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Staff Picks: Best Teen Books of 2013

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Fiction | Adult Books with Teen Appeal  | Graphic Novels & Nonfiction | Poetry

Fiction

All the Truth That's in MeAll the Truth That’s in Me
by Julie Berry
Recommended by Kristi

  • Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance
  • 10th grade & up

Judith is shunned in her religious community, even by her mother. She hasn’t spoken since she was kidnapped and had her tongue cut out. Where was she for two years and what unspeakable things were done to her? Her best friend disappeared at the same time and was found murdered soon afterwards. What did Judith see and is her silence the only thing protecting her? She follows her childhood friend Lucas around and is in love with him, although he is engaged to someone else. When the community is attacked by outsiders, Judith has to reveal some of her secrets to save everyone. Will regaining her voice save herself and Lucas from the suspicious villagers? Set in an unspecified time, the village is reminiscent of Puritan colonies where witches were burned at the stake. This historical romantic murder mystery is full of lyrical language and will keep readers absorbed as Judith slowly reveals her secrets. For fans of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter or Billingsley’s Chime.

The Coldest Girl in ColdtownThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown
by Holly Black
Recommended by Kelly

  • Paranormal Fiction
  • 9th grade & up

Tana lives in a world where vampires are completely normal. Maybe not normal, but everybody knows they exist and is afraid and enchanted by them. A vampire bite means you turn cold and are quarantined to a Coldtown forever, where all the vampires live. Tana wakes up at a party and everyone there has been murdered by vampires, except for her infected ex-boyfriend and a mysterious boy. Tana must find a way to save them all, and the only way she knows how is by going into the nearest Coldtown. This is a unique and exciting world that is sure to appeal to fans of supernatural intrigue.

Just One DayJust One Day
by Gayle Forman
Recommended by Kelly and Kristi

  • Realistic Fiction, Romance
  • 9th grade & up

Allyson Healey is on an amazing European vacation when something truly unexpected happens - she meets Dutch actor William De Reiter who she feels an unspoken connection with. They spend a day together and things seem amazing until Allyson wakes up and finds William gone. Over the next year she tries to get over the experience, but she cannot forget about the spark she felt on that fateful day, and she uses it as inspiration to change her boring and controlled life. This is a touching story that at first glance seems like a romance, but turns into a moving story of self-discovery.

If I Ever Get Out of Here: A Novel with PaintingsIf I Ever Get Out of Here: A Novel with Paintings
by Eric Gansworth
Recommended by Gigi

  • Historical Fiction
  • 7th grade & up

In 1970s upstate New York, Lewis lives in grinding poverty on the Tuscarora Indian reservation. His drunk dad ran out on them, and he's the only Indian kid in his 7th grade class. Bullied by his friends on the res and his white peers at the local school, he feels like an outcast until he meets George Haddonfield, an Air Force brat whose worldly background seems to make him impervious to local divisions of race and class. Growth is at the heart of this humorous, deeply-felt novel, as the boys struggle to build and maintain a friendship in the face of sizable odds, and Lewis learns to find strength in his own identity as a person who straddles two very different worlds.

Maggot MoonMaggot Moon
by Sally Gardner
Recommended by Kristi

  • Fantasy
  • 7th grade & up

Standish Treadwell lives in zone 7 with his grandpa after his dissident parents have disappeared.  It's where all the impures of the Motherland are sent to live. His parents spoke out against the totalitarian regime and they cut out his mother's tongue for it. He has dyslexia so reading is hard and he is considered dumb in school. Surviving is tough and Standish is bullied at school, even by his teachers. While all this is going on they are hiding the "moon man" in their basement. What secrets does he know? This alternate history takes on Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and the moon landing hoax in a fascinating story that comes to a tragic, but hopeful end.

