Adult Books for
Selected by the Books for Youth editors, the following titles
constitute the year’s best personal
reading for teenagers among adult
books published in 2016. More on
each book’s content and suggested
audience can be found in the full-
length Booklist review.
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the
World’s Hidden Wonders. By Joshua Foer and
others. Workman, $35 (9780761169086).
This sophisticated, unusual atlas takes readers to fabulously interesting corners of the
globe, all packed with enthralling oddities
of nature, architecture, and culture. Gorgeously produced and written in engrossing
prose, this enchanting volume reveals a
dizzying array of fascinating, wanderlust-provoking curiosities.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. By Trevor Noah. Spiegel &
Grau, $28 (9780399588174).
Noah’s coming-of-age during apartheid
in South Africa vividly comes to life in this
incisive, funny, and fresh memoir, which
candidly addresses the complexities of race,
gender, and class, as well as South Africa’s
emergence from apartheid, and sparkles
with moments of epic teen awkwardness and
nervy entrepreneurial success.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream
and the Untold Story of the Black Women
Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space
Race. By Margot Lee Shetterly. Morrow,
Shetterly relates the incredible story and
invaluable contributions of the African
American women employed by NASA as
“computers,” due to their mathematical prow-
ess. Spanning WWII through the space race,
this book weaves their stories into the saga of
NASA’s history while keeping an eye on the
ongoing battle for civil rights.
Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told
My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That’s
When My Nightmare Began. By Alex Cooper and Joanna Brooks. Harper, $24.99
When 15-year-old Alex comes out, her
devout Mormon parents send her to an unlicensed residential facility that promises to
“cure” her but instead subjects her to abuse.
Eventually, supportive friends and an attorney help Alex win legal protection to live as
an openly gay teenager. Her harrowing yet
eloquently told story is an inspiration.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman. By Lindy
West. Hachette, $26 (9780316348409).
In this uproariously funny debut, West,
GQ writer and fat-acceptance activist, blends
memoir, social commentary, and ribald comedy in a biting manifesto. Sure to be a boon
for anyone who has struggled with body image, this triumphant, absorbing book lays new
groundwork for the way we talk about the taboo of being large.
All the Birds in the Sky. By Charlie Jane Anders. Tor, $25.99 (9780765379948).
Two socially inept tweens—gifted scientist
Laurence and burgeoning magic-wielder
Patricia—are thrust into a whirlpool of
world-ending change and join forces in this
knock-your-socks-off blend of science and
magic, which follows the pair over decades,
as they grow from friends to enemies to potential lovers.
Another Brooklyn. By Jacqueline Woodson.
Harper, $22.99 (9780062359988).
This slim, evocative novel centers around
August’s reminiscences of her childhood and
adolescence in 1970s Brooklyn. In poetic
prose, Woodson not only shows us backward-glancing August attempting to stave off
growing up but also wondering how we
dream of a life parallel to the one we’re living.
Bite. By K. S. Merbeth. Orbit, $9.99
In a postnuclear, apocalyptic world, Kid, a
teenage girl, falls in with a gang and embarks on
a Mad Max–style adventure through a hostile
landscape in which cannibalism is a real survival
option. Filled with dark humor and wit, this
story puts the idea of “good guys” to the test.
The Book of Harlan. By Bernice J. McFad-den. Akashic, $29.95 (9781617754456).
Until fate throws him squarely in the path
of evil, Harlan Elliott leads a pretty routine
existence as a young black man coming of age
in 1920s Jazz Age Harlem. But when Harlan
and his close friend are invited to perform in
Paris, they get sucked into the maelstrom of
horrific world events.
Daredevils. By Shawn Vestal. Penguin,
Longing to experience a glamorous life
outside of her Mormon community, feisty
15-year-old Loretta decides that Evel Knievel–
worshipping Jason will help her do just that.
Armed with life skills gleaned from the Bible,
the Book of Mormon, and Knievel himself,
Loretta, Jason, and a friend embark on a wild
ride to meet their destiny.
Dodgers. By Bill Beverly. Crown, $26
East, a 15-year-old gang member in L.A.,
joins in with his younger brother and a cadre
of other gang members on a road trip to Wisconsin on a job for their boss. Confronting
crime, race, and coming-of-age, this searing
crime-fiction debut features rich, multidimensional characters and remarkable prose.
Everything Is Teeth. By Evie Wyld.
Illus. by Joe Sumner. Pantheon, $24.95
Evie is both terrified of and utterly obsessed
with sharks. They occupy her mind during her
summer in Australia, visually echoed by near-photorealistic images of the creatures looming
behind her at almost every turn. This mesmerizing graphic novel stirringly evokes childhood
fears and fascination with the macabre.
How to Set a Fire and Why. By Jesse Ball.
Pantheon, $24.95 (9781101870570).
Effectively orphaned Lucia lives with her
penniless aunt and cherishes her father’s Zip-po lighter. Is there anyone more primed to
join the secret Arson Club? In a sharp, deadpan voice, witty, valiant Lucia recounts her
misadventures setting fires in a Robin Hood–
like protest against the ruling class.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism. By Grady Hendrix. Quirk, $19.99 (9781594748622).
Abby knows something is terribly, demonically wrong with her best friend, Gretchen, but
as her behavior becomes more erratic, Abby is
the only one who notices. With spot-on 1980s
references, Hendrix perfectly captures the angst
of teenage friendships and the stagnant air of
suburbia in this comic horror novel.
The sixth largest cathedral in the world,
is an elegant blend
of flying buttresses,
and a carefully
sculpted Darth Vader.
—from Atlas Obscura
She and Gretchen
were best friends, and
then came that fall.
And they fell. And the
exorcist saved her life.
Abby still remembers
high school, but she
remembers it as images, not events. She
remembers effects, but she’s gotten
fuzzy on the causes. —Grady Hendrix