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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

Booklist Editors’ Choice, 2013

Is it disloyal to admit how much I love Booklist? I am always excited to see the latest issue arrive, partly because it is the only other place to find review recommendations of adult books for teens.

So, when the annual Booklist Editors’ Choice: Adult Books for Young Adults list is announced I pore over it, wondering why certain books and not others. I respect their choices very much, and especially appreciate how different their list is from ours each year. There are so many adult books published each year, and so many different ways of looking at those books in terms of teen readers, that differences are inevitable.

Or so I tell myself, because I also live in fear of missing something. And yes, it happens every year. There’s always a book we didn’t assign, or a book we rejected for review (let alone best!). 2013 is no different.

First, let me share links to both lists so we’re all on the same page:
Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2013
Booklist Editors’ Choice: Adult Books for Young Adults, 2013

And now Mark and I are going to have a dialogue about our reactions to the list. I’m going to start, because I can’t stop myself!

My first reaction? Yay! They loved Brewster, too!

My second reaction? Oh no! Two books I had either not assigned or rejected for review. Gaddafi’s Harem (never assigned) and Gamal, which I gave a very brief try (20 pages), was put off by the dialect, then sent it to a fellow reviewer to read — who rejected it.

Third reaction? Interesting that two of the novels most popular with our reviewers (as in, received the most readers and votes during our Best selection process) — The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Reconstructing Amelia — also made the Booklist picks.

I’ll be back to talk about what I really wish had made it, but over to Mark!

First of all, no, you’re not disloyal for loving Booklist–they’re awesome!

My first thought looking at the nonfiction side is: “no fair!” I read and loved March, Book One, but our parent magazine chose to review it as a YA title, so we didn’t have a chance to discuss it on this blog. Similarly, Lucy Knisley’s fabulous graphic memoir Relish was published by First Second under the quirky age bracket of 16+, as is being discussed over on Someday My Printz Will Come as a Printz Award contender. So it didn’t occur to me to review it over here.

As for the fiction, we overlapped with 6 of Booklist’s’ 10 titles–which is pretty amazing.  And of the remaining four, aside from Angela’s Gamal gaffe (jk), we read all but Encyclopedia of Early Earth–which I was just recently trying (and failing) to get my hands on last week–and reviewed all but Maya’s Notebook, which I rejected very early in the year. So that’s gratifying.

As for shoulda-woulda-coulda titles, I’m actually a little surprised that neither Loteria nor Panopticon made Booklist’s list–because both were listed in an earlier Booklist feature–Top Ten First Novels: 2013 and obviously we thought they had heaps of teen appeal. But to be fair, Golden Boy did make both of these Booklist features. As I said on Friday, Panopticon in particular is a book that I feel deserves a lot of attention. It’s a really staggering gut-punch of a book. And even though it seems to have the sort of bleakness that we expect out of someone like Adam Rapp, the underlying themes have none of the pessimistic nihilism of Rapp–Fagan seems genuinely concerned for her very broken characters, which make them all the more real and heartbreaking.

What about you, Angela – what should Booklist have recognized?

Personally, I miss We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. The more distance I get on my 2013 reads, the more I appreciate the narrator’s (wonderfully unreliable) voice. It doesn’t hurt that it flew off the shelves at my library after I booktalked it last month. On the nonfiction side, I miss My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor. Not only is the author’s life story inspiring, but her writing style is perfectly accessible for teens. That said, it is long and it did not fly off the shelves after I booktalked it last month.

What will I rush to read next? Lexicon by Max Barry. The accumulated raves about this book have convinced me. That and how much I enjoyed Jennifer Government when it came out back in 2003. (Another great recommendation for teens, by the way.)

Mark, anything you are looking forward to reading?

Well, I’m still interested in getting a hold of Encyclopedia of Early Earth, and I’ll sheepishly admit that I still haven’t read Ocean at the End of the Lane, despite the overwhelming support it got from our reviewers, and now Booklist.

Oh, I also wanted to say how thrilled I am not to see Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena on Booklist’s best-of. After charting those two books’ increasing count of starred reviews and best of list appearances, I was getting nervous that I was going to be left out on a limb as the only reviewer ignoring them.* So, if those were books 11 and 12  Booklist’s fiction ranking, thanks for stopping at 10, Booklist!

Only the Alex Awards remain. Mark and I will be back with our predictions in January, even though last year’s “extremely scientific” attempt was less-than-accurate. It’s all in good fun.

*Oh who am I kidding? I would have reveled being the spoiler too.

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. Sarah Flowers says:

    Angela, I encourage you to read Lexicon; it sticks in my mind as one of the most interesting books of the year. For myself, I will now make a point to read Brewster!