Pox Party (2006) and The Kingdom on the
Waves (2008)—that form an unparalleled
work of historical fiction. Satire blends
with jarring, troubling realism to tackle
racism, freedom, and citizenship.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-
Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (Little,
Arnold Spirit, a goofy-looking dork
with a decent jump shot, spends his time
lamenting life on the “poor-ass” Spokane
Indian reservation, drawing cartoons that
accompany (and provide further insight
into) the narrative. This National Book
Award winner affirms the incredible power
of best friends to hurt and heal.
Boy Toy, by Barry Lyga (HMH, 2007).
Lyga raised YA’s bar for sexual content
with his vivid, explicit depiction of a boy’s
seduction by his teacher. Now 18, Josh
relays the residual struggles born of the incident as he becomes involved in a healthy
relationship and learns to differentiate between sex and love.
sures, teen hacker Marcus endeavors to
launch a techno-revolution to reclaim citizens’ rights. This Orwellian, unsettlingly
plausible story throws contemporary issues, such as intellectual freedom, privacy
rights, and information access, into sharp
and chilling relief.
Living Dead Girl, by Elizabeth Scott
(Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, 2008).
Countless kidnapping books exist in
YA, but Scott goes for the jugular in this
evocative and often unbearable story.
Five traumatic years ago, a girl renamed
Alice was abducted, and now her imprisonment hurtles toward a horrific end.
Spare, intense vignettes explore Alice’s
psyche as she endures things from which
there is no recovering.
Nation, by Terry Pratchett (Harper, 2008).
Apparently alone on his island after a tidal wave carries away his community, Mau
discovers Daphne, an English girl whose
ship landed in the rain forest. Pratchett’s
quirky wit, imaginative insight, and broad
vision make this an unforgettable survival
story about trying to truly understand
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap
of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman (Holt,
This full-bodied nonfiction account
takes on the professional and personal
lives of the Darwins, who, though highly
congenial, were on opposite sides when it
came to God’s role in creation. Though the
intersection between science and religion
is where the book shines, this also has the
relationship pull of a Jane Austen novel.
The Monstrumologist series, by Rick
Yancey (Simon & Schuster, 2009–2013).
Though The Monstrumologist (2009)
was the Printz Honor winner, this series
about monster-hunter Pellinore War-throp and his apprentice, Will Henry,
only gets better with The Curse of the Wen-
“The whole world monstrously fancy, laced tight together, yet slop-
Black Juice, by Margo Lanagan (Harper,
ping over and unraveling in every direction, a grand brilliant wastage
of the living and the dying.” —Margo Lanagan, Black Juice
her British cousins’ farm, is caught up in
an occupation of Britain by terrorists. The
book’s intensity comes from the juxtaposi-
tion of the war’s deprivation and the love
affair Daisy shares with her cousin Edmond.
Lanagan’s second short story collection
received near-universal acclaim—it was a
Printz Honor Book and won two World
Fantasy Awards. Included in the 10 fantasy stories is “Singing My Sister Down,”
one of Lanagan’s most widely published
pieces, and the tales that follow are equally as strange, lovely, and unnerving.
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
When Miles Halter arrives at his Alabama boarding school, he is seeking, as
Rabelais put it, “a Great Perhaps.” What he
finds are friends, pranks, the possibilities
of life, and the ambiguities of death. This
heartbreaking Printz winner has become a
YA icon, and introduced the überpopular
Green to a still-expanding audience.
American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen
Yang (Roaring Brook/First Second, 2006).
Yang’s game-changing, Printz-winning
graphic novel, illustrated in his bright,
cartoonish style, interweaves three stories
that, taken together, offer keen, incisive
insight into stereotypes, Chinese American cultural identity, and pressures facing
children of immigrants.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian
Nothing series, by M. T. Anderson
The sophisticated saga of Octavian Nothing, a black youth in pre-Revolutionary
America, unfolds over two volumes— The
The Chaos Walking trilogy, by Patrick
Ness (Candlewick, 2008–2010).
Ness’ wide-ranging speculative-fiction
trilogy was one of the most effective works
to appear during the dystopian craze. On
a distant planet, Todd’s all-male society
is infected with Noise, which makes the
thoughts of men (and animals) audible.
The series explores everything from misogyny to morality—and contains the
best talking-dog character ever.
Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow (Tor,
After a terrorist attack on the U.S. leads
to rigorous government surveillance mea-