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Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

Best Adult Books 4 Teens, 2010

Many of you doubtless received the latest issue of School Library Journal and enjoyed the Best Books 2010 article, either online or in print. You probably missed the Adult Books for High School Students list. I always looked forward to that list myself.

When this blog was created to fill the void left by the end of the Adult Books for High School Students print column, I was determined to offer a Best list for 2010.

Despite the fact that this blog launched late in the calendar year (on October 18th), several of the reviewers and I created this list together. These are our straight-from-the-heart favorites of the year, with sure teen appeal. Most of them have already been reviewed here — clicking on the titles will take you to full reviews and publication information.

Keep in mind that we review only adult books, not titles published for the teen market. And we only review adult books that we find to have strong teen appeal.

One last caveat — we have been reading and reviewing since spring, and we did read books from earlier in the year along the way, but given those parameters, this cannot be a complete list.

That is where you come in!

If one of your favorites is missing — help us fill in the gaps. What were your favorite Adult Books 4 Teens published this year?

Best Adult Books 4 Teens, 2010


BOGNANNI, Peter. The House of Tomorrow. (Putnam/Amy Einhorn)
Sebastian lives with his grandmother, a disciple of Buckminster Fuller, in a geodesic dome until she suffers a stroke. When the Whitcomb family takes him in he discovers punk music, junk food, and new ideas about life.

CUMMINS, Jeanine. The Outside Boy. (New American Library)
In 1950s Ireland, Christy, a young Pavee (or Irish Traveller) sets out to learn the truth about his past, forced to defy his father to learn the secrets of his birth.

DONOGHUE, Emma. Room. (Little, Brown)
Jack has never been Outside. He is a happy, smart 5-year-old, but Ma knows that the time has come to escape from Room.

DURROW, Heidi. The Girl who Fell from the Sky. (Algonquin)
Rachel leaves Chicago to live with her grandmother in Portland after miraculously surviving her mother’s tragic final act. There she confronts her biracial heritage, while flashbacks and diary entries reveal her parents’ misfortunes.

FERRARIS, Zoë. City of Veils. (Little, Brown)
Desert guide, Nayir, and medical assistant, Katya, investigate the death of a young female journalist and help an American woman whose husband disappeared in this mystery set in Saudi Arabia.

GRANT, Helen. The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. (Delacorte)
In a German town rich in folklore and gossip, young Pia and her friend StinkStefan decide to solve the disappearance of their classmate, Katharina Linden, putting themselves in danger.

GWIN, Minrose. The Queen of Palmyra. (Harper)
11-year-old Florence narrates the events of the summer of 1963, when a black college student interferes with her father’s business, and racial tensions erupt in their small Mississippi town.

HARVELL, Richard. The Bells.  (Crown)
Moses Froben is the son of a deaf mute who is blessed and cursed with an extraordinary singing voice. He is betrayed by his obsessed music teacher, doomed to love a woman far above him, and destined to become a renowned opera star in 18th century Europe.

HILL, Joe. Horns. (Morrow)
Ig wakes up one morning with two small horns growing out of his forehead. Suddenly he has the ability to solve the mystery of who murdered the love of his life. Ig must decide whether to hold on to what’s good, or give in to his demonic side and avenge her death.

KENT, Kathleen. The Wolves of Andover. (Little, Brown)
Martha is intrigued by Thomas Morgan, a man rumored to have played a role in the execution of King Charles I of England, now working in the same small-town Massachusetts household.

KRAMIN, Justin. Finny.  (Random)
Red-headed firebrand Finny runs away from home at age 14 and falls into the arms of Earl, literally. Her parents object to their relationship, sending Finny to boarding school.  There she rooms with Judith, a beautiful heiress, who along with Earl plays an important role in Finny’s life over the ensuing years.

KWOK, Jean. Girl in Translation. (Riverhead)
Kim Chang and her mother move to Brooklyn from Hong Kong after Kim’s father dies. Kim goes to school during the day, then joins her mother who slaves away in a sweatshop owned by her bitter older sister. Kim excels, winning a scholarship to a private school, and falls in love with a boy who also helps his mother fill the sweatshop quotas.

