaway ends at 12:00 a.m. this coming Wednesday (May 30th), so if you’d like your own copy of Unhinged, you’ll want to enter the drawing ASAP!
Summary: Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death narrates the story of Liesel, a young German girl who is eking out a meager existence for herself by thievery when she encounters something she can’t resist—books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares stories to help sustain her neighbors during bombing raids.
I was expecting a lot from this book, and it’s possible that my lower-than-expected rating stems from my slightly disappointed reaction. As always with audiobooks, I also have to wonder whether I would have had the same reaction had I read it in print format. In this case, I don’t think so. The narration was wonderfully done. The reader—his intonations, emotions, and accent—perfectly captured the amiable yet distant voice of Death.
As to the narrative conceit in and of itself, I am somewhat conflicted. In some ways, I felt that to write a book from the (mostly) dispassionate POV of Death was quite clever. This distance and perspective add a wider scope to the narrative, allowing readers to gain a bit of context that adds to the central story of Liesel, Max, Rudy, Rosa, and Hans. For example, I liked gaining insight into what happened to thief-leader Arthur Berg after he left Molching. The conceit also allows for a first-person account of the larger atrocities and wide-scale deaths in the camps, information that would be lacking if Liesel were the narrator. But with that said, the constant foreshadowing quickly grew annoying. I really think it is unnecessary and at times even detrimental to the flow of the story. As I listened to the audio, I also I wondered at Death’s detailed knowledge of Liesel’s story. I recall a statement at one point that he wasn’t always present, cannot know everything, and saw Liesel only 3 or 4 times, but he tells the story as if he were omniscient and privy to every detail. There is a reveal at the end which shows how Death learned so much, but in his recitation of certain events (SPOILER highlight to read: e.g., when he spoke of how he felt about collecting Rudy after the bomb and his detailed memory of the others as well) it seems as if he were intimately aware of and affected by their lives before he knew the full story.
But with my narrator-quibbles aside, The Book Thief is an enjoyable bildungsroman centered on Liesel herself, her illicit hobby, her relationships, and a child’s slow realization of the evils of Nazi Germany. The characters—not just Liesel, but also Papa, Rosa, Max, and Rudy—are all vibrantly drawn. I particularly loved Hans and Max, and I was intrigued by the sad story of Ilsa Hermann. Much of the prose of this book is incredibly striking, especially when describing the characters themselves, such as the recurring motif that describes Rudy’s lemon hair. My favorite, though, was the introduction of Rosa Hubermann, who
looked like a small wardrobe with a coat thrown over it. There was a distinct waddle to her walk. Almost cute, if it wasn’t for her face, which was like creased-up cardboard and annoyed, as if she was merely tolerating all of it.
I loved this description and many others. The imagery is sophisticated and often complex. However,I also think it becomes a bit overdone and pretentious at times.
Thus, I liked The Book Thief and found quite a lot to admire about it. I agree that its Printz Honor is well deserved. However, I also find myself rather dispassionate about the story overall, much like Death’s narrativeitself.
Allison, our Outreach/Programs Supervisor here at BCPL is back with another guest review! This time, she’s got me hooked. I think I’m going to have to read this book (and its prequel) for myself!–Tracy
Summary: What if Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII had a son who’d grown up to be king? With his regency period over, King Henry IX is sitting the throne of England trying to maneuver palace intrigue, war on the horizon, passion, and secrecy. His legitimacy still doubted, tensions are at a heightened state with the Catholics, and he is betrothed to the young princess of France. But he is still enchanted with his childhood love, Minuette, and the court is beginning to take note. Even more scandalous is the fact that Minuette is in love with another—Henry IX’s best friend. Will the secrets of the court change the course of an empire?
First Line: “You will not tell me what I can and cannot do with my own son!”
Allison’s Review: Rarely do I find a book that I read cover to cover in basically one sitting. Rarely do I find a book that while completely fiction, mirrors actual historical events in a way to keep me interested. Rarely do a find a quick-paced storyline that is also detailed. And rarely do I find a book in which the author has been able to take such artistic license with history in order to write their fiction yet stay so true to many aspects of real-world historical events. This book—and in fact both books in this series published thus far—have managed to accomplish all of this!
If we were to imagine a living male heir of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, William Tudor (King Henry IX) is that heir. Watching him come of age, with a mixture of the personalities and characteristics of both his parents, is mesmerizing. And the political intrigue (of which I am not usually a fan) is captivating. The love triangle surrounding Minuette is thought-provoking. Sinister plots abound. Henry IX’s sister Elizabeth is a beloved royal princess who’s to be married off in a diplomatic bargain, yet the character we know as Elizabeth I is evident.
Most enjoyable for me in this storyline is the constant mystery and intrigue that sends you catapulting between one imagined outcome and another. And, the teaser chapter from the next installment in the trilogy, The Boleyn Reckoning, leaves me asking the question: Can the release date of July 15th get here already?
So the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge officially began a week ago today. Last year, my pledge to read twenty-five of the eligible titles went unfulfilled. It was, in fact, a dismal failure as I only managed to complete nine eligible titles within the given time frame.
But that’s not going to stop me from giving it another try. Of course, the challenge may be even more challenging this year, as I have lots of distractions right now between work, school, family, and my never-ending house search. But I go into this year’s challenge determined. At the very least, I have to do better than last year, right?
I’ve already read 15 of the eligible titles, so that leaves me with 62 to choose from (unless I wish to reread a title). First up is a book I’ve been intending to read for ages anyway: Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.
So, YALSA Hub, challenge accepted! Who’s willing to join me? Let the reading begin!
Okay, so there are still TONS of probably awesome 2013 YA books that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet, though over the last several weeks I sure have done my best to read EVERYTHING I can get my hands on. Some of the promising titles I still have yet to read include Forgive Me, Leonard Peacockby Matthew Quick,The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal, Sex and Violenceby Carrie Mesrobian, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, and The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax. It sounds like I haven’t been doing much reading, doesn’t it? But really, for every book that made our list there are several more professional reviewer favorites that just missed out. These include high profile titles by Patrick Ness, Marcus Sedgwick, Andrew Smith, and Maggie Stiefvater (my reviews are soon to come though!).
As for those titles I haven’t yet gotten around to reading… Well, they’re still on my ever-growing TBR and any title I feel should have been on this list will be added in later updates. So with that said, these are the best teen books of 2013 that we’ve read (so far).
All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry*
In an alternate world that evokes the New England Puritan settlements of the 17th century, 18-year-old Judith is an outcast in her community and even in her own family. She disappeared without a trace at the age of 14 only to mysteriously reappear at 16 physically mutilated and unable to share what happened to her. Only now that her community is under attack, Judith must find the courage to face the past and make her silenced voice heard in a desperate bid to save them all. Poetic and gorgeously written, this is a stunning mystery, told entirely through Judith’s imagined conversations with the boy she has loved since childhood.
Boxers& Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Both intimate and epic in scale, these companion novels tell the story of China’s Boxer Rebellion from opposing viewpoints.
Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Strange, beautiful, and unsettling, this is a story is told from two directions. In the present, Win is a weird, bitter loner at a Vermont boarding school who believes there is a wolf inside him, struggling to break free. When a dead body is found in the woods, he believes he is responsible. In the past, Win is ten years old and goes by a different name—Drew. Drew looks up to his older brother and loves his little sister, but it’s clear there is something wrong in Drew’s world. Slowly, the two separate narratives merge; along the way, the reader becomes completely immersed in piecing together the mystery of Win and his past. Read Tracy’s Review
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Tana woke up surrounded by carnage. While she was passed out in the bathroom, vampires savaged and killed her fellow partiers—all except her ex-boyfriend, now infected, and a mysterious, chained vampire boy who’s sanity is in question. With nowhere else to go, the three uneasy allies travel to the nearest Coldtown, where vampires, the infected, and desperate wannabes are segregated from the outside world. Tana is determined to hang on to her humanity and protect her loved ones, but Coldtown is even more dangerous than she expects. A fascinating world and wonderfully flawed, intriguing characters highlight this layered story of guilt and vengeance, with a bit of love and redemption thrown in for balance. Still, this is not your average teen vampire romance, where black and white are clear and everything is wrapped up neatly. Chilling and wholly original, this is a vampire novel with a difference.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Park thinks the crazy-haired, oddly dressed new girl on his bus looks like a victim waiting to happen. Meanwhile, Eleanor is too concerned with her problems at home to think much about the “stupid Asian kid” who reluctantly scoots over to share his seat, cursing under his breath all the while. For days they share the seat in awkward, sometimes hostile silence. But then… Something changes. Soon, Eleanor is surreptitiously reading Watchmen comics over his shoulder and Park is making Eleanor mix tapes of his favorite bands. Slowly, tentatively a friendship develops and then friendship becomes something more. But love doesn’t solve everything. Together they must face disapproving parents, mean-spirited classmates, and the dark truths about her family that Eleanor never wants Park to discover. Read Tracy’s Review
Fangirlby Rainbow Rowell
A quiet introvert whose passion is writing fan fiction faces her first year of college in this captivating novel about growing up without letting go of the things you love.
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Blending a contemporary mindset with the heart of classic fairy tales, this is the atmospheric tale of a young man who can speak to ghosts—specifically, Jacob Grimm himself—and finds himself in a dark, sort-of fairy tale of his own.
Just One Day by Gayle Forman After falling for a mysterious Dutch boy after a whirlwind day in Paris, a young American woman wakes up alone and retreats home, never knowing what truly happened. But over the course of her freshman year of college—with a little help from Shakespeare and some unexpected friendships—she finds the courage to take risks and follow her heart, in love and life.
Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
Mila has a special ability to observe beneath the surface; she reads people and her surroundings to solve real-life puzzles. So when her father’s best friend turns up missing, Mila is determined to solve the mystery of his disappearance. The result is a secret-revealing journey through upstate New York with her father, where she is presented with clues that don’t quite add up and learns complicated truths about mistakes, compromise, and consequence. Mila is a fascinating, vibrantly realized character, and this novel presents an intriguing, cerebral mystery full of realistic suspense.
Reality Boy by A.S. King Gerald is very, very angry. It seems like he has always been angry, and there are three seasons worth of reality TV to prove it. Of course, the nanny show that made Gerald infamous when he was five years old showed very little of what actually went on in his house. Now seventeen, Gerald’s just trying to keep it together so he doesn’t end up dead or in jail. Then he meets Hannah, who has a screwed up homelife herself. Gerald’s is a unflinchingly honest voice, full of anger, insight, and pain, and his story is as riveting as any reality show. With her trademark combination of magical realism and gritty drama, King’s latest offering is another winner.
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
In this wildly inventive fantasy set in an alternate version of America, a special cadre of “Rithmatists” train from the age of eight to protect the American Isles from an infestation of Wild Chalkings, drawings which have the ability to interact in the three-dimensional world and even kill. Sixteen-year-old Joel, a student at an elite school with a special program for Rithmatists, longs to be part of that privileged group, but he already missed his chance. First of a new series.