The Whole Stupid Way We AreThe Whole Stupid Way We Are
by N. Griffin
Recommended by Gigi

  • Realistic Fiction
  • 9th grade & up

Razor-sharp characterization and dialogue and an emotionally taut plot line keep the pages turning in this wrenching tale of a pair of friends and a fundamental misunderstanding. Dinah and Skint are both oddballs in their small Maine town; best friends who are getting through high school by relying on sarcasm, wit, and silly distractions. Lately it hasn't been working for Skint, who is sinking further into a freezing, mid-winter depression as his family self-destructs around him. Dinah chooses to willfully ignore the truth of the situation, and ultimately commits a staggering error that threatens the survival of both the friendship and Skint himself.

Reality BoyReality Boy
by A.S. King
Recommended by Kelly

  • Realistic Fiction
  • 10th grade & up

Gerald is seventeen and kind of infamous, but not in a good way. When he was five he was featured on a reality show where he was caught on camera defecating on his parent’s kitchen table, and has had to live with the nickname “the crapper” his whole life. The reality show involved a TV nanny who tried to deal with his behavior problems, but the show failed to capture the problems that were contributing to Gerald’s unhappiness, mainly his sister Tasha. Gerald takes anger management classes and loves kick-boxing, but he still doesn’t feel completely in control of the deep anger he feels at his upbringing. This is a tough and heartbreaking coming-of-age novel filled with wonderful writing and a unique point of view.

Dark TriumphDark Triumph
by Robin LaFevers
Recommended by Carol and Kristi

  • Historical Fantasy
  • 10th grade & up

As Death’s assassin, Sybella returns to the complex and frightening home of her dominating father who personifies evil in this reinvention of the 15th century in France. Politics, magic, and a thrilling romance make this an excellent sequel to Grave Mercy.

Imperfect SpiralImperfect Spiral
by Debbie Levy
Recommended by Lisa

  • Realistic Fiction
  • 7th grade & up

Danielle Snyder has a great job. She loves taking care of Humphrey. Even though he is only 5, Humphrey and Danielle love spending time together. When Humphrey is hit by a car and dies, Danielle is devastated. Soon Humphrey’s death becomes a source of controversy. While Danielle is called on to choose sides, she just wants to mourn the beautiful boy she has lost. Just when it seems things can’t get any worse, they do. It turns out that the driver of the car who struck Humphrey was an undocumented immigrant, and Danielle’s friend. Imperfect Spiral is a moving story of guilt, grief, and ultimately forgiveness.

September GirlsSeptember Girls
by Bennett Madison
Recommended by Rachel and Kristi

  • Fantasy, Romance
  • 10th grade & up

Sam, his obnoxious older brother, and their father are spending the summer in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The boys quickly realize that there is something unusual about the town; it’s full of breathtakingly beautiful but mysterious young women who all look alike. When Sam meets Dee Dee, one of the “Girls,” he quickly falls for her and becomes entwined in something mysterious and possibly dangerous. Readers won’t be able to put down this angst-filled, steamy beach tale until they reach the satisfying end.

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Far Far AwayFar Far Away
by Tom McNeal
Recommended by Lisa, Carol and Kristi

  • Fantasy
  • 9th grade & up

In the town of Never Better, strange things blow on the wind and magic is in the air. Into this mixture, the ghost of Jacob Grimm lingers, unable to move on. He spends his time watching over Jeremy Johnson Johnson. Jeremy is the only one who can hear Jacob and he usually listens. But all that changes when Ginger Boultinghouse eats a magic Prince Cake and falls in love with Jeremy. Soon Jeremy is running around with Ginger and ignoring Jacob’s sage advice. But that strange thing on the wind is watching too, and soon Jeremy and Ginger are in serious trouble. Can Jacob find a way to save them, or is he doomed to watch another loved one die? With mystery, magic and evil, Far Far Away is a riveting read.

