December 15, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2017

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

Many thanks to our reviewers who helped develop the lineup:

Marlyn Beebe, Georgia Christgau, Diane Colson, Gretchen Crowley, Sarah Flowers, Cary Frostick, Suzanne Gordon, Tyler Hixson, Tara Kehoe, Krystina Kelley, Sherry J. Mills, Ashley Prior, Lynn M. Rashid, Jane Ritter, Jennifer Rothschild, Tamara Saarinen, Erinn Black Salge, April Sanders, Pamela Schembri, Ashley Selima, Carrie Shaurette, Karlan Sick, Kristen Thorp, Jamie Watson, and Connie Williams.

It’s just possible that we gave the game away a bit in an earlier column when we noted that Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne and Jane Yolen’s The Emerald Circus were two of our favorite books of the year. And wouldn’t you know it, both are featured below among the 2017 Best Adult Books 4 Teens selections.

This year, we read (or at least sampled) more than 320 books and reviewed more than 130 of them. As always, we asked our illustrious reviewers to nominate titles and then requested second readers for nominations to confirm that these books belonged on the list. Many of the final selections had three or four reviewers supporting their candidacies. Below you’ll find 14 novels—split (completely accidentally) into even groupings of seven realistic and seven speculative fiction titles. Of the remaining six offerings, two are graphic novels, but both are memoirs, so we prefer to say that they’re all nonfiction, ranging from sports to physics to politics and more. All in all, we’re pleased with our 20 choices this year, and not just because our favorites made the list.

Fiction

Arden, Katherine. The Bear and the Nightingale. Ballantine/Del Rey. Jan. 2017. Tr $27. ISBN 9781101885932.

In this lyrical, fairy tale–esque fantasy set in medieval Russia, Vasilisa Petrovna’s unladylike behavior and refusal to follow the priest’s teachings mark her as a witch in the villagers’ eyes. But she is not the one bargaining with the devil. This spellbinding story will linger with readers long after the final page. (ow.ly/IsuG30gej49)

Backman, Fredrik. Beartown. tr. from Swedish by Henning Koch. Atria. Apr. 2017. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9781501160769.

In rural Sweden, a team of junior hockey players are on the cusp of winning a championship—and changing everything for their small town. But when the star player is accused of rape, the community must decide whether to hold the athlete accountable or allow him to secure victory for the team. Featuring complex characters and a tight narrative, this novel raises difficult questions. (ow.ly/3Eml30g9qnU)

Chakraborty, S.A. The City of Brass. Harper Voyager. Nov. 2017. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780062678102.

A Cairo magician with the gift of healing discovers that she may have the extraordinary power needed to save her world. Fantastic world-building and Middle Eastern culture combine in this stellar debut fantasy. The full review will be appearing in a future Adult Books 4 Teens column.

George, Alex. Setting Free the Kites. Putnam. Feb. 2017. Tr $27. ISBN 9780399162107.

Robert Carter faces the worst kind of loss in the best possible way: with quirky insight, humor, and his new friend Nathan Tilly. Setting beautiful kites free with Nathan symbolically allows the boys to experience first love, family loss, bullies, and a righteous revenge. A poignant, funny coming-of-age tale. (ow.ly/Rdgi30g9quh)

Gill, John Freeman. The Gargoyle Hunters. Knopf. Mar. 2017. Tr $27.95. ISBN 9781101946886.

In the wake of his parents’ divorce, 13-year-old Griffin misses his father so much that he joins his dad’s salvage crew as they rescue sculptures from doomed buildings. The boy faces danger and junior high troubles as he risks his life repeatedly. Richly detailed descriptions blend with an exciting story line in Gill’s fantastic coming-of-age tale, set in 1974 New York City. (ow.ly/2BM530g88BR)

Gladstone, Max, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, & Brian Francis Slattery. Bookburners. S. & S./Saga. Jan. 2017. Tr $34.99. ISBN 9781481485579; pap. $21.99. ISBN 9781481485562.

NYPD detective Sal Brooks joins a Vatican task force of eclectic heroes as they travel the globe to capture magical objects, destroy evil demons, and protect the world, all in an attempt to save Brooks’s brother from a demonic possession. This enthralling, innovative multiplatform series starter was originally published online serially in text and audio form, offering readers plenty of options. (ow.ly/pbfn30g9nhN)

Harper, Jordan. She Rides Shotgun. HarperCollins/Ecco. Jun. 2017. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780062394408.

When 11-year-old Polly’s father escapes from prison and picks her up in a stolen car, she assumes he’s up to no good. But the truth is more complicated than that. Soon the intelligent, streetwise preteen becomes her father’s sidekick, even as he is involved in a long con to protect her. Harper’s experience as a TV writer shows in his first novel, as the plot threads twist and turn against the cinematic California desert backdrop. (ow.ly/Ld6F30g9qDy)

Ludwig, Benjamin. Ginny Moon. Park Row. May 2017. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780778330165.

Fourteen-year-old Ginny has finally been adopted, but she’s still tormented by and worries over the doll she left in a suitcase at her birth mother’s home five years earlier. Ginny, who is autistic, will charm teens with her utterly original and deeply heartfelt story. (ow.ly/Ld6F30g9qDy)

McGuire, Seanan. Down Among the Sticks and Bones. Tom Doherty Bks. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765392039.

