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Find more Best Books for Young Adults
The annual list of books compiled by a committee of the Young Adult Library Services Association comprises nonfiction and fiction appropriate for ages 12 to 18. The 86 titles, published from late 2003 through 2004, span a variety of subjects as well as a broad range of reading levels. The committee’s top 10 choices are identified with a star (*).
Allen, Thomas B. George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War. 2004. illus. National Geographic, $16.95 (0-7922-5126-1).
Who knew our most famous founder was a colonial James Bond? This intriguing title features Washington in a little-known role as the mastermind behind an intricate Revolutionary War spy network.
Bausum, Ann. With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote. 2004. illus. National Geographic, $21.95 (0-7922-7647-7).
This engaging narrative shows that the road to a woman’s right to vote has proved to be a long, arduous, and sometimes violent struggle.
Bolden, Tonya. Wake Up Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists. 2004. illus. Abrams, $24.95 (0-8109-4527-4).
Spanning the nineteenth century to the present, this selected history of influential black American artists introduces their careers and work with detailed sidebars, stunning graphics, and a compelling text.
Freedman, Russell. The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights. 2004. illus. Clarion, $18 (0-618-15976-2).
The beautiful voice of the gifted African American opera singer comes alive in this clear, concise, and lyrical biography. The 2005 Sibert Medal Book and a 2005 Newbery Honor Book.
Greenberg, Jan and Jordan, Sandra. Andy Warhol: Prince of Pop. 2004. illus. Delacorte, $16.95 (0-385-73056-X).
Without sensationalizing, this accessible biography captures the iconoclastic artist’s life, work, and cultural times.
*Hoose, Phillip M. The Race to Save the Lord God Bird. 2004. illus. Farrar/Melanie Kroupa, $20 (0-374-36173-8).
The ivory-billed woodpecker’s presumed demise is at the heart of this fascinating look at conservation and the effects of industrialization on nature.
Janeczko, Paul B. Worlds Afire: The Hartford Circus Fire of 1944. 2004. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-2235-4).
In 1944, 167 people were killed in a circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut. Janeczko re-creates the before, during, and after of this true event, turning it into haunting poetry.
Kubert, Joe. Yossel: April 19, 1943. 2003. illus. Ibooks, $24.95 (0-7434-7516-X).
In this starkly illustrated and sharply written graphic novel, the author imagines his fate if he had not left the Warsaw Ghetto. A chilling portrayal of horror and courage.
McWhorter, Diane. A Dream of Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968. 2004. illus. Scholastic, $19.95 (0-439-57678-4).
This handsome volume introduces key years of the civil rights movement, “the thrilling democratic uprising,” bringing in major players as well as lesser-known heroes and heroines.
Myers, Walter Dean. Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices. 2004. illus. Holiday, $16.95 (0-8234-1853-7).
Inspired by Edgar Lee Masters’ classic Spoon River Anthology, Myers uses a variety of poetic forms and vintage photographs to explore the hopes, dreams, and disappointments of the iconic African American community
Robinson, Sharon. Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America. 2004. illus. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-439-42592-1).
Jackie Robinson’s daughter weaves together an interesting narrative about her father’s baseball career, family life, and political activism with beautiful photographs and handwritten letters.
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. 2004. illus. Pantheon, $17.95 (0-375-42288-9).
Satrapi’s memoir in comics continues in Vienna as she struggles with adolescence, the Western world, and loneliness.
Seagle, Steven T. It’s a Bird. 2004. illus. DC Comics/Vertigo, $24.95 (1-40120-109-1).
Writing for Superman is any comic writer’s dream, but Steve has a family secret that’s even stronger than the man of steel.
Silverstein, Ken. The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor. 2004. Random, $22.95 (0-375-50351-X).
Working in a backyard shed, a teenage science geek creates a radioactive device capable of sparking an environmental disaster.
Unger, Zac. Working Fire: The Making of an Accidental Fireman. 2004. Penguin, $24.95 (1-59420-001-7).
A young rookie provides a look behind the firehouse doors, bringing close the danger, excitement, and challenge of fighting fire in a big city.
Van Der Vat, Dan. D-Day: The Greatest Invasion—A People’s History. 2003. illus. Bloomsbury, $40 (1-58234-314-4).
Insightful and compelling, this well-balanced account details how the Canadians liberated a Dutch village during D-Day. An arresting mix of rare photos and reproduced personal artifacts illustrate.