Sex & ViolenceSex & Violence
by Carrie Mesrobian
Recommended by Kristi

  • Realistic Fiction
  • 10th grade & up

Evan is used to being the new guy. His workaholic dad moves them often after his mom dies. Evan uses this as an excuse not to form attachments. His alter ego “Dirtbag Evan” hooks-up with girls he never intends to call back. He knows he’s “a dick” and he doesn’t care. At his new boarding school he is secretly hooking up with his roommate’s ex, Collette. When they are found out, Evan is severely beaten and she is raped. His dad moves them to his childhood summer home on a lake so he can recover. He spends his days getting high and hanging out with a group of neighbors getting ready to move on to college; a life Evan can’t imagine wanting anymore. He’s also finding out new things about his dad and his past. As part of his therapy he writes letters he will never mail to Collette trying to understand what happened to him so he can move on in a more meaningful way. Told in first person, it’s a realistic look inside the motivations of a “manslut” and the eventual costs of those shallow connections. A funny and wry coming of age story with sex, violence, bad language and drug use, suitable for more mature teens.

More Than ThisMore Than This
by Patrick Ness
Recommended by Kristi, Kelly and Carol

  • Science Fiction
  • 9th grade & up

Seth’s dead. He’s woken up alone in an abandoned world covered in dust. Is he in hell or some kind of existential afterlife where he has to face his shortfalls to move on? Or is this all there is? When he sleeps, he painfully relives his memories of drowning, his secret boyfriend, and what happened to his family. One day he discovers two other people in this desolate landscape who are trying to escape The Driver, a menacing entity that wants to kill all of them. But aren’t they already dead? Seth struggles to find out what’s real, and if it even matters when reality is only what he thinks it is, right? A creepy sci-fi read that will stick with you long after you finish.  

Forgive Me, Leonard PeacockForgive Me, Leonard Peacock
by Matthew Quick
Recommended by Lisa, Kelly and Carol

  • Realistic Fiction
  • 9th grade & up

Leonard Peacock has decided that today is the day he will kill himself, after he kills his ex-best friend Asher Beal. The reader is not sure exactly why Leonard has decided to do this terrible thing, but from page one, Leonard’s pain is evident. Alternating between flashbacks and Leonard’s present attempts to say goodbye to the people who mean the most to him, Leonard gradually reveals the reason for his drastic decision. Mysterious letters from his future, as well as the few people who truly know and appreciate Leonard provide the hope that may change Leonard’s path. Ultimately, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a story about the strength and resiliency of the human spirit.

Out of the EasyOut of the Easy
by Ruta Sepetys
Recommended by Kelly and Kristi

  • Historical Fiction
  • 9th grade & up

It’s 1950 in New Orleans and Josie Moraine is just trying to get by as she tries to get into an elite college and deal with a French Quarter underworld. The daughter of a prostitute, Josie owes a lot to Willie Woodley, a madam who has done a lot to shape Josie’s world. A mysterious death draws Josie into an investigation that will challenge her in ways she never imagined. This is a wonderful historical novel sure to delight fans of all genres.

WingerWinger
by Andrew Smith
Recommended by Kelly

  • Realistic Fiction
  • 9th grade & up

Ryan Dean West has it rough: he is a fourteen-year-old junior at Pine Mountain, which is a boarding school for rich kids. He’s forced to live in the dorm meant for troublemakers and has to room with his rugby team enemy. He tries to make it through his junior year and catch the attention of his best friend Annie, but he makes a lot of mistakes along the way. Filled with his comics and hilarious inner thoughts, this is a funny coming-of-age story that ends up touching on some really heavy subjects.

