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Best Books of the Year so far, 2014

How can it be June already?? With ALA Annual right around the corner, and summer reading well underway, it is just the right time to offer our round-up of the Best Books of 2014–so far. We asked our reviewers to nominate the best adult books for teens that were published between January and June 2014.

This is the fourth year in a row we’ve compiled a list of the best books through the first half of the year, and this is a strange one. Most interestingly, every book mentioned below is fiction, and only one (BJ Novak’s story collection) is not a novel. No nonfiction, no graphic novels, no poetry. Weird. It’s also a much shorter list than we’ve had in past years: in 2011 we had 25 titles, and in both 2012 and 2013 we had 28 titles. This year, 20.

So what’s going on here? Well, for one thing, the shorter list is probably explained by the lack of variety: the number of fiction titles has been: 18, 19, and 21. But that doesn’t explain the lack of anything but fiction. I can’t speak for the rest of the reviewers who nominated titles, but for me, most of this is just timing. If I’d had a week longer, I would have been able to list a tremendous memoir which we’ll be featuring here shortly. And I’ve already read a best-worthy graphic novel, but it comes out in August. I also got caught reading a lot of wonderful nonfiction that just didn’t have quite enough teen appeal.  So, if I had to guess, I’d say our end of the year list will have much more variety.

But enough with what we don’t have–what do we have? Some clear trends emerged in the first half of the year. Science Fiction makes a big splash this year, with over a third of the titles. And Historical Fiction almost matches SF with six books. Add in several moving stories about immigrants, and a few entries in trilogies and you’ve got plenty of trends to think about.

We would love to hear from you — what books would you nominate? What are your favorites so far this year? What have your teen patrons enjoyed? Join us in the comments!

adam1 199x300 Best Books of the Year so far, 2014Adam by Ariel Schrag
An unexpected and entirely original love story. Laugh-out-loud hilarious, tender, and insightful—an all-around brilliant romp of a coming-of-age story.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This page-turning, suspenseful novel cuts back and forth between time periods and between the storylines of three main characters–two young people on opposite sides of the war and one Nazi officer searching for precious jewels–who are bound to intersect, but exactly how and when?

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
VanderMeer’s rich, multi-layered novel–the first in a trilogy–follows a scientific expedition into the mysterious Area X, a region that has been utterly abandoned following an unexplained Event and in which the laws of physics seem to break down.

archetype 198x300 Best Books of the Year so far, 2014Archetype by M. D. Waters
This fast-paced dystopian thriller opens with Emma waking up in the hospital after a terrible accident. Her memories are gone. As she heals, she realizes that her dreams and nightmares may actually be flashbacks, which hint at a world in which nothing her charming husband has told her is true.

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
The Bellweather is an old Catskills resort hotel that hosts the annual New York State high school music festival. 15 years ago a murder/suicide took place in Room 712, the same room from which Alice’s famous roommate goes missing.

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican
As brilliantly hilarious as it is poignant and heartrending, this satiric novel tracks the life of freshman Peter Davidek through a story that confidently rips through tangles of high school insanity.

 Best Books of the Year so far, 2014Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
By turns a compelling tearjerker, a mystery, and a painful family drama, Ng’s debut novel follows the lives of a dysfunctional family, focusing on the trials of middle child Lydia as she deals with racism and sexism in 1970s Ohio.

The Fever by Megan Abbott
High-school girls are beset by a mysterious fever, causing the entire community to panic about HPV vaccines, teen sex, and any- and everything else, in this powerful, thought-provoking novel..

The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price
Six people—the Silvers—are pulled from ordinary America and deposited into AltAmerica, where they are able to manipulate time. The Silvers struggle to sort out their relationships and their new abilities while trying to outrun government agencies and the mysterious group that wants them dead.

hyde 200x300 Best Books of the Year so far, 2014Hyde by Daniel Levine
A magnificent retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, from the perspective of Edward Hyde, which may even improve on Stevenson’s original novella.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
This powerful historical novel spanning 30 years tells the stories, in alternating chapters, of Sarah Grimke and a slave named Hetty, focusing on their a complex relationship–beautifully brought to life via the dual points of view.

The Martian by Andy Weir
After a freak dust storm, Mark Watley is left behind on NASA’s third manned mission to Mars, believed dead. He uses his problem-solving ability (and mechanical engineering and botanist training) to survive the unsurvivable, which he tracks in near-daily, often hilarious, log entries.

museum of extraordinary things 198x300 Best Books of the Year so far, 2014The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
Coralie is barred from visiting her father’s museum of freaks and grotesqueries until her 11th birthday, when she and her deformity become part of his collection. Hoffman’s thoroughly researched novel evokes the sights, smells, and sounds of New York City and Coney Island in the early 20th century.

