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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 72 titles, published from late 2001 through 2002, 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.
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845–1850. 2001. illus. Houghton, $18 (0-618-00271-5).
Bartoletti relays a detailed account of the Great Irish Famine of 1845–50 and its long-lasting effect on the Irish people.
Fleischman, John. Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story about Brain Science. 2002. illus. Houghton, $16 (0-618-05252-6).
Phineas is never the same after a metal rod enters his head at the chin and comes out his forehead.
Gantos, Jack. Hole in My Life. 2002. Farrar, $16 (0-374-39988-3).
Gantos reveals how his involvement with drugs and his stint in prison led him to writing. A 2003 Printz Honor Book and a 2003 Sibert Honor Book.
Hampton, Wilborn. Meltdown: A Race against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island: A Reporter’s Story. 2001. Candlewick, $16.99 (0-7636-0715-0).
Journalist Hampton gives an eyewitness account of the 1979 disaster at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, relating it to the bombing of Hiroshima and the Chernobyl power plant explosion.
McPherson, James M. Fields of Fury: The American Civil War. illus. 2002. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $22.95 (0-689-84833-1).
McPherson delivers a battle-by-battle guide to the deadliest American war.
Nelson, Peter. Left for Dead: A Young Man’s Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis. 2002. illus. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-72959-6).
A school project eventually leads to the truth about the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, the navy’s cover-up, and the court martial of the captain.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East. 2002. Greenwillow, $16.95 (0-06-009765-5).
In an exquisite poetry collection, Nye draws on her Palestinian American heritage to see the Middle East through the eyes of an American and the U.S. through the eyes of a Palestinian.
Partridge, Elizabeth. This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life & Songs of Woody Guthrie. 2002. illus. Viking, $21.99 (0-670-03535-1).
Partridge tells the tragic story of the rambling folksinger Woody Guthrie, who wrote “This Land Is Your Land.”
Philbrick, Nathaniel. Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex. 2002. illus. Putnam, $16.99 (0-399-23795-X).
Survivor accounts provide the basis for a harrowing account of the 1820 voyage of the whaleship Essex, which was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale.
Rall, Ted. To Afghanistan and Back: A Graphic Travelogue. 2002. illus. NBM, $15.95 (1-56163-325-9).
A politically liberal cartoonist/columnist creatively combines narrative and graphics to detail his dangerous 2001 trip to Afghanistan.
Steinberg, Jacques. The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College. 2002. Viking, $25.95 (0-670-03135-6).
For the college-bound, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the admissions process—up close and personal.
Alvarez, Julia. Before We Were Free. 2002. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-81544-9).
Twelve-year-old Anita becomes more aware of the boys around her and of the mounting danger to her family in the Dominican Republic in 1960.
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Catalyst. 2002. Viking, $17.99 (0-670-03566-1).
Meet preacher’s daughter Kate Malone and watch her carefully structured world fall apart when she is introduced to the tragic life of her neighbor and enemy, Teri Litch.
Anderson, M. T. Feed. 2002. Candlewick, $16.99 (0-7636-1726-1).
Teenagers Titus and Violet live in a future where corporations define the lives of Americans and it’s common for parents to endow their newborns with the Feed—a minicomputer with an Internet connection that’s implanted in a child’s head.
Auch, Mary Jane. Ashes of Roses. 2002. Holt, $16.95 (0-8050-6686-1).
Irish immigrant Rose Nolan survives Ellis Island, resentful relatives, and an unscrupulous sweatshop owner before finally landing a choice job in New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
Bardi, Abby. The Book of Fred. 2001. Pocket/Washington Square, $24 (0-7434-1193-5).
The lives of Heather, her mother, and her uncle change when 15-year-old Mary Fred Anderson, raised in a fundamentalist commune, is placed in their home as a foster child.
Barker, Clive. Abarat. 2002. illus. HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler, $24.89 (0-06-028092-1).
Candy Quackenbush leaves her home in Chickentown, Minnesota, and enters the magical world of Abarat, where wicked Lord Carrion pursues her.
Bechard, Margaret. Hanging on to Max. 2002. Millbrook/Roaring Brook, $15.95 (0-7613-1579-9).
Seventeen-year-old Sam juggles diapers, school, and 11-month-old Max as he struggles with being a parent.
Black, Holly. Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. 2002. Simon & Schuster, $16.95 (0-689-84924-9).
Kaye never imagined that saving the life of the impossibly gorgeous Roiben would bring her to the attention of the Unseelie court as sacrifice for the tithe.
Blackwood, Gary L. The Year of the Hangman. 2002. Dutton, $16.99 (0-525-46921-4).
What if America had lost the Revolutionary War? A rowdy English teen encounters the remnants of the unsuccessful revolution when he’s exiled to the colonies.
