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February 15, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 First Novels for Youth
This year’s great first novels range from powerful historical fiction to contemporary stories of young people coming of age. As in the last two years, most are for older readers, but this time there are some for middle-graders, too. These books were reviewed in Booklist from December 1, 1999, through November 15, 2000.
Arrington, Frances. Bluestem. 2000. Putnam/Philomel, $16.99 (0-399-23564-7).
Gr. 4-6. A vivid slice of life on the prairie, this novel tells of two sisters who must cope with their mentally ill mother and daily chores until their father’s return. The writing never becomes melodramatic but maintains a terse dignity and a strong, tangible sense of place.
Bagdasarian, Adam. Forgotten Fire. 2000. DK Ink/Melanie Kroupa, $17.95 (0-7894-2627-7).
Gr. 8-12. Based on a true story, this powerful historical novel tells about the Turkish genocide of the Armenians through the personal experience of Vahan Kenderian, whose home was invaded when he was 12 years old. A significant addition to Holocaust literature.
Bauer, Cat. Harley, Like a Person. 2000. Winslow, $16.95 (1-890817-48-1).
Gr. 7-10. Who is my father? That’s the question haunting 14-year-old Harley, who’s convinced that she’s adopted and who turns out to be right. Harley’s strength of character, her humor, and her vulnerability will resonate with teens.
Cheaney, J. B. The Playmaker. 2000. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-80577-X).
Gr. 7-10. Dense with period detail, this challenging theatrical mystery, set in Elizabethan England, combines a 14-year-old’s search for his father with a tense sense of political intrigue. This coming-of-age tale will enrich theater, literature, and history courses.
Frank, E. R. Life Is Funny. 2000. DK Ink/Richard Jackson, $17.95 (0-7894-2634-X).
Gr. 7-12. Frank breaks new ground in this realistic, contemporary novel about 11 teens in Brooklyn now. The voices ring true, and the talk is painful, vulgar, rough, sexy, funny, fearful, furious, gentle. Each chapter, each vignette within a chapter, builds to its own climax, and the stories weave together to surprise you.
Joseph, Lynn. The Color of My Words. 2000. HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler, $14.95 (0-06-028232-0); lib. ed., $14.89 (0-06-028233-9).
Gr. 4-6. In simple, eloquent prose and verse, 12-year-old Ana Rosa writes about herself, her family, and her small, tightly knit community in the Dominican Republic. When her beloved older brother is killed in a community protest, she struggles to find words to tell his story.
Mack, Tracy. Drawing Lessons. 2000. Scholastic, $15.95 (0-439-11202-8).
Gr. 4-7. Mack paints a picture of a seventh-grade girl who must come to grips with who she is, after being disappointed by the artist father around whom she has built her identity. This is a simple book of surprising beauty and depth.
Rennison, Louise. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicholson. 2000. HarperCollins, $15.95 (0-06-028814-0); lib. ed., $15.89 (0-06-028871-X).
Gr. 6-9. American readers wondering what “full-frontal snogging” is will find the answer in the helpful glossary appended to this antic diary of a year in the life of an English girl named Georgia Nicholson. Georgia’s misadventures are not only hysterically funny but also universally recognizable.
Trueman, Terry. Stuck in Neutral. 2000. HarperCollins, $14.95 (0-06-028519-2); lib. ed., $14.89 (0-06-028518-4).
Gr. 6-10. No one knows that disabled Shawn, 14, is able to think because he can’t speak, interact, or control his movements. But Shawn is actually a genius. Trueman takes readers inside Shawn’s head, a place so vivid, so unique, they will be hard-pressed to forget its mix of heaven and hell. Nor will they stop thinking about all the big issues Shawn raises.
Williams, Lori Aurelia. When Kambia Elaine Flew in from Neptune. 2000. Simon & Schuster, $17 (0-689-82468-8).
Gr. 7-12. Growing up in a poor Houston neighborhood, Shayla Dubois, 12, wants to be a writer, and her first-person narrative is colloquial and poetic, innocent and immediate. Her new neighbor and classmate, Kambia, spins strange stories of escape and magic that hide the horrifying facts of her sexual abuse. In contrast are the upbeat revelations about the guy who everyone thinks is a dummy and who turns out to be a hero.
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