My Name is Resolute by Nancy E. Turner
Ten-year old Resolute spends her days filled with love and tales of charms, spells and magic shared by the Jamaican slaves who serve her family. But no spell can ward off the pirates who come one September day in 1729 and destroy their home, kill her mother, and throw her family into the hold of a slave ship.

on such a full sea 198x300 Best Books of the Year so far, 2014On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee
In a dystopian future America, 16-year-old Fan leaves the cloistered world of labor enclave B-More and ventures into the unknown chaos beyond to find Reg, her lover and the father of her child-to-be.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak
Novak’s “Stories and Other Stories” are by turns funny, moving, and funny again, but they are always challenging and extremely well-written.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Darrow is a Red, lowest in the caste-system of laborers tasked with transforming Mars into a habitable planet. When his wife is executed for a simple defiance, Darrow is taken in by rebels who persuade him to infiltrate the Golds, the ruling class, in order to avenge her death.

 Best Books of the Year so far, 2014Runner by Patrick Lee
Retired special forces agent Sam Dryden is compelled to help Rachel, a young runaway, escape her pursuers in this exemplary “military-experiment-gone-wrong” thriller. They survive breath-taking near-escapes only to realize that Rachel herself may be the greatest danger.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A. J. Fikry, a man in his 40s who lives above his bookstore on a tourist island, is mourning the death of his wife. Surprisingly, he becomes the accidental father of an abandoned child, Maya, and raises her to become—surprise, surprise—a reader and a writer in this hopeful, funny and poignant novel.

The Weight of Blood by Laura Mchugh
In this suspenseful dark mystery set deep in the Ozarks, 17-year-old Lucy decides to investigate her best friend’s murder, which seems to connect to her own mother’s disappearance when Lucy was just a baby.

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About Mark Flowers

Mark Flowers is the Young Adult Librarian at the John F. Kennedy Library in Vallejo, CA. He reviews for a variety of library journals and blogs and recently contributed a chapter to The Complete Summer Reading Program Manual: From Planning to Evaluation (YALSA, 2012). Contact him via Twitter @droogmark

Comments

  1. Mary says:

    you’ve included two of my favorites — THE MARTIAN (so! funny!) and ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE (beautifully written), both of which I managed to get included on our high school’s summer reading list – I would also suggest I SHALL BE NEAR TO YOU by Erin McCabe, about a feisty young woman who refuses to be separated from her husband when he enlists in the Union Army, so she disguises herself as a male soldier and joins him. A page-turner which you are pretty sure will not end well….but very affecting and full of vivid detail about the lives of Union soldiers

  2. Katy Hedrick says:

    There are some reads on here that look fantastic! Thanks for the list. I would recommend a read by Philip Cameron in the Non-Fiction dept. His book They call Me Dad is amazing. He writes a story abot his work with orphans from places like Romania, Moldova ect. What a moving, and in my case life changing read. It’s always good I think to read something that can get you right down to your core. His will, his site for the book and his organization is http://www.stellasvoice.org/they-call-me-dad/, worth a look!

  3. Mary says:

    You’ve included two of my favorites – THE MARTIAN (so! funny!) and ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE (beautifully written). I would also like to recommend Erin McCabe’s I SHALL BE NEAR TO YOU: a young man enlists in the Union Army but his new wife refuses to stay behind and joins up with him, disguised as a man. What could have been a typical admixture of love and war is instead fresh, vivid and compelling.

  4. Mary says:

    sorry for the two similar comments – first didn’t display when submitted, I tried again a few days later, same thing – then I realized there might be a tech reason there were no comments when they had been specifically solicited…SLJ said yes, seemed to be an overactive spam filter, now fixed

    • Angela Carstensen Angela Carstensen says:

      So glad you finally got through! And apologies for the tech error. I really appreciate your comments about The Martian and about All the Light We Cannot See, which I finally read just this past weekend. What a beautiful, beautiful novel.
      We did review I Shall Be Near to You. Perhaps I will find a chance to read it myself and see if it might find its way onto our Best of the Year list in December. I did buy it for my school library.

  5. Hi Angela-know it’s late but are you aware of Sarah Bird’s Above the East China Sea? A very well-written crossover novel about 2 teenage girls, one in the present (an Air Force brat) and one living during World War 2 whose stories intertwine with Okinawan history and spirituality. I highly recommend it!

    • Angela Carstensen Angela Carstensen says:

      We are indeed! We became aware of it mid-summer and will be sharing a review soon. Thank you! Never hesitate to recommend books to us!

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