What an amazing year for teen literature! We had books that explored fantasy and science fiction in new ways and others that caught the heart of reality. I managed to narrow my favorites down to twenty that are below with links to my full reviews:
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King – A striking read about a teen questioning her sexuality that beams with love and acceptance.
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore – This sequel to Graceling takes place 8 years later and took Cashore 4 years to write. The result is a beautifully conceived world and a heroine who is a complicated survivor of abuse.
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan – The selkie legend retold in a series of short stories that come together into one glorious novel.
The Children and the Wolves by Adam Rapp – Stunning, violent, vile and filled with heart wrenching beauty of its own unique sort, this book is one that you can’t turn away from, though you may want to. Amazing.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – Two incredible British teen girls become involved in fighting the Gestapo during World War II. This is a achingly beautiful and brave read.
The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George – The tension between principles and love comes to a head in this book that explores lesbian teens and internal contradictions. It’s a complex book that calls people to action and is populated with intriguing characters.
The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi – This second book in the Ship Breaker series takes us to new characters who are just as amazing as those in the first book. Filled with action and violence, Bacigalupi offers us the tragedy of war and child soldiers set against a decaying world.
Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers – The friendship between a teen and an older man is at the heart of this novel that is quietly powerful.
Every Day by David Levithan – A wakes up as a different person each day, quickly leaving each life behind, until he meets Rhiannon a girl he can’t leave behind. Bold, vibrant and unforgettable, this book explores issues of race, sex and individuality.
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen – Conner is an orphan boy chosen to compete for the right to pretend to be the lost prince. Filled with twists, violence and lies, this book is a riveting read perfect for tweens and young teens.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – As an unabashed Green fan, I was thrilled when he came out with a new book. Then I was entranced and amazed as I read the story of Hazel, a girl with terminal cancer, and Augustus, a cancer survivor. There is reason for the buzz on this one. Simply incredible.
The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti – Frenenqer is the perfect teen girl, kept closeted away from the world, until a boy who can shapeshift and fly enters her window. Lush, beautiful and exotic, this is a love story that features a unique and complex heroine.
The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin – Horrible truths are hinted at and the tension becomes almost unbearable in this slow-building thriller set in the wilderness of northern Idaho.
Grave Mercy by R. L. LeFevers – Ismae escaped into the convent of St. Mortain where she is trained to be an assassin. Sent to the court of Brittany, she is quickly caught up in its politics and passions but must continue to kill as instructed. This is a luminous gem of a book with a sequel coming in 2013.
Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge – Subversive poems just for teens that show what happens after “Happily ever after.” Dark chocolate stories that surprise and delight. Bet you can’t read just one.
The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman – A triumph of a book, this is the first in a new series by veteran Hautman. Beautifully written, it’s an intoxicating blend of technology, time travel and religion.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – Seraphina is hiding a secret that she can tell no one. It’s marked into her skin: dragon scales. Complex world building, an organic love story, and dragons make this an amazing fantasy.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – This debut novel will amaze with its original fantasy concept where a young woman discovers her own unique powers but not before someone else does first.
Small Damages by Beth Kephart – A pregnant teen is sent to Spain to keep her pregnancy secret. Staying with a friend of her mother, Kenzie slowly comes to realize that she has choices. This novel is a celebration of Spain and extended families.
Son by Lois Lowry – The final book in The Giver series, this book ties the various threads from all of the books in the series into one glorious ending. It will leave you satisfied but also surprised.