Book lists are hard. There is no one-size-fits-all list that suits everyone. What I LOVE to do is recommend books for a specific person, as in, “my nephew is 3 and obsessed with cars and trains.” (I’m Fast by Kate and Jim McMullan). ”My 10-year-old daughter refuses to read but I am determined to give her a book anyway.” (Amelia Rules graphic novel series by Jimmy Gownley). ”My grandson has already read every book by JK Rowling and Rick Riordan and I would love him to branch out.” (Queen’s Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner). ”My daughter just started reading chapter books, but I am sick of sassy girl characters.” (Rainbow Street Shelter series by Wendy Orr). ”Are there any teen books out there that aren’t about plagues, wars, and vampires?” (This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer Smith).
I could do that all day. In fact, I DO do that all day.
But there are so many more books out there than I manage to review in a year, so I am going to give a few general lists of my recent favorites.
Fangirl, the recent bestseller by Rainbow Rowell, is the rare Young Adult novel that has the complexity and slowly unfolding layers of a real grownup book. Of course, the protagonists ARE in college, so maybe that accounts for their depth and nuance.
To understand the plot of Fangirl you have to know a little about fan fiction. Many of you are probably familiar with this phenomenon, but for the uninitiated, here is some background.
My library copy of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is festooned with prizes, including A Printz Honor for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.
I get that: this is a beautifully-written novel with believable main characters that tackles some tough issues.
Unfortunately it is one of those books that critics and award committees like more than kids do.
Aristotle and Dante is a tightly-crafted, sparely written novel. Much of the work is done in dialogue, which has the effect of adding lightness to an otherwise heavy story. The content accounts for some of this book’s attention from critics. It is about race (both main characters are Mexican-American), about loss (Aristotle’s brother is in prison, and no one will talk about why), friendship, and ultimately about love and sexuality. Heavy stuff, and prime for adolescent readers.