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein In this gripping companion novel to Code Name Verity, a young American pilot becomes a prisoner at Ravensbrück, a German concentration camp. Although beloved and controversial characters from Verity are revisited, this novel belongs entirely to Rose and her fellow prisoners. It’s a different story entirely—we know early on Rose survives to tell her story—but the journey is equally tense and dramatic.
The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf
As if romantic tangles, school pressure, and family drama weren’t enough to deal with, Izzy also has to cope with panic attacks and hypochondria. With self-deprecating humor and wry observations, Izzy offers up a realistic coming of age tale with depth. One reviewer dubbed it “Woody Allen for the teenage set.” This is the only title on our list I haven’t read myself, but one of our circulation clerks highly recommends it!
So, that’s our list so far. What titles would you add to your own best-of-the-year list?
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Win is an outsider at his exclusive Vermont boarding school, and that’s
the way he wants it. It’s safer for him, and, perhaps more importantly,
safer for his classmates. Something wild and dangerous lives inside him ready to emerge at any moment, and he can’t wait. When a dead body is found in the woods near his school, Win believes he’s responsible, that his inner wolf has finally found a way to come out. But will Win ever truly be able to break free, or will the tragedies of his childhood trap him forever?
First Line: “I don’t feel the presence of God here.”
This book pulled me in from the first moment and never let me go. I picked it up early on a Saturday morning, and I didn’t want to leave the tormented mind of Drew/Win for even a minute. Three hours later, I was hungry (no breakfast yet) and needed to use the bathroom, but I was completely full of awe at Kuehn’s writing, particularly the perfect interweaving of voice, character, and pacing. I needed several moments to process what I had just read. What I had experienced, thanks the amazing voice of its troubled narrator(s).
Readers are presented with a character study and mystery from two directions. In the present, Win is a bitter loner, angry and undeniably weird. His thoughts are strange and philosophical and his mind is clearly (or at least probably) confused. No one understands him, and he does not understand himself either. A dead body was found in the woods and Win suspects he’s responsible, though he has no memory of killing anyone. As a reader, I was aware something terrible had happened—leaving Win alone and abandoned—and I wanted desperately to understand his past and what was happening to him in the present. Is he crazy? Is he a werewolf, as he seems to believe? Is he both?
In the past, Drew (Win’s name before the Something Terrible happened) is ten years old and—like the present Win—suffers from severe motion sickness and has strange thoughts and impulses. There is a pervasive sense of doom, though the source of Drew’s troubles is merely hinted at. Through both alternating narratives, Kuehn reveals bits and pieces of the past and their consequences in the present, so that readers are kept constantly on edge, always adjusting and readjusting theories about Win.
Win’s not a particular likeable guy, but it is impossible to read his
confused and caustic words in juxtaposition with his past without feeling sympathy and fascination. I was
determined to unravel the mystery of Win’s past and present. And even
when I thought I understood what was going on in Win’s mind, there was
always a niggle of doubt where I wondered if Win’s strange, confused
thoughts were true after all.The uncertainty and fascination created through voice and structure are the heart of Kuehn’s amazing storytelling in this novel. And the writing itself is beautiful, unsettling, and—even though I suspected the big reveal at the end—completely gutwrenching.
Charm & Strange isn’t a perfect book, but it is powerful and emotionally intense from start to finish. Although a handful of recent YA books have held me in their spell (e.g., this one, this one, and this one), not since first reading Sara Zarr’s Story of a Girl have I been so completely absorbed and unwilling to put a book down.
NEWS:Earlier today we hit a major milestone. We surpassed 50,000 page views! I would like to thank all of our readers and followers for their support. Here’s to 50,000 more views, and years more of posts and reviews at Book News and Reviews! –Tracy
Summary: The year is 1908, and a vaudeville troupe has arrived in sleepy Muskegon, Michigan to summer in nearby Bluffton. Henry—bored of the everyday sameness of Muskegon and working in his father’s shop—is fascinated by the animals and performers, but mostly with a slapstick comedian his own age named Buster Keaton. Henry quickly becomes a fixture in Bluffton, palling around with Buster and another boy traveling with the troupe. He yearns to perform like Buster, but all Buster wants to do is orchestrate pranks and play baseball.
First Lines: “Life in Muskegon, Michigan, was quiet. Ordinary.”
Tracy’s Thoughts: With gentle nostalgia, humor, and perfect pacing, award–winning graphic
novelist Matt Phelan brings to life a bygone era in this compelling
fictionalized account. Watercolor washes bring the place and period to life through soft focus, and yet the characters’ actions and emotions—from Buster’s pranks to Henry’s envy—are powerfully visualized. Like the illustrations, the story is a quiet one, but dynamic just the same. There are plenty of laughs (some of Buster’s pranks will delight and inspire mischievous kids) and there are many small, though-provoking moments of note. For example, there are small subplots about child labor laws and a romantic rivalry, but moral judgements aren’t overt; instead, readers are left to examine their own beliefs and draw conclusions of their own.
Despite its historical setting, many of the events and situations of the book have a timeless feel and are perfectly relevant to today. It might be tough convincing kiddos who have no idea who Buster Keaton is to give this book a try, but then the book isn’t really about Buster. It’s about Henry, who in his summers with Buster is encouraged to think more widely about the world, but also learns to appreciate the world closer to home. It’s a coming of age story about taking the things you love and becoming the person you are meant to be in adulthood.
Rating: 4/5 Stars Genre: Realistic Fiction/Love Story Audience: Young Adult/Teen
Summary: For Eleanor and Park, it is far from love at first sight. Park thinks the crazy-haired, oddly dressed new girl looks like a victim waiting to happen, and the minute she steps on to their shared school bus he’s proven right as the bullies zero in for the kill. Meanwhile, Eleanor is too concerned with her problems at home to think much about the “stupid Asian kid” who reluctantly scoots over to share his seat, cursing under his breath all the while. For days they share the seat in awkward, sometimes hostile silence. But then… Something changes. Soon, Eleanor is surreptitiously reading Watchmen comics over his shoulder and Park is making Eleanor mix tapes of his favorite bands. Slowly, tentatively a friendship develops and then friendship becomes something more. But love doesn’t solve everything. Together they must face disapproving parents, mean-spirited classmates, and the dark truths Eleanor never wants Park to discover.
Celebrity Stamp of Approval: “Eleanor & Park reminded
me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also
what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”—John Green, The New York Times Book Review
First Lines: “He’d stopped trying to bring her back. She only came back when she felt like it, in dreams and lies and broken-down déjà vu.”
Tracy’s Thoughts: I practically inhaled this book from start to finish. Told through the alternating perspectives of Eleanor and Park, it is a fast, engaging read that brings its characters to vibrant life. Both protagonists feel incredibly real, flawed yet wholly sympathetic. Though they come from different worlds, I completely bought into the idea that Eleanor and Park are destined to meet and fall in love. Yet even they have doubts that their love can last, especially considering their circumstances. Eleanor is keeping secrets from Park about her disadvantaged home life and abusive, skeevy stepfather, and Park’s Korean-American mother is less than approving of Eleanor and her appearance. Plus Park has some difficulty coping with the shameless bullying some students at the school direct at Eleanor. (Though he adores her, he’s also a little embarrassed by her at times.) And then there’s Eleanor’s own insecurities and her trouble believing that slender, calm Park is attracted to her chubby, difficult self. Suffice it to say, they have a lot to deal with, and every bit of it feels realistic and essential to the story.
Despite the undeniable dark side to this novel, it is also funny, heartbreaking, and extremely sweet. In many ways, the novel is like Eleanor herself: gritty and perhaps a little abrasive, but also extremely lovable. There is a good deal of profanity and crude language, but, to me, the language is authentic to the characters and place rather than gratuitous. And the dialog is smart and clever; it’s no wonder John Green so enthusiastically recommends this book. Though it is solidly grounded in the period (did I forget to mention the book is set in 1986?), Eleanor and Park is a timeless, universal story of first love.
I’m back with more quick reviews of my recent audio reads! I just finished two Bloody Jack Adventures plus a couple of adult historicals. So here goes…
The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny Rating: 2/5 Stars Audience: Adult Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
When the powers that be try to keep her from practicing her craft as a physician, Renaissance woman Gabriella Mondini decides now is the time to go searching for her long-lost father. What follows is a journey across Europe and beyond that calls to mind the Canterbury Tales. Through her entries in her diary and additions made in an anthology of diseases begun by her father (also a physician), readers are privy to Gabriella’s adventures and obsessions. A woman physician in sixteenth-century Venice, Gabriella
Mondini had the potential to become a fascinating character. The plot in and of itself is certainly intriguing, but the pacing is uneven and the supernatural elements are clumsily integrated and all too predictable. O’Melveney is a poet, and the prose is lyrical and striking at times; however, it also frequently veers into pretension and excessive description. Probably the only reason I finished this audiobook is Katherine Kellgren, whose magnificent voice performance kept me engaged.
Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick Rating: 2.5/5 Stars Audience: Adult Genre: Historical Fiction/Psychological Suspense/Southern Gothic
When Charlie Beale arrived in the small Southern town of Brownsburg with a suitcase full of money, it was the summer of 1948. Decades later, a man who knew Charlie and was witness to Charlie’s torrid, fateful affair with the young bride of the town’s wealthiest man recounts the story. I was downright mesmerized by Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife, but Heading Out to Wonderful lacked the tension and immediacy I expected in his follow-up novel. The setting and storyline had the haunting, nostalgic quality of a folk ballad, but the finale seemed forced and arbitrary. Also, I was troubled by the occasional awkwardness of the narrative voice and some unacknowledged loose ends. For example, it is never explained (MILD SPOILER AHEAD…HIGHLIGHT TO READ) how Charlie came by that suitcase of money. Although this was the most interesting part of the story to me, I would have understood if that particular plot point remained a mystery. But the fact that none of the book’s characters seem to wonder or question it makes no sense. Still, even with all that being said, I think Heading Out to Wonderful would make a fantastic book club read. The recurring themes of lost innocence, sin and forgiveness, identities abandoned and recreated, and memory itself leave much to discuss.
Mississippi Jack by L.A. Meyer Rating: 4/5 Stars Audience: Teen/Young Adult Genre: Historical Adventure/Humor Series: Bloody Jack Adventures #5
I am still a little furious at Jamie. But at the same time, I also like him a bit better now. In the past, Jamie has been almost too perfect for the wonderfully flawed adventuress that is Jacky Faber. Now, I see him as a more developed, if flawed character and I like him better for it. In this latest adventure, Jacky and Jamie are once again separated as Jacky makes her way down the Mississippi in a rollicking adventure reminiscent of the best tall tales. Legendary boatman Mike Fink even plays a significant role in the story. New love interests also emerge—most notably the irascibly charming Sir Richard Allen—to throw a wrench in Jacky and Jamie’s relationship. Not to mention the intervention of the British Navy and Intelligence Agency, marauding Indians, and a homicidal Mike Fink. Also, did I already mention that I love Katherine Kellgren? Because I do. Her fabulous performances make the Bloody jack series a joy to listen to, bringing Jacky and the gang to vivid life.
