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Best & Brightest Teen Fiction 2016

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This Best & Brightest list was created by Denver Public Library librarians to celebrate our favorite recently published nonfiction, graphic novels and adult with YA appeal for teens. Check out our picks for Nonfiction, Graphic Novels, and Adult with Teen Appeal too.

The Passion Of Dolssa: A Novel
Berry, Julie, 1974- author.
(7th grade & up) Recommended by Carrie and Jennifer. Historical Fiction, Magical Realism. Dolssa, a highborn teenage mystic accused of heresy, must flee her home and family after news of her preaching reaches the Inquisition in what's now Southern France. Her life collides with that of Botille, a matchmaker and tavern-keeper and the two face off against the dangers of the age. This is a well-crafted tale of a lesser known period in history, with sharply drawn female characters.
The Lie Tree
Hardinge, Frances, author.
(9th grade & up) Recommended by Kristi, Amy, Jennifer, Rachel and Liesel. Magical Realism. It's the turn of the century and Faith isn't supposed to be smart. Her family, including her famous archaelogist father, are invited to take part in a dig on an island. The whole family packs up and moves with him. Faith suspects there are darker reasons the family left London in a hurry. Her father may have faked his famous fossil find. Then he turns up murdered and Faith finds more of his secrets, including a tree that grows in the dark and feeds on lies and bears fruit that exposes the truth. What will she learn from this strange plant? Who murdered her father? It's hard to do justice to this delicious, multilayered read with subtle explorations of feminism and family secrets.
The Smell Of Other People's Houses
Hitchcock, Bonnie-Sue.
(10th grade & up) Recommended by Kristi and Kelly. Historical Fiction. Hitchcock’s debut novel takes place in Alaska in 1970. Told in alternating chapters by four different teenagers, the author effectively interlaces several seemingly unrelated stories. The plot grapples with teen pregnancy, alcoholism, abuse and runaways, but this is not a depressing book. Instead, it is a great exploration of the power of family—the ones we are born into and the ones we build.
Still Life With Tornado
King, A. S. (Amy Sarig), 1970- author.
(9th grade & up) Recommended by Kristi. Magical Realism, Realistic Fiction. Artist Sarah is done with school. Nothing original or new ever happens, so why bother? But something happened in art class, and something horrible happened in her family. Now her brave ten-year-old, cynical 23-year-old, and wise 40- yearold selves are showing up to help her remember. Are they real?
The Female Of The Species
McGinnis, Mindy, author.
(10th grade & up) Recommended by Kelly. Mystery. Alex Craft’s sister was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free. That single incident changed Alex into a person with a profound understanding of violence and revenge. After committing a revenge crime that goes unpunished, Alex has to figure out how to live a normal life among her peers in her small hometown. A uniquely thrilling coming-of-age story, this book is a shrewd examination of rape culture and the repurcussions of violence.
Burn Baby Burn
Medina, Meg, author.
(10th grade & up) Recommended by Carrie, Kelly and Liesel. Historical Fiction. The summer before her senior year in high school, Latina protagonist Nora López takes a job in a bodega with a dishy older coworker, just as a serial killer hits the city and rolling blackouts trigger riots. With the help of her best friend, Nora navigates her final year of high school, family struggles and romance in this captivating novel inspired by real events of the 1970s.
Of Better Blood
Moger, Susan, author.
(8th grade & up) Recommended by Amy. Historical Fiction. Rowan Collier grew up in one of the best New York families. Her father and older sister are dedicated to the eugenics movement. Rowan is set to follow in their footsteps until she's crippled by polio. Her family abandons her and in 1922 at 16-years-old, Rowan is forced to perform in a humiliating exhibit called The Unfit Family: A Blight on America organized by the Betterment Council. Then she meets Dorchy, a beguiling carny girl who convinces Rowan they can run away together. The unbelievable horrors of eugenics is a sensational hook, but it's the story of friendship and resiliency that will stay with readers.
It's All Your Fault
Rudnick, Paul, author.
(11th grade & up) Recommended by Carrie. Realistic Fiction. Caitlin, a concientious teen from a pious Christian family, is forced to chaperone her film starlet cousin, Heller, the weekend before Heller’s new movie drops. This clever and wickedly funny book provides affectionate, rich portraits of both of its young protagonists while offering lots of nods to young adult literature, fandom and pop culture.
