Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Ten Teen Books of 2015

Now that I'm working full-time as a young adult librarian I haven't been posting nearly as much, but I wanted to at least do my end of the year lists!

1) Ms. Marvel: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson

I love this comic series overall, but this one so clearly nails a lot of the things I've heard from teens recently. Their annoyance at older generations misjudging and underestimating them, their ability to come together despite differences, and their genuine desire to make their worlds a better place. Kamala Khan is just a fabulous protagonist overall, relatably trying to juggle her friends, family, faith, education, and, oh yeah, newfound superpowers. Plus, the cameos. The cameos. So many familiar faces from the Marvel universe have appeared, which is especially fun because Kamala is such an unabashed fangirl. I really can't praise this series highly enough- just go check it out for yourself.

2) Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson

Sensing a theme? 2015 was a huge year for ladies in comics and genre fiction, and this list will be no different. So in the number 2 spot, Lumberjanes! This series is a bit younger, but the diverse cast, bonkers action, poppy dialogue, and lush art should appeal to all ages. Billed as a mix between Gravity Falls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, these comics follow the adventures of five girls at a summer camp where all is not as it seems. It's kind of like if a woodsy Leslie Knope ran a camp for her Goddess Girls but also there are monsters and riddles and lost artifacts and raccoon hats. It's a blast with a sweet (but never saccharine) core.

3) The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

"Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh." 

I'm not going to tell you anything else about this one, except that it's one of those books written for adults that would easily appeal to teens. Also, I highly recommend the audiobook, performed by Finty Williams, who just happens to be the daughter of Dame Judi Dench.

4) The Martian by Andy Weir

"Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there."

Like The Girl with All the Gifts, this adult book has plenty of teen appeal, and it also makes for a fantastic audio book. I'm a sucker for survival stories already, but with the premise of an astronaut stranded on Mars (!!!), I was hooked. Suspenseful, terrifying, hilarious and moving, this is a story you won't want to miss. Plus, it's so, so quotable. "I'm gonna science the shit out of this!" 

5) Redshirts by John Scalzi

For fans of classic sci-fi TV, this irreverent jaunt through space is a must. As the title and cover image proudly announce, this book is heavily inspired by Star Trek, but even casual fans will find plenty to love here. This was my introduction to John Scalzi and after reading it I immediately sought out more of his books (if your interests lean more towards AI and/or political thrillers, try his also excellent Lock In.) This was a quick, fun read by an author who clearly has a lot of love for old school Trek. The audiobook, narrated by Wil "Wesley Crusher" Wheaton himself, adds to the appeal.

6) Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

 Ballister Blackheart just wants to keep chipping away at his rivalry with arch nemesis (and heroically handsome) Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. Too bad the irrepressible shape-changer Nimona has other plans! Noelle Stevenson has built a whole world of heroes, villains, sidekicks, scientists, dragons and more, and if her fast-flowing dialogue and gorgeous art don't win you over, her well-rounded and unique characters will. While it may seem like zany fun (and it is), this story packs a surprising punch, and has plenty of heart. This began as a webcomic and has become one of the biggest hits of 2015.  

7) Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

"Because we don’t have your typical gaps around here. Not gaps made of rocks or mountains. We have gaps in the world. In the space of things. So many places to lose yourself, if you believe that they’re there. You can slip into the gap and never find your way out. Or maybe you don’t want to find your way out." 

For readers looking for something other than the standard YA fare of apocalypses, dystopias, love triangles, vampires, and zombies. There's.... this. I wasn't sure what to expect, but this odd slice of magic realism set in the American midwest was right up my alley. After Finn witnesses the abduction of a friend, his life begins to unravel. No one believes his version of events, which might not be so strange, since they involve her being stolen away from a cornfield by a faceless man. Highly recommended to fans of small town stories, subtle retellings, and stories where weirdness waits just behind normal life.

8) The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

"It's the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara's life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara's family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items - but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear."

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?"

I fell hard for The Accident Season. I love when YA books manage to surprise me, and this one did. While it drew me in with the promise of a cursed family and generations of their stories (think Alice Hoffman), I ended up getting so much more. Magic and secrets and dark, tangled histories. If you liked Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Unspoken, or The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, check out this Irish import.

9) A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

"Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum."

This book was dark, harsh, and painful to read. I loved it. Grace Mae has been torn from her place among the well-to do Bostonians of the 19th century, and cast into hell. Almost literally. Can she find her voice and reclaim her life? Does she want to? Or will she lose herself to madness and violence? Highly recommended to fans of historical fiction and mystery, and those with an interest in early forensics, the (almost always) awful treatment of the mentally ill throughout American history, and women's rights (this is basically what I had wanted Jennifer Donnelly's These Shallow Graves to be) . Oh, and Thomas Harris fans should also find things to savor.


10) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

 "Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up."

If you spent any amount of time writing Harry Potter fanfic, shipping non-canon pairings, or thinking that actually, Dumbledore was kind of a jerk, this one's for you. If you're a fan of school stories, books about learning magic, fandom in general, or romance with a hefty serving of angst, check this one out.