Aidinoff, Elsie V. The Garden. 2004. HarperTempest, $15.99 (0-06-055605-6).
In an alternate Eden, God tutors Adam while Eve forms a complex relationship with the serpent.
Almond, David. The Fire-Eaters. 2004. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-73170-1).
During the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, Bobby Burns fights his own battles with a sadistic headmaster and worries about his father’s illness.
Bass, L. G. Sign of the Qin. 2004. Hyperion, $17.99 (0-7868-1918-9).
Dangers abound in this magical martial-arts fantasy, which follows young Prince Zong and his mother after their separate escapes from the dangerous, corrupt Emperor Han.
*Braff, Joshua. The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green. 2004. Algonquin, $23.95 (1-56512-420-0).
Jacob navigates the minefields of his father’s rage in this humorous and heartrending view of a suburban Jewish family in the late 1970s.
Burgess, Melvin. Doing It. 2004.Holt, $15.95 (0-8050-7565-8).
Teens Jon, Dino, and Ben provide an unflinching, inside look at the terrors and delights of high-school sex.
Choldenko, Gennifer. Al Capone Does My Shirts. 2004. Putnam, $15.99 (0-399-23861-1).
Moose Flanagan, 12, is dismayed when his family moves to Alcatraz after his father gets a new job as a prison guard. A 2005 Newbery Honor Book.
Chotjewitz, David. Daniel Half Human: And the Good Nazi. Tr. by Doris Orgel. 2004. Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson, $17.95 (0-689-85747-0).
In 1933, German teen Daniel is shocked to learn that he is not allowed to join the Nazi Party because he is half-Jewish.
Corrigan, Eireann. Splintering. 2004. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-439-53597-2).
After a violent stranger’s brutal attack, a family struggles with the physical and emotional aftermath.
*Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bucking the Sarge. 2004. Random/Wendy Lamb, $15.95 (0-385-32307-7).
Fifteen-year-old Luther uses his humor and smarts to cope with a longtime crush, an impending science fair, and the shady dealings of his slumlord mother.
de Lint, Charles. The Blue Girl. 2004. Viking, $19.99 (0-670-05924-2).
Brash, blue-skinned, street-smart Imogene battles the soul-eating Anamithims with her real, imaginary, and undead friends.
Dr. Ernest Drake’s Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons. Ed. by Dugald Steer. 2003. illus. Candlewick, $18.99 (0-7636-2329-6).
Dragonologists hail Dr. Drake’s rediscovered guide, which explains dragon dust, shares essential spells, and offers practical suggestions for outwitting these wily creatures.
Dunkle, Clare B. The Hollow Kingdom. 2003. Holt, $16.95 (0-8050-7390-6).
After the Goblin’s king draws Kate into his dark world, he promises to release her kidnapped sister if she will agree to marry him. Kate has other plans.
Farmer, Nancy. The Sea of Trolls. 2004. Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson, $17.95 (0-689-86744-1).
In 793, Northmen invade Great Britain, capture Jack, an 11-year-old bard-in-training, and his young sister, and embark on adventures that involve trolls, dragons, magic, and a very angry young Berserker girl.
Fisher, Catherine. The Oracle Betrayed. 2004. Greenwillow, $16.99 (0-06--057157-8).
Shy Mirany must navigate a web of treachery and deceit in a thirsty land that is a fantastical melding of ancient Greece and Egyptian cultures.
Flake, Sharon. Who Am I without Him?. 2004. Hyperion /Jump at the Sun, $15.99 (0-7868-0693-1).
Flake takes an unflinching look at the lives of African American teens in 10 stories that explore the sometimes-difficult relationships between males and females. A 2005 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book.
Flinn, Alex. Nothing to Lose. 2004. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-06-051750-6).
After living the carnie life for a year, Michael Day stumbles across the news of his mother’s trial, forcing him to confront painful family truths.
Fusco, Kimberly Newton. Tending to Grace. 2004. Knopf, $14.95 (0-375-82862-1).
Mute by choice and abandoned by a selfish mother, Cornelia learns to speak for herself, thanks to the brusque attention of her great-aunt.
Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales. Ed. by Deborah Noyes. 2004. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-2243-5).
Ghouls, ghosts, and shocking twists and turns haunt these 10 twisted tales.
Halpin, Brendan. Donorboy. 2004. Villard, $22.95 (1-4000-6277-2).
