My Top 2011 Teen Reads

I read close to 160 books in 2011 (I know, right?) and the majority were teens books. Here are my top five favorite teen books from 2011. If you’re looking for great reads to start our the new year, try one of these.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. Y Taylor.

Karou leads a double life: in one, she is an art student in Prague; in another, she is an errand runner for Brimstone, a chimaerae (demon) who barters teeth for wishes. Her worlds collide when she meets beautiful Akiva, who is on the other side of a centuries old war between angels and demons. This is a dark, romantic, suspenseful grown-up fairy tale, and it’s my favorite book of 2011.

The Isle of Blood (The Monstrumologist, Book Three), by Rick Yancey. Y Yancey.

Young Will Henry and his monster-hunting mentor, Dr. Warthrop, are back in their third adventure, where they travel to the Isle of Blood in search of the monster to end all monsters. If you are looking for something scary, gory, but also highly literate and thoughtful, look no further than Rick Yancey’s Monstrumologist series. A fourth book will happily be coming in the next year or so, so catch up while you still have time.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Cat Valente. Y Valente.

Twelve-year-old September leaves behind her mundane life in Omaha to travel to Fairyland with the Green Wind, where she comes into conflict with the Marquess, whose fickle rule has caused problems for Fairyland’s inhabitants. This is a truly inventive, idiosyncratic story with beautiful illustrations.

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. Y Ness.

Grab some tissues, people! This is a heartbreaking yet life-affirming story of coping with loss, and the haunting, evocative black and white illustrations elevate the story to true art. Ever since Conor’s mother has been diagnosed with cancer, Conor’s been having nightmares of a terrible monster, but when the monster finally shows at midnight, it isn’t the one he expects. This monster, full of ancient wisdom, insists on telling Conor three stories in exchange for one story of Conor’s: the one story – the truth – that he doesn’t want to tell.

Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley. Y Whaley.

This is a strange one, but its strangeness is why I love it so. This literary novel tells intertwining stories of people searching for meaning and redemption in a messed up world. Cullen Witter lives in a tiny Arkansas town that is experiencing a revival after a birdwatcher claims to have seen a woodpecker long thought to be extinct. But while the townspeople are obsessed with searching for this mythical bird, Cullen is desperately searching for his missing younger brother, who disappeared at the same time. Meanwhile, Benton Sage, a missionary traveling in Africa, becomes disillusioned with his calling and sets up a chain reaction of events that dovetails perfectly with Cullen’s story. This excellent debut novel is both funny and meaningful.

Next week I’ll post my “Best of the Rest” list — books I really loved but didn’t make the top five.


My Top YA Reads 2010

It’s belated, but here’s my list of my favorite teen books published in 2010. Obviously, this list is highly subjective and totally dependent on what I got around to reading in 2010 (there are so many books to read each year that I can never keep up!); as you can tell, I read a lot of fantasy, paranormal fiction, and horror/thrillers, so generally any list I put together about my personal favorites will favor those genres heavily. Having said that, here’s the list (summaries courtesy of Ingram’s or the publishers’ themselves):

White Cat, by Holly Black. Paranormal. Y Black.
When Cassel Sharpe discovers that his older brothers have used him to carry out their criminal schemes and then stolen his memories, he figures out a way to turn their evil machinations against them. Thoughts: I love heist stories and con artists. I love unreliable narrators. I love dark tales. I love secrets and twisty narratives where you’re never sure what’s going on until after it’s all been revealed (and even then, you’re not sure). Honestly, I think this one is my TOP top read of 2010. Here’s my review.

The Demon’s Covenant (sequel to The Demon’s Lexicon), by Sarah Rees Brennan. Paranormal. Y Brennan.
Summary: Mae Crawford’s always thought of herself as in control, but in the last few weeks her life has changed. Her younger brother, Jamie, suddenly has magical powers, and she’s even more unsettled when she realizes that Gerald, the new leader of the Obsidian Circle, is trying to persuade Jamie to join the magicians. Even worse? Jamie hasn’t told Mae a thing about any of it. Mae turns to brothers Nick and Alan to help her rescue Jamie, but they are in danger from Gerald themselves because he wants to steal Nick’s powers. Thoughts: This series is a great mix of original world-building, twisty plotting, and intriguing characters who are all super witty (perhaps unrealistically so, but who cares when it’s so fun to read?).