Breslin, Theresa. Remembrance. 2002. Delacorte, $16.95 (0-385-73015-2).
This three-hanky story follows six people from a tiny Scottish village to the battlefields of World War I.
Chambers, Aidan. Postcards from No Man’s Land. 2002. Dutton, $19.99 (0-525-46863-3).
Jacob’s visit to the seductive city of Amsterdam reveals family secrets and new ideas about sexuality and death. The 2003 Printz Award winner.
Clements, Andrew. Things Not Seen. 2002. Putnam/Philomel, $15.95 (0-399-23626-0).
Bobby awakens one morning to discover that he is invisible.
Cohn, Rachel. Gingerbread. 2002. Simon & Schuster, $15.95 (0-689-84337-2).
When 16-year-old Cyd Charisse is sent to New York to stay with her biological dad, she gets to know not only her older brother and the sister who calls her “Daddy’s Little Indiscretion” but also herself.
Crowe, Chris. Mississippi Trial, 1955. 2002. Penguin Putnam/Phyllis Fogelman, $17.99 (0-8037-2745-3).
A gripping novel based on the true story of 14-year-old Emett Till, whose brutal lynching for whistling at a white woman helped to launch the civil rights movement.
de Lint, Charles. Seven Wild Sisters. Illus. by Charles Vess. 2002. Subterranean, $35 (1-931081-33-6).
When one of seven red-haired sisters befriends a backwoods wisewoman, she unwittingly draws her family into a centuries-old feud between the bee fairies and the ’sangmen.
Desai Hidier, Tanuja. Born Confused. 2002. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-439-35762-4).
Seventeen-year-old Dimple Lala, an ABC (American born and confused) whose family is from India, worries about her relationship with her family, her heritage, and her beautiful best friend.
Dessen, Sarah. This Lullaby. 2002. Viking, $16.99 (0-670-03530-0).
Made cynical by her mother’s five failed marriages, Remy is surprised to find herself falling for quirky-cute Dexter the summer before she leaves for college.
Ellis, Deborah. Parvana’s Journey. 2002. Douglas & McIntyre/Groundwood, $15.95 (0-88899-514-8).
Parvana wanders alone through war-torn Afghanistan searching for family members who disappeared during the tumult of the Taliban’s takeover.
Etchemendy, Nancy. Cat in Glass and Other Tales of the Unnatural. Illus. by David Ouimet. 2002. Cricket, $15.95 (0-8126-2674-5)
With some fittingly creepy illustrations, these eight tales range from the supernatural to the downright horrific.
Fama, Elizabeth. Overboard. 2002. Cricket, $15.95 (0-8126-2652-4).
While on a trip to visit her uncle, 14-year-old Emily escapes a sinking ferry and finds herself—and a courageous young Muslim boy—adrift in the waters off Sumatra.
Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion. 2002. Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson, $17.95 (0-689-85222-3).
In a world where human clones are a reality and drug lords rule, Matt discovers the horrible secret of his creation and El Patron’s despicable plans for him. A 2003 Printz Honor Book and a 2003 Newbery Honor Book.
Ferris, Jean. Once upon a Marigold. 2002. Harcourt, $17 (0-15-216791-9).
Christian decides to leave his foster father, Ed the Troll, and his life in the forest in order to meet the princess he has observed through his telescope.
Frank, E. R. America. 2002. Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson, $18 (0-689-84729-7).
Troubled foster child America reveals the sad confusion of his short life to sympathetic Dr. B., the one adult who may be able to help him.
Frank, Hillary. Better Than Running at Night. 2002. Houghton, $17 (0-618-10439-9).
Ellie Yelinsky’s freshman year at art school turns out to be unexpectedly strange; she dances with the Devil and learns that painting is more craft than angst.
Freymann-Weyr, Garret. My Heartbeat. 2002. Houghton, $15 (0-618-14181-2).
Ellen is forced to come to terms with her own feelings when faced with truth about the relationship between her brother and his best friend—the two most important people in her life. A 2003 Printz Honor Book.
Froese, Deborah. Out of the Fire. 2002. Sumach, paper, $7.95 (1-894549-09-0).
A careless moment at a teen bonfire party forces 16-year-old Doyle to reconsider her values and her relationships with her friends and family.
Gaiman, Neil. Coraline. Illus. by Dave McKean. 2002. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-380-97778-8).
While exploring her family’s new home, Coraline wanders into the eerie world of the Woman with the Black Button Eyes.
Giff, Patricia Reilly. Pictures of Hollis Woods. 2002. Random/Wendy Lamb, $15.95 (0-385-32655-6).