Mt Bonny Light Horseman by L.A. Meyer Rating: 3/5 Stars Audience: Teen/Young Adult Genre: Historical Adventure/Humor/War Story Series: Bloody Jack Adventures #6
This time around, Jacky is tasked by British Intelligence to act as a spy against the French. Those who love the battle scenes of earlier Bloody Jack novels won’t be disappointed. And Jacky being Jacky, there are also new flirtations for the more romantically minded (though the new love interest fails to live up to the standard set by Jamie’s previous rivals for Jacky’s affections, IMHO).
It’s hard to believe, but Book News & Reviews hit its two-year anniversary back in August! More than 70 reviews later, I’ve given out only a handful of 5 and 4.5 star reviews so readers would know which books really stand out for me. Many of those selections have been YA books, so to wrap up Teen Read Week, I thought today would be a great time to look back on some of my favorite teen titles reviewed here on the blog.
Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson Rating: 5/5 Stars Reviewed: August 9, 2011
This book is still very close to my heart. It was my very first review for Book News & Reviews, but more importantly I read it at a time when, like Amy, I was coping with my own grief and guilt over the loss of a loved one. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour deals with some difficult issues, but it is also an undeniably fun book about music, friendship, and adventure. It made me cry, it made me laugh, and it made me reflect. Amy and Roger’s playlists inspired me to create my own mixes in memory of my mother, a task which gave me something concrete to do and helped me deal with her loss. Sometimes you are lucky enough to discover the perfect book at just the right time. I’m glad that I found Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour when I did. Read my original review »
Divergent by Veronica Roth Rating: 4.5/5 Stars Reviewed: December 6, 2011
Now that Divergent is one of the “It” books, with a devoted fandom and a highly anticipated movie on the way, I can proudly say that I discovered it fairly early on. (I actually read it months before I wrote my review because I was waiting for library copies to come in.) As I said in my original review, I liked it far it more than TheHunger Games. For me, Tris is a more believable character and I love the dynamic between Tris and Four. Which makes me wonder why I STILL haven’t read Insurgent although it’s been sitting by my bedside since shortly after the release date. I think secretly I know the wait for the final book would drive me crazy. But since Allegiant comes out this month, it may be safe to proceed… Read my original review »
I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan Rating: 5/5 Stars Reviewed: December 23. 2011
This book was such a surprise to me. There was very little buzz, and it wasn’t a contender when awards time rolled around. But, trust me, it’s a gem. This is what I wrote in my original review:
Intertwining a gripping survival story with a sweet tale of first love, I’ll Be There
is one of the best, most heartfelt books I’ve read in ages. It’s one of
those stories that completely mesmerizes you and still lingers in your
mind weeks later. And puts a smile on your face. There is a magic to
Sloan’s prose: it is thoughtful and yet carries an immediacy that makes
each page a joy to read. There is nothing flashy in her writing; it is
vivid and precise, allowing the extraordinary characters and their
predicaments to move the story along. Am I sounding a bit fan-girl crazy
and over-the-top in my praise? I apologize. But. I love this book.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green Rating: 4.5/5 Stars Reviewed: February 22, 2012
Unlike I’ll Be There, this is a book that was on everyone’s radar. Well, anyone remotely familiar with YA literature who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past few years. Almost universally known as the book that will have you crying your way through at least one box of Kleenex, The Fault in Our Stars actually did not push those particular buttons for me. It was heartbreaking but, for me, not tear-inducing. Instead, I simply enjoyed the heck out of the smart, quirky, book-loving characters and John Green’s always stellar dialogue. Read my original review »
City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare Rating: 4.5/5 Stars Reviewed: June 23, 2012
This is the fifth book in the series and easily my favorite yet. I wasn’t fully on board the Mortal Instruments bandwagon early on, although I enjoyed the books well enough. I simply felt that Clare’s writing was not as polished as I wanted it to be. I got a kick out of her sharp, snarky humor and strong characterizations, but I also spotted a lot of plot inconsistencies. Maybe that was related to errors in the audiobook recordings, but I doubt it. But City of Lost Souls won me over once and for all. The tension and angst were at full throttle from start to finish, and the audiobook was fantastic. (Seriously, I am so glad the producers ditched Ed Westwick and stuck with Molly Quinn on her own.) The City of Bones movie may have been a HUGE disappointment, but I can’t wait till the final installment of the series comes out in May 2014. Read my original review »
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbotsky Rating: 5/5 Stars Reviewed: August 16. 2012
I was a late discoverer of this fabulous cult classic. My love for this book is mostly down to the strong, engaging voice. The fact that it’s set during in the 1990s, when I was a high school student myself, probably has a little something to do with it at well. This is an engrossing, full story with excellent characterizations and relatable issues. Although on the surface my high school experience was nothing like Charlie’s, I still felt like we had everything in common. I especially recommend the audiobook, which brings out Charlie’s voice perfectly. Read my original review »
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz Rating: 4.5/5 Stars Reviewed: February 11, 2013
This book made a huge impression on the 2013 Youth Media Award committees (<—check out that cover to see the evidence), and it’s clear why. The simple narrative, without any unnecessary literary embellishments, packs a powerful punch. This is a novel that succeeds on multiple levels and tackles A LOT of issues without ever becoming heavy handed or preachy. In hindsight, I am seriously tempted to bump up my star rating to a five! Read my original review »
The Diviners by Libba Bray Rating: 4.5/5 Stars Reviewed: June 12, 2013
Urban fantasy meets horror meets historical fiction in this near-perfect series opener. The 1920s have never been creepier or more intriguing, and I love the diversity of the characters and personalities.This is a book that works both as a self-contained novel and as a wonderful lead-in for the rest of the series. Although I read it months ago, The Diviners is a book that I keep coming back to in my mind over and over. I can’t wait to see what comes next and how the many disparate characters will eventually come together. Read my original review »
If you’re interested, other books I’ve awarded 4.5 or 5 stars to include:
As promised last year, BCPL’s Ultimate Teen Booklist has been updated! We have carefully selected a few new titles to add and have updated title lists for ongoing series. Here is a quick summary of our additions for 2013:
New to the List:
Aristotle and Dante and the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (2012)
In the summer of 1987, two 15-year-old loners meet and forge a powerful friendship. This stunning novel about identity and acceptance deals with several teen “issues,” including sexual and ethnic identity, but never comes across as heavy handed. With simple, lyrical prose Sáenz creates a magical tale that speaks of universal truths and fears. High School.
Blankets (graphic novel) by Craig Thompson (2003)
This graphic memoir is a poignant tale of sibling rivalry, first love, artistic inspiration, and personal faith. Thompson’s relationships are skillfully depicted in all their nuances, and he is brutally honest about his struggles with his fundamentalist upbringing and the complexities of young love and sexuality. Blankets is a compulsively readable story, and the pen and ink drawings are sensitive and dynamic, perfectly capturing the characters’ moods and the snowy Midwest setting. High School (mature).
The Diviners by Libba Bray (2012)
Featuring disparate teen protagonists with nothing in common other that a secret special ability, a ghostly serial killer, and the vivid setting of Prohibition-era New York, this is a vivid historical fantasy with a horror spin. Best of all, while the story comes to a satisfactory resolution, there are overarching mysteries that promise good things to come in the rest of the planned quartet. High School.
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson (2003)
With short, spare sentences that say everything, Johnson tells the story of a sixteen-year-old single dad. The fear, the exhaustion, and the overwhelming love for his newborn baby daughter all come through perfectly as Bobby comes to grips with what parenthood means for his life and struggles to make the best decisions he possibly can for his daughter. Short, poetic chapters alternate between “now” and “then,” creating a suspenseful mood that will translate well for reluctant readers. High School.
Hate List by Jennifer Brown (2009)
When Valerie and her boyfriend compiled a “HateList” of all the people they dislike or who have wronged them, she had no idea he would come to school with a gun and use it as a checklist for a killing spree. Five months later, school is back in session and Valerie is a social outcast struggling with her own guilt and grief. This is a wrenching, intimate portrayal of the aftermath of a tragedy, told from a unique perspective. High School (mature).
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1970)
In this first volume of her autobiography, poet Maya Angelou reflects on her life up until the age of seventeen. Told through a series of scenes depicting both gut-wrenching moments of heartbreak and fear and life-affirming events and relationships, Angelou’s story is a poignant tale of growing up in 1930s rural Arkansas. With bare honesty, humor, and grace, Angelou weaves a lyrical masterpiece that is both timeless and inspirational. High School.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)
After reuniting with two former classmates from her “special” English boarding school, a thirty-something woman begins to reconsider her supposedly idyllic years at the school only to question friendships and unearth disquieting memories. Set in a fully realized dystopian world, Never Let Me Go paints a gripping portrait of adolescence in an increasingly bleak future. High School.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (2000)
In this allegorical story about popularity and the courage of nonconformity, an eccentric new student named Stargirl arrives at Mica High School to inspire fascination and scorn with her oddball behavior and strange dress. Her ebullient, uninhibited ways and determined kindness attract 11th grader Leo Borlock immediately, but when the rest of the school shuns them both, will Leo be able to balance his need for acceptance with his love for Stargirl? Middle School/High School.
Bloody Jack Adventures by L.A. Meyer
Xanth by Piers Anthony
So what do you think of our additions? What are your favorite titles from this year that we should consider for the next update?
YALSA’s Teen Read Week 2013 will be here before you know it, and we here at BCPL are busily updating our Ultimate Teen Booklist in time for the October event.
Last year’s inaugural list included 102 books and series. This year, we want to know what titles YOU would like to see added to the list. Which of your all-time favorites and new loves from the past year merit inclusion?
You can vote here for your favorites, or e-mail titles to me at [email protected] Top vote getters will not be automatically added to the list, but each of your favorites will be read by a member of the organizing committee for consideration.
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Rig Googles his sister, who he is missing camaraderie with
since his parents’ divorce, and finds that there is a website dedicated
to her. He feels that the person who put the pictures
of his sister on the website is a stalker, though he has trouble trying
to convince his mother of that fact. She feels that
the site dedicated to her daughter is created by an
admirer. Rig skips school and takes a bus to his old
hometown to show his father what he has found. While
his mother is obviously looking at things pessimistically, his more
down-to-earth father shares his concerns. The two of
them embark on a journey where Rig has to look into himself to “connect”
with the website creator in order to save his sister from what he sees
as a threat. Allison’s Guest Review:
This will be a good read for reluctant readers, especially among young men. It is a quick read; it took me just under two hours to read. It will be perfect for those who just want a quick mystery, but some readers used to in-depth novels will be asking for more detail. Rig is a typical sixteen year old, struggling to adjust to a new town and a new school after his parents’ divorce. He feels more connected to his mother than his father, and begrudgingly admits to missing his sister, too. He must connect with his father in order to warn his sister of the danger he feels she is in, and discovers that he has the quality traits his father has always professed to not seeing in Rig. The two embark on a trip to save Rig’s sister dealing with knife-wielding maniacs, an inability to communicate, and inner turmoil in order to accomplish their goals.
