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Find more Best Books for Young Adults
The Best Books for Young Adults list is compiled annually by a committee of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and comprises nonfiction and fiction appropriate for ages 12 to 18. Titles published in late 2007 are noted; all others were published in 2008. The committee’s top 10 choices are identified with a star (*). For a list of committee members, visit www.booklistonline.com.
Ain’t Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry. By Scott Reynolds Nelson and Marc Aronson. illus. National Geographic, $18.95 (9781426300004).
Historian Nelson, with coauthor Aronson, chronicles his journey to find the truth about the man behind the myth of “John Henry.” A 2009 Notable Children’s Book.
Becoming Billie Holiday. By Carole Boston Weatherford. Illus. by Floyd Cooper. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $19.95 (9781590785072).
This powerfully illustrated, verse biography tells the life story of Billie Holiday, including her troubled childhood and the intense racial discrimination she suffered, even as a star. A Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book.
Before Their Time:
The World of Child Labor. By David L. Parker. illus. 2007. Quantuck Lane, $35 (9781593720247).
In this photo-essay, black-and-white images introduce the lives of children who labor under harsh and dangerous conditions in jobs such as miners, garbage pickers, sex workers, and brick haulers.
Far from Home: Latino Baseball Players in America. By Tim Wendel and José Luis Villegas. illus. National Geographic, $28 (9781426202162).
This lavishly illustrated title introduces the rich history of Latino baseball players and the Latino communities that are wildly passionate about the game.
I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee. By Charles J. Shields. illus. Holt, $18.95 (9780805083347).
An adaptation of a biography originally published for adults, this title introduces the reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird.
*It’s Complicated: The American Teenager. By Robin Bowman. illus. 2007. Umbrage, $40 (9781884167690).
Black-and-white photographs and first-person narratives of teenagers from across the country offer a unique view of contemporary young-adult life.
No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row. By Susan Kuklin. illus. Holt, $17.95 (9780805079500).
This harrowing book collects accounts of inmates who were sentenced to death row as teenagers with the stories of their relatives and victims. A 2009 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom. By Margarita Engle. Holt, $16.95 (9780805086744).
Set during Cuba’s nineteenth-century wars for independence, this verse novel follows Rosa as she risks her life to nurse the sick and wounded. A 2009 Newbery Honor Book, the 2009 Pura Belpré Author Award Book, and a 2009 Notable Children’s Book.
Thoreau at Walden. By John Porcellino. Illus. by the author. Hyperion, $16.99 (9781423100386).
This beautifully illustrated adaptation of Walden introduces readers to Thoreau’s work while providing a fresh perspective for those already familiar with the text.
The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West. By Sid Fleischman. illus. Greenwillow, $18.99 (9780061344312).
Meet the young Samuel Clemens and the coast-to-coast experiences that molded America’s most famed humorist and social commentator. A 2009 Notable Children’s Book.
War Is . . . : Soldiers, Survivors, and Storytellers Talk about War. By Marc Aronson and Patty Campbell. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763636258).
This balanced collection of contemporary and historical writings includes interviews, stories, memoirs, and a blog about the experiences of enlisting, serving, and surviving in war.
What It Is. By Lynda Barry. Illus. by the author. Drawn and Quarterly, $24.95 (9781897299357).
An inventive blend of questions, images, stories, and comic illustrations invites readers to explore their creativity through writing and drawing.
What the World Eats. By Faith D’Aluisio and Peter Menzel. illus. Tricycle, $22.99 (9781582462462).
With vivid photographs, personal stories, and fascinating statistics, this book examines the meals of 25 different families from all around the world.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox. By Mary E. Pearson. Holt, $16.95 (9780805076684).
As Jenna Fox’s memory returns following a year-long coma, she has more questions than answers about who she was and who she is now.
After Tupac and D Foster. By Jacqueline Woodson. Putnam, $15.99 (9780399246548).
Three Brooklyn girls from very different families form a devoted friendship that is threatened after one of them moves away. A 2009 Newbery Honor Book, a 2009 Notable Children’s Book, and a 2009 Rainbow Project Book.
Airman. By Eoin Colfer. Hyperion, $17.99 (9781423107507).
Conor Broekhart spends his days dreaming of hot-air balloons and flying machines until a murder charge sends him to prison, where he is sentenced to work in the diamond mines.
Another Kind of Cowboy. By Susan Juby. 2007. HarperTeen, $16.99 (9780060765187).