Anna And The Swallow Man
Savit, Gavriel, author.
(10th grade & up) Recommended by Kristi, Jennifer and Warren. Historical Fiction. Poland is invaded by Germany and Anna's scholarly father is rounded up, never to be seen again. Seven-year-old Anna is alone until she meets the Swallow Man. She feels safe with him and he knows if they want to survive they need to get out of Krakow. They spend years hiding and surviving in the woods, but the Swallow man has a secret. Will they endure? Amazing, lyrical language makes this a story that's hard to forget.
Salt To The Sea: A Novel
Sepetys, Ruta.
(9th grade & up) Recommended by Kristi, Warren, Carrie, Jennifer, Liesel and Amy. Historical Fiction. It's 1945 and Germany is losing World War II. Four strangers, each carrying a secret, will eventually meet up in east Prussia while fleeing the approaching Russian army and its vengeful atrocities. Each of the strangers will end up on a German escape vessel with devastating consequences. Told in short alternating chapters between the four characters, this is an unputdownable read about a part of WWII that is little known, including the worst maritime disaster in history.
The Memory Of Light
Stork, Francisco X., author.
(9th grade & up) Recommended by Warren, Jennifer and Carrie. Realistic Fiction. Following a failed attempt to end her life, Vicky Cruz wakes up in a hospital’s psychiatric ward where she encounters a group of teens. Together they grow and help each other heal. Pulling from his own experience with depression, Stork offers sharp insight to Vicky’s struggle—her thoughts, feelings and eventual revelations. These characters are believable and so easy to empathize with.
American Girls
Umminger, Alison, author.
(9th grade & up) Recommended by Kelly and Kristi. Realistic Fiction. Anna is 15-years-old and fed up with her life at home so she “borrows” her step mom’s credit card and runs away to live with her sister in Los Angeles. Thanks to her sister, Anna gets to spend her time on movie sets, but life in L.A is not as glamorous as she anticipated. She becomes wrapped up in the world of the Manson murders and begins to notice the parallels between the Manson girls and ordinary girls like her. This compelling novel tells a great tale of what it’s like to be young and female in America.
The Forbidden Orchid
Waller, Sharon Biggs, 1966- author.
(9th grade & up) Recommended by Amy and Rachel. Historical Fiction. Elodie is 17-years-old. She lives with her eight sisters and mother while her father, a plant hunter, goes off on expeditions around the world. It is 1861 and Elodie never dreams that one day she will be stowing away on a ship to China to help her father on an urgent hunt to find an elusive orchid. The world is bigger, better and more complicated than Elodie could ever imagine. How will she ever be content with her quiet life in England? Compellingly flawed characters are set against a tightly woven plot. This well-researched book includes a fascinating author's note on historical elements, as well as an extensive bilbiography.
My Name Is Not Friday
Walter, Jon, 1964- author.
(6th grade & up) Recommended by Jennifer. Historical Fiction. Freeborn Samuel and his younger brother, Joshua, have been raised in an orphanage for "colored" boys since their mother died at Joshua's birth. Strange circumstances cause Samuel to be separated from his brother and sold into slavery during the height of the Civil War. Having been taught to read and write at the orphanage, Joshua makes a deal with God to do good deeds—namely teaching the other slaves to read—in order to keep his brother safe until he can find his way back to Joshua.
Highly Illogical Behavior
Whaley, John Corey, author.
(9th grade & up) Recommended by Warren and Kristi. Realistic Fiction. Solomon has not left his house since a particularly bad anxiety attack ended with him naked in the school fountain. Lisa always wondered what happened to Solomon, plus she greatly wants to get into a prestigious psychology program, so she plots to meet him and get him to go outside. After Lisa’s boyfriend enters the mix, the trio’s humanizing faults, witty banter and geek culture references almost make you forget that the situation is bound to fall apart.
The Serpent King
Zentner, Jeff.
(9th grade & up) Recommended by Kelly, Kristi and Carrie. Realistic Fiction. Dill is the only son of a pentacostal minister with extreme views of the world. When his father falls from grace, Dill must deal with the fallout and question his own faith. The Serpent King follows Dill’s final year of high school and his attempts with his two best friends, to manage life in their rural Tennessee town. Can Dill fight his own legacy and face the future with courage?