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Top Teen Titles #65-69

Trying to share this list with you humbles me. Although I have been trying to read every title on the list, I cannot get them read in a timely manner and still keep the blog current. Despite the huge number I books I read daily, you readers nominated some books of which I had never heard. I have to accept that to be a young adult librarian I will never be able to read every book in the collection and on the list. 

At Hickman Elementary where I taught for 12 years, I had read 99% of the titles of fiction and about 80% of the nonfiction. With a collection of about 12,000 books, I was smug. Now at JFK Middle School I’m faced with budget cuts and increased demands on my time to participate in school sports events, YA clubs, and organizations. I cannot order every single YA title that I want. I refuse to stop reading picture books, nonfiction, and middle grade readers despite the increasing number of fantastic YA novels arriving daily. Believe me I am frustrated. 

I’m having to accept I am not perfect, all-knowing, and all-read. To be a young adult librarian in a public library or in a school, I must depend upon my colleagues and their recommendations for selection suggestions. I must trust others when they gather together to debate and create "best lists." I need to rely upon other reviewers and bloggers. I must accept that when I’m compiling a group best list, there will be a wider variety of books that I have never heard of and that I must simply trust my colleagues and their suggestions. 

With that said, let’s get to #69 on our list which is a love story. (No comment on how the numbering worked) The reviews of this title and the personal opinions I have read from people I trust shook me. How could I not have seen this book? I can immediately identify young men that would devour this book.

#69 Blankets by Craig Thompson . Top Shelf Productions, 2003. ISBN 9781891830433. 592pp

BlanketsQuote from one of the nominators:
A graphic memoir that captures a young man’s journey out of a childhood that strangled him into a life of his own. 

Winner of the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards for Best Graphic Novel and Best Cartoonist.

I confess I enjoyed the wikipedia article and every version online that allowed me to look inside this book. Reading just the tiny bits of 8 pages online has made me a big fan and I cannot wait until I receive my own personal copy of this title. 

Need reviews? The Amazon customers reviewed this with surprising agreement. Out of 144 reviews, 118 gave Blankets five stars. The Top Shelf website has a nice listing of both professional journal reviews and blog reviews. 

Blankets ranked #1 on The 20 Best Graphic Novels of the Decade 2000-2009 for Paste Magazine and #11 on The 30 Most Important Comics of the Decade list. 

Sean T. Collins writes an insightful review comparing Blankets to Jimmy Corrigan and describing the impact Blankets had on the publishing industry – even greater than Maus. 

"Clocking in at just over 580 pages, none of which had ever been serialized anywhere, it was the largest original graphic novel North American comics had ever seen. But while the novelty of its size might have made the first impression, what was found in its pages made the lasting one. An unabashedly emotional memoir, Blankets told Thompson’s own story of first love and fundamentalism, romance and religion, as both discovered and lost by him while a teenager in the snowy northern Midwest."

Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, ThingsMeanAlot, YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2005 "Read ’em and Weep."  

Blankets was recommended for older students in high school collections by SLJ. Blankets was subject to a town hall meeting in Marshall Public Library in Missouri to attempt to ban the book. Doubt I’ll put it in my middle schoolers hands, but I know students who have gone on to high school and college and would probably appreciate this. Growing up in a rural community, there is much to relate.

#68 Feed by M. T. Anderson. Candlewick Press, 2004. ISBN 9780763622596. 320ppFeed

Quote from two of the nominators:

  • It took me several tries to get through Feed, but once I did (via the audio production), I found it to be a brilliant riff on pop culture and being trendy. It presented a scary, all to possible future to me. 
  • A little too easy to imagine!

YALSA’s Ultimate Teen Bookshelf #17, Infinity Plus: SF, Fantasy & Horror, SLJ Review, GoodReads, LibraryThing, Shelfari

From M.T. Anderson’s speech accepting a 2002 Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Feed "On the Decay of Language and the Rise of the Insect Overlords": 

After reading this book, people ask me whether I feel any hope for the future. I want to say to you: Yes, I do. I absolutely do. Not hope for the human race; we’re screwed. But I feel tremendous hope for the Insect Overlords who shall succeed us as masters of the Earth. 

From the Candlewick site, we gain insight into how M.T. Anderson developed his freakish, perverse, current, and irritating Teen Speak: 

"To write this novel, I read a huge number of magazines like SEVENTEEN, MAXIM, and STUFF. I eavesdropped on conversations in malls, especially when people were shouting into cell phones. Where else could you get lines like, ‘Dude, I think the truffle is totally undervalued’?"

2003 Best Books for Young Adults Annotated List. Feed received unanimous votes from the committee. 
National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2002), Los Angeles Times Book Prize (2002)

Nation#67 Nation by Terry Pratchett. HarperCollins, 2008. ISBN 0061433012, 367pp

Publisher’s Description:
When a giant wave destroys his village, Mau is the only one left. Daphne—a traveler from the other side of the globe—is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. Separated by language and customs, the two are united by catastrophe. Slowly, they are joined by other refugees. And as they struggle to protect the small band, Mau and Daphne defy ancestral spirits, challenge death himself, and uncover a long-hidden secret that literally turns the world upside down.

Quote from one of the nominators:
I’d been a big fan of Pratchett before, but this book stunned me with its awesomeness. While ranking my favorite books of the year that year, this was clearly the winner; but then when, just recently, I went to rank my favorite books of the decade (published this decade), I was amazed to discover that I couldn’t think of any particularly better than this for that whole time!

