Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Diet Coke and Gummi Bears – The Best Books for Teens and Young Adults - 2015

I love to read Young Adult (Teen) books. They almost always grab me on the first page, feature compelling topics that evoke deep emotional responses within me, and share a view of today's world that I rarely encounter. The young adult genre is one of the fastest growing segments of the book market and increasing adult readership is one reason why. 

I am often asked why young adult fiction features so many dysfunctional families or dystopian themes. Why, adult readers ask, can't there be good young adult novels about happy families with happy teenagers?  Yeah, right. Even well-adjusted, relatively happy adolescents don't want to read about Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm so young adult books will always lean toward the big topics that concern teenagers. Encountering a world where depression, violence, injustice, and suicide reside is a part of growing up and young adult literature reflects that reality. 

My choices for the best teen and young adult books of 2015 are all so good; it's almost impossible to choose just one from these fine titles.

The Best Young Adult/Teen Books of 2015:
  • All American Boy by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • I Was Here by Gayle Forman
  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold
  • Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt
  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
The Best Young Adult/Teen Novel of 2015:

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (Read the full review here.)
Violet and Finch meet atop the school’s bell tower where Finch has often contemplated jumping.  Violet is grieving her sister’s death and people misunderstand who helps the other down. A school project allows Finch to lead Violet to new experiences and they fall in love but complications ensue as Finch becomes enamored with all things “ultraviolet.”  This funny, real book made me want to hug my kids, eat carryout from Happy Chinese, go on a picnic, and remember that it isn’t what you take, it’s what you leave that matters.  It also makes for a great discussion in adult book clubs. Ages 15 and up

The Runners Up:

The Best Young Adult Novel of 2015 that might help us understand why some people are afraid, some are angry, and some don't see that there's a problem:

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely (Read the full review here.
All American Boys blew me away. Two authors, one white and one black, tell this tale in alternating chapters from the point of view of two teens. Quinn is white and he sees his best friend’s older brother, a white cop, beat up a black kid outside a convenience store. Rashad is the black kid who was beaten and is hospitalized. He’s always been a model kid and now he’s the subject of protests. This is timely, eloquent, realistic, funny, and profound. The characters don’t fit stereotypes and the writing alone makes it a winner. I want to use this in my book clubs as a springboard to talking about the events of the past few years that may be awakening us all. Ages 12 and up

I Was Here by Gayle Forman 
I Was Here is an exceptional emotional depiction of depression and suicide. The author of If I Stay and Where She Went expertly captures teen voice and truth. After Cody’s best friend Meg methodically kills herself, Cody packs up Meg’s dorm room to help her parents. Cody realizes that Meg hadn’t shared important details about her life in college and wasn’t always the person Cody thought she was. Cody needs an explanation for Meg’s suicide and someone to blame especially after she sees that all Meg’s emails from the last six months are gone. Cody’s search leads her on a troubling journey. Teens looking for answers will find even more questions in this searing novel. Ages 15 and up

Mosquitoland by David Arnold 
Teenager Mim Malone’s world has fallen apart since her father and stepmother took her to Mississippi, which she calls “mosquitoland,” leaving her mother behind in Ohio. Mim is medicated and seeing a strange shrink because her Dad fears she’ll be crazy like her aunt. Hating her new life, Mim hops a Greyhound bus back to Ohio and along the way a group of strangers show her what life and friendship mean. Mim’s quirky personality makes her odyssey challenging, humorous, and perfect for bright, questioning teens. Ages 15 and up

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt (Officially classified as a Peanut Butter and Jelly book; it's too good to limit to any age group. Teens particularly and everyone 10 or older will want to read it.)
Orbiting Jupiter broke my heart. Joseph is a “bad” kid. He’s in eighth grade. He’s been in jail, assaulted a teacher, and fathered a daughter named Jupiter who he’s never seen. When sixth grader Jack’s family takes Joseph in as a foster child, most people think it’s a bad idea. A few teachers and Jack begin to see light in Joseph. Told in Jack’s straight-forward, calm voice, this never gets maudlin. Prepare for a good cry. Ages 10 - 14

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen 
After Sydney’s brother Payton goes to prison for a drunk driving incident, Sydney transfers to a new school where she’s befriended by siblings Layla and Mack whose family struggles include running a pizza carryout business and taking care of their mother’s MS flare-ups. Sydney’s mother’s obsession with Payton leaves “good” Sydney unsupported emotionally. I loved this book. The audio version is spectacular. I highly recommend it for everyone and especially for families with teens on a road trip. Ages 14 and up

1 comment:

  1. I agree, Trina! Some of the best work out there is YA. Thanks for these recommendations!