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Find more Top 10 First Novels for Youth
This crop of first novels, all reviewed in Booklist in the past year, introduces memorable characters and intriguing situations in books for readers in grades four through twelve.
A Dog Called Homeless. By Sarah Lean. 2012, Harper/Katherine Tegen, $16.99 (9780062122209). Gr. 4–7.
Fifth-grader Cally has myriad problems after her mother dies, including seeing her mom everywhere. But some new friends, including a silver-gray dog, begin to transform her life. An insightful portrayal of grief and healing.
The Girl with Borrowed Wings. By Rinsai Rossetti. 2012. Dial, $17.99 (9780803735668). Gr. 7–12.
With taut, lush writing; a stunningly imagined setting; and a premise that’s unique among the stacks of paranormal romances, this one—written when Rossetti was a teenager—will capture readers as they explore what it means to be a “perfect” daughter.
The Girls of No Return. By Erin Saldin. 2012. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (9780545310260). Gr. 9–12.
Sixteen-year-old Lida is forced to attend an Idaho wilderness school where troubled girls are sent to figure out their biggest issue. Secrets and lies, betrayal and trust, and friends and enemies are the weighty themes at the heart of this compelling debut.
Kepler’s Dream. By Juliet Bell. 2012 Putnam, $16.99 (9780399256455). Gr. 5–7.
With her mother ill, 11-year-old Ella goes to her domineering grandmother’s house. When the theft of a rare book upsets the woman, Ella and a friend attempt to find it and unmask the thief. Fresh, distinctive, and full of dry humor.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. By Jesse Andrews. 2012 Abrams/Amulet, $16.95 (9781419701764). Gr. 8–11.
Seventeen-year-old Greg is pushed by his mother into befriending a leukemia sufferer. He would seem to be the last person in the world for the job. But it’s his honest lack of profundity, and the struggle to overcome it, that makes this debut actually profound.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post. By Emily Danforth. 2012. Harper/Balzer and Bray, $17.99 (9780062020567). Gr. 9–12.
In this vividly conceived novel, Cameron’s lesbianism results in her aunt sending her to God’s Promise, a church camp that promises to “cure” young people of their homosexuality.
Seraphina. By Rachel Hartman. 2012. Random, $17.99 (9780375866562). Gr. 9–12.
In a world where humans and dragons share an uneasy truce, Seraphina, a talented musician, must keep a secret about her identity. Part political thriller, part mystery, part coming-of-age story and completely enjoyable.
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. By Annabel Pitcher. 2012. Little, Brown, $17.99 (9780316176903). Gr. 7–10.
Jamie’s sister was killed in a terrorist attack, but her remains sit on the mantel. When Jamie becomes friends with a Muslim girl, it complicates his already problematic life in a novel that straddles the fence between funny and tragic.
The Sharp Time. By Mary O’Connell. 2011. Delacorte, $17.99 (9780385740467). Gr. 9–12.
Sandinista’s life is falling apart in several different ways, but a job at a vintage clothing store brings her a new family. With many thoughtfully created characters and intense emotions, this reads like a small lifetime. Which, for Sandinista, it is.
Summer and Bird. By Katherine Catmull. 2012. Dutton, $16.99 (9780525953463). Gr. 5–8.
Two sisters discover that their parents are missing and must head into a forest filled with strange creatures to find them. Catmull’s debut is rich with the shimmer of folklore and drawn with the elegance of a Russian ballet.
Wonder. By R. J. Palacio. 2012. Knopf, $15.99 (9780375869020). Gr. 5–8.
Life changes for 10-year-old August, a boy with facial disfigurements, when he starts public school—and it changes for those around him as well. Gracefully written, with a stand-up-and-cheer conclusion.
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