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February 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 First Novels for Youth
A magical-realist romance, a gutsy exploration of gender identity, a sci-fi thriller, and a dandy middle-grade fantasy adventure account for just a few of this year’s 10 best first novels, reviewed in Booklist from October 1, 2013, to September 15, 2014.
Althea & Oliver. By Cristina Moracho. 2014. Viking, $17.99 (9780670785391). Gr. 10–12.
After Althea and Oliver’s relationship crumbles, he undergoes a medical study for a condition that leaves him deeply asleep for weeks at a time. This debut carries rare insight into the fierce emotions that mark coming-of-age.
Freakboy. By Kristin Elizabeth Clark. 2013. Farrar, $18.99 (9780374324728). Gr. 9–12.
When Brendan types “want to be a girl” into his Mac’s search engine, one word pops up: transsexual. In Clark’s raw, honest, novel-in-verse, three voices movingly explore many gender identities on the spectrum.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces. By Isabel Quintero. 2014. Cinco Puntos, $17.95 (9781935955948). Gr. 9–12.
Presented as a diary of 17-year-old Mexican American Gabi, Quintero’s novel truly feels like the product of a worldly-wise teen. With utter confidence, she offers a messy, complicated protagonist who isn’t easily defined by labels.
The Good Sister. By Jamie Kain. 2014. St. Martin’s/Griffin, $18.99 (9781250047731). Gr. 9–12.
Kain writes bravely and beautifully about the three Kinsey sisters, whose troubled family dynamics—their parents’ divorce and one sister’s leukemia—strain their already delicate bonds.
The Gospel of Winter. By Brendan Kiely. 2014. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $17.99 (9781442484894). Gr. 9–12.
Sixteen-year-old Aiden’s family is falling apart, and he finds comfort in drugs, alcohol, and his friendship with Father Greg, but he’s left reeling by the scandal among Boston’s archdiocese. Daring and thought-provoking.
Illusive. By Emily Lloyd-Jones. 2014. Little, Brown, $18 (9780316254564). Gr. 8–11.
Thanks to a vaccine, 17-year-old Ciere develops the ability to become practically invisible—the perfect skill for a thief. Impressive and multifaceted, this thriller sidesteps easy categorization.
The Jewel. By Amy Ewing. 2014. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780062235794). Gr. 9–12.
Once Violet is forced to become a surrogate, her life will no longer be her own. Ewing does an excellent job of putting her own twist on the surrogacy premise and builds a meaningful world around a dystopian social hierarchy.
Love Letters to the Dead. By Ava Dellaira. 2014. Farrar, $17.99 (9780374346676). Gr. 7–10.
Laurel falls deeply into a class assignment—write a letter to someone who is dead—composing savvy missives to deceased stars to cope with her sister’s untimely death. A fresh, new voice for a compelling, cleverly plotted tale.
The Luck Uglies. By Paul Durham. Illus. by Petur Antonsson. 2014. Harper, $16.99 (9780062271501). Gr. 4–7.
Eleven-year-old Rye lives in a village terrorized by Bog Noblins, and when the Luck Uglies return to defend the townsfolk, the egotistical Earl unfairly smears their reputations. Using strong, balanced writing, Durham styles a crackerjack adventure.
A Mad, Wicked Folly. By Sharon Biggs Waller. 2014. Viking, $17.99 (9780670014682). Gr. 7–12.
Seventeen-year-old Victoria’s parents hastily bring her home to salvage her reputation after she poses nude for her life-drawing class, but Vicky won’t go so quietly. Waller’s intriguing characters and effortless blend of history and romance make her a new YA voice to watch.
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