Plucked out of a bleak foster home by the manipulative pimp Daddy and groomed into a life of prostitution, 13-year-old Dime gives voice to her pain as she attempts to write a note, the intent of which is revealed toward the end of the book. Exploring an oft-overlooked subject, Frank has crafted an honest and raw true-to-life narrative—and one laced with the barest sliver of hope.
Dominic Hall, a British youth from a working-class family, finds himself wavering between attachment to his childhood friend, the artistic Holly Stroud, and the literary future he dreams of, and the powerful, inexplicable draw of Vincent McAlinden, a violent neighborhood bully. Set in the shadow of the 1960s shipbuilding community on the banks of the River Tyne, this beautifully written story is as taut and as exhilarating as the high wire.
Malcolm X’s daughter collaborates with acclaimed young adult author Magoon to craft this historical novel about the civil rights leader’s formative years. From Malcolm Little’s impoverished childhood in Michigan to his downward spiral into a life of excess and crime in New York City, the work chronicles how a troubled young man found his true self and changed the world.
Madeline has spent 18 years at home with only her doctor mother and a nurse to care for her rare form of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and can’t risk exposure to the world beyond her highly controlled environment. When a boy her age moves next door, he wreaks havoc with her regimented routine and makes her acutely aware of all that she’s been missing. A tender and bittersweet romance with a jaw-dropping twist.
Black teen Rashad is assaulted by a white police officer. White classmate Quinn, who was practically raised by the police officer, witnessed it. When a video of the brutal event surfaces, the school, city, and country explode with protests and outrage, and the two protagonists must examine who they are and what they believe. Told in alternating chapters, this timely YA novel presents a stirring account of two young men coming to grips with the racism that pervades this country and the steps they must take to turn the centuries-long tide.
A thought-provoking look at our culture’s obsession with beauty. With echoes of the Persephone myth, this magical realism tale centers on Finn’s search for the missing Roza, his older brother’s love and the town sweetheart. Alternating chapters from his and her points of view reveal the sinister and otherworldly nature of Roza’s abductor. Ruby’s lush language, intricate plotting, and impeccable sentence-level writing make this a winning title for sophisticated teen readers.
High school baseball star Braden is the only witness to the car accident that killed a police officer. His father, a Christian radio personality, was behind the wheel. When his prodigal older brother returns, Braden’s convictions about his father, their family’s past, and his faith in God waver. Alternating between the present and past, with baseball metaphors sprinkled throughout, this poignant debut shines with the hope of truth and forgiveness.
Set in 1937 Texas and focusing on the events leading up to and immediately following the New London School explosion—the deadliest school disaster in American history—this melancholic novel tells the ill-fated love story of Mexican American Naomi and African American Wash. Pérez’s honest prose lyrically explores racism and sexism while giving voice to those who have been marginalized within American history. A compelling tearjerker.
There’s plenty that 16-year-old Aaron Soto would like to forget, including life in the poverty-ridden Bronx projects, his father’s suicide, and his own attempt to carve a smile into his wrist, but he only seriously considers a cutting-edge “memory-relief procedure” when his all-consuming friendship with Thomas turns into unrequited love. Characters with straight-up street cred, a heart-searing narrative, and a must-reread resolution provide an unforgettable look at gender identity and coming-of-age issues.
A rambunctious shape-shifter is in search of a supervillain to assist, and the brilliant Lord Ballister Blackheart fits the bill. As they plan to take down Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, their not-all-that-nefarious intentions go awry and Nimona’s powers get out of control, endangering the entire kingdom. An ode to girl power, friendship, and teamwork, this vibrant full-color work, filled with witty dialogue and touching moments, charms and delights.
Fourteen-year-old Caden Bosch lives two realities: the one where he’s a high schooler struggling with anxiety, compulsions, and the belief that people are trying to kill him; and one in which he’s part of a motley crew of pirates aboard a ship bound for the Challenger Deep, the deepest place on Earth, located in the Pacific Ocean along the Mariana Trench. A fittingly surreal and heartbreaking exploration into the mind of a teen battling mental illness.
Neal Shusterman Takes NBA Prize […]
Motivated by unnerving events in her Bed-Stuy neighborhood, including a weeping mural and creepy street-shuffling corpses, Sierra Santiago begins to unravel a nightmarish mystery that brings to light secrets about her Puerto Rican family’s heritage and ultimately releases the magic hidden within her soul. A comfortable-in-her-own-skin heroine, magnetic portrayals of a multicultural cast, and scintillating suspense make for a knockout thriller.
Cara’s family has learned to expect that October will bring injuries—from broken bones to fatalities. It’s a history that they haven’t questioned until the 17-year-old, her sister, and her stepbrother are confronted with family secrets. Brimming with characters and spirits both naive and nefarious and a setting steeped in mystery and myth, this haunting debut will linger long in readers’ imaginations.
Jack walks the line between good and bad, longing to extinguish his obedient, gentle, and—in his eyes—weak side. When he meets smooth Gary Pagoda, a delinquent with a penchant for pyromania, he takes a sharp turn toward what he sees as strength and masculinity. In this autobiographical novel, Gantos expertly conveys the dark, even savage elements of the coming-of-age process with an immediacy that will resonate with a variety of readers.
In this ode to “Harry Potter,” “The Chosen One” trope, and fanfiction, Rowell creates an amusing but layered world filled with relatable protagonists, hero quests, and unforgettable friendships. Simon Snow, first introduced in Fangirl (2013), is fated to change the world of magic but can’t seem to control his powers. When he realizes that he would rather kiss than kill his nemesis, the teen wizard is finally able to fulfill his destiny. Equal parts fantasy and realistic fiction, this genre-bending title, overflowing with joy and magic, tackles big questions, such as identity, love, class, and power.
Evan’s world comes crashing down when his father dies and his estranged grandfather moves in. But after discovering a manuscript filled with journal entries from a Japanese soldier and an American Marine stranded during World War II on an island in the Pacific inhabited by spirits, the teen uncovers secrets about his own family. An utterly absorbing tale that examines war, death, and grief in an entirely new light.
In alternating narratives that flow fluidly between past and present, weaving in elements of magical realism and spine-tingling ghost story, the tales of two teen girls, a convicted killer and a Juilliard-bound ballerina, collide. Haunting prose and brilliantly paced revelations culminate in an unconventional conclusion.
An eclectic and innovative collection of short comics created by and about Native peoples. Ranging in format, genre, and art style, this work features vignettes based on traditional stories by powerhouse authors Richard van Camp, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and many more, each presenting nuanced depictions of the diversity within the First Nations people. Masterful storytelling with awe-inducing art that jumps off the page.
I’m at home today reading and re-reading books the Magazine loved this year, in preparation for our final Fanfare meeting next week where we will determine that these, yes these, are the very best books of 2015. And without giving anything away I want to comment (again!) on just how different the young adult literature of today […]
How to foster a culture of empathy and help youth who are facing mental health challenges, with advice on educating staff and helping teens access information. Includes recommended YA titles that address topics from addiction to self-harm.
This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.