After horse-crazy Alex finally gets a chance to switch from western pleasure to dressage, he feels more in tune with both his riding and his overall identity. A 2009 Rainbow Project Book.
Antsy Does Time. By Neal Shusterman. Dutton, $16.99 (9780525478256).
Anthony “Antsy” Bonano’s one simple act—offering his dying classmate a month of his life—sets off a chain of hilarious events that snowball out of control.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; v.2: The Kingdom on the Waves. By M. T. Anderson. Candlewick, $22.99 (9780763629502).
In 1775 Boston, Octavian, an escaped slave, joins the Royal Ethiopian Regiment of the British army after he is promised freedom. A 2009 Printz Honor Book.
Audrey, Wait! By Robin Benway. Penguin/Razorbill, $16.99 (9781595141910).
Audrey’s ex-boyfriend records a hit song about their breakup, and suddenly all eyes (and cameras) are on Audrey.
*Baby. By Joseph Monninger. 2007. Front Street, $16.95 (9781590785027).
After 15-year-old Baby leaves the home of the middle-aged Potters, her last chance at foster care, she comes to terms with what is important to her.
Black Box. By Julie Schumacher. Delacorte, $15.99 (9780385735421).
Fourteen-year-old Elena struggles to hold her family together after her sister Dora swallows a bottle of antidepressants and is admitted to a psychiatric ward.
*Bog Child. By Siobhan Dowd. Random/David Fickling, $16.99 (9780385751698).
Fergus and his uncle find a girl’s body buried in a peat bog at the start of this novel, told in parallel narratives, of two young people who sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
Bonechiller. By Graham McNamee. Random/Wendy Lamb, $15.99 (9780385746588).
An ancient demon, intent on satisfying its hunger for human flesh, stalks Danny and his three friends in the brutally cold backwoods of Canada.
The Boy Who Dared. By Susan Campbell Bartoletti. illus. Scholastic, $16.99 (9780439680134).
Told through flashbacks, this is a fictionalized biography of German teenager Helmuth Hübener, who was imprisoned and executed in 1942 for openly resisting the Nazis.
Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress. By Maria Padian. Knopf, $15.99 (9780375946752).
Once a good student, eighth-grader Brett McCarthy faces school and family troubles and struggles to redefine her life.
*The Brothers Torres. By Coert Voorhees. Hyperion, $16.99 (9781423103042).
In this coming-of-age story set in a small New Mexico town, Frankie falls hard for a girl and idolizes his brother, who runs with a group of cholos.
Chains. By Laurie Halse Anderson. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781416905851).
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Isabel, a teenage slave, is sold to Loyalists in Manhattan, where she endures harsh treatment and plots her route to freedom. A 2009 Notable Children’s Book.
Climbing the Stairs. By Padma Venkatraman. Putnam, $16.99 (9780399247460).
After Vidya’s father is seriously injured, her family moves from their progressive home to the household of her conservative relatives in this vivid story set in India during World War II. A 2009 Amelia Bloomer Book.
A Curse Dark as Gold. By Elizabeth Bunce. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (9780439895767).
In this dark retelling of Rumplestiltskin, young Charlotte takes over the family’s woolen mill after her father’s death and is faced with unexpected debts, catastrophes, and a curse that threatens her family’s future. The 2009 William C. Morris Award winner.
Cybele’s Secret. By Juliet Marillier. Knopf, $16.99 (9780375833656).
When Paula travels with her merchant father to Istanbul, she discovers a world filled with eunuchs, pirates, and dervishes, as well as the Other Kingdom.
Dark Dude. By Oscar Hijuelos. Atheneum, $16.99 (9781416948049).
Tired of taking abuse for being a light-skinned Cuban in his drug-infested Harlem neighborhood, Rico follows a friend to rural Wisconsin, where he reshapes his Latino identity.
Debbie Harry Sings in French. By Meagan Brothers. Holt, $16.95 (9780805080803).
After his dad dies in a car accident and an unintentional drug overdose lands him in the hospital, Johnny moves in with an uncle and begins to rebuild his life. A 2009 Rainbow Project Book.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. By E. Lockhart. Hyperion, $16.99 (9780786838189).
Frankie Landau-Banks is determined to bring down an all-male secret society, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, at her elite boarding school. A 2009 Printz Honor Book.
Elephant Run. By Roland Smith. 2007. Hyperion, $15.99 (9781423104025).
Trapped on his father’s teak plantation in Burma when the Japanese invade during World War II, 13-year-old Nick must rely on his courage and wits to find safety.