Artistic foster child Hollis Woods, who seeks a real home, recalls the tragedy of the previous summer while hiding out and caring for an elderly woman who has Alzheimer’s disease. A 2003 Newbery Honor Book.
Giles, Gail. Shattering Glass. 2002. Millbrook/Roaring Brook, $15.95 (0-7613-1581-0).
When charismatic Rob decides to make Simon, the school nerd, “Mr. Popularity,” nobody believes he can do it. Little do they know.
The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest. Ed. by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. Illus. by Charles Vess. 2002. Viking, $18.99 (0-670-03526-2).
Eighteen stories, poems, and variations on the theme of the Green Man bring the ancient folklore figure back to life.
Grimes, Nikki. Bronx Masquerade. 2002. Dial, $16.99 (0-8037-2569-8).
Mr. Ward’s open-mike Fridays draw inner-city students to share and listen. The poetry performance gives the teens strength and insight into themselves. The 2003 Coretta Scott King Author Award winner.
Halam, Ann. Dr. Franklin’s Island. 2002. Random/Wendy Lamb, $14.95 (0-385-73008-X).
Sole survivors of a plane crash on a remote island, Arnie, Semi, and Miranda discover they aren’t alone; the island is the home of Dr. Franklin, a mad scientist.
Hiaasen, Carl. Hoot. 2002. Knopf, $15.99 (0-375-82181-3).
A strange, unschooled kid leads middle-schooler Roy Eberhardt into a crusade against a new pancake shop that will displace a colony of burrowing owls. A 2003 Newbery Honor Book.
Holeman, Linda. Search of the Moon King’s Daughter. 2002. Tundra, $17.95 (0-88776-592-0).
When their mother sells Emmeline’s little brother to obtain laudanum for her drug habit, Emmeline abandons everything to search for him.
Jordan, Sherryl. The Hunting of the Last Dragon. 2002. HarperCollins, $15.95 (0-06-028902-3).
Having survived a dragon’s attack, Jude befriends caged sideshow freak Jing-wei and begins a quest that imperils them both.
Kidd, Sue Monk. The Secret Life of Bees. 2002. Viking, $24.95 (0-670-89460-5).
In the summer of 1964, 14-year-old Lily breaks her African American caretaker out of jail, and the pair finds a home with the Calendar sisters, who keep bees in a small South Carolina town.
Koertge, Ron. Stoner & Spaz. 2002. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-1608-7).
What happens when a 16-year-old guy with cerebral palsy and a caustic wit falls in love with a tattooed girl stoner?
Korman, Gordon. Son of the Mob. 2002. Hyperion, $15.99 (0-7868-0769-5).
Vince wants nothing to do with “the family business,” but he can’t help becoming involved when he discovers that his girlfriend’s dad is the FBI agent assigned to bring his own father to justice.
Lawrence, Iain. The Lightkeeper’s Daughter. 2002. Delacorte, $16.95 (0-385-72925-1).
A teenage mother returns to reconcile with her lighthouse-keeping parents despite her feeling that it was their lonely lifestyle that led to her brother’s death.
Leavitt, Martine. The Dollmage. 2001. Red Deer, paper, $8.95 (0-88995-233-7).
Two births occur on the day the Dollmage predicts her successor will be born. Her choice will change the future of Seekvalley.
McCaughrean, Geraldine. The Kite Rider. 2002. HarperCollins, $15.95 (0-06-623874-9).
Danger lurks everywhere in thirteenth-century China as Haoyou rescues his widowed mother from the villain who wants to marry her and joins a traveling circus as a kite rider.
Miller, Mary Beth. Aimee. 2002. Dutton, $16.99 (0-525-46894-3).
How well would you cope if your best friend made sure you were the only witness to her suicide and everyone thinks you helped her die or murdered her?
Moore, Christopher. Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. 2002. Morrow, $25.95 (0-380-97840-7).
WWJD? At age 6? 13? 18? Restoring lizards to life and hanging out with Biff and Maggie are only a couple of His activities.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Big Mouth & Ugly Girl. 2002. HarperCollins, $16.95 (0-06-623756-4).
What are the consequences when big-mouth junior Matt Donaghy jokingly threatens to blow up the school?
Park, Linda Sue. When My Name Was Keoko. 2002. Clarion, $15 (0-618-13335-6).
In 1940, when Japanese occupiers force Koreans to change their names, Kim Sun-hee has to comply, but she struggles to keep her Korean identity in the face of war, hunger, and loss.
Placide, Jaira. Fresh Girl. 2002. Random/Wendy Lamb, $15.95 (0-385-32753-6).
Mardi, 14, struggles to reveal to her family in Brooklyn the details of her traumatic escape from Haiti—and come to terms with it herself.
