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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. Selected on the basis of each book’s proven or potential appeal and value to teens, the 84 titles, published from late 2002 through 2003, span a variety of subjects as well as a broad range of reading levels. Each year the committee selects a top 10 from the final list; these titles are identified with a star (*) in the list below.
Bird, Eugenie. Fairie-Ality: The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand. 2002. illus. Candlewick, $40 (0-7636-1413-0).
What will the fairies wear this season? Gerbera daisy bell-bottoms or snakeskin bikinis? This fashion catalog for the wee folks will set the trends.
Capuzzo, Michael. Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916. 2003. illus. Crown, $16.95 (0-375-82231-3).
In 1916, mass hysteria grips the Jersey coast when a shark terrorizes the shoreline in this account of one of the first documented shark attacks.
Crowe, Chris. Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case. 2003. illus. Penguin Putnam/Phyllis Fogelman, $18.99 (0-8037-2804-2).
Using archival photographs and primary sources, Crowe describes how the Mississippi murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till contributed to the civil rights movement.
Crutcher, Chris. King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography. 2003. Greenwillow, $16.99 (0-06-050249-5).
The autobiography of the Margaret A. Edwards Award-winning author recounts the childhood vignettes and discoveries of profound, simple truths that led to his career writing honest and gritty young-adult books.
Fleming, Candace. Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman’s Life. 2003. illus. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $19.95 (0-689-83549-3).
Poor Richard’s Almanac is the model for this topically organized biography of the printer, writer, scientist, statesman, inventor, and founding father.
Fradin, Dennis Brindell and Fradin, Judith Bloom. Fight On! Mary Church Terrell’s Battle for Integration. 2003. illus. Clarion, $17 (0-618-13349-6).
This biography introduces an indomitable fighter against all forms of discrimination, who conducted a successful campaign to integrate Washington, D.C., restaurants and movie theaters.
Freedman, Russell. In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America’s Bill of Rights. 2003. illus. Holiday, $24.95 (0-8234-1585-6).
Amendment by amendment, Freedman describes how court cases and societal changes have broadened our understanding of the individual freedoms listed in the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1791.
Freese, Barbara. Coal: A Human History. 2002. Perseus, $25 (0-7382-0400-5).
Facts and anecdotes examine the historic, scientific, economic, political, cultural, and literary aspects of coal, as well as the current debates about energy consumption, developing nations, and global warming.
Greenberg, Jan and Jordan, Sandra. 2003. illus. Runaway Girl: The Artist Louise Bourgeois. Abrams, $19.95 (0-8109-4237-2).
Beautifully illustrated with photographs, this intriguing biography portrays the rebellious life of progressive sculptor Louise Bourgeois.
Hampton, Wilborn. September 11, 2001: Attack on New York City. 2003. illus. Candlewick, $17.99 (0-7636-1949-3).
This moving account of the destruction of the World Trade Center is told through the experiences of people who were closely involved.
Murphy, Jim. An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. 2003. illus. Clarion, $17 (0-395-77608-2).
In this gripping account, Murphy explores how yellow fever disrupted the federal government, divided the medical establishment, and destroyed the lives of thousands of Philadelphians. The 2004 Robert F. Sibert Medal winner and a Newbery Honor Book.
Murphy, Jim. Inside the Alamo. 2003. illus. Delacorte, $16.95 (0-385-32574-6).
Primary sources and lively text describe the events that led to General Santa Anna’s victory at the battle of the Alamo.
Paulsen, Gary. How Angel Peterson Got His Name and Other Outrageous Tales about Extreme Sports. 2003. Random/Wendy Lamb, $12.95 (0-385-72949-9).
Paulsen recounts the bizarre, daredevil feats that he and his friends attempted during their Minnesota childhood.
Roach, Mary. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. 2003. Norton, $23.95 (0-393-05093-9).
Roach exams the afterlife of human cadavers in this humorous, touching, and respectful look at how scientists utilize the human body.
Sís, Peter. The Tree of Life: A Book Depicting the Life of Charles Darwin, Naturalist, Geologist & Thinker. 2003. illus. Farrar/Frances Foster, $18 (0-374-45628-3).