Eight down… and seventeen more to go. That’s not a very encouraging statistic considering I began this challenge back in February and I now have only until 11:59 p.m. (because every minute counts!) on Saturday, June 22nd to live up to my reading pledge. But as this is Summer Reading season and I HATE to fail at anything, I still think I can do it. Maybe. Possibly. Okay, my chances aren’t great, but I refuse to give up!
Anyway, here are the three books that I have read for the challenge and haven’t yet reviewed. (Thumbs up on all three, by the way. Although one definitely stands out for me far and above the others.)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater Genre: Fantasy/Mystery/Paranormal Romance Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
I soooo wanted to love this book. And I did like it—a lot. But for me it did not quite have the same magic and ingenuity that made The Scorpio Races so enthralling. I think part of the problem is that I missed the first-person narration that allowed me to empathize so strongly with previous Stiefvater characters. (Although switching to third-person narration does fix the tendency I’ve noticed wherein Steifvater’s dual narrators often read as too alike and not fully distinct from one another.) But ultimately The Raven Boys lacked the lyrical qualities that drew me to Shiver and (most particularly) The Scorpio Races.
That is not to say that the book isn’t well written. It is, very much so. And the premise is intriguing. Blue is an interesting, likeable character who comes from a family of clairvoyants but remains a bit of an outsider. After all, she is not clairvoyant herself, though her presence somehow acts as an amplifier for others’ gifts. Meanwhile, there are the “Raven Boys” of Aglionby Academy. Gansey is the de facto leader of a group of misfits at the prestigious boys’ school. He feels responsible for guarding his troubled friends’ well-being and is obsessed with unraveling a mystical mystery that becomes key to the book (and presumably the rest of the series). Like most of the locals, Blue wants nothing to do with the stuck-up Raven Boys, but then she meets Gansey, whose fate seems tied to Blue and a deadly curse. All the elements—mystery, heartbreak, friendship, betrayal, moral dilemmas—are there, but they only began to come together for me near the book’s end. It was well past the mid-way point that the characters and their relationships began to fully engage my interest, but once this happened I was hooked. Luckily, this is only the first book in the Raven Cycle quartet. I think now that the characters have been introduced and the tone set, The Dream Thieves (due out in September) has the potential to far surpass its predecessor.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier Genre: Graphic Novel/Realistic Fiction Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
This graphic novel from the author of Smile is a quick and amusing read. I loved Callie and really enjoyed all of her
interactions with her drama club pals, particularly her friendship with Liz. However, I do feel like the book reinforces stereotypes by [POTENTIAL SPOILER: Highlight to read!] having all three of
the male performer characters turn out to be gay (or potentially gay)
and making the only female performer into a self-absorbed, melodramatic
diva. But then this title was selected as one of the Great Graphic Novels Top Ten 2013and as a 2013 Stonewall Honor Book, so maybe it’s just me. I have yet to see any other reviews that raise the same concerns. But regardless of my quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed this story about a perpetually lovestruck 7th grader who adores the theater and her role on the crew of the school play. This title should find particular favor with middle-school Glee fans.
The Diviners by Libba Bray Genre: Horror/Historical/Speculative Fiction Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
As The Diviners wasa2013 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Top Ten selection, I chose to listen to this book in audio format. It was a much better experience than my last encounter with a Libba Bray audio book. At first, the 1920s slang and historical background seemed a bit gimmicky and overdone, but I was quickly drawn into the creepy, atmospheric world Bray creates. The Diviners is shamelessly excessive—the slang, the numerous characters, the mysteries—but this perfectly reflects the sumptuous excess of the era and lends the book an epic quality that promises good things to come. Featuring disparate teen protagonists with nothing in common other that a secret special ability, a ghostly serial killer, and the vivid setting of Prohibition-era New York, this is one of the most memorable series openers I’ve read in ages. Even better, while reaching a satisfactory resolution to the main plot of this book, there are overarching mysteries that have me eagerly awaiting the second book of the planned quartet.
I have been woefully remiss about posting book reviews lately, but here are some quick reviews of some of the YA books I’ve read and enjoyed over the last few months. We are undergoing a few changes right now at Book News & Reviews, but I promise we will continue to publish “reviews of all sorts” for your reading pleasure—and hopefully with greater frequency than ever!
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour Genre: Realistic Fiction/Coming of Age Rating: 4/5 Stars
Colby’s plan for after high school has always been to spend the year after graduation exploring Europe with Beth, his best friend—and secret crush. Only now suddenly Beth has other plans that don’t include Colby and he must figure out both his confused feelings for his best friend and what her deviation from the plan means for his own future. In the meantime, he is on an adventure-filled road trip with Beth and her punk-rock girl band, The Disenchantments. This is a fantastic novel, full of humor; quirky, complex characters; and deeply felt emotions. Hauntingly beautiful and rawly honest without becoming overly heavy, it is a perfect summer read.
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick Genre: Realistic Fiction/Romance Rating: 4/5 Stars
Perfect good-girl Samantha Reed has been fascinated by the messy, complicated lives of the large Garrett family since the day they moved next door 10 years ago. Her state senator mother, on the other hand, considers them a blight on the neighborhood and so the ever-dutiful Samantha has kept her distance. But then Samantha finally meets Jase Garrett and the perfect bubble she lives in under the dictates of her mother suddenly seems sterile and unsatisfying. This book has far more depth than a typical summer romance, with strong characters and a slowly unfolding plot. Complicated family dynamics, shocking secrets, and difficult moral dilemmas come into play to create a compelling read sure to appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, and Deb Caletti.
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley Genre: Realistic Fiction Rating: 4/5 Stars
Told in alternating viewpoints—part prose, part poetry—this is a lyrical, edgy read that will especially appeal to creative and artistic teens. Set over the course of a single night, the story follows a group of teens on a mission to uncover the identity of a talented local graffiti artist who goes by the name Shadow. Lucy, an aspiring glassblower, has always felt a special connection to Shadow’s work and believes they are fated to meet. What Lucy and her girlfriends don’t know is that Ed, a boy with whom she once shared a disastrous date and who now claims to know the whereabouts of Shadow, is actually the reclusive artist himself. Over the course of the night, the teens encounter several misadventures and Lucy and Ed gradually move from adversaries to confidantes as they share their inner thoughts about past failures, artistic inspiration, and deeply held beliefs. The beautiful imagery and innovative writing falters a bit here and there, but overall this is a wonderfully written novel with well-developed, believable characters and motivations.
Endangered by Eliot Schrefer Genre: Realistic Fiction Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Ever since her parents split up and she moved with her father to the U.S., Sophie spends her summers with her mother in the Congo helping out at the wildlife sanctuary that has become her mother’s obsession. But after Sophie impulsively purchases a mistreated bonobo from a street seller, her mother leaves on a business trip and assigns Sophie the task of caring for the animal while she is away. Then fighting breaks out across the country and the sanctuary is ransacked by rebels. Somehow, Sophie manages to escape into the jungle with several of the apes in tow, and she must find a way to survive both the dangers of nature and the threat of human killers. Though the story occasionally pushes the limits of credulity, this is a harrowing, vividly realized novel with wide appeal.
Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos Genre: Realistic Fiction Rating: 4/5 Stars
Struggling with her own inner guilt and determined to locate her missing drug-addict brother, Rachel teams up with Tyler—a former bandmate of her brother’s—to look for clues to Michah’s whereabouts. Together, they travel to a beach town believed to be Micah’s last-known residence, all while Rachel desperately searches to understand what became of her brother and what it all means for her life. Flawed but believable characters, emotional revelations, and short, fast-paced chapters, make for an absorbing and powerful story. Frequent flashbacks showing Rachel’s unraveling relationship with her brother make the narrative even more compelling and heartbreaking.
I keep getting distracted by other books (and work, and school, and life in general), but I have managed to make a little headway into those 25 books I pledged to read for the Hub Reading Challenge. So far, I’ve discovered some great YA books—and I finally got around to reading Code Name Verity, one of last year’s most buzzed about books.
So anyway, here’s a quick look at my progress so far:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews Genre: Realistic Fiction Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Greg’s strategy for surviving high school is to stay under the radar. He doesn’t want true friends but maintains a superficial sort-of-friendship with every group in the school, from the jocks to the Goth kids. Of course, none of the other groups is meant to know that he is “friends” with the others. In a school full of cliques, Greg is Switzerland. But when his mom pushes him to befriend (or refriend) a classmate recently diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, his plan goes to hell. Suddenly, Greg is facing uncomfortable, emotionally charged situations and he has no idea how to react. Even worse, people find out about his secret filmmaking hobby. This book is far from the sad, angsty teen “cancer book” you probably expect from the description. Biting, frequently crude humor and a strong narrative voice make Jesse Andrews’s debut novel a truly compelling read. Greg’s lack of self-awareness and total cluelessness about the male/female dynamic reminded me of Brent Crawford’s Carter Finally Gets It. While the characters of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl aren’t exactly endearing, they are nuanced, believable, and incredibly well-grounded in the novel’s Pittsburgh setting.
Boy21 by Matthew Quick Genre: Realistic Fiction Rating: 4/5 Stars
Finley is used to being an outsider. He’s the only white guy on his high school basketball team and he doesn’t have much to say, even to his longtime girlfriend. But in a town ruled by gangs and the Irish mob, that may not be such a bad thing. Then his basketball coach encourages him to befriend a new student. Russell is really a basketball phenom from an elite private school in California, but he claims to be an alien called Boy21. This is a unique story, subtly told. The writing is clear and simple, perfect for reluctant readers, and the characters and relationships are well-drawn and compelling.
Cool fact: Quick is also the author of the adult novel The Silver Linings Playbook, the film adaptation of which is nominated for several Academy Awards this year (including Best Picture and a Best Actress nom for Jennifer Lawrence, otherwise known as Katniss Everdeen). The Awards will air this coming Sunday.
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale Rating: 3/5 Stars
When Sunday Woodcutter befriends an enchanted frog, she has no idea that her new friend is really Prince Rumbold of Arilland, the man her family blames for the death of her brother Jack. This reinvention of the “Frog Prince” fairy tale is full of twists and frequently intertwines with other fairy tales, yet it is a wholly original story that stands on its own. Personally, I felt that Sunday and Rumbold’s relationship need more development. Also, although some of the fairy tale tie-ins were amazingly clever, sometimes the multitude of fairy-tale references became overkill, stealing focus from the main story. Still, I am eager to learn more about some of Sunday and Rumbold’s relatives in the next installment of the Woodcutter saga.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein Genre: Historical Fiction/Suspense Rating: 4/5 Stars
Probably the least said about this book plot wise, the better. Suffice it to say, it is about friendship, espionage, and courage. When a teenaged spy is captured by the Nazis, she agrees to confess everything. It is then up to the reader to read between the lines of that confession and discover the truth of who “Verity” really is. Incredibly compelling and carefully plotted, with convincing historical detail, this is a multi-layered tale well worth reading.