After 14-year-old Rosalind’s two mothers are killed, sperm donor Sean takes custody of her and begins the overwhelming job of building a family.
Hautman, Pete. Godless. 2004. Simon & Schuster, $15.95 (0-689-86278-4).
Tired of the “Teen Power Outreach” sessions he endures at church, Jason Block decides to create his own religion, which centers on the town’s water tower.
Horowitz, Anthony. Eagle Strike. 2004. Putnam/Philomel, $17.99 (0-399-23979-0).
Teenage British spy Alex Rider is back in an addictive adventure that includes a celebrity madman and a near-fatal rendezvous with destiny aboard the famous Air Force One.
Jocelyn, Marthe. Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance. 2004. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-2120-X).
Mable dreams of grand adventures when she and her sister leave their family farm for Ontario in 1901. A gentle, moving story for fans of Anne of Green Gables.
Johnson, Angela. Bird. 2004. Dial, $15.99 (0-8037-2847-6).
Thirteen-year-old Bird follows her beloved stepfather to Alabama, hoping to convince him to return home. In bittersweet encounters, Bird helps others cope with their difficulties.
Johnson, Kathleen Jeffrie. A Fast and Brutal Wing. 2004. Roaring Brook, $16.95 (0-59643-013-3).
Brother and sister? Shape-shifters? Psychotics? Identities are uncertain in this thrilling story of teens implicated in a local writer’s disappearance.
Johnson, Maureen. The Key to the Golden Firebird. 2004. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-06-054138-5).
There is no normal for the Gold sisters whose grief over their father’s sudden death sends them spiraling apart, perhaps forever.
Koertge, Ron. Margaux with an X. 2004. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-2401-2).
Although beautiful ice queen Margaux can date any boy she wants, she refuses everyone until she meets school outcast Danny.
Koja, Kathe. The Blue Mirror. 2004. Farrar/Frances Foster, $16 (0-374-30849-7).
Maggy escapes from her alcoholic mother at the Blue Mirror, a downtown café where she meets Cole, an enigmatic, abusive, and homeless Pied Piper.
Konigsburg, E. L. The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place. 2004. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16.95 (0-689-86636-4).
Twelve-year-old Margaret Rose is rescued from summer camp bullies by her beloved grand-uncles and spends a transforming month spearheading the campaign to save their three unique towers.
Lawrence, Iain. B for Buster. 2004. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-73086-1).
Kak, 16, illegally enlists in the Canadian Air Force in 1943 and experiences the horror of war as he battles his fear of flying in the bombing raids over Germany.
Lawrence, Michael. A Crack in the Line. 2004. Greenwillow, $15.99 (0-06-072477-3).
Grief-stricken Alaric stumbles into an alternate world where his dead mother still lives and a girl named Naia is living his life.
Leavitt, Martine. Heck, Superhero. 2004. Front Street, $16.95 (1-886910-94-4).
This gripping novel follows 96 critical hours in the life of Heck, a 13-year-old artist and all-too-human kid who faces a crisis after he’s locked out of his apartment and his severely depressed mother disappears.
*Levithan, David. The Realm of Possibility. 2004. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-82845-1).
This romantic novel written in various poetic forms collects 20 distinct yet interwoven stories about high-school students who each share defining moments in their lives.
*Marchetta, Melina. Saving Francesca. 2004. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-82982-2).
As her high-powered mother suffers from severe depression, Francesca copes with her classes, her friends, and the complications that arise from being one of 30 girls in a school with 750 guys.
McKinley, Robin. Sunshine. 2003. Berkley, $23.95 (0-425-19178-8).
In a not-too-distant future where werewolves, demons, and other creatures take over the world, teen Sunshine becomes a vampire’s unlikely savior.
McNaughton, Janet. An Earthly Knight. 2004. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-06-008992-X).
In 1162 Scotland, Jenny is supposed to save her family by marrying their chosen suitor; she falls in love with Tam Lin, returned from the fairies, instead.
Meyer, L. A. Curse of the Blue Tattoo: Being an Account of the Misadventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman and Fine Lady. 2004. Harcourt, $17.00 (0-15-205115-5).
Jacky, a former ship’s “boy” and aspiring fine lady, finds herself unceremoniously dumped in Boston, where she will attend the prestigious Lawson Peabody School.
