Brenda's blog about the Youth Media Awards from a couple weeks ago got me thinking about the best books for teens that I read in 2016.
I use the Youth Media Awards to help me gage how I am doing with my reading....and by that standard, I did not do very well this year.
True confession: I read ONLY ONE book for teens that appeared on the list of winners chosen by my fellow librarians and literature experts.
The Youth Media Awards are a great way to find your next favorite book and I do intend to get all of them off my "to be read" list and on to my "read it" list.
But there were many other wonderful books written last year that had me committed to turning pages instead of folding laundry or pulling weeds.
If you're looking for realistic fiction including LGBTQIA characters, historical fiction including the best Donner Party book you'll ever read, and dystopian fiction including a plot that actually has not been done before, look no further than the list below.
If you're interested in more ways to find great books written for teens (but loved by everyone), check out the Young Adult Services Forum Tournament of Books, a fun book bracket blog that I participate in each year.
Follow along to see if my pick, The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle, goes all the way.
By Skila Brown
The journey west by wagon train promises to be long and arduous for nineteen-year-old Mary Ann Graves and her parents and eight siblings. Yet she is hopeful about their new life in California: freedom from the demands of family, maybe some romance, better opportunities for all. But when winter comes early to the Sierra Nevada and their group gets a late start, the Graves family, traveling alongside the Donner and Reed parties, must endure one of the most harrowing and storied journeys in American history. Amid the pain of loss and the constant threat of death from starvation or cold, Mary Ann's is a narrative, told beautifully in verse, of a girl learning what it means to be part of a family, to make sacrifices for those we love, and above all to persevere.
By Tim Federle
The Great American Whatever begins six months after Quinn’s sister’s death. Six months after his sister died in a car accident immediately after replying to a text he sent her. Quinn has barely left his room since her death and can’t bring himself to look at his sister’s last text. When his best friend finally convinces him to leave the house to tag along to a party, Quinn meets a handsome college student named Amir. Quinn is enamored and Amir likes him back. It’s not true love, but it’s enough to make Quinn realize that the possibility of romance can assuage grief. He begins to come back to life while still struggling with loss, coping with coming out to his family and friends, and learning almost everyone has secrets they keep.
By Donna Gephart
When we meet Lily and Dunkin they are both a couple of days away from the first day of 8th grade. Dunkin is the new kid in town. It is unclear what trauma he has left behind, but it is clear that he is earnest and likeable and doing his best to make a fresh start. Lily was born Timothy, but has always identified as a female. Lily is out to her immediate family and her best friend and would love to establish her new identity at the start of the school year. Lily and Dunkin meet bond immediately, but middle school dynamics get in the way of true friendship until they both realize how much the other one needs them.
By Cynthia Hand
Edward is the King of England. He's also dying, which is inconvenient, as he's only sixteen and he'd rather be planning his first kiss than who will inherit his crown. Jane, Edward's cousin, is far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately, Edward has arranged to marry her off to Gifford to secure the line of succession. And Gifford is, well, a horse. That is, he becomes a chestnut steed every morning, but wakes as a man at dusk, with a mouthful of hay. Very undignified. The plot thickens as the three are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy, and have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it's off with their heads?
By E.K. Johnston
At cheerleading camp, Hermione is drugged and raped, but she is not sure whether it was one of her teammates or a boy on another team--and in the aftermath she has to deal with the rumors in her small Ontario town, the often awkward reaction of her classmates, the rejection of her boyfriend, the discovery that her best friend, Polly, is gay, and above all the need to remember what happened so that the guilty boy can be brought to justice.
By Peadar Ó Guilin
For the last twenty-five years every teenager in Ireland has been subject to "the call" which takes them away to the land of the Sídhe, where they are hunted for twenty four hours (though only three minutes pass in this world)--handicapped by her twisted legs, Nessa Doherty knows that very few return alive, but she is determined to be one of them.
By Jason Reynolds
Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team--a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.
By A.S. King
Sixteen-year-old Sarah can't draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has "done the art." She thinks she's having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she wanders the urban ruins of Philadelphia. Or maybe she's finally waking up to the tornado that is her family, the tornado that six years ago sent her once-beloved older brother flying across the country for a reason she can't quite recall.
By Ruta Sepetys
World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.
By Jeff Zentner
The son of a Pentecostal preacher faces his personal demons as he and his two outcast friends try to make it through their senior year of high school in rural Forrestville, Tennessee without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self.