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride. Paranormal. Y McBride.
Summary: Sam LaCroix, a Seattle fast-food worker and college dropout, discovers that he is a necromancer, part of a world of harbingers, werewolves, satyrs, and one particular necromancer who sees Sam as a threat to his lucrative business of raising the dead. Thoughts: This was one of the most thrilling and funniest books I’ve read in a long time. Sam has a great snarky voice, there’s tons of action and dark humor, and the plot kept me guessing the whole time. I can’t recommend it enough.

The Boneshaker, by Kate Milford. Historical/Paranormal. J Milford.
Summary: When Jake Limberleg brings his traveling medicine show to a small Missouri town in 1913, thirteen-year-old Natalie senses that something is wrong and, after investigating, learns that her love of automata and other machines make her the only one who can set things right. Thoughts: Good and evil battle for human souls in a dusty, rural, close-knit Midwestern town in the early 1900s. A crossroads demon, a doctor who sold his soul to save lives but winded up cursing those he helped, a musician who once beat the devil in a fiddle contest, and an ambiguous larger-than-life trickster all converge around Natalie. Natalie’s combination of innocence, bluntness, and quick-thinking make her the perfect heroine for this tale of outwitting the devil. This book melds real aspects of Americana — Jack tall tales, clockwork automata, traveling medicine shows and snake-oil salesmen — with a supernatural premise, and it all comes together perfectly.

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver. Fiction/Paranormal. Y Oliver.
Summary: A terrible accident takes Samantha Kingston’s life. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she relives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined. Thoughts: This was one of those reads that really surprised me — I thought I would hate it but ended up really loving it. Here’s my review.

I Shall Wear Midnight (Tiffany Aching, Book Four), by Terry Pratchett. Fantasy. Y Pratchett.
Summary: Fifteen-year-old Tiffany Aching, the witch of the Chalk, seeks her place amid a troublesome populace and tries to control the ill-behaved, six-inch-high Wee Free Men who follow her as she faces an ancient evil that agitates against witches. Thoughts: I am sad to think there will probably not be another Tiffany Aching book, but as for series enders, this is a great one, encompassing everything that made the other three memorable: lots of British humor (both of the understated and loopy kinds), circuitous plotting, surprisingly serious undertones, and believable growth for the major characters, particularly Tiffany. I think this is my favorite one after the first, The Wee Free Men.

A Conspiracy of Kings (Queen’s Thief, Book Four), by Megan Whalen Turner. Fantasy. Y Turner.
Summary: Kidnapped and sold into slavery, Sophos, an unwilling prince, tries to save his country from being destroyed by rebellion and exploited by the conniving Mede empire. Thoughts: Turner does something different with the narrative in every Queen’s Thief book, and though I did miss Eugenidies in this fourth book, she made Sophos as interesting and complex a character, one who goes through similarly difficult trials on the road to kingdom. I’ve never written reviews of these books, because I don’t think I can do them justice, but I don’t think you can find anything better for subtle but brilliant political intrigue, fantasy world-building, and characters you absolutely fall in love with.

The Curse of the Wendigo (sequel to The Monstrumologist), by Richard Yancey. Horror. Y Yancey.
Summary: In 1888, twelve-year-old Will Henry chronicles his apprenticeship with Dr. Warthrop, a New England scientist who hunts and studies real-life monsters, as they discover and attempt to destroy the Wendigo, a creature that starves even as it gorges itself on human flesh. Thoughts: I just don’t see enough horror of this caliber, particularly for teens. The Monstrumologist, the first in the series, was a top read last year, and this one may be even better, because it raises the stakes for poor, doomed apprentice Will Henry and his recalcitrant master of monstrumology, Dr. Warthrop. I don’t love the series just because it’s gory, atmospheric, and frightening; I also love it because the characters, and their relationships with each other, have such depth, and because of the serious, literate tone to the storytelling (which fits perfectly within the setting and time frame of late 1800s New England).

