Happy 2015! Last year (yup) Geri Diorio posted a fantastic summary of the best young adult books lists from 2014 including Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. My New Year’s resolution was to annotate a title selected from each list and/or category. No, I didn’t hit every single genre (sorry poetry). But it was great fun and I conclude that 2014 was definitely wonderful year for YA books!
Here are my selections, listed alphabetically by author’s last name.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia
By Candace Fleming
An examination of the Romanovs (Russia’s last imperial family), the country’s revolutions and political strife in the the years 1905-1917, and (in their own words) brutal accounts of what life was like for the common peasants of this time. Explores the notion of the “chosen” class, Russia’s last heir Alexei who was a sickly child affected by hemophilia (a secret closely held from the Russian people), and the mystery surrounding the children’s missing bodies from the grave discovered in Koptyaki Forest. Visual source materials also help portray this gripping account.
Carnival at Bray
by Jessie Ann Foley
Elephant Rock Productions, Inc
The year is 1993. Maggie is a fish out of water; her freewheeling, hard drinking mother married Colm (an Irish citizen) and moved the family from Chicago to Bray, a small seaside village in Ireland. Little sister Ronnie fits in right away, but Maggie’s only friend is Dan Sean the town’s oldest resident who boasts 99 years and mostly falls asleep during Maggie’s visits. Maggie has a crush on Eoin (a local boy) but can hardly find the courage to mumble a greeting. Uncle Kevin (only ten years her elder) is a mid-twenties lost soul who still lives with his mother and plays in a band; Maggie’s hero for general awesomeness and for introducing the girl to good music (he brought her to a Smashing Pumpkins concert back in Chicago.) When tragedy strikes it comes as no surprise to anyone but Maggie.
From: Kirkus, Fantasy, Female Author
The Devil’s Intern
by Donna Hosie
Mitchell died at seventeen and has been in hell for the last four years. Though actually, hell isn’t so bad; just lots of paperwork and overcrowding. Mitchell even has three awesome friends; Alfarin a Viking Prince who died in battle in 970, Elinor a sweet girl who died saving her brothers in the Great Fire of London 1666, and “Medusa” (Melissa) who died in circumstances unknown in San Francisco during the summer of love. Mitchell is plagued by feelings of unfulfilled potential (he was a musical prodigy “up there”) and with burning questions of why he ran into the street in front of a greyhound bus. So when Mitchell realizes that his boss is stashing away a time-traveling device the gang naturally decide to steal it and go change their deaths.
We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart
Only child Cadence spends her summers frolicking with cousins Johnny and Mirren and family friend Gat with minimal adult supervision. I guess the thought is: what trouble could they get into on a private island? During her fifteenth summer, the three aunts drink white wine (which the cousins pilfer) while newly widowed patriarch (Cadence’s grandfather) presides over all happenings like King Lear. Then a tragic accident leaves Cadence physically damaged– but the mental consequences are far more severe: she cannot remember anything that happened. Two summers later Cadence returns to the island and tried to piece together what happened.
From: Kirkus, Mystery, Female Author, Debut Author
Far From You
by Tess Sharpe
Sophie’s best friend Mina was brutally murdered. And Sophie was there (she remembers only a gun and ski mask) but escaped untouched but for the vial of Oxycontin slipped into her pocket. Sophie was sent away to rehab. Set up as a relapsed addict (and also explained away by the police as a drug deal gone wrong), no one believes Sophie and no one else is looking for Mina’s true killer. Mysteries unfold in the typical who-done-it manner but Sharpe explores deeper mysteries of the heart and of addiction.
From: Kirkus, School Library Journal, Fantasy, Female Author
Blue Lily, Lily Blue
by Maggie Stiefvater.
The highly anticipated third book in the “Raven Cycle” finds the group back to school but still obsessed with finding Glendower’s tomb. Maura’s continued absence worries Blue. Each (living) member of the group battles unique demons. Building upon characters and events known developed in the previous two books in this series (The Raven Boys and Dream Thieves) Stiefvater blends realistic life situations with high fantasy elements. Here the story takes a darker turn with more serious consequences as we ramp up for the conclusion.
This One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tam
Rose is an only child who spends summers at Lake Awago with her parents. She and her summer friend Windy (a year younger than Rose) swim, ride bikes, talk about boobs, and watch scary movies. This year Rose’s parents are fighting about something that happened last summer, but no one will talk about it. Rose and Windy spend so much time at the convenience store that they overhear some drama; an older teenager whom they call “The Dud” has impregnated a local girl and won’t call her now. Who is in the wrong? Is the girl, as the boys claim, a “slut”? Charcoal sketches set the scene.
From: Publisher’s Weekly, Science Fiction, Male Author
By John Corey Whaley
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Travis Coates’ body gave out at age sixteen after he suffered from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Miraculously the boy was restored to life four years later; same head (cryogenically frozen) on a newer healthy body (donated). So… now that Travis is back he has to basically accept that his life was on pause while the rest of his loved ones moved on. Amongst other problems (such as attending high school with his friends’ younger siblings) Travis’ best friend came out to him four years ago and is now back in the closet, his parents are being weird, and worst of all he is still in love with Cate (his past girlfriend) who is now four years older and has moved on.
So, what books did you read in 2014? Any deserving titles not make it on one of the lists mentioned?
– Tara Kehoe, currently Reading: I’ll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson