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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 2008. More on each book’s content and suggested audience can be found in the full-length Booklist review.
First Darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood. By Thrity Umrigar. HarperCollins/Perennial, paper, $14.95 (9780061451614).
Umrigar’s eloquent and melancholy coming-of-age memoir paints an evocative portrait of growing up in a middle-class Bombay family before discovering the world of art and literature.
Have You Found Her. By Janice Erlbaum. Villard, paper, $13.95 (9780812974577).
Erlbaum writes about helping a struggling 19-year-old junkie, melding a sobering look into abuse and recovery with elements that could have leapt straight from a thriller novel.
The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music. By Steve Lopez. Putnam, $25.95 (9780399155062).
Lopez’s emotionally charged tale of raw talent and renewed hope investigates a homeless man whose virtuosic talent had him on the path to concert halls before his descent into the nightmare of schizophrenia.
What It Is. By Lynda Barry. Illus. by the author. Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95 (9781897299357).
Part memoir, part how-to, this graphic-novelish guide to the creative process, full of penetrating, Zen-like questions, will surprise and motivate teens discovering their own artistic talents.
All Souls. By Christine Schutt. Harcourt, $22 (9780151014491).
Friends and classmates of a girl struck down with a potentially fatal illness come to terms with their own shortcomings in this nuanced inside look at dysfunctional prep-school life.
The Art of Racing in the Rain. By Garth Stein. HarperCollins, $23.95 (9780061537936).
Unusual not just because it folds thrilling car-racing scenes into a moving family drama but also because this entire tale is told by the family’s wisest member—the dog, Enzo.
City of Thieves. By David Benioff. Viking, $24.95 (9780670018703).
This high-spirited adventure takes place during the 1941 Siege of Leningrad, where 17-year-old Lev must complete an impossible task—finding a dozen eggs for a Russian colonel—to save himself from execution.
The Flowers. By Dagoberto Gilb. Grove/Atlantic, $24 (9780802118592).
Sonny Bravo, a 15-year-old Chicano, gets drawn into the lives of his neighbors in an apartment building known as the Flowers and wavers between love and lust, crime and education.
The Host. By Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown, $25.99 (9780316068048).
A love tangle of indefinable shape results when Wanderer, an extraterrestrial parasite, and her resistant human host, Melanie Stryder, set out to find the man Melanie loves.
Life Sucks. By Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria. Illus. by Warren Pleece. First Second, paper, $19.95 (9781596431072).
Combining an irreverent Clerks-style cast of wage-slave losers with the heated passions of an urban vampire tale, this irresistible gothic-comic graphic novel wonders which is worse, life or undeath.
Over and Under. By Todd Tucker. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, $23.95 (9780312379902).
In this classic coming-of-age story, two inseparable 14-year-olds test the limits of their friendship and discover the sobering realities of growing up during a bitter strike in 1979.
Real World. By Natsuo Kirino. Tr. by Philip Gabriel. Knopf, $22.95 (9780307267573).
Kirino brilliantly brings together noir and coming-of-age in this grim story of four teenage Japanese girls navigating the pressures of society as they become fascinated with a classmate accused of murder.
Say You’re One of Them. By Uwem Akpan. Little, Brown, $23.99 (9780316113786).
Akpan personalizes the horrific conflicts of sub-Saharan Africa in this collection of stories, each told by a child narrator, matching eroding innocence with their remarkable resilience.
The Somnambulist. By Jonathan Barnes. Morrow, $23.95 (9780061375385).
In this darkly comic mix of multiple genres, Barnes throws an Edwardian magician at a noir world of undercover agents and dystopian cults. Think of this remarkably entertaining tale as a graphic novel written in longhand.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. By David Wroblewski. Ecco, $26.95 (9780061374227).
With beautiful writing hung upon an engrossing plot, Wroblewski explores the wordless lanes of communication between a boy and his dogs as they flee from devastating family loss.
Tamara Drewe. By Posy Simmonds. Illus. by the author. Houghton/Mariner, paper, $16.95 (9780547154121).
This graphic novel, a mix of prose narrative and sequential art, tells the dual narratives of a middle-aged academic and a fresh-faced young columnist, delightfully skewering British upper-crust society.
Three Girls and Their Brother. By Theresa Rebeck. Crown/Shaye Areheart, $23.95 (9780307394149).
This devious satire, following four siblings as they are thrust into the glitzy world of show-biz fame, reads like a highbrow Gossip Girl (which isn’t to say all the fun bits have been taken out).
When We Were Romans. By Matthew Kneale. Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, $23.95 (9780385526258).
Both heartbreaking and humorous, this tale of a family in disintegration is narrated in a marvelously offbeat fashion by nine-year-old Lawrence as the family attempts to make a new life in Rome.
Winged Creatures. By Roy Freirich. St. Martin’s/Griffin, paper, $13.95 (9780312378950).
After witnessing a grisly murder/suicide, the survivors, including two teens, struggle to reconcile the fleeting nature of existence in this pop culture–obsessed but highly emotional narrative.
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