The Entertainer and the Dybbuk. By Sid Fleischman. 2007. HarperTeen, $16.99 (9780061344459).
In this short, memorable story, the Great Freddie, a second-rate ventriloquist, is taken over by the spirit of a 12-year-old Jewish boy who was killed in the Holocaust and is now seeking revenge.
Fancy White Trash. By Marjetta Geerling. Viking, $16.99 (9780670010820).
Abby Savage does not want to be like her mother and sisters, who each became pregnant as teens, but her search for true love is complicated, and her only confidant is Cody, who has his own sexual issues. A 2009 Rainbow Project Book.
The Fortunes of Indigo Skye. By Deb Caletti. Simon & Schuster, $15.99 (9781416910077).
At 18, Indigo wants no more out of life than to be a waitress. Then a customer gives her $2,500,000. Can she cope with all of the changes that her new wealth brings?
Ghost Medicine. By Andrew Smith. Feiwel and Friends, $17.95 (9780312375577).
The tumultuous summer that cowboy Troy Stotts turns 17, he and his two best friends face lethal danger, from both humans and animals, in the California hills.
Graceling. By Kristin Cashore. Harcourt, $17 (9780152063962).
Since birth, Katsa has been trained to kill men with her bare hands. Can she find the moral courage to stand up to evil rulers and use her power for what is right? A 2009 Amelia Bloomer Book.
The Graveyard Book. By Neil Gaiman. Illus. by Dave McKean. HarperCollins, $17.99 (9780060530921).
This chilling story follows a boy who grows up in a graveyard, where he is looked after by a cast of mysterious, ghostly guardians. The 2009 Newbery Medal winner and a 2009 Notable Children’s Book.
Guardian. By Julius Lester. Amistad, $16.99 (9780061558900).
In 1946, Ansel’s rural, Deep South community disintegrates into hatred and injustice following a brutal murder and the lynching of an innocent man.
Here Lies Arthur. By Philip Reeve. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780545093347).
This fresh retelling of the Arthurian legend is told from the viewpoint of a young girl who survives by pretending to be a boy. A 2009 Notable Children’s Book.
The Host. By Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown, $25.99 (9780316068048).
In this story of love, betrayal, and compassion set in a believable futuristic time, Earth and other worlds have been taken over by supernatural “souls.”
How to Build a House. By Dana Reinhardt. Random/Wendy Lamb, $15.99 (9780375844539).
Devastated by her parents’ divorce, California teen Harper Evans spends the summer building a house for a family in Tennessee, where she begins to heal, makes new friends, and finds romance.
*The Hunger Games. By Suzanne Collins. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780439023481).
Katniss has been providing for her family since her father died, but is she strong enough to win the Hunger Games, a deadly competition in which there is only one winner? A 2009 Notable Children’s Book.
Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale. By Donna Jo Napoli. 2007. Atheneum, $16.99 (9780689861765).
Melkorka, a tenth-century Irish princess, must adapt to a harsh new life after she is stolen from her home by Russian slavers.
Impossible. By Nancy Werlin. Dial, $17.99 (9780803730021).
Lucy, 17, discovers that the women in her family are cursed with madness unless they complete three impossible tasks. Can she escape her magical legacy?
Into the Volcano. By Don Wood. Illus. by the author. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $18.99 (9780439726719).
In this large-format graphic novel, brothers Duffy and Sumo set off on an adventure into the belly of an ancient volcano, and their shocking discoveries nearly kill them.
Jellicoe Road. By Melina Marchetta. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780061431838).
While leading her Australian boarding-school’s territory wars, 18-year-old Taylor searches for the reason why her mother abandoned her years earlier. The 2009 Printz Award winner.
Keeping Corner. By Kashmira Sheth. 2007. Hyperion, $15.99 (9780786838592).
In India during World War II, 12-year-old Leela’s husband dies. Tradition dictates that she shave her head and “keep corner,” remaining sequestered inside her family’s house for a year.
Kendra. By Coe Booth. Scholastic/Push, $16.99 (9780439925365).
Kendra is thrilled that her mom, Renee, has completed her PhD program. Now they can finally live together as a “real family.” But is Renee equally excited about their future together?
The Knife of Never Letting Go. By Patrick Ness. Candlewick, $18.99 (9780763639310).
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in a town filled with men who can hear each other’s thoughts. This suspenseful, original fantasy is the first volume in the Chaos Walking series.
The Last Exit to Normal. By Michael Harmon. Knopf, $15.99 (9780375840982).
