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Best of the Year so far, 2013
Summertime…and the livin’ is easy…
Speaking to all you school librarians out there — is there anything better than the first weeks of summer vacation? When time suddenly opens up, sleep is a possibility, and opportunities to read seem to be everywhere?
Many teens feel the same way. Here’s hoping some of them find these fabulous adult books with teen appeal. In our opinion, they are the best of the year up to now. A big thanks to all of the AB4T reviewers who recommended the titles on this list. If you want to know more about any one of them, just click on the title link for access to the full review.
Are any of your favorites reflected here? Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!
The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell
Two sisters in Glasgow are rather relieved after burying their parents in the backyard. But how to keep the authorities from finding out and sending them to foster care?
Flat Water Tuesday by Ron Irwin
Rob leaves his small working class town to row for the elite Fenton School, hoping to be noticed by the Harvard recruiter. Intensive training, competitiveness and high expectations bring about devastating tragedy.
Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield
Lucy Takeda is 14 when the bombs drop on Pearl Harbor, after which she and her mother Miyako are forced into the Manzanar relocation camp. Years later, Lucy’s daughter uncovers the incredible sacrifice Miyako made for her daughter.
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
Attractive, charismatic Max is inter-sex, born with both male and female organs. He’s able to keep it a non-issue until he hits puberty. But after suffering a violent rape, Max realizes that he must be the one to claim his own sexuality. Teens will love kind-hearted Max, whose journey through adolescence is a nightmare few will experience.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
In this historical fantasy imbued with folk-tale sensibilities, a golem and a jinni arrive in 1899 New York City. These treacherous creatures of Jewish and Arab myth possess supernatural powers that they can’t always control. They meet to form an unusual friendship as they navigate the challenges of a new world and battle a dabbler in the dark arts who yearns to use them in order to gain his own immortality.
Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum
The residents and caregivers at the Illinois Learning and Life Skills Center, a nursing facility for disabled adolescents in South Side Chicago, tell their stories in this powerful, authentic novel. Teens and their advocates rally for change after understaffing causes life-threatening errors and neglect.
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Lina Sparrow, an ambitious young attorney, is seeking the right plaintiff for a slavery reparations case. She learns of a house slave named Josephine, who many believe is responsible for the beautiful portraits of slaves that have been credited to Lu Anne Bell, Josephine’s “missus.” Josephine’s life and Lina’s case dovetail as the author examines the long-term harm of slavery in a fresh way.
Long Division by Kiese Laymon
How about a book set in 2013 that includes another book set in 1985 with time travel to 1964? It sure baffles fourteen year-old City Coldson, featured in each of the three stories, and he’ll be happy to tell all about it.
A Map of Tulsa by Benjamin Lytal
Home for the summer after his first year of college, Jim Praley becomes involved with exotic, artistic Adrienne. For Jim, she opens a new chapter of his life, one in which he sees the city through sophisticated eyes.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Louisa Clark, 26, lives a sheltered life with her working-class family in a small English village. When she applies for a position as a caregiver for a disabled man, he turns out to be handsome, 30-something Will Traynor, left a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic following a devastating accident. As they fall in love, Lou becomes determined to give Will reason to embrace life as it is.
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
From the age of 9, Vic McQueen has the power to find lost things, first on her Raleigh Tough Burner bike, later on a motorcycle. Charlie Manx drives a 1938 black Rolls-Royce Wraith, license plate NOS4A2, kidnapping children and delivering them to Christmasland, from which they never return. Vic can find them, but will the power erode her sanity before she can rescue the children, her son among them?
The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian
Natasha lives in America-Five, where she works in the Office of Mercy. Her job is to watch the monitors that scan the Outside and put into practice the values of her society: World Peace, Eternal Life, and All Suffering Ended. But all is not what it seems in this novel that goes beyond the typical dystopia by creating a world in which there are no clear distinctions between good and evil.
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Frank Drum, 13, and his brother Jake, 11, consider the neighborhoods of New Bremen, Minnesota extensions of their own backyard. But in the summer of 1961, death visits their town in the form of murder, suicide, and accident. Small-town characters struggle with incomprehensible tragedy in this page-turning mystery.