Material from Darwin’s own diaries and detailed illustrations by the author introduce the nineteenth-century scientist who sailed around the world and wrote a book that changed it.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Purple Hibiscus. 2003. Algonquin, $23.95 (1-56512-387-5).
Kambili’s devout father, in public a respected Nigerian businessman, brutally punishes his family at home in this coming-of-age drama set against political turmoil.
Bell, Hilari. The Goblin Wood. 2003. HarperCollins/Eos, $16.99 (0-06-051371-3).
A young hedgewitch, a disgraced but honorable knight, and myriad goblins are at the center of this magical tale about a world at war.
Bray, Libba. A Great and Terrible Beauty. 2003. Delacorte, $16.95 (0-385-73028-4).
In 1895 Victorian England, after her mother’s tragic death abroad, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle finds herself embroiled in a decades-old supernatural mystery at a stuffy finishing school.
Brennan, Herbie. Faerie Wars. 2003. Bloomsbury, $17.95 (1-58234-810-3).
In this adventurous fantasy, Henry Atherton, a teen from “our world,” and his octogenarian employer, Mr. Fogarty, join forces with an animal-loving boy from the faerie world who is in “mortal” danger.
Brooks, Kevin. Lucas. 2003. Scholastic/Chicken House, $16.95 (0-439-45698-3).
Caitlin is ostracized when the other young adults of Hale Island develop an immediate and intense hatred for the attractive, mysterious newcomer she befriends.
*Brooks, Martha. True Confessions of a Heartless Girl. 2003. Farrar /Melanie Kroupa, $16 (0-374-37806-1).
After stealing her boyfriend’s money and truck, newly pregnant Noreen lands in the small town of Pembina Lake and shakes up the town’s residents.
Buckingham, Dorothea N. Staring Down the Dragon. 2003. Sydney, paper, $10.95 (0-9724577-3-9).
Rell is in remission from cancer but can’t quite resume her normal life; no one truly understands what she’s been through or how the disease has changed her life.
Burt, Guy. Sophie. 2003. Ballantine, $12.95 (0-345-44659-3).
In disturbing conversations with his hostage, the mysterious Sophie, Mattie recounts his traumatic childhood. A dark, provocative thriller.
Calhoun, Dia. White Midnight. 2003. Farrar, $18 (0-374-38389-8).
Rose, discounted as timid, ugly, and inconsequential by her community, faces her fears and “the thing” in the attic in order to save her beloved Greengarden.
Coburn, Jake. Prep. 2003. Dutton, $15.99 (0-525-47135-9).
Former “tagger” Nick is forced back into the prep school gangster underworld in order to save the younger brother of his best friend.
Cofer, Judith Ortiz. The Meaning of Consuelo. 2003. Farrar, $20 (0-374-20509-4).
Coming of age in 1950s Puerto Rico, Consuelo discovers herself as she observes her disintegrating family and the way life is changing on the island.
Davis, Amanda. Wonder When You’ll Miss Me. 2003. Morrow, $24.95 (0-688-16781-0).
When everything in her life spirals out of control, 16-year-old Faith, a survivor of a brutal sexual assault and a suicide attempt, runs away and joins the circus.
*Donnelly, Jennifer. A Northern Light. 2003. Harcourt, $17 (0-15-216705-6).
Set in upstate New York in 1906, against the background of a true murder case, Mattie fights her family and the societal constraints of the times to become her own person. A 2004 Printz Honor Book.
Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction. Ed. by Sharyn November. 2003. Putnam/Firebird, $19.99 (0-14-250142-5).
This collection of previously unpublished sf and fantasy short stories showcases popular and award-winning authors of the genre.
Frank, E. R. Friction. 2003. Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson, $16.95 (0-689-85384-X).
Twelve-year-old Alex tries to decide if the sordid tales told to her about her beloved teacher by a sophisticated new classmate are true.
Frost, Helen. Keesha’s House. 2003. Farrar/Frances Foster, $16 (0-374-34064-1).
In this novel, told in sestinas and sonnets, troubled kids who are forced to leave their homes find their way to Keesha’s House. A 2004 Printz Honor Book.
Going, K. L. Fat Kid Rules the World. 2003. Putnam, $17.99 (0-399-23990-1).