After several years of trouble at home, Ben Campbell travels with his dad and stepdad to Montana, where he encounters small-town life, homophobia, an abused boy, and a special girl. A 2009 Rainbow Project Book.
The Last Knight. By Hilari Bell. Eos, $16.99 (9780060825034).
An anachronistic knight errant takes a criminal as squire, mistakenly frees a woman charged with murder, and becomes a prisoner in this fast-paced adventure.
Little Brother. By Cory Doctorow. Tor, $17.95 (9780765319852).
In the wake of yet another major terrorist attack, the Department of Homeland Security clamps down, and it is up to teen computer geek Marcus to save everyone from this new police state.
Living Dead Girl. By Elizabeth Scott. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, $16.99 (9781416960591).
This chilling novel tells the story of Alice, who was abducted at the age of 10 and has been sexually assaulted by her captor, Ray, for five years.
The London Eye Mystery. By Siobhan Dowd. Random/David Fickling, $15.99 (9780375849763).
After their cousin Salim disappears into thin air during a ride on the London Eye Ferris wheel, Ted and his sister Kat draw on their unusual resources to find out what happened. A 2009 Notable Children’s Book.
Looks. By Madeleine George. Viking, $16.99 (9780670061679).
Meghan, an invisible fat girl, and Aimee, overlooked and anorexic, form an uneasy alliance to get revenge on a mutual enemy.
Madapple. By Christina Meldrum. Knopf, $16.99 (9780375951763).
After her mother’s death, Aslaug, who has grown up in almost total isolation with the belief that she was immaculately conceived, trades one bizarre reality for another.
Me, the Missing, and the Dead. By Jenny Valentine. HarperTeen, $16.99 (9780060850685).
In this quirky mystery, Lucas resents his mother and worships his absent father until a dead woman’s ashes, which seem to speak to him, send him on a crazy quest.
*Mexican WhiteBoy. By Matt de la Peña. Delacorte, $15 (9780385733106).
Half white, half Mexican, and 100 percent confused, Danny struggles with baseball, his absent father, and first love while spending the summer with his familia in San Diego.
The Missing Girl. By Norma Fox Mazer. HarperTeen, $16.99 (9780066237770).
The five Herbert sisters’ innocent lives explode in emotional turmoil after one of the sisters is abducted and held captive by a child predator.
*Nation. By Terry Pratchett. HarperCollins, $16.99 (9780061433016).
Mau is caught in a tidal wave that destroys his island, and Daphne is the only survivor from her ship. Together they form a new Nation. A 2009 Printz Honor Book and a 2009 Notable Children’s Book.
Night Road. By A. M. Jenkins. HarperTeen, $16.99 (9780060546045).
After 18-year-old Gordon learns that he is a “heme,” or blood feeder, a dangerous road trip forces him to come to terms with his true nature.
Paper Towns. By John Green. Dutton, $17.99 (9780525478188).
Quentin idolizes his next-door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman. When she includes him in a wild night of revenge and then disappears, Q. must follow the clues to find her.
Playing with Matches. By Brian Katcher. Delacorte, $15.99 (9780385735445).
Leon Sanders feels like an outsider until he meets an extremely disfigured girl, but his new romance with her is threatened when a popular cheerleader pursues him.
Pretty Monsters. By Kelly Link. Illus. by Shaun Tan. Viking, $19.99 (9780670010905).
This wonderfully macabre collection of short stories is guaranteed to entertain and disturb readers of all ages.
The Red Necklace
. By Sally Gardner. Dial, $16.99 (9780803731004).
During the French Revolution, Yann, a 14-year-old magician’s assistant, witnesses the death of his employer and the evil that ensues.
The Savage. By David Almond. Illus. by Dave McKean. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763639327).
Blue Baker is writing a story about a wild savage living in the woods . . . at least he thinks it’s a story. Realities shift in this heavily illustrated, genre-defying novel.
Shift. By Jennifer Bradbury. Atheneum, $16.99 (9781416962199).
Chris and Win take a bicycle trip across America after graduation, but only Chris returns. Told in flashbacks, this novel details the events that drove the boys apart and the pressure Chris faces to find the truth.
*Skim. By Mariko Tamaki. Illus. by Jillian Tamaki. Groundwood, $18.95 (9780888997531).
This masterfully illustrated graphic novel tells the story of Kim Cameron (Skim), who discovers Wicca, a powerful crush, and a growing feeling of isolation at her all-girls private school. A 2009 Great Graphic Novel for Teens and a 2009 Rainbow Project Book.