MARLANTES, Karl. Matterhorn. (Atlantic Monthly)
Second Lieutenant Waino Mellas is fresh out of college in 1969 when he is sent to command Bravo Company in the jungles of Vietnam. Most of his soldiers are teenagers. Matterhorn is the name of a base camp created atop a hill, that the men are ordered to capture, abandon, and re-capture.

OKORAFOR, Nnedi. Who Fears Death. (DAW)
In post-apocalyptic Africa, genocide is rampant. Onyesonwu is only 11 when her special abilities reveal themselves. When she becomes more powerful and skilled, she embarks on a journey through the desert to confront the evil sorcerer who is fomenting the conflict.

WILLIS, Connie. Blackout-All Clear. (Spectra/Ballantine)
In a story told over two books, three Oxford historians in 2060 use time travel to head back to the 1940s and study aspects of World War II. The expedition does not work out as planned. They may have subtly altered history and therefore the outcome of the war.


CHABRIS, Christopher and Daniel Simons. The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us.  (Crown)
Chabris and Simons focus on “everyday illusions” including the concept of “inattentional blindness,”  looking directly at something but failing to see it, which call into question the accuracy of our memories. Are our perceptions of the world inherently unreliable?

HILLENBRAND, Lauren. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. (Random)
Louis Zamperini saw his dream of becoming the first athlete to run a mile in less than four minutes pre-empted by a nightmare of improbable survival through World War II. He lived through the crash of his B-24 and a 47-day ordeal adrift in the Pacific, only to be captured by the Japanese and held  for more than two years.

JUNGER, Sebastian. War. (Twelve)
Junger, embedded for a year with U.S. troops fighting insurgents in the mountains above the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan, reports on the intensity of combat and its impact on those on the front lines.

POOLE, Eric. Where’s My Wand?: One Boy’s Magical Triumph over Alienation and Shag Carpeting. (Putnam/Amy Einhorn)
Each chapter of this memoir is a hilarious, heart-wrenching vignette from Eric’s years growing up in suburban St. Louis during the 1970s. In addition to living in the household from hell, Eric is bullied throughout his school years, and his family attends a Southern Baptist Church. He relies on magical intervention to help him through moments of crisis.

TABOR, James M. Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth. (Random)
Tabor weaves together a detailed look at supercave exploration and the story of two expeditions–one in Mexico and one in the Republic of Georgia–seeking to claim discovery of the deepest cave on Earth.

Many thanks to Amy Chow, Diane Colson, Priscille Dando, John Sexton, and Karyn Silverman for their contributions to this list.

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. I have to start reading more adult books. I haven’t heard of half of these!

  2. Angela, thank you so much for picking my novel for your Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2010 list! I’m thrilled and appreciate it very much. I’ve linked this to my Facebook Fan Page:

    This has a special place in my heart because when I was a teenager, I looked for hope and guidance in books, and I hope that my book could possibly mean something to another young person.


  3. Robin Nyzio says:

    I will second “House of Tomorrow” as an interesting read for any age. It was surprising and interesting.

    And I read Sebastian Junger’s “War” which is the second title I’ve read related to the war in Afghanistan. He did a great job with his writing and presenting an unflinching account of what life is like in the Army.

  4. Yay, more books for my TBR pile.

  5. I read Who Fears Death. This is, far and away, one of the best books I have ever read. I strongly advise fiction lovers to pick up and read the book with an open mind and without reading any detailed reviews or descriptions of it. Great story, great characters, great message, and with a dreamy feel to it that makes the darker sections glide right along.
    Angela, I’ll read books from your list. Thank you!!

    • Angela Carstensen says:

      Thanks, Dane! it really is incredible, isn’t it?? I was happy to see it win the World Fantasy Award, too. Well deserved.


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  2. […] list offers several choices not found on either the Alex Awards list, or our own Best Adult Books 4 Teens list. These three lists are usually quite different. I assume that to be a function of the vast […]