All Our YesterdaysAll Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill
Recommended by Kristi and Warren

  • Science Fiction, Time Travel
  • 10th grade & up

This clever book is told in alternating chapters between Marina and Em, who are the same person but in different timelines. Em is being held in prison next door to Finn, the boy she loves, in a desolate America that operates as a police state. The only clue she has to her past is a list she finds hidden in her cell, in her own handwriting, which indicates that she has traveled back in time before, though she has no memory of it. She is tortured by the Doctor, a character who thinks she has some hidden knowledge he seeks from the Marina time. Em knows she has to destroy the time machine if she wants to set things right in her world, and in her past life as Marina, and she’s willing to go back in time to do it even it means that she and Finn won’t survive. She also knows if she goes back she will get to see James, her first love and Finn’s best friend. James’ senator brother’s assassination, and the secrets surrounding it, seems to have set the horrible future events in motion. The time travel is spot on and used to provide clever plot twists. The best part? Future Em is protective of past Marina and doesn't want her psychologically ruined by seeing what happens to herself, Finn, and James in the future. It’s a fast paced, action packed read that poses the question: if you could change the past, should you?

In the Shadow of BlackbirdsIn the Shadow of Blackbirds
by Cat Winters
Recommended by Kelly

  • Historical Fiction, Paranormal
  • 8th grade & up

It is 1918 and not only are tons of people dying in World War I, but the Spanish Influenza is also killing millions of people in America. Mary Shelley Black goes to live with her aunt in San Diego after her father is arrested for treason, and she arrives to a bleak atmosphere where there is little hope to be had. Because of all the death and chaos, people are drawn to the spiritualist movement - hoping for a chance to once more communicate with their dead loved ones. Mary Shelley is skeptical but is forced to question life and death when the boy she loves returns to her in spirit form. This is a very intriguing read that combines exciting paranormal elements with historical fiction.

The 5th WaveThe 5th Wave
by Rick Yancey
Recommended by Rachel, Kelly and Kristi

  • Science Fiction
  • 9th grade & up

Cassie and her little brother Sam are two of the few who survived the first three waves of attacks sent by invading aliens. The aliens are vicious, well-organized, and worst of all they can disguise themselves as human.  When the aliens kidnap Cassie’s little brother she has to rely on her bravery, cunning, and a M16 rifle to get him back and to survive the “silencer” who is hunting her. The first book in a trilogy, The 5th Wave is filled with action and suspense, but Yancey makes time for reflection and emotion too. This one is hard to put down.

The Lucy VariationsThe Lucy Variations
by Sara Zarr
Recommended by Carol

  • Realistic Fiction
  • 8th grade & up

Deciding to help her younger brother whose musical career is now the focus of her family, Lucy has to finally face why she left her own brilliant musical future behind, and even more, why she loved music so much originally. Of course, there is a piano teacher, parents who are both pressuring and loving, as well as other contestants for fame in this highly competitive world. It’s all there, but in a unique package that is realistic and yet not part of everyday for most of us.

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Adult Books with Teen Appeal

Orphan Train: A NovelOrphan Train: A Novel
by Christina Baker Kline
Recommended by Rachel and Lisa

  • Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction
  • 10th grade & up

Between 1854 and 1929, orphaned children living on the East Coast were put on trains and sent to the Midwest to be adopted by loving families. In reality, many of the children were taken in by families looking for free labor. Niamh was one of the unlucky children adopted by a cruel taskmaster. Her fascinating story is paralleled by the present day story of Molly, a goth teenager with a tough demeanor who moves from one inadequate foster home to another. After Molly is caught stealing a book from the library, community service is the only thing keeping her out of the juvenile detention center. Her assignment is to help an elderly widow named Vivian clear out her attic. Molly dreads the job, but quickly learns that she and Vivian (who was called Niamh before she was adopted) aren’t as different as she thought.

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with AutismThe Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
by Naoki Higashida
Recommended by Lisa

  • Nonfiction
  • 8th grade & up

Rarely do we have the opportunity to look into the mind of a person with autism, which usually results in a gulf between people with this condition and the rest of the world. Naoki offers a window into this condition. Told in a series of questions and answers, Naoki tries to explain how he feels and why he reacts in certain ways. He also offers suggestions for how to successfully interact with a person with autism. While Naoki’s is just one voice, his perspective is invaluable. As the number of people diagnosed with autism continues to grow, The Reason I Jump is an excellent, and fascinating resource.

