www.booklistreader.com 8 Booklist June 1 & 15, 2016
her in the hospital, catatonic. Not really.
She’s pretending so her father won’t further
abuse her. From the indispensable Crutcher, this is intense and wry, and it punches
at big issues.
Toning the Sweep, by Angela Johnson
Visiting beloved Grandmama, who is
dying of cancer, 14-year-old Emily learns
aspects of her African American family’s
past that shift her perspective as her family goes through a time of transition. This
graceful, powerfully moving novel captures the melancholy, introspection, and
self-discovery of adolescence.
The Lesser Blessed, by Richard Van
Camp (Douglas & McIntyre, 1996).
Van Camp’s debut is the coming-of-age
tale of Larry Sole, a member of the Dogrib
Nation, in Canada. It has all the youthful experimentation you might expect: sex,
drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. But it’s impossible
to expect Van Camp’s wild, barreling style,
one moment raunchy, the next gritty, the
next hallucinatory. Scorching, uncompromising, unforgettable.
The Circuit books, by Francisco Jiménez
Though classified as fiction, Jiménez’s
four connected books ( The Circuit: Stories
from the Life of a Migrant Child, 1997;
Breaking Through, 2001; Reaching Out,
2008; and Taking Hold, 2015) are heavily
biographical, stretching from a child who
dreams of an education to, finally, a graduate student living in New York. Written in
gorgeous, economical prose, this quartet’s
importance continues to grow.
The Facts Speak for Themselves, by
Brock Cole (Front Street, 1997).
Cole’s gut-wrenching, expertly written
novel details Linda’s troubled life, including a neglectful mother, abusive parents,
and a sexual relationship with a married man, all culminating in witnessing a
murder. The disturbing story is related in
Linda’s detached, unemotional, and thoroughly haunting first-person narrative.
Tenderness, by Robert Cormier
As influential as is The Chocolate War (1974),
Cormier’s stark, divisive pièce de résistance is
this mesmerizing plunge into the psychosexu-
al urges of clean-cut teenage serial-killer Eric
Poole and his would-be victim, the equally
morally complicated Lori. This is Cormier at
the apex of his powers, unafraid, as always, to
shove us from comfort’s ledge.
Kit’s Wilderness, by David Almond
This 2001 Printz winner is the story of
newcomer Kit, who is enticed by another
boy into a game called Death that plays
out in deserted mines. Almond has set an
enormous task for himself here, tackling
the biggest issues, from life and death to
the healing power of love, but he succeeds
beautifully, knitting dark with light and
suffusing the multilayered plot with an
Miracle’s Boys, by Jacqueline Woodson
Three brothers have only each other to
rely upon after the deaths of their parents
in this Coretta Scott King Award–winning
novel. Woodson excels at getting to the
heart of powerful teen emotions, and this
pithy, moving exploration of grief, anger,
and healing is especially outstanding.
Hole in My Life, by Jack Gantos (Farrar,
Gantos’ riveting memoir of the 15 months
he spent as a young man in federal prison is
more than a harrowing, scared-straight confession: it’s a beautifully realized story about
the making of a writer. The spare narrative
style and straightforward revelation of truth
have, together, a cumulative power that captures a reader’s empathy and imagination.
33 Snowfish, by Adam Rapp
The circumstances are bleak in this story
of three homeless teens on the run, but
Rapp’s earthy, visceral, poetic language
draws out startling beauty from true ugliness. Though Rapp doesn’t hold back
when depicting gritty realism for teens,
this is nevertheless the perfect balance of
candor, artfulness, and a glimmer of hope.
How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff
(Random/Wendy Lamb, 2004).
This Printz-winning dystopia feels achingly real and of the moment. Daisy, visiting
“A smile for all the stupid people out there with bleeding hearts for
killers.” —Robert Cormier, Tenderness