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February 15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 First Novels for Youth
This year’s stand-out debut novels include explorations of sexual identity, a search for hidden treasure, and a peek into the bloody world of cults. All were reviewed in Booklist between October 1, 2014, and September 15, 2015.
Dream On, Amber. By Emma Shevah. Illus. by Helen Crawford-White. 2015. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, $12.99 (9781492622505). Gr. 4–7.
Half-Italian, half-Japanese Amber Miyamoto is anxious about starting middle school and trying to figure out why her father left. Pairing humor and amusing illustrations with emotional depth, Shevah’s debut is a charmer.
George. By Alex Gino. 2015. Scholastic, $16.99 (9780545812542). Gr. 4–6.
Ten-year-old George knows that inside she is really Melissa, and she longs to play Charlotte in her class’ production of Charlotte’s Web. This novel offers a sensitive, insightful portrayal of a transgender child coming to terms with gender identity.
If You Find This. By Matthew Baker. 2015. Little, Brown, $17 (9780316240086). Gr. 4–7.
A treasure hunt, a haunted house, and family secrets form the backdrop to this Goonies-esque adventure, wherein math and music genius Nicholas desperately tries to hold his family together. Its original writing style and memorable characters result in a story with lasting impact.
More Happy Than Not. By Adam Silvera. 2015. Soho Teen, $18.99 (9781616955601). Gr. 9–12.
Teen Aaron Soto struggles with his sexuality in his macho Bronx neighborhood and considers undergoing a memory-altering procedure at the Leteo Institute to help him forget he’s gay. A thought-provoking and supremely structured narrative.
Mosquitoland. By David Arnold. 2015. Viking, $17.99 (9780451470775). Gr. 8–12.
Sixteen-year-old Mary Iris Malone (Mim) embarks on an unforgettable road trip to visit her ailing mother. Honest insights into mental illness, inventive characters, and Mim’s quirky, open worldview make this bighearted debut one to remember.
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. By Stephanie Oakes. 2015. Dial, $17.99 (9780803740709). Gr. 9–12.
In this adaptation of The Handless Maiden, 17-year-old Minnow relates her escape from a brutal doomsday cult using stunningly spare language marked by simmering fury and sharp gallows humor. Oakes’ nuanced first-person narrative is haunting and bone-chillingly beautiful.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. By Becky Albertalli. 2015. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062348678). Gr. 8–11.
Blending prose and e-mail correspondence, Abertalli describes high-schooler Simon’s coming-of-age and coming-out with sensitivity and insight. An expert look at the complexity of identity, the difficulty of change, and the importance of growth.
Stonebird. By Mike Revell. 2015. Quercus, $16.99 (9781623654627). Gr. 4–6.
While struggling with his grandmother’s decline from dementia, Liam gains insights into her past by reading her childhood diary and finds hope for the future in a stone gargoyle that comes to life.
The Thing about Jellyfish. By Ali Benjamin. 2015. Little, Brown, $17 (9780316380867). Gr. 5–8.
After Suzy’s best friend, Franny, drowns, she becomes convinced Franny’s death is connected to a jellyfish sting. An obsession with these sea creatures emerges as science-minded Suzy navigates her grief.
The Wrath and the Dawn. By Renee Ahdieh. 2015. Putnam, $17.99 (9780399171611). Gr. 10–12.
This fresh look at Arabian Nights’ Shahrzad presents the resourceful storyteller as a rash, headstrong teen who wants to marry the caliph out of revenge. Tightly plotted and richly layered, this absorbing tale will effortlessly hook readers.
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