Punk Rock JesusPunk Rock Jesus
by Sean Murphy
Recommended by Warren

  • Graphic Novel, Science Fiction, Action, Theology
  • 10th grade & up

A clone of Jesus Christ made solely for entertainment spends his second coming on reality TV. The book has a cast of characters that represent a variety of perspectives from atheists to religious zealots. Murphy explores beliefs as well as paths people can follow towards championing certain ideals.


Graphic Novels & Nonfiction

Battling BoyBattling Boy
by Paul Pope, color by Hilary Sycamore
Recommended by Warren

  • Science Fiction, Superhero
  • 8th grade & up

Pope’s illustrations bring extra energy to a fast paced story. Battling Boy, the son of Thor, finds himself on Earth - the location chosen by Thor to be his proving grounds. Earth has been invaded by monsters and Battling Boy must defend the Earth without the help of his father. To aid him, he has been provided with an assortment of t-shirts, each with an associated power. His first shirt has a T-rex on the front and gives him super leg strength but when he swings a punch he finds that he also takes on the creatures’ weaknesses.

BoxersBoxers and Saints
by Gene Luen Yang
Recommended by Ann, Kristi and Rachel

  • Historical Fiction
  • 9th grade & up

This two-volume set of historical fiction explores China’s Boxer Rebellion through two perspectives. In Boxers, we follow the story of Little Bao and his journey to overthrow the “foreign devils” (Catholic missionaries) wreaking havoc on his homeland. In Saints, we learn that this battle between foreigners and Chinese is far more complex when we meet Four-Girl, a Chinese convert to Catholicism, whose baptism not only gives her a new name, Vibiana, but also a new life. Consistent with his earlier work, Yang weaves visits from Chinese gods and Christian saints into the storyline. A gripping and violent depiction of this time in history.

Gris Grimly's Frankenstein, or, The Modern PrometheusGris Grimly's Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus
by Gris Grimly, original text by Mary Shelley
Recommended by Warren

  • Horror
  • 7th grade & up

A much more accessible version of the classic novel. It is abridged but does not detract from the story. Gris Grimly’s creepy illustrations are perfect for this dark tale.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birut GaldikasPrimates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birut Galdikas
by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
Recommended by Ann

  • Biography
  • 9th grade & up

This joint biography explores the lives and research of scientists Jane Goodall (chimpanzees), Dina Fossey (gorillas) and Birut Galdikas (orangutans), all students of Louis Leakey. While living and working in the wild isn’t easy, these women’s stories are inspiring and the engaging text and illustrations will capture the imagination of young scientists.

Relish: My Life in the KitchenRelish: My Life in the Kitchen
by Lucy Knisley
Recommended by Kristi and Ann

  • Realistic Fiction
  • 6th grade & up

Do you know what a cheesemonger is? Is it truly impossible to make the perfect croissant at home? Is fast food evil? The author shares her life experiences that led her to discover the answers to these questions, plus a whole lot more, in this funny autobiographical exploration of the power of food in our daily lives. Raised by self-avowed “foodies,” this book is a tribute to the social aspects of food and its power to connect people and create “taste-memories.” For Knisley food is much more than just sustenance. Showcasing her art skills, the story is told graphically with each chapter bookcased by yummy recipes. This book will make you hungry enough to try some of her recipes, or meet a friend for a scrumptious meal.


Poetry

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms and BlessingsWhat the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms and Blessings
by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Recommended by Ann

  • 6th grade & up

Words have power – to heal and harm, celebrate and mourn. Sidman explores these themes in four sections: chants and charms, spells and invocations, laments and remembrances, praise songs and blessings. Teens will find solace in these poems that reflect the richness of their emotional lives.


SEE THE STAFF PICKS FOR BEST TEEN BOOKS OF 2012

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