SLJ Best Books!

It’s nearing the end of the year, and that means BEST BOOKS LISTS!!!

Earlier this week, School Library Journal announced their picks for this year’s best children’s and young adult books, both fiction and nonfiction, plus the best Adult Books 4 Teens, courtesy of Angela Carsetensen’s amazing and useful AB4T blog.

I always look forward to best books lists, because not only do they help me make recommendations, they also give me some insight on how well I’m doing on collection development. If we already have a lot of the best books in the CA Library collection — YAY! If not — well, that’s a problem.

I am happy to say we have most of this year’s School Library Journal best books picks appropriate for grades 9-12 in the CA Library collection already, or they are on order. So…YAY!

Although there are some excellent examples of nonfiction on this year’s lists, I don’t think there is enough for students in high school,  written specifically for young adults ages 14-18. Out of 20 nonfiction titles on the best books list, I would only consider adding 6 to our collection at the high school.

Despite the Common Core’s emphasis on narrative nonfiction (see Sara Mosle’s opinion piece in the New York TimesWhat Should Children Read?“), there is a gap between nonfiction titles written for students in grades K-8 (there are a lot) and titles written for adults (there are even more). That is why I am particularly grateful for the Adult Books 4 Teens blog, along with the Booklist recommendations of adult books with YA appeal, to help me build a nonfiction collection that supports the curriculum, is interesting, and challenges our students.

Anyway, enough jibber-jabber — let’s look at the best books! These aren’t the entire lists; those are available at School Library Journal. These are the titles that are either currently available at CA Library, or are on order. Today I’ll look at the YA fiction titles — I’ll list the best nonfiction and adult books in a later post.


  • Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson — Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily receives special protections from the spiritual forces of Neverland, but then she meets her tribe’s most dangerous enemy–Peter Pan–and falls in love with him. “Readers will find it hard to resist being drawn into Tiger Lily’s world, where dangers and emotions are painted several shades darker than in J.M. Barrie’s classic fantasy.” — Publishers Weekly
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray — Seventeen-year-old Evie O’Neill is thrilled when she is exiled from small-town Ohio to New York City in 1926, even when a rash of occult-based murders thrusts Evie and her uncle, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, into the thick of the investigation. “An absolutely terrific read and, thankfully, the first in a planned series.” — School Library Journal
  • The Wicked And The Just by J. Anderson Coats — In medieval Wales, follows Cecily whose family is lured by cheap land and the duty of all Englishman to help keep down the “vicious” Welshmen, and Gwenhwyfar, a Welsh girl who must wait hand and foot on her new English mistress. “Coats’ considerable research provides details of everyday life that ground this dark and sometimes brutal historical novel.” — Booklist
  • The Miseducation Of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth — In the early 1990s, when gay teenager Cameron Post rebels against her conservative Montana ranch town and her family decides she needs to change her ways, she is sent to a gay conversion therapy center. “This finely crafted, sophisticated coming-of-age debut novel is multilayered, finessing such issues as loss, first love, and friendship. An excellent read for both teens and adults.” — School Library Journal
  • My Name Is Parvana (Breadwinner Series) by Deborah Ellis — Fifteen-year-old Parvana recounts memories from the past four years of her life as she awaits foreign military forces to determine her fate and wonders if she will ever be reunited with those she loves. “This passionate volume stands on its own, though readers new to the series and to Ellis’ overall body of work will want to read every one of her fine, important novels.” — Kirkus starred review. Available soon at CA Library.
  • The Good Braider by Terry Farish — Follows Viola as she survives brutality in war-torn Sudan, makes a perilous journey, lives as a refugee in Egypt, and finally reaches Portland, Maine, where her quest for freedom and security is hampered by memories of past horrors and the traditions her mother and other Sudanese adults hold dear. Includes historical facts and a map of Sudan. “Viola’s memorable, affecting voice will go far to help students step outside of their own experience and walk a mile in another’s shoes.” — School Library Journal
  • The Fault In Our Stars by John Green — Despite the medical miracle that has bought her a few more years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, but when Augustus Waters suddenly appears at the Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be rewritten. “Green seamlessly bridges the gap between the present and the existential, and readers will need more than one box of tissues to make it through Hazel and Gus’ poignant journey.” — Kirkus starred review
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman — In a world where dragons and humans coexist in an uneasy truce and dragons can assume human form, Seraphina, whose mother died giving birth to her, grapples with her own identity amid magical secrets and royal scandals, while she struggles to accept and develop her extraordinary musical talents. “There’s a lot to enjoy in Hartman’s debut, from the admirably resourceful heroine and intriguing spin on dragons to the intricately described medievalesque setting and emphasis on music and family.” — Publishers Weekly
  • Keeping The Castle: A Tale of Romance, Riches and Real Estate by Patrice Kindl — In order to support her family and maintain their ancient castle in Lesser Hoo, seventeen-year-old Althea bears the burden of finding a wealthy suitor who can remedy their financial problems.  “Kindl writes with sharp, effervescent, period-specific language that is so spot-on readers may find themselves adopting a British accent.” — Booklist starred review
  • Ask The Passengers by A. S. King — Astrid Jones, desperately wanting to confide in someone, spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. Although she doesn’t know the passengers inside, she feels they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl. “Funny, provocative, and intelligent, King’s story celebrates love in all of its messy, modern complexity.” — Publishers Weekly
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers — In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Brittany, seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where she learns that the god of Death has blessed her with dangerous gifts — and a violent destiny. “With characters that will inspire the imagination, a plot that nods to history while defying accuracy, and a love story that promises more in the second book, this is sure to attract feminist readers and romantics alike.” — Booklist starred review
  • Every Day by David Levithan — Every morning, ‘A’ wakes in a different person’s body, in a different person’s life, learning over the years to never get too attached — until he wakes up in the body of Justin and falls in love with Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. “An awe-inspiring, thought-provoking reminder that love reaches beyond physical appearances or gender.” — Kirkus starred review
  • Son by Lois Lowry — The finale in Lowry’s series that started with The Giver (1993). Unlike the other Birthmothers in her utopian community, teenaged Claire forms an attachment to her baby, feeling a great loss when he is taken to the Nurturing Center to be adopted by a family unit. “Son is a tender conclusion to this memorable story, and definitely the best of the books in this sequence since The Giver itself.” — School Library Journal
  • Summer Of The Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall — In an adventure reminiscent of Homer’s Odyssey, fifteen-year-old Odilia and her four younger sisters embark on a journey to return a dead man to his family in Mexico, aided by La Llorona, but impeded by a witch, a warlock, chupacabras, and more. “As with McCall’s Under the Mesquite (2011), this is a peek into Mexican American culture, but its ties to the supernatural add an interesting dimension.” — School Library Journal
  • Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick — In this novel based on a true story, Cambodian child soldier Arn Chorn-Pond defies the odds and uses all of his courage and wits to survive the murderous regime of the Khmer Rouge. “While never shying from the ugliness and brutality of this genocide, McCormick crafts a powerful tribute to the human spirit.” — Publishers Weekly
  • Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson — After Taylor Edwards’ family gets devastating news, they decide to spend one last summer all together at their lake house in the Pocono Mountains, where they get to know each other again and bond, and Taylor remembers her past friends and crush. “This is a bittersweet, powerful tale of family devotion, the sustainability of true friendship, and the silent courage of loving someone enough to stay and watch them die.” — Booklist starred review
  • No Crystal Stair: A Novel In Documents, Based On The Life And Work Of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie — A documentary novel of the life and work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem bookseller. Michaux was born to do things his own way. When a white banker told him to sell fried chicken, not books, because “Negroes don’t read,” Lewis took five books and one-hundred dollars and built a bookstore. It soon became the intellectual center of Harlem, a refuge for everyone from Muhammad Ali to Malcolm X. “Nelson and Christie deliver an engrossing blend of history, art, and storytelling in this deeply moving tribute to a singular individual.” — Publishers Weekly
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio — Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student. “Palacio’s novel feels not only effortless but downright graceful, and by the stand-up-and-cheer conclusion, readers will be doing just that, and feeling as if they are part of this troubled but ultimately warm-hearted community.” — Booklist starred review
  • Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi — Aria and Perry, two teens from radically different societies–one highly advanced, the other primitive–hate being dependent on one another until they overcome their prejudices and fall in love, knowing they can’t stay together. “Although this is a first novel, it comes across as the work of a master craftsman and should appeal to both teen and adult readers far beyond dystopia fans.” — School Library Journal
  • Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz — Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before. “A tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality, and a passionate reminder that love-whether romantic or familial-should be open, free, and without shame.” — Publishers Weekly
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater — Though she is from a family of clairvoyants, Blue Sargent’s only gift seems to be that she makes other people’s talents stronger, and when she meets Gansey, one of the Raven Boys from the expensive Aglionby Academy, she discovers that he has talents of his own–and that together their talents are a dangerous mix. “This fantasy-mystery rises to the level of serious literature, leaving readers hungering for more.” — Booklist starred review
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein — In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must to survive while keeping secret all that she can. “With a seemingly unreliable narrator, strong friendship, wonderful historical details, and writing that fairly crackles on the page, this is an excellent book for thoughtful readers and book-discussion groups.” — School Library Journal

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