“Blue was a fanciful, but sensible thing. Like a platypus, or one of
those sandwiches that had been cut into circles for a fancy tea party.”
—Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Boys
digo (2010), The Isle of Blood (2011), and
the shattering The Final Descent (2013).
With fanciful Victorian prose, Yancey
elevates horror to high lit—and doesn’t
skimp on the viscera, either.
Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Self-deception underlies this vivid portrayal of a girl stealthily vanishing into the
depths of anorexia. Anderson illuminates
a dark but utterly realistic world where every piece of food is just a caloric number
and inner voices scream “NO!” with each
swallow. A brutal, poetic, and ultimately
They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The
Birth of an American Terrorist Group, by
Susan Campbell Bartoletti (HMH, 2010).
In admirably clear, accessible language,
Bartoletti presents the history of the Ku
Klux Klan during the Reconstruction
period. She uses first-person quotes, powerful archival images, and searing stories of
people on all sides of the conflicts to help
readers understand the conditions that
incubated the Klan’s terrorism. Lucid, insightful, and informative.
The Watch That Ends the Night:
Voices from the Titanic, by Allan Wolf
Dozens of remarkable YA novels in verse
exist, but Wolf’s underrated, virtuosic—
even symphonic—take on the Titanic
disaster is a juggernaut as big as the infamous iceberg. That iceberg, in fact, offers
one of the many voices (along with sailors,
wealthy passengers, even a rat) that Wolf
uses to construct his beautiful and terrifying tragedy.
The Raven Cycle series, by Maggie Stief-
vater (Scholastic, 2012–2016).
Printz Honor recipient Stiefvater (The
Scorpio Races, 2011) crafts an ambitious
quartet that follows three prep-school
boys, the cursed daughter of a psychic,
and a ghost on a quest to locate an an-
cient, sleeping king in rural Virginia.
Lyrical writing melds with Welsh and
other Celtic mythology to create a won-
derful story infused with magic.
Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s/
Rowell followed her Printz Honor–
winning Eleanor & Park (2013) with what
is now the yardstick for YA books about
fan culture. College starts rocky for Cath,
who struggles with self-imposed isolation. She finds comfort—and sometimes a
crutch—in the Simon Snow fandom and
the popular fan fiction she’s determined
to finish writing. An epic writ small: complex, vivid, triumphant.
March series, by John Lewis and Andrew
Aydin, illus. by Nate Powell (Top Shelf,
Lewis and Aydin’s stirring account of the
civil rights movement, brought vividly to
life in Powell’s cinematic artwork, won a
cavalcade of awards (Printz, National Book
Award, Coretta Scott King, and more) for
a reason: its nuanced take on history in a
visually stunning package is both illuminating and galvanizing.
Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick
(Roaring Brook, 2013).
Sedgwick’s experimental Printz-winning novel spans time and genre
to narrate the story of Merle and Eric,
whose relationship and personalities
transform over seven bewitching tales,
all of which take place on a mysterious
island. Sedgwick makes bold, unconventional choices in this literary novel, and
they pay off in spades.
A Volcano beneath the Snow: John
Brown’s War against Slavery, by Albert
Marrin (Knopf, 2014).
This well-documented, gracefully written
book explores the life of nineteenth-century
zealot John Brown. Marrin regards this
abolitionist as “the father of American
terrorism,” a man who would use any
means to effect what he believed was his
God-given mission: the eradication of
slavery in the U.S.
I Crawl through It, by A. S. King (Little,
King’s singular imagination and honest,
respectful representations of the teenage
experience make her one of YA’s finest authors. This title takes her talents to another
level with its surreal portraits of four teens
looking to escape school bomb threats and
personal traumas while confronting life’s
most exacting questions.
Out of Darkness, by Ashley Hope Pérez
Pérez’s elegant and devastating Printz
Honor winner begins with a real-life 1937
school explosion that killed 300 people
in Texas before backtracking to Mexican
American Naomi, who struggles with racism, love, and Henry—the father of her
siblings and one of the most vivid, complicated villains in YA history.
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