Printz Award Winners 2010

The Michael L. Printz award is for excellence in young adult literature (it’s the Newbery for teen books), and the 2010 winner and honor books were just announced here.

This year’s winner is Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Click here for the book’s web site, and here’s a brief summary of the book, courtesy of Ingram’s: “All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school–and life in general–with a minimum of effort. But that’s before he’s given the news that he’s dying. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure–if he’s willing to go in search of it.”We have this in our new YA books section, call number Y Bray.

Honor books this year are:
Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman
The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey. Y Yancey (new YA books section).
Punkzilla, by Adam Rapp
Tales of the Madman Underground, by John Barnes. Y Barnes (new YA books section).

My review of The Monstrumologist will show up on this site soon — I loved this super creepy Victorian horror novel and it’s one of my favorites for the year. I haven’t read the other award winners/honor books yet, but if you have and would like to post your opinion in the comments, feel free!

Best Books of 2009 – Fiction

This is the time when everyone comes out with their “best of” lists, and I’ve compiled a few here for you. If you’re looking to read the best teen fiction of the year, you could do worse to follow these suggestions from Booklist, School Library Journal, the Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books, and The Horn Book Magazine (all magazines that review a large number of teens books). Under the cut, you can see follow the links for each magazine to see the full list — I’ve just posted the teen fiction for jr. high and high school students and our call number if we have the books here. (** On multiple lists)


All the Broken Pieces. By Ann Burg. J Burg.
The Ask and the Answer. By Patrick Ness. Y Ness.
Burn My Heart. By Beverley Naidoo. Y Naidoo.
Catching Fire. By Suzanne Collins. Y Collins.
Crossing Stones. By Helen Frost. On order.
The Eternal Smile. By Gene Luen Yang. Y Yang.
**Fire. By Kristin Cashore. Y Cashore.
Going Bovine. By Libba Bray. Y Bray.
Heroes of the Valley. By Jonathan Stroud. Y Stroud.
Jumped. By Rita Williams-Garcia. Y Williams-Garcia.
**Marcelo in the Real World. By Francisco X. Stork. Y Stork.
The Monstrumologist. By Rick Yancey. Y Yancey.
Punkzilla. By Adam Rapp.
Rosie and Skate. By Beth Ann Bauman. On order.
Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia. By Cindy Pon. Y Pon.
**Tales from Outer Suburbia. By Shaun Tan. Y Tan.
**Wintergirls. By Laurie Halse Anderson. Y Anderson.

School Library Journal

Hate List. By Jennifer Brown.
**Fire. By Kristin Cashore. Y Cashore.
**The Lost Conspiracy. By Frances Hardinge. Y Hardinge.
Liar. By Justine Larbalestier. Y Larbalestier.
**The Carbon Diaries 2015. Saci Lloyd. Y Lloyd.
Last Night I Sang to the Monster. Banjamin Alire Saenz. Y Saenz.
**Marcelo in the Real World. Francisco X. Stork. Y Stork.
Creature of the Night. Kate Thompson. Y Thompson.
Leviathan. Scott Westerfeld. Y Westerfeld.

Bulletin Blue Ribbons

**Wintergirls. By Laurie Halse Anderson. Y Anderson.
Graceling. By Kristin Cashore. Y Cashore.
**The Lost Conspiracy. By Frances Hardinge. Y Hardinge.
**Tales from Outer Suburbia. By Shaun Tan. Y Tan.
The Spectacular Now. By Tim Tharp. Y Tharp.
Perpetual Check. By Rich Wallace.

The Horn Book Fanfare

**The Carbon Diaries 2015. By Saci Lloyds. Y Lloyds.
**Marcelo in the Real World. By Francisco X. Stork. Y Stork.