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
90-year-old Vivian and 17-year-old Molly meet when Molly avoids juvie by choosing the community-service assignment of helping Vivian clean her attic. They uncover trunks full of history. In 1929, after losing her family in a fire, Vivian was on an Orphan Train to Minnesota where a kind teacher helped her find a safe home. As Vivian’s history unfolds, Molly realizes that she has the power to turn her future around.
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Based on known fact, this novel of sisterly love and redemption follows two sisters who are part of the Paris Opera Ballet. In the late 1870s, Antoinette, 17, and Marie, 13, live in abject poverty until they work their way up the ranks, catching the eye of Edgar Degas. Unfortunately, they also catch the notice of a hustler and of a wealthy patron who use them for their own ends.
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
In this mystery/thriller, Kate tries to prove that her 15-year-old daughter, Amelia, didn’t jump from the roof of her prestigious Brooklyn private school. The story is told in alternating voices, both Kate’s and Amelia’s, as well as with text messages and Facebook and blog posts. The tension ratchets up as it becomes clear that Amelia was involved with a secret club.
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
Nastya was a piano prodigy until the day her hand was destroyed. Josh has lost his entire family. He’s living alone in their house and finishing high school. Out for a run one night, Nastya is drawn to the light of Josh’s garage. Alternating narratives allow the reader to see into the minds of these two damaged young people as they begin to fall in love.
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
12-year-old Bean and 15-year-old Liz are sadly familiar with their mentally unstable mother disappearing for days at a time. But when she disappears for two weeks, they decide to travel across the country to stay with their uncle in a Virginia mill town where they learn about both sides of their family and run into trouble.
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
A post-modern, Western novel of “Snow White” that somehow feels as much like a fairy tale as the Grimm’s version.
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman
Beauman’s deliriously complex, tremendously funny second novel follows the travails of Egon Loeser as he chases a girl named Adele Hitler from Berlin to Paris to Los Angeles, while constantly encountering versions of a possibly mythical teleportation device.
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
For 15-year-old Thea Atwell, exiled from her family’s Florida home after a tragedy, finishing the summer of 1930 at an exclusive riding camp/boarding school in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is a punishment rather than a privilege. The book’s setting provokes thoughts about class and the ephemeral nature of wealth and social standing.
Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who Hacked Ma Bell by Phil Lapsley
Lapsley’s account of the teen and adult phone enthusiasts who figured out how to hack AT&T’s phone network is as interesting as history as it is important to the continued debate over the proper role of intellectual property against piracy, hacking, and cracking.
Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
During World War II, a cargo plane, a B-17 bomber, and a Coast Guard plane all crash in Greenland trying to save one another. Meanwhile, in the present, an expedition which includes the author goes looking for the remains of one of those planes.
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
Sotomayor relates her rise from humble beginnings in the South Bronx to become the first Hispanic Justice of the Supreme Court, emphasizing pride in her Puerto Rican heritage, education as a priority, and her belief in the law as a force for protecting community.
What’s Wrong With Homosexuality by John Corvino
Starting with what would seem to be the most intractable argument, the argument from Biblical authority, and moving through arguments about the supposed risk of homosexual activity, natural law, genetics, and the slippery-slope argument, Corvino offers succinct examples of his opposition’s position and then lays out counter arguments grounded in basic logic and rational reasoning.
The Complete Don Quixote adapted by Rob Davis
A gorgeous graphic retelling of Cervantes’s classic comic novel that is equally worthwhile as a standalone graphic novel, a commentary on Cervantes, and a Cliff’s Notes-style crib sheet.
Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt
A series of unrelated crimes turn out to fit together into one mystery, in this twisty graphic novel which questions the entire nature of crime.
\blak\ \al-fe bet\: Poems by Mitchell L.H. Douglas
Mitchell sets out to tell the stories of his sharecropping grandparents, in four sections of varying formal complexity, at once looking backwards at his roots and forwards at new ways of expressing himself.
Filed under: Best Books
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.
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