Next up:Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which my blogging partner Lucinda has already read any enjoyed. (So you know a Dual Review will be coming soon!)
For those of you participating, how many titles have you checked off your list so far? Which is your favorite book so far?
Summary: In the summer of 1987, two 15-year-old loners meet and forge a powerful friendship. Ari is a brooding “tough guy” who obsessively questions his place and purpose in the world; Dante is his complete opposite, relentlessly positive, self-assured, and emotionally open. Over the course of a year and through his friendship with Dante and Dante’s parents, Ari finally comes to terms with himself and the unspoken secrets that haunt his family.
First Line: “One summer night I fell asleep, hoping the world would be different when I woke.”
This book blew me away. The writing is deceptively simple, poetic, and quietly powerful. It’s easy to slip right into Ari’s mind, to feel every nuance he is feeling, from confusion to impulsive anger. Despite this, Ari remains a bit of a mystery—he refers to himself as “inscrutable”—as even he does not understand himself. I love that Ari is more than a little angsty as a character, but it’s not a dark and overblown angst. Yeah, he’s confused and often feels quite lost and even angry, but the book never once feels depressing. Not that certain issues addressed in the book aren’t emotional and potentially upsetting. Yet Sáenz handles it all gracefully without being heavy-handed in the slightest; in his capable hands, Aristotle and Dante’s story is far more sweet than bitter, but it never minimizes those ever-present “issues.”
Family drama, issues of sexual and ethnic identity, and even PSTD play a part in this stunning novel, and yet none of these elements overwhelms the story. Ari’s coming of age plays out slowly and patiently, and the novel unfolds in a realistic manner. Although one particular family revelation feels a bit coincidental, I bought it. And although it may seem a bit unlikely, I loved that the parents were so accepting of Ari, Dante, and their possible more-than-friends feelings for one another. Perhaps this wouldn’t have been the norm in 1980s Texas, but I appreciated that Sáenz didn’t need to go there. There is a lot going on in this book, but it all works together seamlessly, without any wasted subplots or characters. At its core it is less a book about sexual identity than about family, friendship, and having the courage to speak honestly and freely to the people who matter.
… Cause what ya’ll really want to know is what I think, right? Hey, humor me here.
So, the Newberys, Caldecotts, Printz Awards, and other key ALA book awards were announced yesterday, and I was rather proud of myself for having read so many of the honorees. Here’s how things played out (with a little commentary from me :)).
Medal Winner: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This book was unique and absorbing, bittersweet and altogether lovely. I approve 1oo%. Many of the past medal winners have skewed more toward tweens (10–14), but The One and Only Ivan is perfect for younger ages as well. Again, I approve.
Newbery Honor: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Not long after I started reading this book, I found myself thinking This is a book that will win awards. I also thought that it was a book that might have more appeal for adults than kids, one of those books that adults really, really want kids to love, but which turn out to be right only for that small, perfect audience. Who will love it with a passion. It’s undeniably well written, but I couldn’t bring myself to get excited about it although I enjoyed it and admired it in a impersonal kind of way. But if you (or your child) always wished Oliver Twist had a bit of dark fantasy mixed in, this may be just the book for you. (Okay, that sounds really intriguing. Maybe I should give this one another go…)
Newbery Honor: Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
I was so excited—and the teeniest bit surprised—to see this one get an honor nod. While there is no magic in this book in the supernatural sense, it is magical nonetheless. Turnage’s storytelling—the sense of place, character, voice, and tone—here is fantastic, and Mo is an unforgettable heroine if there ever was one.
**What’s Missing: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
I adored Wonder and firmly believe it should be required reading for every upper elementary or middle school student. And then their parents and older siblings need to read it too.
Medal Winner: This Is Not My Hat, illustrated and written by Jon Klassen
Personally, I thought Klassen was cheated out of a Caldecott last year for I Want My Hat Back. He’s a genius when it comes to providing subtle visual cues to punctuate the sly humor that makes both of his “hat” book shine.
Caldecott Honor: Creepy Carrots!, illustrated by Peter Brown and written by Arron Reynolds
This was one of my absolute favorite picture books of 2012, and I am pleasantly surprised to see it get a nod here. I loved the cinematic feel (one review I read likened it to a Hitchcock horror movie—for kids of course), and the palette of orange, black, and gray. A fascinating combo of kiddie horror and humor. Well done, Caldecott committee.
Caldecott Honor: Extra Yarn, illustrated by Jon Klassen and written by Mac Barnett
So they’re really making up for overlooking Klassen last year. Although the text/story of Extra Yarn didn’t completely do it for me, I loved Klassen’s artwork—which is what counts for the purpose of this award.
Caldecott Honor: Green, illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
This is the book I expected to win, though I am quite pleased with the final outcome. Seeger’s work here is innovative, and the wonder of Green is made abundantly clear in this book trailer.
Caldecott Honor: One Cool Friend, illustrated by David Small and written by Tony Buzzeo
I liked it, but didn’t love it, which is why it didn’t make the cut for our list of the Best Children’s Picture Books of 2012. But, as with Extra Yarn, I quite liked the illustrations. So I’m totally “cool” with this one too.
Caldecott Honor: Sleep Like A Tiger, illustrated by Pamela Zagaresnski and written by Mary Logue
Once again, I liked the book and the illustrations but it didn’t really make a strong impression on me one way or the other.
**What’s Missing:Oh, No!,illustrated by Eric Rohmann and written by Candace Fleming and Nighttime Ninja by illustrated by Ed Young and written by Barbara DaCosta, both of which I expected to make the list. And—while I always saw it as a long shot—I really, really love Ashley Wolff’s artwork in Baby Bear Sees Blue. I also think illustrator Doug Santat did some phenomenal work this year. But then, everybody can’t win 🙂
Medal Winner: Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Okay, not only does this one break my reading streak—I hadn’t even heard of this book yet. But then I already admitted that I’m not much of a juvenile nonfiction reader…
King (Author) Honor: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
A gentle yet powerful picture book about bullying from the side of the (belatedly regretful) bully, and one of our picks for Best Children’s Picture Books of 2012
King (Author) Honor: No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie I’ve heard fabulous things about this one, and it is currently sitting at home waiting for me to find time to read it.
King (Illustrator) Medal: I, Too, Am America, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Langston Hughes
I read it and loved the art. Unfortunately, the Langston Hughes text didn’t quite resonate for me (I know; awful, right?). As a result, the book wasn’t very memorable for me. But I may have to take anthor look.
King (Illustrator) Honor: H.O.R.S.E., illustrated and written by Christopher Myers
I am not familiar with this title 🙁 .
King (Illustrator) Honor: Ellen’s Broom., illustrated by Daniel minter and written by Kelly Starling Lyons
Don’t know this one either.
King (Illustrator) Honor: I Have a Dream., illustrated by Kadir Nelson and written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Yay!!!! Enough said.
Michael L. Printz Award
As a side note, I must say: There was LOTS of debate yesterday and into today on librarian listservs and blogs about the recent winners of this category, some stating that the winners are often too literary to appeal to teen readers or that engaging stories are overlooked in favor of technical writing or literary experimentation. As this is an award for literary excellence, I would say the winners should be extremely well written. But in my view, literary merit depends upon that magical element of good storytelling as well as good technical writing. I’m not going to comment on how these specific qualities do or don’t apply to the specific winners and honorees (past or present) because here’s the thing: judging books—anything really—is SUBJECTIVE. Rant over.
Medal Winner: In Darkness by Nick Lake
I haven’t read this one yet and have read mixed reviews, but can’t wait to read for myself.
Printz Honor: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Just finished this last weekend and immediately it became my Printz sleeper favorite. It’s compulsively readable plus incredibly well written (but not in a showy or gimmicky way). I couldn’t be happier that Sáenz also nabbed the Pura Belpré (Author) Awardand the Stonewall Book Award. I really have to read his highly praised book Last Night I Sang to the Monster ASAP.
Printz Honor: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
I know people who absolutely LOVED this book and others who found it so confusing they couldn’t finish it. Based on early buzz, I thought for sure it was going to be selected as the medal winner. It’s still sitting at home in my (rather tall and wobbly) to-be-read pile.
Printz Honor: Dodger by Terry Pratchett
Haven’t read this one, and haven’t heard too much buzz up till now. But you can never count out Terry Pratchett, and I will get to this one someday…
Printz Honor: The White Bicycle by Beverly Brenna
This one was a surprise to many; at least many of the commenters to my various listservs hadn’t yet heard of it. But then, that’s what I love about book awards: the chance to discover wonderful books that might’ve been otherwise overlooked.
**What’s Missing: Lots of people are up in arms over the exclusion of John Green’s A Fault in Their Stars, which I adored and agree to be incredibly well written. At the same time, I didn’t think it was a perfect book and am not overly disappointed. Maybe I’m just too happy about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. And A Fault in Our Stars wasn’t completely left out as it garnered the Odyssey Awardfor the audiobook.
Other ALA Award winners announced yesterday include:
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, William C. Morris Award winner
I found this to be an excellent debut novel featuring a well-developed fantasy world and an intriguing take on dragons. I can’t wait for the sequel. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth, William C. Morris Award finalist
I found this book quite engaging, but for me it begins to drag a bit in the middle. I actually had to set it aside for a while. That being said, even though I wasn’t reading it for a while, the writing and characters stayed in the back of my mind. I completely understand why the book has been compared to The Catcher in the Rye, although Cameron is a gay girl in 1980s small-town America and the book actually takes place across several years (as opposed to a few days). That being said, I was surprised that it wasn’t a Stonewall Honor Book
For a complete list of awards, winners, and honorees (if you’re not sick of awards lists by now), you can read yesterday’s ALA Press Release.
Summary: Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible in her family. Her dad is obsessed with the family restaurant and hardly ever comes home for dinner anymore; her mother is constantly escaping to her special room to meditate; and her perpetually critical sister Sara is miserable to be stuck at working at the family diner while her friends are all away at college. Fern has always had a special bond with her older brother Holden, but now that he’s started high school he’s busy coping with school bullies and his own emerging sexuality. And then there’s adorable, irrepressible three-year-old Charlie, the constant center of attention within the family.
The only person keeping Fern sane is her eternally calm and optimistic
best friend Ran, who almost makes her believe that “all
will be well.” But then tragedy strikes and even Ran can’t see how things will ever be okay again.
First Line: “The very best day of my life, I threw up four times and had a fever of 103 degrees.”
