It’s coming up on Thanksgiving break, and that means the start of BEST BOOKS SEASON, when various media outlets — magazines, journals, newspaper, websites, etc. — publish their year-end Best Books lists!
The editors at School Library Journal kicked off their review of the Best Books of 2015 with a live tweet of some of the Best Adult Books 4 Teens, hosted by Mark Flowers (@droogmark) and Shelley Vale (@sdiaz101). Here are some of their picks:
In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume — A richly textured and moving story of three generations of families, friends and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by unexpected events. “Fans of Blume will clamor for this, but so, too, will any teen who enjoys a well-written coming-of-age novel that strongly evokes a specific time and place” (Sarah Flowers, School Library Journal).
Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates — Winner of the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction. In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. “The language of Between the World and Me, like Coates’s journey, is visceral, eloquent, and beautifully redemptive. And its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory” (Toni Morrison).
Trampoline: An Illustrated Novel by Robert Gipe — Dawn Jewell is fifteen. She is restless, curious, and wry. She listens to Black Flag, speaks her mind, and joins her grandmother’s fight against mountaintop removal mining almost in spite of herself. Jagged and honest, Trampoline is a portrait of a place struggling with the economic and social forces that threaten and define it. “This is a killer debut of one teenager’s flight from destruction—strong stuff tempered with humor and love” (Georgia Christgau, School Library Journal).
The Gods of Tango: A Novel by Carolina De Robertis — February 1913: seventeen-year-old Leda, clutching a suitcase and her father’s cherished violin, leaves her small Italian village for a new home (and husband) halfway across the world in Argentina. Shocked to find that her bridegroom has been killed and unable to fathom the idea of returning home, Leda remains in this unfamiliar city, living on the brink of destitution. When she acts on a passion she has kept secret for years — mastering the violin — Leda is seduced by the music that underscores life in the city: tango, born from lower-class immigrant voices, now the illicit, scandalous dance of brothels and cabarets. “A plea to embrace ‘the bright jagged thing you really are,’ and De Robertis captures the enormity of that struggle” (Kirkus Reviews).
Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell — The strong but flawed women of this collection by National Book Award finalist Campbell must negotiate a sexually charged atmosphere as they love, honor, and betray one another against the backdrop of all the men in their world. “Bonnie Jo Campbell is a master of capturing a roiling central mystery of life: the way love and hate, sadness and hilarity, power and weakness are so often inextricably, tempestuously fused. Mothers, Tell Your Daughters is an exhilarating book by one of our finest writers” (Robert Olen Butler, author of Tabloid Dreams: Stories).
Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen — Leerhsen re-traces baseball great Ty Cobb’s journey, from the shy son of a professor and state senator who was progressive on race for his time, to America’s first true sports celebrity. In the process, he tells of a life overflowing with incident and a man who cut his own path through his times—a man we thought we knew but really didn’t. “This eminently readable biography is a fantastic piece of research and a perfect starting point for teens interested in the early years of baseball” (Mark Flowers, School Library Journal).
The Star Side of Bird Hill: A Novel by Naomi Jackson — This lyrical novel of community, betrayal, and love centers on an unforgettable matriarchal family in Barbados. Two sisters, ages ten and sixteen, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados after their mother can no longer care for them. “The dual coming-of-age story alone could melt the sternest of hearts, but Jackson’s exquisite prose is a marvel too…a gem of a book” (Entertainment Weekly).
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer — A stark, powerful, meticulously reported narrative about a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana — stories that illuminate the human drama behind the national plague of campus rape. “Krakauer’s evocative reporting, honed to a fine edge of anger, vividly conveys the ordeal of victims and their ongoing psychological dislocations. The result is a hard-hitting true-crime expose that looks underneath the he-said-she-said to get at the sexist assumptions that help cover up and enable these crimes” (Publishers Weekly starred review).
Re Jane: A Novel by Patricia Park — For Jane Re, half-Korean, half-American orphan, Flushing, Queens, is the place she’s been trying to escape from her whole life. Journeying from Queens to Brooklyn to Seoul, and back, this is a fresh, contemporary retelling of Jane Eyre and a poignant Korean American debut. “Re Jane is snappy and memorable, with its clever narrator and insights on clashing cultures” (Entertainment Weekly).
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — In this personal, eloquently-argued essay — adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. “[This] might just be the most important book you read all year” (Rupert Hawksley, The Telegraph).
Method 15/33: A Novel by Shannon Kirk — The 2015 National Indie Excellence Award Winner for Best Suspense Novel. Imagine a helpless, pregnant 16-year-old who’s just been yanked from the serenity of her home and shoved into a dirty van. Kidnapped, alone, terrified. Now forget her. Picture instead a pregnant, 16-year-old, manipulative prodigy. She is shoved into a dirty van and, from the first moment of her kidnapping, feels a calm desire for two things: to save her unborn son and to exact merciless revenge. “It’s nice to know early on that she’ll survive her ordeal…the question is how, and watching the answer unfold is like watching a wondrously complicated, well-oiled Rube Goldberg contraption in action. Welcome a thrilling new voice in crime fiction” (Boston Globe).
More of this year’s best Adults Books 4 Teens titles will be published in the upcoming Best Books issue of School Library Journal.