New and Noteworthy YA Titles

I’ve been keeping track of the best of the best YA fiction of 2010 – noting stars, nominations from the BFYA and Quick Picks lists, and more.  The following books all garnered at least three stars and/or nominations. Herewith, some quick summaries of my favorites.

A Conspiracy of KingsMegan Whalen Turner

The world of  the thief, now the King of Attolia (from the books of the same names), is vaguely classical and very political.  If you like fantasy rich with intriguing young, intelligent characters who, sometimes blindly, sometimes slyly, try to manipulate the fate of their homelands, you’ll eat the fourth book in this series up.  Oh – and the action is nonstop as Sophos, a character from the first book,  is kidnapped, taken into slavery, makes his escape, and then journeys to confront his royal friend, Gen.  (Stars from Booklist, Hornbook, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal; nomination from BFYA)

As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth – Lynne Rae Perkins

I’m a huge fan of Perkins’ Criss Cross. This novel is just as quirky and endearing. Ry, off to camp, leaves a stalled train to use his cell phone and gets left behind in the middle of the Great Plains.  The point of the book is the coincidences leaving him and his family unable to contact each other, even in our interconnected world.   Kind strangers operate to bring people back together.  How refreshing!  A truly nice book that pulls you into the adventure.  Will Ry reunite with his mom and dad, or will he end up stranded in the middle of the Caribbean? Yup, that’s right. He winds up overboard in the Caribbean. (Stars from Booklist, Hornbook, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly; nominations from BFYA and Children’s Notables)

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors – by Francisco X. Stork

Set in New Mexico, Stork’s latest book features his usual complex characters dealing with complex problems.  DQ, a relentlessly upbeat boy considering he has cancer, lives in an orphanage where he befriends new resident Pancho, and tries to recruit him to join a philosophy group who fight for life.  Pancho is reluctant to get involved.  He has his own agenda, which includes killing the man he believes is responsible for his mentally handicapped sister’s death. A trip to  Albuquerque for DQ’s cancer treatment doesn’t totally pan out as either boy plans.   Stork has a way of surprising his readers as he lets his characters mature.   If you like novels with stunning depth, this one’s for you. (Stars from Booklist, Hornbook, and Publishers Weekly; nomination from BFYA)

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

A book to appeal to the Middle School set.  This follows Caitlin, an autistic girl whose brother was killed in a school shooting incident.  I was skeptical of yet another book featuring an autistic protagonist, but Erskine pulls it off, and makes her heroine unique.  Caitlin (whom her brother called Scout, in reference to the character in To Kill a Mockingbird) is searching for “closure,” an idea she heard a TV news person mention.  Can completing her brother’s Eagle Scout project help her father, and perhaps her home town as well? Caitlin is endearing because of her earnest effort to get past the literalness that often makes her unendearing.  Her persistence truly makes her live up to her fictional namesake.  (Stars from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly; nominations from BFYA and Children’s Notables)

Nothing by Janne Teller

This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I was blown away.  It’s a book ripe for discussions, even arguments.  A class of Jr. High-age kids is disturbed when their classmate Pierre takes the position that nothing is worth anything  – therefore nothing is worth doing, believing, or taking part in.  The teens decide to prove Pierre wrong by gathering a pile of meaning.  But the pile will only be worthy if they put vital things on it – a favorite pair of shoes, a prayer rug, a pet, a flag…a dead baby brother.  The fall out isn’t pretty. You’ll be dying to talk about it with someone. (Stars from The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Voya; nominations from BFYA and Quick Picks)

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Longing for an icy mystery during the steamy dog days of summer?  This should cool you off.  As Sig sits alone with his father’s frozen corpse in a Swedish cabin, a menacing stranger shows up at his door demanding treasure. Seems he knew Sig’s family during the Nome, Alaska gold rush.  Trouble is, Sig has no idea what the man is talking about.  There’s a revolver in the pantry though.  One with a long, troubled history.  Can, and should, Sig use it? The back story reveals itself as the novel flips back and forth between Sweden and Nome.  The tension stretches further when Sig’s sister, back from town to report their father’s death, interrupts the stand-off, and causes disturbing memories to rise to the surface. (Stars from Hornbook, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal; nominations from BFYA and Quick Picks)