Tracy’s Thoughts: This is a book that will make you laugh, break your heart, and then somehow, against all odds, make you smile again. Knowles’s characters are fully developed, with authentic emotions and flaws. Quiet, introspective Fern makes a wonderful narrator, and though the lens through which she sees each of her family members is necessarily skewed by her own perspective, readers are able sympathize with each of the characters. Fern’s voice is distinct and engaging, often with shades of unintentional humor. This is especially true when she talks about her family:
Holden is always running off in a huff, and I am always the one searching for him and bringing him home. Holden’s named after the main character in The Catcher in the Rye. I wasn’t supposed to read it until I’m older, but I snuck my mom’s paperback copy out of her room last year. The pages were all soft from her reading it so many times. The book is about this boy who’s depressed because he thinks everyone he knows is a phony, so he runs away. I understand why my mom liked the book and all, but I personally think is was a big mistake to name your kid after a boy who tries to kill himself, even if he is thoughtful and brilliant. My favorite parts in the book are when the main characters talks about his little sister, Phoebe. Sometimes I think I’m a little like Phoebe to our Holden. Because in the book she’s the one he goes back for. And that’s sort of like me. Only I have to go looking for him first. (25–26)
The first third of the book introduces the quirk-filled family, from
Fern’s goodhearted, embarrassing father to demanding, loveable Charlie.
But then everything—the simple coming-of-age story you thought you were
reading—comes to a devastating halt as tragedy strikes. The emotions
become even more palpable, and the characters more real.
Relationships shine in this book, particularly the bond between
Holden and Fern—and later, when she steps up after the tragedy, Sara.
Fern’s friendship with Ran and Cassie—which also adds a minor love triangle to
the mix—rings equally true and enjoyable. I don’t want to spoil the “tragedy” that shifts the direction of the
narrative, so there is not much more I can say about this gripping
story. Characters must cope with guilt, grief, and other complex emotions, but the story never becomes maudlin or melodramatic. But there are hints of brightness amidst the darkness that comes. This is a simply but incredibly well-written story, full of humor, compassion, heartwrenching tragedy, and, eventually, healing.
Have you been wondering what happened to our Ultimate Teen Booklist? Well, now we’re ready to wrap it up—for this year anyway!
102. The Queen’s Thief (series) by Megan Whalen Turner (1996–2010)
Gen is a thief—a very, very cocky one. He boasts he can steal anything, and after his boasting gets him caught with the just-stolen seal of the King of Sounis, the king’s advisor decides to take advantage of Gen’s skills. So Gen is released from prison and sent on a mission to steal an object that will cement the King’s power. And thus begins an adventure story that is much more complex that it first seems. For Gen is also a very, very clever thief. As Gen grows older and the novels’ plots become more sophisticated, the series becomes even more compelling. Set in a world that is much like ancient Greece—only not quite—these books are full of political intrigue, unexpected shocks, and hidden clues that come together perfectly in the end. Middle School/High School.
1. The Thief
2. The Queen of Attolia
3. The King of Attolia
4. A Conspiracy of Kings
103. Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illus. by Nathan Hale (2008)
In this boldly illustrated reimagining of the classic fairy tale, the adventure is just beginning with Rapunzel’s escape from the tower. Instead of a languishing princess awaiting rescue, ‘Punzie is a self-sufficient, tomboyish cowgirl determined to right the wrongs of the evil Mother Gothel and rescue the downtrodden. Along the way, she teams up with a charming huckster named Jack (and his Goose Goldy). Middle School/High School.
104. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier (1938)
Young and naive, the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter arrives at her new husband’s sweeping Cornish estate in a state of awe. There she finds that her life is overshadowed by the beautiful Rebecca, Maxim’s first wife, dead but still a source of mystery. High School.
105. Rocket Boys/October Sky by Homer Hickman (1998)
It was 1957, and the small mining town of Coalwood, West Virginia, was slowly dying. Faced with a dead-end future, teenaged Homer Hickam dreamed of sending rockets into space. In pursuit of his unlikely dream, he joined forces with a group of misfits, and they learned to build sophisticated, working rockets from scraps of metal. This is a well-loved memoir full of hope and inspiration; originally titled Rocket Boys, the book was later rereleased as October Sky after the success of the film of the same name. Middle School/High School.
106. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (series) by Ann Brashares (2001–2011)
After finding a pair of jeans that are a perfect fit for all of them, four childhood best friends form the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Across the series, these teenage girls grow up, dealing with complicated romantic and family issues, but through it all they have each other and the “magic” jeans that help them reconnect each summer. The later books in the series—especially the final title, which was published as Adult Fiction and revisits the quartet in their late twenties—may be best for more mature readers. Middle School (mature)/High School.
1. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
2. The Second Summer of the Sisterhood
3. Girls in Pants
4. Forever in Blue
5. Sisterhood Everlasting
107. Skip Beat (manga series) by Yoshiki Nakamura (2006–Ongoing)
After discovering that her rock idol boyfriend is using her as a maid, Kyoko undergoes a makeover and adjusts her attitude before joining showbiz and seeking revenge against Sho. Using the manga style drawings, Kyoko’s looks and features change depending on her mood and the inner demons she is trying to keep under control. To date, there are 29 volumes in the series. Middle School/High School.
108. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron (2007)
Eighteen-year-old James Sveckis is an extremely intelligent, lonely, and confused Manhattanite who is searching for direction. He’s been accepted to Brown but dreams of bypassing college and settling alone in a sleepy Midwestern town. He might be gay, but prefers not to discuss it. This novel focuses more strongly on character than plot as James psychoanalyzes himself and his disconnect with the world around him. High School (mature).
109. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (1962)
Fantasy meets horror in this modern classic about a nightmarish traveling carnival and the two teens who notice something is very, very wrong with the carnival and its effect on the people of their hometown. This novel is tangentially related to Bradbury’s earlier work, Dandelion Wine; together, along with the Dandelion Wine sequel Farewell Summer, the books make up the Green Town Trilogy. Middle School/High School.
110. Song of the Lioness (series) by Tamora Pierce (1983–1988)
Eleven-year-old Alanna of Trebond was suppose to go to a convent to learn to be a lady. Instead, she disguises herself as a boy and travels to court to pursue her dream of becoming a knight. Across the span of the series, Alanna encounters friends, foes, and numerous misadventures as she learns to embrace her magic and to use it wisely. Middle School/High School.
1. Alanna: The First Adventure
2. In the Hand of the Goddess
3. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
4. Lioness Rampant
112. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1998)
Melinda became a pariah last summer when she called the cops and busted up the end-of-the-year party. High school should be the best time of her life, but instead every day of Freshman year is a struggle as she finds herself rejected by her former friends and alienated from her parents. Now Melinda’s barely speaking at all. But inside, beneath the silence, Melinda is witty, ironic—and hurting terribly over what really happened that night. High School.
113. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher (1993)
Outcasts Sarah Byrnes and Eric Calhoune were each other’s only friend since childhood. They were bonded by her terrible scars and his layers of fat, but things were never quite the same after Eric discovered swimming, slimmed down, and made new friends. Still, their friendship persevered and their loyalty remained unquestioned. But now that Sarah Byrnes—the smartest, toughest person Eric knows—sits catatonic in a mental ward, he can’t help but wonder what he should have done differently. Eric is determined to find a way to help his friend, even if it means digging into the secrets Sarah Byrnes wants to keep hidden. Like most of Crutcher’s novels, this book tackles a whole boatload of Big Issues, many of them potentially inflammatory. It’s no coincidence that most of Crutcher’s works are regular targets of censors. But whether you agree with the characters’ views or not, this is a book that inspires thought and critical debate on important issues. It’s also a funny, irreverent, and suspenseful story of perseverance and friendship. Middle School (mature)/High School.
114. Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (2007)
Deanna was thirteen when her father caught her in the back of a Buick with her older brother’s friend, seventeen-year-old Tommy. Three years later she is still unfairly branded as the school slut and her father can hardly look at her. Deanna dreams of escaping, perhaps with her brother—who now lives at home with his girlfriend and their child. This is a wonderful, absorbing book that is impossible to put down. It is realistic fiction at its best—a compelling story with believable, likable characters and a satisfying conclusion that in no way minimizes or oversimplifies the lives of its characters. High School.
115. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007)
When Clay Jensen finds a mysterious box with no return address waiting on his front porch, he is intrigued and excited. But he is shocked by its contents: 13 tape recordings from Hannah Baker, his former classmate and secret crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier. The tapes serve as a type of suicide-note-cum-chain-letter and each recording is about a different person who is somehow connected to Hannah’s reasons for committing suicide. Following the instructions on the tapes, Clay ventures out with a (stolen) Walkman on an all-night journey to try to figure out why Hannah made such a terrible choice—and to discover what part he played in her decision. This is an intense, compulsively readable novel for mature readers who will be just as curious and anxious as Clay as they learn all the reasons, great and small, that influenced Hannah’s awful decision. High School.
116. A Time to Kill by John Grisham (1989)
John Grisham’s first novel is an excellent legal thriller about racism and uncertain justice in a small Southern town. When the two white men who attacked his ten-year-old daughter go free, a black father decides to take the law into his own hands and shoots them. Now it is up to young criminal lawyer Jake Brigance to defend Carl Hailey’s actions, all in the midst of a deep well of racial prejudice and violence. High School.
117. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
In this classic tale of courage and morality in a small, Southern town, a young tomboy tells the story of the summer her father defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. This is a powerful look at discrimination and an emotional exploration of human instinct, as viewed through the eyes of a child. Middle School/High School.
118. Twilight Saga (series) by Stephenie Meyer (2005–2008)
When Bella Swan leaves her life in Phoenix to live with her father in Forks, Washington, she is instantly drawn to Edward Cullen, a handsome and mysterious boy who she later learns is a vampire. Over the course of the series, Bella and Edward face several challenges to their relationship and to their lives, and Bella learns more about the secrets of creatures she once thought were only make believe. Middle School (mature)/High School.
2. New Moon
4. Breaking Dawn
119. Uglies Quartet (series) by Scott Westerfeld (2005–2007)
In a future society where people are required to undergo extreme plastic surgery at the age of sixteen—transforming teens from “ugly” to “pretty”—Tally rebels against the enforced conformity and the operation which may affect more than just her appearance. Middle School/High School.
120. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (2007)
In a future world where teens under the age of 18 can have their lives “unwound” and their body parts harvested for use by others, 16-year-old Connor is stunned to learn that his parents have signed the order. Determined to escape his fate, Connor goes on the run and encounters Risa and Lev while eluding the police. The three teens have anything in common—except that each of them has been marked for Unwinding. This is an action-packed thriller filled with thought-provoking moral questions. Middle School (mature)/High School.
121. Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)
One of the most beloved fantasy novels of all time, this heroic adventure is the story of what happens when a small band of young males go in search of a new home after Fiver, a clairvoyant, has a terrible vision of the future. But few in the group have been far from home, and their journey is filled with unforeseen dangers and epic struggles. The protagonists of this dynamic tale may be rabbits, but they aren’t the rabbits of Beatrix Potter’s children’s stories. Middle School/High School.
122. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)
Set during the 18th century in the harsh and beautiful landscape of the English moors, this novel follows the intertwined lives of two families over several decades. Heathcliff is a powerful, moody figure who dominates those around him, and his relationship with Catherine and is all kinds of twisted. Whether you see the book as romantic like Twilight’s Bella or think the characters are obsessive and crazy, it’s a captivating story of love, jealousy, and revenge, a masterpiece of Gothic literature. High School.
