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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

Best Books of the Year so far, 2011

Why wait until the end of the year?

With ALA Annual approaching, where we all begin to look forward to fall books, this is a good time to look back at the best of the best of the year so far.

Each blog reviewer was asked to choose up to 3. We aimed (as always) to highlight books that offer a combination of quality and teen appeal. Some reviewers offer a reason for choosing the book as a “best,” others a brief plot summary. Either way, click on the link for the full blog review.

Agree or disagree?  Please share your own favorites in the comments!


After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
Probably the most teen appeal of the three I’ve chosen. Really fun, but thought-provoking at the same time.  (Mark Flowers)

Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington
Alice’s idyllic small-town life is interrupted when her father’s army reserve unit is called up for active duty in Iraq. (Angela Carstensen)

Among Others by Jo Walton
A love of reading permeates this mesmerizing fantasy about Mori’s life after her twin sister’s death and surviving her mother’s attempts to destroy her. (Angela Carstensen)

Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin
Sixteen year-old Judy has the body of a little person, but the fiery drive of a dragon master, until the day she finds herself in the center of a sex scandal. (Diane Colson)

Blind Sight by Meg Howrey
Seventeen year-old Luke is amazed to discover that his biological father is a famous television star. Even more amazing is the bond that develops between father and son, and Luke’s gradual understanding of his family. (Diane Colson)

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
A rousing fantasy about a lost boy who can shift from “groundling” to a winged form, and who discovers he has a role to play in saving the world. (Karyn Silverman)

The Glass Demon by Helen Grant
The development of mood, setting and rising tension pay off in a harrowing climax. The savvy and complex teen characters have an original point of view that keeps readers caring about their story.  (Priscille Dando)

Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch
Jaffy leaves behind a life on the streets of 19th-century London for adventure on the high seas in this enormously satisfying novel of friendship, survival, and redemption. (Connie Williams)

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
This speculative fiction coming of age tale has Danny discovering his mettle when he learns he may be the most powerful gatemage ever born. Too bad his family wants him dead. (Charli Osborne)

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
This will be a go-to book for librarians wanting to satisfy reluctant teen readers – a barely plausible war thriller told in brief episodes of relentless action. (John Sexton)

Sister by Rosamund Lupton
A really well told mystery with great characters and a *completely* unexpected ending. (Carla Riemer)

Spiral by Paul McEuen
Tight plotting, three dimensional characters and seamless integration of science make this a stand out thriller. (Priscille Dando)

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
A dazzling, affecting, funny novel in which three abandoned siblings each journey away from their isolated island home at their own peril. (Angela Carstensen)

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
Haven’t had a chance to try this one out on teens yet, and I have a feeling it might be a hard sell, but the book is just too good not to include. (Mark Flowers)

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
In a war-torn Eastern European country, a young doctor remembers her grandfather and tells a series of interlinked tales both historical and magical. (Karyn Silverman)

Touch by Alexi Zentner
Grief and loss across generations in the Far North, Touch is story-telling at its best. (John Sexton)

The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein
A gripping fantasy appealing even to non-fantasy fans like me. The story stays with you in a very haunting way. (Caroline Bartels)

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles #2)
Nothing else manages this blend of genuine adolescent voice; sophisticated, beautiful writing; and heart-wrenching, pulse-pounding action. (Karyn Silverman)


The Dressmaker of Khair Khan: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Kamela Sediqi turned to sewing to support her extended family after the Taliban took over Kabul and made her dream of being a teacher impossible. (Jane Ritter)

History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky
Teen readers, especially those impacted by suicide, will find insight in this unforgettable account of the tragic circumstances and aftermath of the death of the author’s sister by suicide. (John Sexton)

Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
A fast funny read with romance, adventure and a good cause. Teens will relate, enjoy reading and plot how to change the world if they aren’t already doing so. This book has taken off in schools across the country. (Amy Cheney)

Paper Cutting: Contemporary Artists, Timeless Craft by Laura Heyenga
A stunning look at the work of 26 contemporary cut-paper artists. (Jane Ritter)

Graphic Novels

The Listener by David Lester
Louise, a contemporary young Canadian sculptor, travels to Europe after an activist friend dies during a protest in Vancouver. There she confronts the influence of the Third Reich on international art and politics, past and present. (Francisca Goldsmith)

Vietnamerica by GB Tran
The best GN I’ve seen in a while. Intriguing story, perfect structure, excellent blending of art and words. (Mark Flowers)


Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels by Kevin Young
A chorus of voices brings the story of the Amistad to life, from hymns and letters to speeches and a reading primer. (Karlan Sick)

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. Allison Berryhill says:

    Just read Bossypants by Tina Fey–What a hoot! Three of my kids then read it (boy age 16, girl age 19, girl age 21). Give to any Saturday Night Live fan.

  2. I am always looking for a list of the best books for my high school library. thank you for this resource. I’ll check out these books!

  3. amy cheney says:

    Two titles I’ve read and reviewed aren’t on the list above:

    _Kings of Colorado_ and _Language of Flowers_. Since both have wide appeal for teens and yet also directly connect to the youth I am working with I thought I’d say a bit more. _Kings of Colorado_ is brilliantly written. The voices are real, believable and provide a deeper level of understanding of teens. Boys are going to love it as it’s action packed and brutal. When I met the author at ALA he mentioned that girls have been writing him about the book. I believe it. If I were a teen girl that was interested in boys I would LOVE this book. It provides so much insight into the experiences, feelings and lives of boys.

    I don’t really understand why it was published adult except that the book is an adult looking back at experiences as a teen (not a real reason in my mind). But then we get to #2, the last chapter. Gosh, if only that was left that out of the book!!! It’s back to the adult voice, but the PROBLEM is, it ties everything up so very very neatly and tidily. If that last chapter wasn’t there we’d be HAUNTED by the characters and we’d be HOPING to run into them for the rest of our lives in the grocery store or whatever to find out what happened to them. And then there is the issue of the black woman who is the nicest and kindest person in the entire book and truly is a saving grace for the white boys. (Why did she have to be black? She’s the only black person in the book and it’s uncomfortable as it evokes the mammy stereotype. Or maybe I’m just too picky). Alright, so that’s the small stuff. Don’t sweat it. OTHER THAN THAT, THIS BOOK ROCKS! It’s the best writing I’ve read in a good long time. Here’s a link to my review of it.

    _Language of Flowers_ is about a girl aging out of the foster system. Oh, I see why it wasn’t mentioned, because the review hasn’t been posted yet. Well, look for it in a bit.

    Just a short few gushes for _LIttle Princes_. It keep debating about whether to take off my love list, but I haven’t been able to. Here’s the deal, folks. It’s HARD to write something funny! It’s a skill!!! Especially when you are writing about child trafficking. I have a friend who criticizes the book because it’s so sunny. Really now. The reason I love it is it FOCUSES on a REAL solution that is so smart it’s stupid that it hasn’t been done before, and is actually documented in photos and (ok – heartwarming) and moving along prose. Four Cups of Tea or however many cups it was is absolutely no comparison in terms of the writing OR story, and I can’t understand why THAT books continues to do so well.

  4. Here’s an interview with author and illustrator David Lester on UMFM, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, June 2011.

    “A dense and fiercely intelligent work that asks important questions about art, history, and the responsibility of the individual, all in a lyrical and stirring tone.” — Publishers Weekly (New York)