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February 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 First Novels for Youth
This crop of best first novels showcases diversity in characters, genre, and time periods. Each was reviewed in Booklist between October 15, 2016, and October 15, 2017.
Almost Paradise. By Corabel Shofner. 2017. Farrar, $16.99 (9780374303785). Gr. 5–7.
Life takes a tumble for sassy, sage Ruby when her mother winds up in jail. Forced to live with her aunt, an Episcopalian nun, Ruby wrestles with heartfelt beliefs in a story featuring unique characters and strong voices.
American Street. By Ibi Zoboi. 2017. HarperCollins/ Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062473042). Gr. 9–12.
Zoboi pulls no punches telling the story of Fabiola, an immigrant from Haiti trying to forge a new life in Detroit, where the streets are just as mean. Mysticism and love intertwine here with grit and violence.
Cilla Lee Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire. By Susan Tan. Illus. by Dana Wulfekotte. 2017. Roaring Brook, $16.99 (9781626725515). Gr. 3–5.
This exuberant pretend-memoir is also reflective, as eight-year-old Cilla Lee realizes that she is a biracial child in a society that likes to label. Told in a joyful, first-person narration.
Dear Martin. By Nic Stone. 2017. Crown, $17.99 (9781101939499). Gr. 9–12.
On his way to an Ivy League college career, Justyce is shocked when a police officer gets away with mistreating him. He turns to the writings of Dr. King for clarity in this vivid and powerful debut.
Even the Darkest Stars. By Heather Fawcett. 2017. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062463388). Gr. 9–12.
A detailed setting, a lurking villain, and buckets of danger add to the allure of Kamzin’s story, as she heads off on a perilous journey to retrieve a talisman from a fearsome mountain peak.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. By Julie C. Dao. 2017. Philomel, $18.99 (9781524738297). Gr. 9–12.
Set in an Asian-inspired fantasy realm, this is a masterful reimagining of the early life of Snow White’s evil queen. Xifeng is both vulnerable and complicit, and her pursuit of power is a welcome contrast to princesses past.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass. By Melissa Bashardoust. 2017. Flatiron, $18.99 (9781250077738). Gr. 9–12.
Drawing from both Snow White and the Snow Queen, this offers plenty of fairy-tale wonder but is at its strongest as a story wherein women save each other with their own ingenuity, bravery, and love.
Goldeline. By Jimmy Cajoleas. 2017. Harper, $16.99 (9780062498755). Gr. 5–8.
Goldeline lives in the woods since her mother was killed by an evil preacher for practicing witchcraft. Then Goldy lands in the preacher’s sights. Cajoleas conjures a compelling, atmospheric setting that hums with menace.
The Hate U Give. By Angie Thomas. 2017. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062498533). Gr. 9–12.
The worlds of 16-year-old Starr, who lives in an urban neighborhood but goes to a tony school, collide when she’s the only witness to a police shooting. This is both a searing indictment of injustice and a clear-eyed examination of the complexities of race in America.
Soldier Boy. By Keely Hutton. 2017. Farrar, $17.99 (9780374305635). Gr. 8–12.
The story of Ugandan boys kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army is a visceral indictment of man’s inhumanity to man while also celebrating people’s ability to empathize and rescue those who desperately need saving.
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