The Spectacular Now. By Tim Tharp. Knopf, $16.99 (9780375951794).
Sutter Keely glides through his senior year’s final days soaked with booze, but his joy ride is derailed by romance trouble and an unclear future.
Stealing Heaven. By Elizabeth Scott. HarperTeen, $16.99 (9780061122804).
Dani, who burglarizes expensive homes with her mother, finds unexpected trouble when she forms a friendship with another girl whose home is Dani’s mother’s next target.
The Stonekeeper. By Kazu Kibuishi. Illus. by the author. Scholastic/Graphix, $21.99 (9780439846806).
In this first title in the Amulet series, Emily and her brother descend into the dangerous world below their great-grandfather’s mansion to rescue their mother.
Suckerpunch. By David Hernandez. HarperTeen, $16.99 (9780061173301).
Marcus and his younger brother confront their father after years of abuse in this layered, suspenseful novel.
Suite Scarlett. By Maureen Johnson. Scholastic/Point, $16.99 (9780439899277).
The keys to a hotel suite and their accompanying responsibility to care for the room and its wealthy, eccentric occupant turn Scarlett’s summer into a major challenge.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. By Jessica Day George. Bloomsbury, $16.95 (9781599901091).
In exchange for a gift of fabulous wealth to her family, a woodcutter’s daughter agrees to live with a great white bear, whose subsequent disappearance sends her on an arduous quest to find him.
Sweethearts. By Sara Zarr. Little, Brown, $16.99 (9780316014557).
High-school-senior Jenna has successfully remade her life, but the return of her childhood friend, Cameron, forces her to confront long-suppressed memories of a traumatic incident they shared.
*Ten Cents a Dance. By Christine Fletcher. Bloomsbury, $16.95 (9781599901640).
Ruby wants to support her family, but when her taxi dancing causes unanticipated problems, she must draw on all of her strength to keep her life together.
Tender Morsels. By Margo Lanagan. Knopf, $16.99 (9780375848117).
After suffering unspeakable assaults, Liga creates a magical safe haven for herself and her two daughters, but the real world intrudes and forces them to cope with both its beauty and brutality. A 2009 Printz Honor Book.
Trouble. By Gary D. Schmidt. Clarion, $16 (9780618927661).
Henry’s father said trouble would not find his family, but it does, on one horrific night that sets off long-simmering tensions in their seaside town.
*Waiting for Normal. By Leslie Connor. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $16.99 (9780060890889).
Living in an old trailer with her neglectful mother, Addie has to learn to take care of herself. A 2009 Schneider Family Book Award winner and a 2009 Notable Children’s Book.
What I Saw and How I Lied. By Judy Blundell. Scholastic, $16.99 (9780439903462).
In this novel with a film-noir sensibility, Evie expects life to return to normal after her stepfather returns from World War II, but a mysterious trip to Florida brings unexpected secrets and a forbidden love.
When I Crossed No-Bob. By Margaret McMullan. 2007. Houghton, $16 (9780618717156).
Twelve-year-old Addy McDonnell struggles with her family’s troubling legacy and the violent events that surround her in post–Civil War Mississippi.
The Wild Girls. By Pat Murphy. 2007. Viking, $16.99 (9780670062263).
Joan, 12, hates her new life in California until she meets the Queen of the Foxes and becomes one of the Wild Girls.
Best Books for Young Adults, 2009, committee members: Rollie Welch, chair, Cleveland Public Library (OH); Jeana Actkinson, Bridgeport High School, Bridgeport (TX); Martha Baden, Central Rappahannock Regional Library, Porter Branch, Stafford (VA).; Jerene Battisti, King County Library System, Issaquah (WA).; Teresa Brantley, Salem Middle School, Apex (NC); Louise Brueggeman, Morton West High School, Forest Park (IL).; Summer Hayes, King County Library System, Foster Library, Tukwila (WA); Connie Mitchell, Carmel High School, Carmel (IN); Christy Mulligan, Hennepin County Public Library, Minneapolis (MN); Ann Pechacek, Worthington Public Library (OH); Diane Roberts, St. Thomas High School Library, Houston (TX); Elsworth Rockefeller, Martin Luther King Library, Washington, D.C.; Terri S. Snethen, Blue Valley North High School, Overland Park (KS); Cassie Wilson, Rowlett Public Library (TX); Brooke Young, Salt Lake City Public Library (UT); Linda Uhler, administrative assistant, Westerville Public Library (OH); Gillian Engberg, consultant, Booklist, Chicago (IL).
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