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Checking in with the mothership – SLJ’s Best of 2016

sljWith only six weeks left in 2016—an almost universally recognized dumpster fire of a year—the best of lists will release in a steady stream. We take the lists seriously because they can help us identify books that are beginning to have a strong consensus opinion, as well as books that may become a dark horse.

SLJ editors discussed a selection of favorites from their Best of 2016 list in a fun live stream (which you can view here and on KidLit TV). The full list will go live on SLJ’s website next week but you can download a PDF of all 66 titles now.

As is the case with all year-end lists, my emotional response ranged from punch-the-air happy to head-scratching to “uh oh, I didn’t know this book existed.” For our purposes, let’s talk about the books in three categories: already reviewed, on our list, and not on our list. Out of SLJ’s 66 best books, 23 are relevant to our discussion today because they land in one of these categories. Most of these are in the YA group (15, to be exact); however, there are also two middle grade and six nonfiction that we’ve got our eye on (or not, in some instances) that we should discuss.

Of SLJ’s 15 YA picks, we’ve already covered eight of them. If you get a chance, watch the live stream so you can see Kiera Parrott, Luann Toth, and Della Farrell geek out over some of their favorites from the list. I was stoked to see We Are the Ants get a special shout out because it’s one of my faves and we all know that Karyn has tremendous feelings about The Passion of Dolssa.

From the seven other YA books that made the list, four are titles we intend to cover in the coming months. If you’re following the numbers, that means that we’re in sync with 80% of SLJ’s list! Of course, not all of the books on the list are ones we consider the best of the year (I reviewed The Great American Whatever but I don’t think it’s noteworthy among this year’s crop) but it’s cool to see that we’re circling around a similar group.

What about the last 20%? I’m not sure how we let Scythe slip through the cracks, but after an appearance on PW’s list, five stars, and a spot on SLJ’s list, we are certainly eager to check out Neal Shusterman’s latest. Ashes never made it to our list at all because the age range for Laurie Halse Anderson’s Seeds of America trilogy is firmly middle grade territory. Finally, Asking for It by Louise O’Neill intrigues us and we’ll give it a look if anyone wants to make a convincing argument for its literary quality.

The nonfiction list mixes age levels so there wasn’t as much overlap. Sarah reviewed Samurai Rising a couple weeks ago and a review of March: Book Three is coming soon. We had no plans to look at Russell Freedman’s Vietnam: A History of the War, but it has four stars and Della’s blurb for it on the live stream has me intrigued enough to add it to our list. I’ve been itching to find this year’s Symphony for the City of the Dead or Most Dangerous but no serious contenders have emerged so far. The Vietnam war is an ambitious subject for any age so I’m eager to check it out.

Finally, there are those two middle grade novels I mentioned earlier. Wolf Hollow and The Girl Who Drank the Moon may end up being “too young” but every year we cover books that we think may might hit the lower end of Printz age range because #NavigatingEarly2013.

There you have it friends. What do you think of SLJ’s Best of 2016? Aside from Scythe and Vietnam, are there any other titles on their list that we should add to ours?

About Joy Piedmont

Joy Piedmont is a librarian and technology integrator at LREI - Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School. Prior to becoming a librarian, Joy reviewed and reported for Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch. She reviews for SLJ and is the President of the Hudson Valley Library Association. When she’s not reading or writing about YA literature, she’s compulsively consuming culture of all kinds, learning to fly (on a trapeze), and taking naps with her cat, Oliver. Find her on Twitter @InquiringJoy, email her at joy dot piedmont at gmail dot com, or follow her on Tumblr. Her opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, LREI, HVLA or any other initialisms with which she is affiliated.


  1. Just spent an hour watching the video and time on Twitter congratulations all the authors. Thanks for the tip!

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