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Find more Booklist Editors' Choice
Selected by the Books for Youth editors, the following titles constitute the year’s best personal reading for teenagers among adult books published in 2009. More on each book’s content and suggested audience can be found in the full-length Booklist review.
Clara’s War: One Girl’s Story of Survival. By Clara Kramer and Stephen Glantz. Ecco, $25.99 (9780061728600).
Chronicling the 18 months she spent as a teen hiding with other Polish Jews under Nazi occupation, Kramer’s story is both a gripping thriller and a heartbreaking drama of human kindness.
Louisa May Alcott: The Woman behind Little Women. By Harriet Reisen. Holt, $26 (9780805082999).
Reisen tells the story of Alcott’s own dramatic upbringing and illuminates the beloved author’s trailblazing and fearless pursuit of life. (The video version of this book is Booklist’s Top of the List winner—Video.)
Stitches. By David Small. Illus. by the author. Norton, $23.95 (9780393068573).
With excruciating and exhilarating precision, Small uses spare words and haunting imagery to tell the story of his troubled upbringing in this artistically cathartic graphic memoir.
Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories. By Azar Nafisi. illus. Random, $26 (9781400063611).
Nafisi’s follow-up to Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003) focuses on her difficult family life and provides a fascinating prism through which to view contemporary Iranian life.
The Thoreau You Don’t Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant. By Robert Sullivan. HarperCollins, $25.99 (9780061710315).
This lively biography of the great nonconformist dislodges his reputation as a cantankerous hermit and situates him as both a brilliant humorist and prophetic foreteller of our times.
Asta in the Wings. By Jan Elizabeth Watson. Tin House, paper, $14 (9780980243611).
Seven-year-old Asta, long fed lies by her mother that a plague has devastated the world, ventures outside for the first time in years, displaying the resourcefulness and wonderment of youth in a vivid new reality.
Her Fearful Symmetry. By Audrey Niffenegger. Scribner, $26.99 (9781439165393).
Twins Valentine and Julia move from their parents’ home to a flat in London, where they become entwined with their neighbors’ lives and not a few dark secrets in this tragicomic ghost story.
Huge. By James W. Fuerst. Crown, $23.95 (9780307452498).
Fuerst outfits his 12-year-old hero, the diminutive anger-mismanager Eugene “Huge” Smalls, with a hard-boiled edge and a wise-guy voice in this pulpy coming-of-age whodunit.
Into the Beautiful North. By Luis Alberto Urrea. Little, Brown, $24.99 (9780316025270).
Both a bittersweet tale of quixotic ambitions and an uproarious road-trip quest of self-discovery, Urrea’s novel features a butt-kicking 19-year-old Mexican heroine intent on bringing men back from El Norte.
The Magicians. By Lev Grossman. Viking, $25.95 (9780670020553).
Riffing on familiar fantasy touchstones, Grossman’s story follows a group of teen magicians through their alternately tedious and thrilling schooling, debauched postcollegiate life, and harrowing venture into a mystical world.
Mathilda Savitch. By Victor Lodato. Farrar, $24 (9780374204006).
In a near future ravaged by terrorist attacks, adolescent narrator Mathilda Savitch focuses on the more personal trauma of unraveling the mysteries behind her revered older sister’s death.
A Mess of Everything. By Miss Lasko-Gross. Illus. by the author. Fantagraphics, paper, $19.99 (9781560979562).
A spot-on account of late teen experience, this semi-autobiographical graphic novel follows high-schooler Melissa’s angsty and awkward adventures through the gauntlet of growing up.
Miles from Nowhere. By Nami Mun. Riverhead, $21.95 (9781594488542).
Mun’s hard-hitting look at the dark underbelly of urban life stars a teenage runaway whose adaptability and fortitude help her survive a litany of troubling encounters on the fringe.
Sag Harbor. By Colson Whitehead. Doubleday, $24.95 (9780385527651).
With simmering themes of race and class, Whitehead concocts a funny, meandering, pop-culture-laden story of 15-year old Benji’s summer in a predominantly African American enclave of Long Island.
Sometimes We’re Always Real Same-Same. By Mattox Roesch. Unbridled, paper, $15.95 (9781932961874).
Cesar, a 17-year-old gangbanger, gets dragged by his mother from Los Angeles to Unalakleet, Alaska, where he forges an unexpected bond with a cousin and slowly warms to his new home.
The Story Sisters. By Alice Hoffman. Crown/Shaye Areheart, $25 (9780307393869).
The strands of this lyrical romantic drama follow the three Story sisters, who navigate between the enchantments of a glimmering fairy-tale world and a much grimmer real life.
Total Oblivion, More or Less. By Alan DeNiro. Ballantine/Spectra, paper, $15 (9780553592542).
Told with a teen-perfect mix of nonchalance and bewilderment, Macy recounts her family’s adventure through an America gone completely bonkers, overrun by hordes of ancient barbarians and hallucinatory nuttiness.
Tunneling to the Center of the Earth. By Kevin Wilson. HarperPerennial, paper, $13.95 (9780061579028).
In this offhandedly surreal but genuinely affecting collection of short story oddities, many featuring young protagonists, Wilson displays a magisterial command of voice and takes dead-eye aim on what makes weird so wonderful.
Unseen Academicals. By Terry Pratchett. HarperCollins, $25.99 (9780061161704).
With a plot as delightfully convoluted as the writing is daffy, Pratchett’s latest Discworld jaunt brings in a cadre of young ringers to help the rather unathletic wizards of Unseen University win a football match.
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