A chance encounter with a homeless teenage punk rocker rescues obese 17-year-old Troy from himself. A 2004 Printz Honor Book.
Goodman, Alison. Singing the Dogstar Blues. 2003. Viking, $16.99 (0-670-03610-2).
With an assassin on her heels, harmonica-playing Joss travels back in time with her dualized alien partner, Mavkel, and unravels a family secret.
*Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. 2003. Doubleday, $22.95 (0-385-50945-6).
Christopher, a 15-year-old autistic teen who can solve quadratic equations in his head but can’t bear to be touched, solves the mystery of who murdered his neighbor’s dog.
Hautman, Pete. Sweetblood. 2003. Simon & Schuster, $16.95 (0-689-85048-4).
Sixteen-year-old Lucy comes to terms with her out-of-control diabetes by comparing her disease to vampirism and immersing herself in Goth culture.
Hearn, Lian. Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori, Book 1. 2002. Riverhead, $24.95 (1-57322-225-9).
Kateo embarks on an epic adventure when his people are slaughtered and he is rescued by Lord Otori, an exiled noble who knows Kateo’s secret destiny.
Henkes, Kevin. Olive’s Ocean. 2003. Greenwillow, $15.99 (0-06-053543-1).
When Martha’s classmate, Olive, is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Martha sets out to accomplish the things that Olive never had the chance to do. A 2004 Newbery Honor Book.
Hoffman, Nina Kiriki. A Stir of Bones. 2003. Viking, $15.99 (0-670-03551-3).
Susan may be perfect in every way, but she’s also hiding a perfectly horrible secret that only a haunted house can help her face.
Holt, Kimberly Willis. Keeper of the Night. 2003. Holt, $16.95 (0-8050-6361-7).
Against the richly drawn Guam setting, teenage Isabel and her family try to survive and heal after her mother’s suicide.
Horvath, Polly. The Canning Season. 2003. Farrar, $16 (0-374-39956-5).
When Ratchet Clark spends the summer with her aunts in Maine, she is surprised by the rural surroundings, as well as the sense of home she finds there.
Jenkins, A. M. Out of Order. 2003. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-06-623968-0).
High-school sophomore Colt Trammy struggles to maintain his macho image despite problems with both his girlfriend and his schoolwork.
*Johnson, Angela. The First Part Last. 2003. Simon & Schuster, $15.95 (0-689-84922-2).
Passages that alternate between the past and present tell the story of Bobbie, a teenage father in New York City who first appeared in Johnson’s Heaven. Winner of the 2004 Michael L. Printz Award and the Coretta Scott King Author Award.
Johnson, Kathleen Jeffrie. Target. 2003. Roaring Brook, $15.95 (0-7613-1932-8).
Grady struggles to finish his senior year, haunted by the rape that destroyed his sense of security and self-worth.
Juby, Susan. Alice, I Think. 2003. HarperTempest, $15.99 (0-06-051543-0).
In her sardonic voice, 15-year-old Alice describes her adventures in her small town, where her unusual fashion sense and outspokenness cause friction.
Koja, Kathe. Buddha Boy. 2003. Farrar/Frances Foster, $16 (0-374-30998-1).
Justin is shaken from his safe little niche at school when he meets Jinsen, an unusual new student who only smiles when the school’s predators abuse him.
Korman, Gordon. Jake, Reinvented. 2003. Hyperion, $15.99 (0-7868-1957-X).
A mysterious new high-school student, who instantly becomes the center of the social scene and a star on the football team, harbors secrets from his past that threaten to topple the new identity he’s constructed for himself.
Krisher, Trudy. Uncommon Faith. 2003. Holiday, $17.95 (0-8234-1791-3).
Young people who previously felt invisible begin to question and to change established attitudes and behaviors after a livery fire in Milbrook, Massachusetts, in 1837.
*Levithan, David. Boy Meets Boy. 2003. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-82400-6).
In a novel set in a mythical, free-spirited high school with many openly gay students, Paul tries to balance a new relationship with Noah while still caring for his ex, Kyle.
Little, Jason. Shutterbug Follies. 2002. illus. Doubleday, $24.95 (0-385-50346-6).
