I guess we’re going make this an annual thing. Last January, SLJTeen ran my top choices for 2011, and here I am again with my 2012 picks. As you may remember, Coe Booth’s Bronxwood and Simone Elkeles’s Chain Reaction were on last year’s list. In a blog post, Booth wrote that she purposefully deleted the new novel she was working on. That takes courage and commitment. Her novels show her dedication to excellence, and teens respond. Elkeles is working on a new four-book series about football entitled Wild Cards. When I asked if there were also girls and guns in it, she replied, “There are always girls and romance and guys with lots of testosterone! No guns in the first book, but it gets gritty in the second when one of the boys gets caught up in gang activity.” I’m also thrilled to report that Alan Sitomer has an upcoming YA title, Caged Warrior, which is about “one of the top MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters on the unsanctioned, underground, under-18 cage fighting circuit taking place in the urban bowels of inner city America.” Sitomer says it’s “all grit, all the time,” and it’ll be published in the fall. Woo hoo!
What else is new? Allison van Diepen’s latest book—in the genre we like—now has a title and a pub date: Takedown, September 2013. Mark your calendars. Some of her earlier works, Street Pharm and Snitch, will also be released again at that time—and kids from facilities in Texas, California, and New York contributed their favorite pop culture references. For those of you who aren’t allowed to have hardcovers at your facilities, there’s good news: Takedown is coming out simultaneously in hardcover and in paperback. Now on to my list…
COCHRANE, Mick. Fitz. Knopf, 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375856839. A boy kidnaps, at gunpoint, the father he’s never met. (SLJ Review)
GRIFFIN, Paul. Stay with Me. Speak, 2012. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780142421727. A girl, a boy with a criminal record, a pit bull, and alcoholic parents are featured in a fast moving plot. (SLJ Review)
HALLS, Kelly Milner. Alien Investigation: Searching for the Truth About UFOs and Aliens. Millbrook, 2012. Tr $20.95. ISBN 9780761362043. Are UFOs and aliens the next vampires? I can’t keep this book on the shelf. (SLJ Review)
JIANG-STEIN, Deborah. Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus: Inside the World of a Woman Born in Prison. Cell 7 Media, 2011. pap. $14.95. When Stein was 12, she discovered a secret—she was born in prison addicted to heroin. (SLJ Review)
JOHNSON, Kenny with Shanti Einolander. The Last Hustle. Non Duality, 2011. pap. $16.45. ISBN 9780956643285. For 31 years, Kenny avidly chose criminality, until he found the ultimate freedom. Look for a review in SLJTeen’s new column, YA Underground, coming January 16.
LEAVITT, Martine. My Book of Life by Angel. Farrar, 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374351236. Life on the streets, with all the struggle, soul, and poetry. (SLJ Review)
MAIA, Love. DJ Rising. Little, Brown, 2012. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780316121897. This books sits on the shelf for some reason—is the cover too dark? I have to talk my kids into reading this book, but once they dip in, they’re hooked. (SLJ Review)
McCORMICK, Patricia. Never Fall Down. Balzer and Bray, 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780061730931. What book do I give my kids after they’ve read Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone? This one. (SLJ Review)
McGARRY, Katie. Pushing the Limits. Harlequin Teen, 2012. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780373210862. Anything that has romance, grit, and alternating boy/girl chapters like Elkeles’s “Perfect Chemistry” series is a hot sell. (SLJ Review)
MCGILL, Jerry. Dear Marcus: A Letter to the Man Who Shot Me. Spiegel and Grau, 2012. Tr $14.00. ISBN 9780812983166. My kids have been talking and writing about McGill’s visit and book for weeks. When something bad happens, it doesn’t mean it’s the end—it becomes something to overcome, a chance to learn something new. One of my students told McGill, “I learned the best thing from you, forgiveness.” This made it on to SLJ’s Best Adult Books for Teens list! (SLJ Review)
PEREZ, Ashley Hope. The Knife and the Butterfly. CarolRhoda, 2012. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780761361565. The reality of gangs and prison with a supernatural element is a winning combination. (SLJ Review)
PHELPS, Carissa, with Larkin Warren. Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time. Viking, 2012. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9780670023721. Real. Gritty. Transformational. (SLJ Review)
ROSS, Richard. Juvenile in Justice. Richard Ross, 2012. Tr $29.95. ISBN 9780985510602. If I could only select one best book of the year, it would be this one. Groundbreaking journalism and a heartbreaking read. Plus, it’s another title that made the Best Adult Books for Teens list. (SLJ Review)
And one final special mention:
LANKFORD, Susan Madden. Born, Not Raised: Voices from Juvenile Hall. Humane Exposures, 2012. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9780979236631. This is not a book for teens; it’s way too research- and policy-driven for my kids, at least. But it’s a must read for anyone who works in the juvenile corrections field or wants to understand what’s going on with incarcerated teens and those who work with them. (LJ Review)
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