Escaping a stifling home environment, the Wolcott twins descend a set of stairs that turn out to be a portal to the bleak and brutal world of the Moors. There they find themselves, but not each other, in this beautiful and devastating prequel to Every Heart a Doorway. (ow.ly/2BM530g88BR)

Ng, Celeste. Little Fires Everywhere. Penguin Pr. Sept. 2017. Tr $27. ISBN 9780735224292.

Teenage Pearl is happy to settle down in a suburban community near Cleveland with her artist mother, Mia. When a single mother whom they know gives up her infant, then changes her mind later, the community becomes troubled as serious questions about abortion, adoption, and race are raised. Ng’s thought-provoking sophomore effort is marked by sensitive characterizations and suspenseful storytelling. (ow.ly/2jNH30g9qcI)

Rekulak, Jason. The Impossible Fortress. S. & S. Feb. 2017. Tr $24. ISBN 9781501144417.

In 1987, 14-year-olds Billy, Alf, and Clark plot a series of zany, risky schemes to get their hands on an issue of Playboy magazine featuring Vanna White. Billy meets Mary, a fellow programmer, and sets his sights on a gamer coding contest, but soon both worlds collide, and all three boys and Mary must ride the fallout. This humorous, deeply relatable tale of friends stumbling their way through adolescence will resonate with teens. (ow.ly/uQsg30g9q2d)

Stephenson, Neal & Nicole Galland. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. William Morrow. Jun. 2017. Tr $35. ISBN 9780062409164.

Stephenson is no stranger to teens, and this insightful novel shows off his signature blend of science fiction, history, and romance, in a richly imagined world. Dr. Melisande Stokes writes a diary chronicling the events that brought her to 1851 London, where she has been marooned against her will, in the hopes that someone in 2017 will learn how D.O.D.O., a secret government organization, unlocked the secret of time travel. (ow.ly/2BM530g88BR)

VanderMeer, Jeff. Borne. MCD. Apr. 2017. Tr $26. ISBN 9780374 115241.

While scrounging for food in a ruined city, Rachel brings home a small creature of unknown origin, whom she names Borne. This unusual dystopian story is also a poignant, harsh, and yet hopeful double coming-of-age. (ow.ly/pbfn30g9nhN)

Yolen, Jane. The Emerald Circus. Tachyon. Nov. 2017. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781616962739.

Tackling everything from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to the real magic behind Hans Christian Andersen and Emily Dickinson, Yolen reimagines folktales, legends, literature, and history with these 16 dazzling fantastic stories. The immensely talented author refreshingly blends feminist politics, perfectly crafted prose, and a childlike sense of the magic of reality. (ow.ly/2BM530g88BR)

Graphic Novels

Bui, Thi. The Best We Could Do. illus. by author. Abrams ­ComicArts. Mar. 2017. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781419718779.

In this stunning, contemplative graphic memoir set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War through the present, Bui reflects on building her own identity as a child refugee and immigrant and examines changing family relationships. (ow.ly/sMUy30g9q5B)

Radtke, Kristen. Imagine Wanting Only This. illus. by author. Pantheon. Apr. 2017. Tr $29.95. ISBN 9781101870839.

Part memoir and part meditation on mortality and geography, this moving, expressive graphic novel cycles between past and present and general and personal history as Radtke searches for permanence. (ow.ly/sMUy30g9q5B)

Nonfiction

Borders, Ila Jane & Jean Hastings Ardell. Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey. Univ. of Nebraska. Apr. 2017. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9780803285309.

Borders’s engrossing memoir documents how she became the first woman to pitch and win a game in collegiate men’s baseball and the professional league. Her struggle to fit in while balancing her faith and sexual orientation will resonate with readers. (ow.ly/2BM530g88BR)

Cham, Jorge & Daniel Whiteson. We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe. illus. by Jorge Cham. Riverhead. May 2017. Tr $28. ISBN 9780735211513.

Scientists are fairly confident that what we can observe makes up only five percent of the universe as a whole, and even that knowledge is woefully unexplored and poorly understood. Starting with this bittersweet fact, Cham and Whiteson take readers on an often mind-expanding and always exhilarating trip through everything scientists don’t know. (ow.ly/sMUy30g9q5B)

Fulton, Sybrina & Tracy Martin. Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin. Spiegel & Grau. Jan. 2017. Tr $26. ISBN 9780812997231.

Trayvon Martin’s parents alternate chapters as they describe their fight for justice against our judicial system and their son’s killer in this compelling account of the devastating impact of Martin’s death. (ow.ly/bJa630g9pUj)

Grann, David. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. Doubleday. Apr. 2017. Tr $28.95. ISBN 9780385534246.

The widespread crimes against the Osage tribe in 1920s Oklahoma and the inability to identify the criminals responsible led to the establishment of the FBI. In this meticulously researched, gripping work, Grann keeps a complex web of violence and deception relatable by focusing on one Osage woman (Mollie Burkhart) and her family. (ow.ly/ehc830g9qid)

Mark Flowers is a supervising librarian at the Springstowne Library in Vallejo, CA. Sarah Hill is an information services librarian at Lake Land College in Mattoon, IL. They both edit SLJ’s Adult Books 4 Teens column.

This article was published in School Library Journal's December 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Share

Comments

  1. Donna Ballard says:

    so glad to see Ginny Moon on there…Alex, maybe?

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*