Ship Breaker – by Paolo Bacigalupi

The latest in a spurt of dystopian fiction.  This first novel, though, stands out because of its incredible atmospheric descriptions of a world where the leftovers of our current civilization are cannibalized by the working poor.  Nailer is a ship breaker on the Gulf Coast, pulling apart old tankers and ocean vessels for salvage.  When the latest hurricane deposits a sleek sailboat on an off-shore island, he feels he’s been handed a lucky break.  But there’s a girl – a rich girl – still alive on the boat, and he needs to decide if he should help her or not.  His decisions lead him on a long journey, chased by people good and bad, across the remains of bayous and submerged cityscapes. (Stars from Booklist, Hornbook, and Publishers Weekly; nomination from BFYA)

The Sky is Everywhere – by Jandy Nelson

Death and sex – it’s a classic pair. And I don’t believe I’ve ever read a better YA book about the way tragedy revs up hormones. Lennie’s sister dies unexpectedly, leaving the teen’s unconventional Northern California family devastated.  Lennie, once bookish and quiet, scatters poems about her loss around town, and finds herself overwhelmingly drawn to two boys – one, a new musician in her high school class; the other, her dead  sister’s boyfriend.  Her steamy confusion and passion are heartbreakingly portrayed.  Follow her as she slowly, painfully, figures out what she needs to do. I found this believable and tender – like a deep muscle bruise. (Stars from The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books and Publishers Weekly; nomination from BFYA)

Wicked Girls – by Stephanie Hemphill

Mean and manipulative girl cliques are nothing new.  At least according to Hemphill.   The clique she writes about here is the ultimate.  They’re the girls from Salem who started the witch scare of the 1690’s.  Hemphill gets into the dynamics of how some simple foolishness led to hangings.  She’s wickedly good at sifting through the multiple motives driving the girls and how they played each other.  While I enjoyed this book, written in blank verse, it raised questions for me.  I’m not sure Hemphill is handing her historicial characters sensibilities that are too modern. Let me know what you think.  (Stars from Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – by John Green and David Leviathan

Two boys, same name.  Both are ironic outsiders, yet different.  One’s a North Shore resident dreaming of a cool girl.  The other’s from the western burbs and is hiding that he’s gay.  They meet one night at a porn shop in Chicago… Um, yeah.  Suffice to say it’s a hilarious scene.  The other point of connection between the teens is the straight Will’s best friend, Tiny, a gay football player of enormous proportions and ego, who gay Will falls for.  But complications arise – most of them having to do with an outrageous musical Tiny’s writing and producing.  Give this one to Glee geeks – they’ll eat it up.  (Stars from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal; nomination from BFYA)


Celebrate African American History Month



On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker by A’Lelia Perry Bundles

Getting Away With Murder: the True Story of the Emmett Till Case by Chris Crowe

Ida B. Wells: Mother of the Civil Rights Movement by Dennis B. Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin

Black Knights : the Story of the Tuskegee Airmen by Lynn M. Homan and Thomas Reilly

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip House

We Beat the Streets: How a Friendship Pact Helped Us Succeed by Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt

Her Dream of Dreams: The Rise and Triumph of Madam C.J. Walker by Beverly Lowry

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

We Are the Ship: the Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson

Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Kacks by Rebecca Skloot

Lift Every Voice: the NAACP and the making of the civil rights movement by Patricia Sullivan.

Remember Little Rock: the Time, the People, the Stories by Paul Robert Walker


Zack by William Bell

Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe

Mare’s War by Tanita Davis

Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

New Boy by Julian Houston

Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs by Mary E. Lyons

Sunrise over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons: The Story of Phillis Wheatley by Ann Rinaldi

The Land by Mildred D. Taylor

Only Twice Have I Wished for Heaven by Dawn Turner Trice

After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

Geek-Tastic Reads!

The Mitochondrial Curiosities of Marcels 1-19 by Jocelyn Brown
Crafty Dree not only copes with high school but her dad’s heart attack in this inventive books complete with instructions on how to make your own Renegade crafts.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Steve Chbosky
Most people think 15-year-old Charlie is a freak. The only friend he had killed himself, forcing him to face high school alone. But then seniors Patrick and his beautiful stepsister Sam take Charlie under their wings and introduce him to their eclectic, open-minded, hard-partying friends. It is from these older kids that Charlie learns to live and love, until a repressed secret from his past threatens to destroy his new found happiness.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
High school student Nick O’Leary, member of a rock band, meets college-bound Norah Silverberg and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes in order to avoid his ex-sweetheart.
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
After being interrogated for days by the Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco, California, seventeen-year-old Marcus, released into what is now a police state, decides to use his expertise in computer hacking to set things right.
Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
Seventeen-year-old Troy, depressed, suicidal, and weighing nearly 300 pounds, gets a new perspective on life when a homeless teenager who is a genius on guitar wants Troy to be the drummer in his rock band.

Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley
After dying, high school senior Charlotte Usher is as invisible to nearly everyone as she always felt, but despite what she learns in a sort of alternative high school for dead teens, she clings to life while seeking a way to go to the Fall Ball with the boy of her dreams.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Having been recently dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, recent high school graduate and former child prodigy Colin sets off on a road trip with his best friend to try to find some new direction in life while also trying to create a mathematical formula to explain his relationships.
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry LygaA fifteen-year-old “geek” who keeps a list of the high school jocks and others who torment him, and pours his energy into creating a great graphic novel, encounters Kyra, Goth Girl, who helps change his outlook on almost everything, including himself.
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Feeling like she does not fit in with the other members of her family, who are all thin, brilliant, and good-looking, fifteen-year old Virginia tries to deal with her self-image, her first physical relationship, and her disillusionment with some of the people closest to her.
The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman
A Brooklyn eighth-grader nicknamed Antsy befriends the Schwa, an “invisible-ish” boy who is tired of blending into his surroundings and going unnoticed by nearly everyone.
Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman
When three brilliant nerds–Max Kim, Eric Roth, and Isaac “The Professor” Schwarzbaum–bet $20,000 that they can get anyone into Harvard, they take on the Ivy League in their quest for popularity, money, and the love of a beauty queen valedictorian.

So YA Like…Christmas books

Every year we all get that holiday reading bug, personally I satisfy mine with David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice.  However, you might not want to hand that book off to any of your Teen/YA patrons.  Here is a list to help your teens ring in the holidays!

The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog. Dave Barry.

Delighted to be playing the part of a shepherd in the local Christmas pageant at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Doug Barnes is suddenly confronted by a host of problems, including the misbehavior of his fellow shepherds and the illness of the family dog.

Ex-Mas. Kate Brian.

When her attempt to get back at her little brother Cooper results in him and his friend Tyler setting out for the North Pole to help save Santa, Lila enlists the help of Beau, her ex-boyfriend and Tyler’s brother, to find them.

Last Christmas. Kate Brian.

Before Reed Brennan attended Easton Academy and Ariana Osgood killed Thomas Pearson, Adriana and Thomas spent a night together over Christmas vacation, a night that set the stage for the horrific events that followed.

A War of Gifts. Orson Scott Card.

When Zeck Morgan, son of a puritanical minister, qualifies for admission into the International Fleet’s Battle School, he is brought to the school against his will. Citing pacifist religious beliefs, Zeck refuses to participate in any simulated war games, but when he sees a Dutch student give a friend a small present in celebration of Sinterklaas Day, he reports the violation of the school’s rules against open religious observation and sparks an uproar over religious freedom and the significance of cultural traditions. Meanwhile, Zeck becomes a pariah until series hero Ender Wiggin finds a way to show him the real meaning of the holidays.

What Child is This? Caroline B. Cooney.

Sixteen-year-old Matt knows not to expect anything of life, or people, or Christmas. But his foster sister, Katie, hasn’t yet learnt not to hope. When all the foster kids make their Christmas wishes, Katie asks for a family. Matt reckons no-one gets a family for Christmas – do they?

Mistletoe. Aimee Friedman, Hailey Abbott, Nina Malkin, Melissa de la Cruz.

In the first, Aimee Friedman brings Hanukkah and Christmas together as Maxine finds love in a department store. Hailey Abbott’s heroine, Aria, is welcoming her best friend, Emily, home for the holidays; unfortunately, she has fallen in love with Emily’s boyfriend. Nina Malkin sets her romance in Hollywood, and Melissa de la Cruz, the author of the Au Pairs series, offers a twist on O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.”

Let it Snow. John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle

In three intertwining short stories, several high school couples experience the trials and tribulations along with the joys of romance during a Christmas Eve snowstorm in a small town.

French Kissmas. Cathy Hapka.

While spending the winter holidays in Paris participating in a promotional video for the S.A.S.S. program, Nicole Larson is unnerved to discover that her feelings for Luc, the boy she met during her semester abroad the year before, are more than just casual friendship.

Marly’s Ghost. David Levithan.

The spirit of Ben’s girlfriend Marly returns with three other ghosts to haunt him with a painful journey though Valentine’s Days past, present, and future.

My Fair Godmother. Janette Rallison.

High school sophomore Savannah wants to find the perfect prom date after her boyfriend breaks up with her to date her older sister, but when a godmother who is only fair becomes involved, Savannah finds herself in trouble in the Middle Ages, along with a boy who would like to be her charming prince.