Morgan, Nicola. Fleshmarket. 2004. Delacorte, $15.99 (0-385-73154-X).
Raw and suspenseful, this Dickensian novel explores medicine in the nineteenth century-an era before anesthesia when physicians went to great lengths to obtain corpses for research.
Moriarty, Jaclyn. The Year of Secret Assignments. 2004. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $16.95 (0-439-49881-3).
A pen-pal project between three best friends and three boys at a rival high school escalates into wild pranks.
*Morpurgo, Michael. Private Peaceful. 2004. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-439-63648-5).
The Peaceful brothers have always shared a close bond, and they vow that the trenches of WWI won’t change that. But there are some evils of war that have nothing to do with fighting.
Napoli, Donna Jo. Bound. 2004. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16.95 (0-689-86175-3).
In this Cinderella retelling, 14-year-old Xing Xing is resigned to a life of servitude until an extraordinary fish helps her decide her own future.
Nelson, Blake. Rock Star, Superstar. 2004. Viking, $16.99 (0-670-05933-1).
Sixteen-year-old bass player Peter learns lessons of life, love, and rock and roll while playing with his garage band, The Tiny Masters of Today.
*Oppel, Kenneth. Airborn. 2004. HarperCollins/Eos, $16.99 (0-06-053180-0).
When the Aurora-part dirigible, part shipping vessel-is forced to land on an uncharted island, Matt and fellow traveler Kate must battle pirates and strange, winged creatures in order to return their damaged ship to its voyage in the sky. A 2005 Printz Honor Book.
Peck, Richard. The Teacher’s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts. 2004. Dial, $16.99 (0-8037-2736-4).
When mean ol’ teacher Myrt Arbuckle hauls off and dies, 15-year-old Russell Culver thinks he is done with school forever, until his sister is chosen to be the new teacher.
Peters, Julie Anne. Luna. 2004. Little, Brown/Megan Tingley, $16.95 (0-316-73369-5).
Regan tells the story of her brother, Liam, a transsexual teen who begins to show Luna, his nighttime persona, during the day, too.
Pratchett, Terry. A Hat Full of Sky. 2004. HarperCollins, $16.99 (0-06-058660-5).
In order to become a witch-in-training, Tiffany Aching leaves her home and her beloved Wee Free Men. But once away, she needs the Men’s help to battle an invisible foe.
*Rapp, Adam. Under the Wolf, under the Dog. 2004. Candlewick, $16.99 (0-7636-1818-7).
Gifted and talented high-school student Steven Nugent enters a facility for addicted and suicidal teens after his mother dies of cancer and his brother kills himself.
Reeve, Philip. Predator’s Gold. 2004. HarperCollins/Eos, $16.99 (0-06-072193-6).
In a futuristic world where wheeled cities devour each other, teenage lovers Hester and Tom attempt to find the “Dead Continent of America” and are pursued by terrorists.
Rosoff, Meg. How I Live Now. 2004. Random/Wendy Lamb, $16.95 (0-385-74677-6).
In a dystopian future, Daisy’s world turns upside down when she travels to England to stay with relatives, falls in love, and faces a devastating world war. The 2005 Michael L. Printz Award Book.
*Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood. 2004. Cinco Puntos, $18.95 (0-938317-81-4).
Sammy Santos’ dreams of escaping his violent barrio in the late 1960s are shattered after Juliana, the girl he loves, is murdered.
Schmidt, Gary D. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. 2004. Clarion, $15 (0-618-43929-3).
Turner’s family moves to Phippsburg, Maine, in 1912 just as the town’s white leaders try to eliminate a neighboring island community populated by former slaves and their descendants. A 2005 Newbery Honor Book and a 2005 Printz Honor Book.
Shinn, Sharon. The Safe-Keeper’s Secret. 2004. Viking, $16.99 (0-670-05910-2).
In this fantasy, the Safe-Keeper carries an entire kingdom’s secrets, including the truth about her children’s identities.
Shusterman, Neal. The Schwa Was Here. 2004. Dutton, $15.99 (0-525-47182-0).
Antsy Bonano and functionally invisible Calvin Schwa earn big bucks until they get caught in loony old man Crawley’s apartment.
Sones, Sonya. One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies. 2004. Simon & Schuster, $15.95 (0-689-85820-5).
After her mother dies of cancer, Ruby is forced to move to “Cali-phony-a” to live with her father, famous movie star Whip Logan.
