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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

Best Books of the Year so far, 2012

The school year is over, ALA Annual is (nearly) past, the big fall books are calling, it must be time to announce our Best of the Year so far!

As usual, we are excited to highlight books that offer a combination of quality and teen appeal. For more information, click on title links for full blog reviews.

And we would love it if you would share your own favorites in the comments!


Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton
Grace Covey and her teenaged daughter Jenny are badly injured in an arson fire. While lying unconscious in the hospital, they race to unravel the mystery at the heart of this psychological thriller. (Carla Riemer)

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
As Earth’s rotation slows, days and nights get longer and longer. The unraveling of life on Earth is told from the perspective of one girl living in an ordinary cul-de-sac in a California neighborhood. (Laura Pearle, Paula Gallagher)

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson
A socially conscious everyman finds himself in the middle of the chaos when implanted individuals, or “amps,” rise up against unenhanced humans. A best for its no-holds-barred action. (Priscille Dando)

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
It is a surreal experience to go from a fire-fight in Iraq to the fifty yard line at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas, making it difficult for Billy Lynn to feel like the hero that he is acclaimed to be. (John Sexton)

The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau
Jonas is overwhelmed by the guilt of what it took to survive the war that claimed his family and his home. (John Sexton and Laura Pearle)

The Cove by Ron Rash
Living deep in the isolated mountains of Appalachia, Laurel believes her loneliness may be finally over when a mute young man suddenly appears in their dark, secluded cove. (Diane Colson)

Defending Jacob by William Landay
When a 14-year-old boy is stabbed on his way to school, the Assistant DA’s 8th grade son is charged with his murder. Court transcripts interrupt the story, ratcheting up the tension. This engrossing mystery is a best for its creative structure. (Priscille Dando and Diane Colson)

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
From high society to tenement squalor, multiple points of view and a love triangle among survivors enhance the telling of the search for someone to blame in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster. (Charli Osborne)

Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
In depression-era rural Texas, teenagers Sue Ellen and Terry are out fishing when they find the body of their friend May Lynn Baxter. May Lynn dreamed of going to Hollywood so Terry and Sue Ellen decide to make sure her ashes get there. Quirky, creepy and funny. (Carla Riemer)

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
A young orphan yearns for independence, love, and a place at university in Livesey’s retelling of Jane Eyre set in 1960s Iceland and Scotland. (Angela Carstensen)

The Games by Ted Kosmatka
In a dark future, an annual Gladiator Olympics determines world technological domination. Each country enters its creation in the contest, none of which are allowed to have any human DNA. When the U.S. uses a computer to do the creating, the result is a horrible killing machine that begins to display its own intelligence. (Charli Osborne)

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
Dr. Watson narrates a new, authentically traditional Sherlock Holmes adventure, in which the detective investigates the brutal murder of a boy he questions in a case. (Priscille Dando)

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen
A deeply felt first novel about the paradoxical relationship between power and powerlessness; the richly interconnected worlds of faith and imagination; and the tragic delicacy of the relationships between single parents and their children. (Mark Flowers)

Perla by Carolina De Robertis
In 1970’s Argentina, Perla begins to understand her privileged upbringing in light of her family’s role in the fate of the “disappeared.” (Connie Williams)

Pure by Julianna Baggott
In this dark, spellbinding dystopian fantasy, Earth has been nearly destroyed by the Detonation, which transformed and scarred its survivors, except for those privileged few protected within the Dome. (Diane Colson)

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
She wakes up in a body and a life she doesn’t recognize, a high-ranking official in a sort of British X-Files. In this funny, cool, inventive speculative fiction, the new Myfanwy Thomas assumes the job of protecting England from bizarre supernatural manifestations while trying to find the traitor who stole her (host body’s) identity.  (Angela Carstensen, Carla Riemer)

Ruby Red Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers
Florine’s teen years are haunted by the unsolved mystery of her mother’s disappearance, while life grows complicated in her hometown, a small fishing village perched on the coast of Maine. (Diane Colson)

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
Jean Patrick grows up during the Rwandan genocide. As a boy he meets a marathon runner, and from that day forward he dreams of proving to the world that a Tutsi can win the Olympics. (Angela Carstensen)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Patroclus retells the events of The Iliad, focusing on the all-too-short life of his companion, Achilles. By concentrating on these two young men and their tragic lives and love, the author rejuvenates the epic legend and makes it accessible to a contemporary audience. (Angela Carstensen, Laura Pearle)


Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
16-year-old Abdul has been accused of driving his neighbor to suicide. Abdul and the one-legged woman are just two of the many people readers meet in the Annawadi slum behind the Mumbai airport and hotel district where 3,000 squatters survive poverty and corruption.  (Jamie Watson)

Dear Marcus: A Letter to the Man Who Shot Me by Jerry McGill
McGill was a 13 year old inner city black boy when he was shot in the back while walking home late on New Year’s Eve. What happened to him after that unfolds in letters to his assailant, who was never found. (Amy Cheney)

Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
In North Korea, more than 100,000 people are held in prison labor camps. Shin Dong-hyuk was born in one. This is the account of his life in the camp and his escape into China at age 23, the first known person who was born in the camps to escape them. (Jamie Watson)

The Lifespan of a Fact by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal
Examining the nature of nonfiction itself, an essayist (D’Agata) and his fact checker (Fingal) battle over a news story about 16-year-old Levi Pressley, who committed suicide by jumping off a building in Las Vegas.  (Laura Pearle)

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told you about Being Creative by Austin Kleon
Engaging, inspiring and practical advice on becoming a successful artist beginning with the premise that “nothing is original.” Kleon encourages readers to study what they love and embrace outside influences. (Angela Carstensen)

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Her life out of control and burdened with unresolved grief, the author journeys solo on the Pacific Crest Trail in this searingly honest and brilliantly humorous memoir. (John Sexton)


Goliath by Tom Gauld
The Biblical David and Goliath story is told from the giant’s point of view with humor and good will. (Francisca Goldsmith)

Gone to Amerikay by Derek McCulloch, illus. by Colleen Doran and José Villarrubia
Three intertwined stories reveal both individual and generational experiences by disparate immigrants to New York City from Ireland, in 1870, 1960, and 2010. (Francisca Goldsmith)

The Graphic Canon. Vol. 1. edited by Russ Kick
Russ presents a plethora of literary milestones as envisioned by luminary cartoonists. This “canon” goes beyond the Western (Iliad and Odyssey, Le morte d’Arthur, Shakespearean Sonnets, and more) to Native America (both North and South), Japan, China, and Tibet, to such religious writers as Hildegard of Bingen and the Book of Esther. (Francisca Goldsmith)

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 am disappointed at the lack of women of color represented on this list.

  2. Hi Ayeda,
    I just finished “Beyond the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo, which is set in the slums of Mumbai. There are many strong women in this story. Most notably, it is a nonfiction work. These are real life heroines. You might like to try that one.

  3. Becky Chodzin says:

    Great list! Glad you included “Escape from Camp 14” EVERYONE, TEENS AND ADULTS ALIKE, SHOULD READ IT! It is an amazing, true story and one that we should all know about.


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