In this graphic novel, Bee’s job as a photo-lab technician leads her into a bizarre murder mystery involving an art photographer’s grisly subjects.
Lowachee, Karin. Burndive. 2003. Warner/Aspect, paper, $6.99 (0-446-61318-5).
Drug addict and media darling Ryan Azarcon is pulled into an interstellar war when assassins target his famous family. A companion novel to Warchild.
Mack, Tracy. Birdland. 2003. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-439-53590-5).
Jed’s video documentary project, set in new York City’s East Village, helps him deal with the recent death of his brother, Teke, a poet and jazz fan.
Mackler, Carolyn. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things. 2003. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-1958-2).
When her best friend moves away, Virginia learns how to manage her weight, her love life, and an accusation of date rape against her older brother on her own. A 2004 Printz Honor Book.
Martinez, Manuel Luis. Drift. 2003. St. Martin’s/Picador, $14 (0-312-30995-3).
Set adrift by his family after his dad splits, 16-year-old Robert Lomos fights the odds to become a man and not a burro.
*Maynard, Joyce. The Usual Rules. 2003. St. Martin’s, $24.95 (0-312-24261-1).
After her beloved mother dies in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, 13-year-old Wendy tries to pick up the pieces of her life.
McNamee, Graham. Acceleration. 2003. Random/Wendy Lamb, $15.95 (0-385-73119-1).
While working a summer job in the subterranean lost-and-found office of the Toronto Transit Commission, Duncan discovers a lost journal containing a man’s plans to murder women.
Meyer, L. A. Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy. 2002. Harcourt, $17 (0-15-216731-5).
Reduced to begging and thievery on the streets of historic London, Mary transforms herself into Jacky Faber, ship’s boy on the British warship Dolphin.
Murray, Jaye. Bottled Up. 2003. Dial, $16.99 (0-8037-2897-2).
Pip is a 17-year-old bad ass, always in trouble, but a concerned school principal forces him to face his life choices.
Myracle, Lauren. Kissing Kate. 2003. Dutton, $16.99 (0-525-46917-6).
A brief, intimate episode between two longtime high-school girlfriends causes an unbridgeable rift when each girl reacts in a radically different way.
Naidoo, Beverly. Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope. 2003. HarperCollins, $16.99 (0-06-050799-3).
Seven short stories chronicle the stiffening and subsequent collapse of apartheid-the complex system of racial segregation in South Africa.
Napoli, Donna Jo. Breath. 2003. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16.95 (0-689-86174-5).
In the 1200s in rat-infested Hameln, Germany, a young boy with a terrible disease meets the piper. Stark, vivid imagery of a community struggling with the plague enhances this suspenseful book.
Osa, Nancy. Cuba 15. 2003. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-73021-7).
Violet’s zany family provides plenty of material for her speech team performances, and leads her to an understanding of her Cuban American heritage as she prepares for her quinceañera. A 2004 Belpré Author Honor Book.
Parker, Jeff. The Interman. 2003. illus. Octopus, paper, $19.95 (0-9725553-0-7).
In this thrilling graphic novel, government leaders have decided that Interman Van Meach, a genetic experiment to create the perfect war machine, is too dangerous to live.
*Pattou, Edith. East. 2003. Harcourt, $18 (0-15-204563-5).
Rose journeys to a land “east of the sun and west of the moon” to break the curse of the Troll Queen.
Peck, Richard. The River between Us. 2003. Dial, $16.99 (0-8037-2735-6).
In 1916, while visiting his father’s ancestral home in southern Illinois, Howard Leland Hutchings meets Tilly, who tells him the story of his father’s kin during the Civil War era.
Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Choice. 2003. Random, $17.95 (0-375-81466-3).
In this high fantasy, teenage Aly is captured by slavers, but she bargains with a god and proves herself a worthy spy in the process.
Pratchett, Terry. The Wee Free Men. 2003. HarperCollins, $16.99 (0-06-001236-6).
Armed with an iron frying pan, Tiffany joins the Wee Free Men, who make her their leader in order to rescue her little brother, one of the young people kidnapped by the queen of Fairyland.
*Rapp, Adam. 33 Snowfish. 2003. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-1874-8).
Boobie, Curl, and Custis, on the run with Boobie’s baby brother, attempt to escape their demons and look to each other as the only real family they’ve ever known.