Awards: British Fantasy Award for Top Ten (2009), Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry (2009), Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production Honor (2009), An ALA Notable Children’s Book for Older Readers (2009), Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature (2008), ALA YALSA Printz Honor (2009)

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, SLJ review,, TeensReadToo GoldStar review. From the TeensReadToo website, reviewer Lynn Crow writes:

NATION has everything you could ask for in a novel. Its dramatic scenes are both poignant and moving, with Pratchett’s customary humor keeping the proceedings from straying into melodrama. Both main characters are distinctive, and it’s a pleasure watching them come into their own throughout the story. The villains are suitably creepy and brutal. Little details of the setting and cultures make it all feel so real.

Diane’s Note: I’m still struggling to get this into the hands of the right student who will then proclaim it fantastic to all the others and make the book fly off the shelf. I wish I could have embedded the video Terry Pratchett sent to ALA members to view at the Printz Award ceremony. It was hysterically funny. Anyone know how we can obtain those? Oh, maybe I should ask when I go to the ALA Executive Board meeting next Friday. These should definitely be shared.

#66 Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos. Farrar, 2002. ISBN 374399883. 208pp

Hole in My Life by Jack GantosQuote from one of the nominators:
A great pick for reluctant readers- nonfiction that reads like a novel.

Publisher’s Reading Guide description
In Hole in My Life, Jack Gantos recounts an experience from his own life that many
other writers would rather keep hidden from public view. In the summer of 1971, the young Gantos, desperate for cash for college and willing to take a risk, runs a boatload of hashish from the Virgin Islands to New York City. For this job, he is to receive $10,000. In reality, he gets a six-year prison sentence.

Read an Excerpt here. Teachers can use the Massachusetts Children’s Book Award Reading and Discussion guide written by Elizabeth Xavier.

Awards & Recognition:
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal Honor book, BookLinks article "Telling Their Own Stories – Autobiographies of Children’s Book Creators", YALSA’s Michael L. Printz Honor Book 2003, GoodReads, LibraryThingShelfari. American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults, American Library Association Notable Children’s Books, Booklist Editors’ Choice, Books for the Teen Age, New York Public Library, Bulletin Blue Ribbon, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List, Massachusetts Children’s Book Award, Parents’ Choice Award, School Library Journal Best Books of the Year

Recommendations (from the author’s site):

Booklist, American Library Association, Starred Review
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Horn Book, Starred Review
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal, Starred Review
VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

Diane’s note: Jack Gantos writes many funny books for grades 4-6. This is not intended for that audience. Instead, it has found a niche among my tough 7th and 8th graders. I’d definitely put it in a high school and urban middle school audience that can handle the graphic and disturbing details. Gantos doesn’t hold back in his descriptions of the violence and depravity of prison life. I have many other students at my school clamoring for the Life in Prison book by Tookie Williams. This title has been very popular for that audience. Am I censoring? Naw, the book is on my shelf for students. With the large number of titles I have, some books have to be pulled out and placed in students’ hands for them to find them. This is a title that I’m able to chat about with students who are reluctant readers or who have already developed tough reputations and records at my school. Gantos’ biography does give them hope. They look at his life and what he has achieved to see that they too can turn their lives around.

#65 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) by J.K. Rowling. Scholastic Press, 2000. ISBN 9780439139595. 734pp

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)I don’t feel the need to repeat everything about this book since it also appeared on Betsy Bird’s countdown of the Top 100 Middle Grade Novels on A Fuse#8Production. You, readers, can drop by to read about her # 35 titles out of 100. I will quote her with this statement:

HP4 was probably the fantasy title that single-handedly convinced the publishing industry that fantasy novels of 500 or more pages (734 to be precise) could sell and sell well.

Publisher’s Description (in case there is anyone on the planet who’s still holding out and hasn’t read this series): 

Harry Potter is midway through his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup. He wants to find out about the mysterious event that’s supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn’t happened for a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he’s not normal–even by wizarding standards. And in his case, different can be deadly.

Hugo Award for Best Novel (2001), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adolescent Literature (2008), Golden Archer Award for Middle/Junior High (2002), Indian Paintbrush Book Award (2002) 

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, SLJ review

Diane’s note: I had become hooked on the Harry Potter series early on, but the very first time I ever stood in line at a bookstore at midnight was for the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The death of a character was much whispered about before release, but when it occurred, most readers just shrugged and went on. When viewing the movie again recently, my sons’ girlfriends had to pause and drool over Robert Pattinson and argue that he was much finer here than in Twilight. The death of his character changed Harry though and prepared us for the much darker turn these novels would take. This novel in the middle of the series does indicate the struggle of middle grade students and that fine balancing act of being not-quite-still a child in an adult world. 


  1. Brenda Kahn (proseandkahn) says:


    The videos of Printz Acceptance speeches are available on the ALA website. I couldn’t post the link in this comment box, but if you google it, you’ll find it. It was hysterical and Anderson’s was brilliant.

    I really enjoyed listening to them all. It was a very pleasant evening. I also attended the Coretta Scott King Award Breakfast, where all the winners also get to give speeches. I liked listening to every one.

  2. Brenda Kahn (proseandkahn) says:

    Oops, I misread your note! Sorry! Note to self: slow down and read more carefully.

  3. Brenda, Thank you! I needed your input. Everyone can post links here, but they have to be disguised with no h t t p : / / so the silly blog comment machine will let it through. Let’s see who can post those fastest. It’s a race. Go!