Plum-Ucci, Carol. What Happened to Lani Garver. 2002. Harcourt, $17 (0-15-216813-3).
The memory of Lani Garver haunts Claire McKenzie long after his mysterious appearance and disappearance from her close-knit island community.
Powell, Randy. Three Clams and an Oyster. 2002. Farrar, $16 (0-374-37526-7).
Three members of a high-school flag football team search for a fourth member during a weekend in which they confront their attitudes about friendship, girls, and their shared past.
Rottman, S. L. Stetson. 2002.Viking, $16.99 (0-670-03542-4).
Can car art, a newfound sister, and a one-eyed mentor save Stetson from poverty and his drunken, trailer-dwelling dad?
Santana, Patricia. Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility. 2002. Univ. of New Mexico, $19.95 (0-8263-2435-5).
When 14-year-old Yolanda Sahagun’s favorite brother returns from Vietnam in 1969, everything changes.
Savage, Deborah. Kotuku. 2002. Houghton, $16 (0-618-04756-5).
Devastated by her best friend’s suicide, 17-year-old Win breaks out of her depression with the help of an attractive Maori historian.
Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones. 2002. Little, Brown, $21.95 (0-316-66634-3).
Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon narrates the story of her brutal murder and glowing afterlife as she watches her devastated family and friends from heaven.
Shattered: Stories of Children and War. Ed. by Jennifer Armstrong. 2002. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-81112-5).
In 12 stories, familiar authors as well as several new to young-adult literature write about the shattering effects of war on young people.
Sheppard, Mary C. Seven for a Secret. 2001. Douglas & McIntyre/Groundwood, $15.95 (0-88899-437-0).
Fifteen-year-old cousins Melinda, Kate, and Rebecca face decisions that will determine their futures in their remote Newfoundland community in the 1960s.
Smith, Kevin and Phil Hester. Green Arrow: Quiver. Illus. by Ande Parks and Guy Major. 2002. DC Comics, $24.95 (1-56389-802-0); paper, $10 (1-56389-887-X).
Oliver Queen, aka the Green Arrow, comes back to life, reunites with his superhero pals, and unravels the mystery of his resurrection.
Smith, Sherri L. Lucy the Giant. 2002. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-72940-5).
To escape an unhappy home life, Lucy gets a job on a Bering Sea fishing boat, where she finds a family of a different sort.
Tolan, Stephanie. Surviving the Applewhites. 2002. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-06-623602-9).
Smart-ass Jake has no trouble getting kicked out of Traybridge Middle School, but the Applewhite family’s Creative Academy is a different story. A 2003 Newbery Honor Book.
Toten, Teresa. The Game. 2001. Red Deer, paper, $7.99 (0-88995-232-9).
Dani wakes in a psychiatric hospital with no memory of the events that landed her there. Now she must come to terms with a terrifying reality.
Van Pelt, James. Strangers and Beggars. 2002. Fairwood, paper, $17.99 (0-9668184-5-8).
These great stories run the gamut, from one about a giant spider that snags a student and a teacher in its web to another about a trip in awful traffic that even death can’t stop.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Hush. 2002. Putnam, $15.99 (0-399-23114-5).
Toswiah Green struggles toward a new identity as Evie Thomas when her family joins the Witness Protection Program and everything she has known is lost to her
Yolen, Jane and Robert J. Harris. Girl in a Cage. 2002. Putnam/Philomel, $18.99 (0-399-23627-9).
Imprisoned in a cage by the ruthless English King Edward Longshanks, Princess Marjorie wages psychological war against her captor, and her father, the king of Scotland, defends his country against the ruthless tyrant.
Best Books for Young Adults, 2003, committee members: Cynthia K. Dobrez, chair, Harbor Lights Middle School, Holland, MI; Angelina M. Benedetti, King County (WA) Library System; Margaret L. Butzler, Steel Center AVTS, Jefferson Hills, PA; Betsy J. Fraser, Calgary (Canada) Public Library; Diana Tixier Herald, The Center for Adolescent Reading, Grand Junction, CO; Andy Howe, Simms Library, Albuquerque (NM) Academy; Jennifer Hubert, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School, New York, NY; Kathleen T. Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC; Betsy J. Levine, San Francisco (CA) Public Library; Cindy Lombardo, Orville (OH) Public Library; Kimberly L. Paone, Free Public Library of Elizabeth (NJ); Richie Partington, “Richie’s Picks,” Sebastopol, CA; Erin Lynn Pierce, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (PA); Victor Lynn Schill, Harris County (TX) Public Library; Rochelle Sides-Renda, Birmingham (AL) Public Library; Peter Butts, administrative assistant, East Middle School, Holland, MI; Stephanie Zvirin, consultant, Booklist.
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