Rees, Celia. Pirates! 2003. Bloomsbury, $17.95 (1-58234-816-2).
In a swashbuckling adventure set in the 1720s, dire circumstances propel two girls-a wealthy merchant’s daughter from England and her father’s Jamaican slave-into a life of piracy.
Reeve, Philip. Mortal Engines. 2003. HarperCollins/Eos, $16.99 (0-06-008207-0).
In a post-apocalyptic world, in which cities rove and consume smaller towns, four teens uncover a diabolical plan to reconstruct the very weapons that destroyed the previous civilization.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. 2003. illus. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $29.99 (0-439-35806-X).
In his fifth year at Hogwarts, 15-year-old Harry grapples with teen emotions as he confronts terrifying dreams and faces his nemesis once again.
Rylant, Cynthia. God Went to Beauty School. 2003. HarperTempest, $15.99 (0-06-009433-8).
This funny, thoughtful collection of poems chronicles God’s adventures at beauty school, a bar, and many other unexpected locales.
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. 2003. Pantheon, $17.95 (0-375-42230-7).
In this graphic novel, Satrapi relates her life as the daughter of radical Marxists in Iran during the revolution and subsequent war with Iraq.
Slade, Arthur. Dust. 2003. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-73004-7).
A mysterious rainmaker brings salvation when he rides into a drought-stricken Saskatchewan town, but the town’s children are disappearing.
Spinelli, Jerry. Milkweed. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-81374-8).
A resourceful orphan survives the brutal realities of life in the Warsaw ghetto by stealing, joining a boy’s gang, and finding refuge with a family.
*Stroud, Jonathan. The Amulet of Samarkand. 2003. Hyperion/Miramax, $17.95 (0-7868-1859-X).
In an alternate London, brilliant young Nathaniel conjures up Bartimaeus, a dangerous, sharp-witted djinni, to steal a powerful amulet so that he may exact revenge against other magicians.
*Thompson, Craig. Blankets. 2003. Top Shelf, $29.95 (1-891830-43-0).
This semiautobiographical graphic novel explores a boy’s trials and tribulations as an outcast at a zealous youth Bible camp where he meets the girl of his dreams.
Trueman, Terry. Inside Out. 2003. HarperTempest, $15.99 (0-06-623962-1).
While waiting for his mom in the coffee shop, 16-year-old Zach, who suffers from adolescent-onset schizophrenia, becomes the voice of reason when a foiled robbery by a pair of armed teens turns into a hostage situation.
Vance, Susanna. Deep. 2003. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-73057-8).
Spoiled 13-year-old Birdie and solemn, sea-faring 17-year-old Morgan become unlikely allies, brought together by a ruthless, utterly charming modern pirate.
Vivian. Heir Apparent. 2002. Harcourt, $17 (0-15-204560-0).
When conservative protestors damage equipment at the arcade, Giannine becomes tapped in a virtual-reality game. Suddenly, she isn’t just playing to win; she’s playing for her life.
Wittlinger, Ellen. Zigzag. 2003. Simon & Schuster, $16.95 (0-689-84996-6).
While her boyfriend happily travels through Europe, Robin reluctantly drives across the U.S. with her squabbling cousins and discovers her inner strength.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. 2003. Putnam, $15.99 (0-399-23115-3).
Traumatized after his parents are killed in a fire, 11-year-old Lonnie struggles to reclaim his life in this moving, lyrical novel in verse. A 2004 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book.
Wrede, Patricia C. and Stevermer, Caroline. Sorcery & Cecelia; or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot. 2003. Harcourt, $17 (0-15-204615-1).
Cousins Kate and Cecelia describe their raucous adventures and solve a magical mystery through their lively correspondence.
Yolen, Jane. Sword of the Rightful King. 2003. Harcourt, $17 (0-15-202527-8).
Assassins, treachery, and sorcery abound in this inventive version of King Arthur’s early days of rule.
Zahn, Timothy. Dragon and Thief. 2003. Tor, $24.95 (0-765-30124-5).
Jack’s efforts to be cleared of an intergalactic theft are complicated by Droyces, a symbiotic dragon that becomes a living tattoo.
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