123. Xanth (series) by Piers Anthony (1977–Ongoing)
This is a comic fantasy series set in the magical world of Xanth, where every person is born with a unique magical ability called a talent. Xanth is also populated by centaurs, demons, dragons, goblins, harpies, merfolk, ogres, zombies, and other creatures of legend. There are currently over 30 titles in this series, but these pun-laden adventures don’t need to be read consecutively. Middle School (mature)/High School.
1. A Spell for Chameleon
2. The Source of Magic
3. Castle Roogna
4. Centaur Aisle
5. Ogre, Ogre
6. Night Mare
7. Dragon on a Pedestal
8. Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn
9. Golem in the Gears
10. Vale of the Vole
11. Heaven Cent
12. Man from Mundania
13. Isle of View
14. Question Quest
15. The Color of Her Panties
16. Demons Don’t Dream
17. Harpy Thyme
18. Geis of the Gargoyle
19. Roc and a Hard Place
20. Yon Ill Wind
21. Faun and Games
22. Zombie Lover
23. Xone of Contention
24. The Dastard
25. Swell Foop
26. Up in a Heaval
27. Cube Route
28. Currant Events
29. Pet Peeve
30. Stork Naked
31. Air Apparent
32. Two to the Fifth
33. Jumper Cable
34. Knot Gneiss
35. Well-Tempered Clavicle
36. Luck of the Draw (December 2012)
As always, we welcome your opinion… Did all of your favorites make the list? If not, let us know. We will happily consider them for next year’s update to our Ultimate Teen Booklist.
Here’s the 4th installment of our Ultimate Teen Booklist! Just one more post before the list is complete!
74. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2002)
When his family’s ship sinks in the middle of the Pacific, sixteen-year-old Pi is trapped on a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Using his unusual outlook on life and encyclopedic knowledge of the animal world, Pi must find a way to outwit the hungry Bengal tiger and survive. High School (mature).
75. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (2008)
This is a seriously scary book—in a very real way. It takes place in a not-too-distant future where school security systems use gait recognition software to keep intruders out—and students in—and where every keystroke on a school laptop is monitored. Then there is a suspected terrorist attack in San Francisco and things get really crazy. Seventeen-year-old Marcus thinks the Department of Homeland Security is out of control, so he uses his tech savvy to start an underground rebellion against the current government. This book is socially and politically charged, featuring super-smart teen characters who are willing to take risks for what they believe in. High School (mature).
76. Looking for Alaska by John Green (2005)
Inspired by the dying words of the poet Francois Rabelais, sixteen-year-old Miles chucks his boring existence in Florida to seek his “Great Perhaps” at an Alabama boarding school. There, he is quickly absorbed into a band of brainy pranksters led by his roommate and a maddening, beautiful girl named Alaska. Miles quickly develops as intense crush on Alaska and pranks and other rebellious behavior abound, but the reader is always aware that a Great Catastrophe looms ahead, as the first chapter is ominously labeled “one hundred thirty-six days before.” Sure enough, tragedy strikes, and midway through the book, we reach the “after” section. What could have devolved into sentimentality and melodrama becomes a rich novel full of bittersweet humor, complex characters and deep meaning. High School (mature).
77. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
A group of English schoolboys marooned on an island they believe to be haunted by a terrifying monster is divided in a power struggle between two groups in this classic tale of survival, morality, and society. Middle School/High School.
78. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954–1955)
With the fate of the world in his hands, Frodo Baggins and his companions must journey to Mordor to destroy the One Ring of Power before the evil Sauron conquers all of Middle Earth. This is an epic good vs. evil story set in a richly developed world. The trilogy takes place approximately sixty years after the events in The Hobbit. Available as a one-volume set or individual volumes. Middle School/High School.
Individual titles include:
1. The Fellowship of the Ring
2. The Two Towers
3. The Return of the King
79. “The Lottery” (short story; included in the collection The Lottery) by Shirley Jackson (1948)
The title story of this collection has been described as a “chilling tale of conformity gone mad.” First published in the New Yorker in 1948, it was hugely controversial but has become one of the most beloved classics of American literature. Middle School (mature)/High School.
80. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002) Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon was raped and murdered. Now in an “interim” heaven till she lets go of earthly concerns, she grapples with her own death and observes the different reactions of friends and family members over the years. While the subject matter is grimly haunting, The Lovely Bones still manages to convey both humor and hope. High School (mature).
81. Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff (1993)
No one in LaVaughn’s neighborhood goes to college, but fourteen-year-old LaVaughn is determined to escape the poverty and hopelessness she sees every day. To earn money for her college fund, LaVaughn agrees to babysit for Jolly, an overwhelmed 17-year-old mother of two. Quickly, LaVaughn becomes enmeshed in the lives of Jolly and her children, perhaps to the detriment of her own goals. This novel in verse is a quick, engaging read and an authentic look at the crushing poverty that defines the characters’ lives. Middle School/High School.
82. Maximum Ride (series) by James Patterson (2005–2012)
The “birdkids” were bred in a laboratory as part of a genetic experiment to be part human, part bird. When one of their group is abducted, they embark on a rescue mission that will change their lives as they struggle to understand their own origins and purpose. Middle School/High School.
1. The Angel Experiment
2. School’s Out—Forever
3. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
4. The Final Warning
83. Monster by Walter Dean Myers (1999)
Steve Harmon is on trial for the murder of a Harlem drugstore owner. He is in jail, maybe for decades. And he is only sixteen years old. As his trial goes on, Steve records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script as he tries to come to terms with the course his life has taken. This is an excellent book for reluctant readers, and it keeps readers wondering: just how involved was Steve in robbery and killing of the drugstore owner? Does he have any responsibility for the crime, or is he as innocent as he claims? Middle School (mature)/High School.
84. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)
Emotionally gripping and intense from start to finish, A Monster Calls is the story of a 13-year-old coping with fear and loneliness as his mother battles cancer. Conor is plagued by a recurring nightmare, but when a real monster appears in his room one night, he isn’t afraid—until the monster demands to know the secrets of Conor’s dream. This is a powerful, timeless book full of sharp humor, insight, and a dark eeriness that is echoed perfectly in nightmarish pen and ink drawings. Middle School/High School.
85. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (2009)
Dark, suspenseful, and unabashedly gory, this morbidly delicious Victorian tale is not for the faint of heart (or stomach). Twelve-year-old orphan Will Henry has nothing in the world but a too-small cap given to him by his father and Dr. Pellinore Walthrop, an eccentric “doctor” who studies and dissects real-life monsters. Will is his apprentice, and when a pod of hulking, headless, people-devouring Anthropophagi is discovered in a nearby cemetery, it is up to Will and the doctor to keep their sleepy New England town safe. But this stunning gothic adventure is more than pulp horror. It is filled with fully-fleshed, fascinating characters, from Will and the single-minded doctor, to a mysterious monster hunter who may be as dangerous as the creatures he hunts. Yancey’s writing is vividly descriptive and totally absorbing, and the story recalls the best of the classic horror writers—Stevenson, Poe, Shelley, Lovecraft—yet emerges as a unique addition to the horror collection. High School.
86. The Mortal Instruments (series) by Cassandra Clare (2007–Ongoing)
Paranormal romance fans who want a bit more action in their story often enjoy The Mortal Instruments series. Book one begins when Clary is suddenly exposed to a world of demon hunters and dangerous supernatural beings she never dreamed were real. For years, her mother has shielded her from the hidden world of Shadowhunters, but now Clary must learn quickly as her mother has disappeared and Clary is being targeted by demons. This is a fast-paced urban fantasy series complete with tragic secrets, forbidden love, gut-wrenching betrayals, and witty verbal sparring, set primarily in an alternate present-day Manhattan. High School.
1. City of Bones
2. City of Ashes
3. City of Glass
4. City of Fallen Angels
5. City of Lost Souls
6. City of Heavenly Fire (Sept. 2014)
87. My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr (2002)
Fourteen-year-old Ellen is just starting high school at an elite prep school and is happy to be considered average. Her older brother Link—an acknowledged math genius—and his super cute friend James, both incoming seniors with bright futures, are her best friends. Her only real friends, actually. Together, the threesome have a unique and easy friendship—or so Ellen believes—until she begins to question the true relationship between the two boys. Are Link and James a couple? Are they in love? With Ellen’s questions, the relationship between the once inseparable threesome changes forever and in ways Ellen could never predict. This is a spare (barely 150 pages) and touching novel about growing up and the complexity of relationships of all types. High School.
88. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (2004)
Anna’s older sister Kate has leukemia. Conceived as a bone marrow match to (hopefully) cure her sister, Anna has endured countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots all her life—even though she isn’t sick. But when Kate needs a kidney transplant, Anna decides to sue her parents for medical emancipation so that she can make her own choices. It’s a decision that tears her family apart and one which could have fatal consequences for the sister she loves. High School (mature).
89. Nation by Terry Pratchett (2008)
After a devastating tsunami strikes, Mau is the only survivor of his people. But soon, other survivors from the storm make their way to his tropical island, including an aristocratic English girl with a wide knowledge of 19th century science. Serving as the de facto leader, Mau forms a community from the survivors and learns about himself, the role of the gods, people from other cultures, books, science, religion, and how to win a battle against an overwhelming number of cannibals. But this is no heavy-handed tome; with his trademark wit and humor, Terry Pratchett provides insights into our culture and foibles while managing to spin a highly entertaining tale. Middle School/High School.
90. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (2006)
High school student Nick O’Leary, high school rock band member and music enthusiast, meets college-bound Norah Silverberg and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes—just so he can elude his ex-girlfriend. What follows is a wild, fast-paced, rollercoaster of a night as the two opposites get to know one another and come to terms with past heartbreak. High School (mature).
91. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011)
The Cirque des Rêves arrives in the night without warning and captivates its audience from dusk till dawn. What the audience—and most of the performers—do not know is that the circus is merely the arena for a deadly magical battle. This gorgeously imaginative, genre-blending novel is all about atmosphere and tone, creating a feeling of suspended enchantment for the reader. High School.
92. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (2006)
This award-winning young adult novel combines a true historical murder mystery with a vivid coming of age story. In 1906, 16-year-old Mattie is determined to become a writer but her father has forbidden her to accept the college scholarship she has been offered. Then, while working a summer job at a nearby hotel, Mattie is entrusted with a packet of secret letters just before the letters’ owner dies under suspicious circumstances. High School (mature).
93. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (1913)
In this classic American tale set during the turn of the 19th century, a strong and determined woman named Alexandra Bergson struggles to make a success of the family’s Nebraska farm after her father’s death. Over several decades, she and her younger brother find love and face the tribulations of life and the harsh land they are determined to call home. Despite the epic nature of this story and the years spanned, O Pioneers! is a surprisingly quick read. High School.
94. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)
Set during the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men is the moving and ultimately tragic tale of the friendship between George, a quick-witted itinerant farm worker, and George, his physically strong but developmentally disabled companion. Frequently controversial, this slim novel is simply told and completely absorbing. Middle School (mature)/High School.