Strasser, Todd. Can’t Get There from Here. 2004. Simon & Schuster, $15.95 (0-689-84169-8).
A homeless teen, Maybe, and her tribe of fellow street urchins try to survive a dangerous and brutal winter on the streets of Manhattan.
Stratton, Allan. Chanda’s Secrets. 2004. Annick, $19.95 (1-55037-835-X).
Sixteen-year-old Chanda fights to keep her dreams alive and conquer her fears despite the brutal realities of Africa’s AIDS epidemic. A 2005 Printz Honor Book.
Stroud, Jonathan. The Golem’s Eye. 2004. Hyperion, $17.95 (0-7868-1860-3).
Nathaniel, 14, an ambitious magician employed by the government, again summons Bartimaeus, a sarcastic djinni, to help him destroy a hideous, vengeful golem that is attacking London.
Tocher, Timothy. Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me. 2004. Cricket, $15.95 (0-8126-2711-3).
In 1919, 15-year-old Hank escapes his abusive father and joins Chief Sunrise, a gifted pitcher, on an eventful journey to try out for the New York Giants baseball team.
Townley, Roderick. Sky. 2004. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16.95 (0-689-85712-8).
In 1958 Manhattan, Sky struggles to reconcile his love of jazz with the demands of his overbearing father.
Turnbull, Ann. No Shame, No Fear. 2004. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-2505-1).
In 1662 Britain, during rising intolerance of Quakers, the son of an Anglican businessman finds himself drawn not only to the Quaker religion but also to a Quaker girl.
Updale, Eleanor. Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? 2004. Scholastic/Orchard, $16.95 (0-439-58035-8).
Montmorency, a petty thief in Victorian England, is badly injured and caught by police. As he recuperates in jail, he begins a new life with a new identity.
*Weeks, Sarah. So B. It. 2004. HarperCollins/Laura Geringer, $15.99 (0-06-623622-3).
Twelve-year-old Heidi doesn’t know the story of her own birth; her severely disabled mother can only articulate 23 words. In a stirring cross-country journey, she tries to discover the truth of her origins.
Werlin, Nancy. Double Helix. 2004. Dial, $15.99 (0-8037-2606-6).
Haunted by too many unanswered questions, Eli Samuels finds that all clues lead to world-famous geneticist Quincy Wyatt, a man whose eerie familiarity masks a chilling truth.
Westerfeld, Scott. So Yesterday. 2004. Penguin/Razorbill, $16.99 (1-59514-000-X).
When Hunter Braque, a Cool Hunter, meets Jen Jones, an Innovator, the pair unwittingly falls into a secret scheme to rock the foundations of a multinational shoe manufacturer.
Whedon, Joss. Fray. 2003. Darby Creek, $19.95 (1-56971-751-6).
Fray is a thief making a living in the slum that was once Manhattan, until she discovers she is a Slayer, born to kill the monsters at war with mankind.
Whitney, Kim Ablon. See You down the Road. 2004. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-82467-7).
Will 16-year-old Bridget leave behind an arranged marriage and her family’s familiar Traveler life to join mainstream society?
Williams-Garcia, Rita. No Laughter Here. 2004. HarperCollins/Amistad, $15.99 (0-688-16247-9).
Upon her return from a visit to her native Nigeria, young Victoria shocks her best friend, Akilah, with a horrific secret.
Wolf, Allan. New Found Land: Lewis and Clark’s Voyage of Discovery. 2004. illus. Candlewick, $18.99 (0-7636-2113-7).
Combining poetry, prose, and multiple voices, this absorbing historical novel chronicles the epic journey of Lewis and Clark and their noble crew.
Wooding, Chris. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray. 2004. Orchard, $16.95 (0-439-54656-7).
Possession, wych-kin, and airships threaten Thaniel and Cathaline as they fight to rid an alternative London of the evil Fraternity.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Behind You. 2004. Putnam, $15.99 (0-399-23988-X).
After 15-year-old Jeremiah’s brutal murder, his family, friends, and beloved girlfriends struggle with their own grief.
Yolen, Jane and Robert J. Harris. Prince across the Water. 2004. Putnam/Philomel, $18.99 (0-399-23897-2).
Duncan MacDonald and his cousin Ewan are eager to answer the call to restore Prince Charlie to the Scottish throne, a quest that will lead to the end of the Highland clans at the bloody battle of Culloden.
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