95. Old Kingdom Trilogy (series) by Garth Nix (1995–2003)
The country of Ancelstierre has cars and electricity, but on the other side of the northern border—in the Old Kingdom—magic is real and the dead don’t always stay dead. Not all the soldiers who guard the Perimeter know why they must carry swords as well as rifles, until electricity fails and the Dead begin to walk. Then it becomes clear that things are different on the other side of the crenelated stone Wall at the border—and that things in the Old Kingdom are only getting worse. Middle School/High School.
96. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)Ponyboy is fourteen, tough, and confused. Since his parents’ death, his loyalties have been to his brothers
and his Greaser gang, rough boys from the wrong side of the tracks fighting to make a place for themselves in the world. But when his best friend Johnny kills a member of a gang from the wealthier part of town, a nightmare of violence begins and Ponyboy’s life is turned upside down. S.E. Hinton was just 16 years old when she wrote this timeless novel about teens
getting caught up in class struggles and gang violence. Middle School/High School.
97. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
Fifteen-year-old high school freshman Charlie is anxious about starting
high school, especially after his only friend committed suicide last
year. So he chooses an unnamed stranger as his confidante. Over the
course of a year, he sends anonymous letters describing his triumphs and
tribulations as he befriends two seniors who welcome him into their
eccentric group of friends and show him how engage with the world. Excellent characterizations and a truly authentic voice highlight this well-crafted story full of hilarity, heartbreak, and inspiration. High School (mature).
98. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2000)
This stunning graphic-format memoir tells the story of Satrapi’s life in Tehran from the age
of six to fourteen, through the turbulent period that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the
triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war
with Iraq. The art work is simple yet irresistibly charming, and the story is equally charming: insightful, powerful, and surprisingly relatable. Middle School/High School.
99. The Pigman by Paul Zindel (1968)
High school sophomores John and Lorraine are best friends. They’re nothing alike—at least not on the surface—and yet, with their troubled home lives, they understand one another perfectly. One afternoon while making prank phone calls with a couple of troublemakers from school, Lorraine calls Mr. Pignati and the teens pose as representatives of a charity. But when they go to collect a “charity” donation from the lonely, elderly man, he insists they linger to chat. The three quickly forge a special if somewhat bizarre relationship, until a betrayal brings terrible consequences. This slim novel, told alternately from John and Lorraine’s perspectives, was once considered extremely controversial. Middle School/High School.
100. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
Witty and independent Elizabeth Bennett is determined to dislike the aristocratically aloof Mr. Darcy, whose pride and apparent coldness infuriates her. Darcy is equally disapproving of the somewhat unconventional Bennett family. And yet, as Darcy and Elizabeth are continually thrown into contact, unfavorable first impressions give way to genuine feelings. This is a charming comedy of manners, full of family foibles and clever repartee.
101. The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973)
A former farm boy in disguise must rescue his true love from a handsome (but evil) prince in this timeless twist on the traditional fairy tale. Along the way, he acquires the help of two unlikely allies, a drunken swordsman and a gentle giant. Brilliantly combining adventure, fantasy, romance, and humor, The Princess Bride is a swashbuckling fable for all ages. Middle School/High School.
So… just one more installment to go. How are we doing so far?
As promised, here is the next installment of BCPL’s Ultimate Teen Booklist:
51. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
In a future world where the birth rate has drastically declined, fertile women are rounded up, trained as “housemaids,” and expected to bear the children of prominent men. Offred can remember the days before the Republic of Gilead, when she was a happily married wife and mother; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But now everything is different… High School. 52. The Harper Hall Trilogy (series) by Anne McCaffrey (1976–1979)
This trilogy is part of McCaffrey’s larger Dragonriders of Pern series but easily stands on its own. All three books feature Menolly, who challenges traditions and her father’s expectations in her quest to become a Harper, with the aid of nine fire dragons. Although Menolly appears throughout the series, the final book focuses on the adventures of Piemur, a boy soprano. Middle School/High School.
53. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling (1998–2007)
After discovering on his 11th birthday that he is a wizard, Harry attends Hogwarts School for Wizarding and Witchcraft. There he discovers that he is famous for a childhood encounter with Voldemort, a dark wizard who is determined to gain power. As Harry and his friends age, the novels become progressively darker and more complex. Middle School/High School.
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
6. Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
54. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (1987)
Thirteen-year-old Brian survives a plane crash only to be stranded in the Canadian wilderness—alone. There he must survive for months with only a hatchet to aid him while also coming to grips with his parents’ divorce. Middle School/High School.
55. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (1984)
Although she is the daughter of the king, Aerin has never been accepted as full royalty. Both in and out of Damar’s royal court, people whisper the story of her mother, the witchwoman from the demon-haunted North who was said to have ensorcelled the king into marrying her and died after giving birth to Aerin. But with the guidance of the wizard Luthe and the help of the blue sword, Aerin will do what she must to win her birthright. Middle School/High School.
56. His Dark Materials Trilogy (series) by Phillip Pullman (1996–2000)
Lyra Belacqua’s life changes forever after she saves her uncle from an assassination attempt and learns of a mysterious substance called Dust. Children, including Lyra’s friend Roger, start to go missing and Lyra sets off on a rescue mission to the North. This is just the beginning of Lyra’s adventures through multiple universes as she and her friends try to solve the mystery of the Dust. Middle School/High School.
57. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
Arthur Dent, the last survivor on Earth, embarks on an offbeat, galaxy-hopping tour of the universe under the guidance of a galaxy tour-guide writer. Middle School/High School.
58. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein (1937)
Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, well-to-do hobbit lives happily in quiet comfort until the day the wizard Gandalf and his band of homeless dwarves choose him to join their quest. Prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Middle School/High School.
59. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
This poetic coming-of-age story centers on Esperanza, a young girl who longs to escape the low expectations and endless landscape of concrete and run-down tenements that come with growing up in her poor Hispanic neighborhood. Middle School (mature)/High School.
60. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)
Sophie Hatter is living a humdrum life as a hat shop apprentice when a witch turns her into an old woman and she finds herself in the castle the fearsome wizard Howl, who is rumored to eat souls. Middle School/High School.
61. The Hunger Games Trilogy (series) by Suzanne Collins (2008–2010)
Set in a post-apocalyptic world overseen by a selfish, pleasure-loving Capitol that rules with harshness and terror, this in an absorbing dystopian thriller series. In book one, Katniss and Peeta must compete in the Hunger Games, a televised competition where the teens must kill to survive. Balancing a fast pace with well-developed characters, the story blends gritty action scenes with a backdrop of social commentary. Middle School (mature)/High School.
1. The Hunger Games
2. Catching Fire
62. I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier (1977)
As Adam bicycles from Massachusetts to Vermont, he retraces memories of his past and his family’s history in the witness protection program. Alternating chapters insert psychological examinations that attempt to uncover Adam’s buried memories. A curious mix of fantasy and reality, this is an unforgettable psychological mystery. Middle School (mature)/High School.
63. I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak (2005)
After capturing a bank robber, nineteen-year-old cab driver Ed Kennedy begins receiving mysterious messages that direct him to addresses where people need help. High School (mature).
64. If I Stay + Where She Went (companion novels) by Gayle Forman (2009, 2011) IF I STAY: One minute Mia is on a happy, spontaneous family drive; the next, she is standing over her own mangled body as paramedics work to revive her. Mia follows her body to the hospital and over the following hours, she contemplates her life, worries about her little brother, and yearns for her boyfriend. The people and relationships are vividly described, and Mia’s dilemma—to stay or to let go—and the actions of her loved ones are poignant but not overwrought. This is a powerful, lyrical novel that will stay with you. High School.
WHERE SHE WENT: Love, heartache, betrayal, and music intertwine in this emotional sequel to If I Stay told from Adam’s perspective. Pouring his bitterness into his lyrics has made Adam a worldwide music sensation, but fame hasn’t healed what was damaged and broken. Now, stranded in New York in between flights, Adam decides it is time to confront his past with the girl he can’t get over. Raw and lyrical, Adam’s story is gripping in the tradition of Before Sunrise. The majority of the story takes place in a single day, and readers experience each moment right along with Adam, unsure how it will end until the very last page. High School.
65. I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan (2011)
Intertwining a gripping survival story with a sweet tale of first love, this is a heartfelt story that will stick with you. Seventeen-year-old Sam and his 12-year-old brother Riddle—kidnapped a decade ago by their mentally unstable father—have never known a normal life. Then Sam meets Emily, who finally “sees” him and, eventually, introduces the boys to her family. For the first time, the two boys feel connected to the real world, but what will happen when their father discovers their secret? This is a vividly cinematic novel, with a bit of something for everyone. Middle School/High School.
66. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966)
In this pioneer work of the true crime genre, Truman Capote paints a chilling portrait of the grisly 1959 murder of a family in rural Kansas, reconstructing the savage murder and ensuing investigation. High School (mature).
67. In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason (1985)
A recent high school graduate in a small Kentucky town tries to make sense of her family and the war that killed her father before she was born. In Country is emotionally gripping and subtly humorous as it addresses the challenges of growing up and the lingering consequences of a war long over. High School.
68. Into the Wild by John Krakauer (1996)
In 1992, a young man named Christopher McCandless hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness. His body was discovered four months later. In this true story, Krakauer reconstructs the story of McCandless’s adventure and eventual death, in the process exploring the American fascination with the wilderness. High School.
69. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer (1997)
The author describes his spring 1996 trek to Mt. Everest, a disastrous expedition that claimed the lives of eight climbers, and explains how he survived the rogue storm that left him stranded. High School.
70. It by Stephen King (1986)
Horror master Stephen King spins a story about a group if seven misfit kids who stumbled upon an unimaginable terror in their hometown, something they tried to forget. But now that they are adults, the “Losers Club” find themselves drawn back to Derry, Maine, where they must again face their childhood nightmare and a very real, unnamed evil. High School (mature).
71. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
This unconventional love story is made unforgettable by the intimate narration and sharp, clever dialog. (Some of Jane and Rochester’s conversations are simply riveting.) But it’s much more than a love story between a governess and her employer: it is the tale of a passionate and intelligent orphan’s path to adulthood and her determination to maintain her dignity and find her place in the world. High School.
72. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (1989)
In this ultimate book about mother/daughter relationships, four Chinese immigrant mothers and their Chinese American daughters struggle to understand each other. The Joy Luck Club is a poignant and relatable novel about generational and cultural divisions, told in vignettes by seven different characters. High School.
73. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (2006)
Sixteen-year-old Annabel Greene’s life is far from perfect. Her “picture perfect” family is keeping secrets, and a recent split with her best friend has left her a social outcast. But Annabel finds an unexpected ally in Owen Armstrong, a music-obsessed, broody loner whose honesty and passion for music help her to finally be honest about what happened at the party that changed everything. Middle School (mature)/High School.
As always, feel free to comment! We’d love to know what books would be on your ultimate teen booklist…